Monday, March 07, 2011

New Orleans

Last week I travelled to New Orleans with my lovie and the pickle for the biennial A&W Canada conference. My husband is an account manager at Flanagan Foodservice, so being a supplier, he had clients to visit, workshops to attend, and a trade show booth to oversee. Lucky me, I was simply there for the fun of it...aside from our group dinners, my five days in the Big Easy were schedule free.

Buskers on Bourbon Street
As a first time visitor, I proceeded with caution. Who knew what to expect post-Katrina, post-BP spill, post-recession and pre Mardi Gras? Would I be safe meandering downtown with stroller in tow? Were there streets/neighbourhoods to avoid? Would the entire NOLA population be bare chested, bead-infested and fallover drunk by lunchtime?
For the most part, the residents were gracious and welcoming, and the French Quarter and Central Business District (CBD) were completely walkable, accessible and safe during the day. Our evening excursions along Decatur, Royal, Canal and even Bourbon went without incident but after dark I'd suggest travelling in groups and assigning a semi-sober navigator for all evening excursions. I have no idea what the French Quarter is like during the rest of the year,  but there's a fair bit of madness the week leading up to Fat Tuesday.  Also, be sure to take a camera to capture all the hoopla, street musicians and fantastic architecture.

My one solo excursion sans toddler was to the Arts District, which was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. Julia Street is a must-visit for their concentration of galleries, but be sure to check store hours beforehand. (My first three stops were greeted with locked doors.)

One big disappointment was at the New Orleans Glass Works & Printmaking Studio at 727 Magazine Street. Their retail store contained countless 'no photos allowed' and 'do not touch' signs yet all prices, artist names and bios were out of sight. When I asked the silent staff member about their pricing policy, he seemed slightly annoyed and assured me that all information was on file and available to those that asked. (alas, my retail experience tells me that for every person that asks, there will be at least 3 that simply leave the store) While those behind the scenes may have valid reasons behind their retail policies, I found it uninviting and snobby and I suspect their sales also reflect this. It's unfortunate...the work was absolutely phenominal. Had I been allowed to take a photograph, I would have posted it here on my blog.

Steve Martin Fine Art
My experience at Steve Martin Fine Art couldn't have been more different. Upon arriving, my questions were greeted with enthusiasm and I was encouraged to explore. 'Steve will be back in a few minutes. Have a look and please feel free to take as many photos as you'd like.' His bold figureative paintings were full of energy while his wire sculptures were far more delicate with the same grace as Picasso's line drawings. As Mr. Martin made his way up the stairs to the sales desk, he held out a bag and said 'You must have a cookie. I just bought them next door and they're delicious. Try one!' Clearly he's a business person who understands the importance of hospitality.

Galleries of note:
Ariodante Gallery, 535 Julia Street (contemporary craft)
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp Street (multidisciplinary)
Steve Martin Fine Art, 604 Julia (painting, sculpture)

Food, glorious food:
Cafe du Monde, 800 Decatur Street (cafe au lait et beignet = yum)
August, 301 Tchoupitoulas Street (incredible wine selection)
Nosh, 219 Canal Street (cheap n' cheerful homecooking...try the BBQ pork slider!)
Commander's Palace (outstanding service, unbelieveable cuisine and hand embroidered silk wallpaper. Try the bread pudding. And on weekdays, they have 25 cent martinis.)

Perfect for kiddies of all ages:
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, 1 Canal Street

Audubon Aquarium


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