Friday, October 26, 2007

New Orleans Diary: Day 2

In response to Vicki's comment/question from yesterday's post about breathing in a corset: Actually the corsets were very comfortable. I wouldn't plan on running or doing anything in it that would normally make you winded, but regular breathing was, well, just regular, except the breast seemed to rise and fall a bit more with each breath.
I didn't try sitting in one. Since I tend to slouch when I sit, I imagine it would improve my posture, but I'm not sure how the steel boning would feel if one had to sit for too long while wearing one.

By the by...when you see dresses in movies where the bodice and waist of a dress on an actress is fitted to a "T", generally speaking the actress is in a corset. Once you become corset aware, you can tell when an actress is in a corset by how the upper body moves as the actress moves.

Back to New 2.

Breakfast while wearing in my first Fleur de Paris hat. Love, love, love that hat....
The first order of business after breakfast was to head to Saks Fifth Ave. to see if they had the backless strapless bra tape.
They didn't.
They had racks and racks of strapless gowns, and bras to buy, but no additional tape. The tape that holds the bra in place can only be used once. The bra and all the skin on the side of your chest is removed after each bra wearing.
The ripped off skin area heals in three to six days.
That pain does help distract from the pain in the feet gotten while wearing high heels and the blisters gotten while wearing strappy shoes while dancing the night away at a gala event.

The picture above had nothing to do with any of that.
It is a close up picture of oak leaf spores. This is the time of year when the oaks of New Orleans develop spores, and the air is filled with tiny bits of fluff. I learned this during the two hour walking tour that I took after going to SFA.

Each of the five trips that I have taken to New Orleans have been too short. Each trip I try to knock off another item off my "thing I want to do in New Orleans" list. A walking tour of the Garden District was going to be accomplished today.

The Garden District, (originally called Lafayette) was an area developed after America acquired New Orleans. The French Quarters had been developed starting in the 1700's; the British heritage Americans wanted nothing to do with the French, (French Catholic/Anglo Protestants...) and so they developed a 7 blocks by 17 block for themselves after the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and after the War of 1812.

It is the area where the New Orleans rich folks have always lived.
This is one example of a house in the Garden District. It used to be owned by the author Anne Rice; now it is owned by the actor Nicholas Cage.
(Had to show at least one flower picture...a camellia in bloom against a wrought iron fence.)
All of New Orleans is known for wrought iron and cast iron fences and trim. This fence was shaped like corn stalks; it was not a custom design but rather was purchased through a catalog back in the 1800's.
Most of the Garden District's houses were built in the Greek revival style. This house was designed by a man in the 1800's , and he designed other houses as well. His "signature" was always a rounded area, where the glass in the windows were curved as well.
Part of the tour included a visit to the Garden District's Lafayette Cemetery. (Pictured above: The tour guide, a Creole/Cajun local gal with a degree in art history. She was fantastic.)
I learned SO much on this two hour walking tour! I had always been told that the cemeteries of New Orleans were above ground because of the water table being so high. Wrong: Instead, the style is common to all Mediterranean cultures, including Spain. Spain owned Louisiana, then France did for awhile, then USA, but the Spanish custom held, as it did in many parts of America. Actually, the above ground crypts function as "oven", sealed bodies in the structures get heated naturally up to 300 degrees or more, causing a natural form of cremation.
The law was that the crypts had to remain closed for one year and one day between each body, in order for the heat to turn the corpse into ash and bone. The bones were then crushed, and sweep into a lower chamber of the crypt, and then a new body could be place and sealed in. Of course all of that is done out of view of the family.

Some of these structures hold the bones of 20 or more family members.
Interesting how ecologically sound the practice is, and how it is quite unifying of families: each family members statistics are engraved, so some of the crypts start with a name of someone born in the 1700's and end with names of people born just a few decades ago.
In the picture above, the structure behind the guide had recently had a body placed inside. The cemetery workers remove the family marker, knock out the bricks, "tidy up" the bones, (crush and sweep to lower chamber) and then they place the body inside,
re-brick, and then screw the marker back on after updating the marker.
A grave in the ground: proof that they didn't have to bury above ground for water table levels issues. There were multiple in ground graves in the old cemetery.
I was stuck by the fern growing beside all the names of the people in this crypt. Look at those dates....
People could also be buried in "society" vaults, with their organizations or clubs or professional affliations.
Lovely sculpture of a weeping woman holding a urn.
The Flower family vault. When the list of names fills up a plaque in front, it gets moved and attached to the side, and a new plaque is begun. Some of the crypts had many plaques on the side.
I know this may seem a little morbid, but it really made me think about how ecologically sound, family friendly and biblical practiced this burial style is.
I'll leave it at that for now....
As our tour continued we went by one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans, and the shrimp delivery guy was selling fresh shrimp right there on the street.
I am touching the shrimp. That is some BIG shrimp. Definitely not shrimpy sized shrimp!
Back to the houses.
I am absolutely enhanced with the black "lace" that is used to trim New Orleans houses.
I also love how they paint the underside of their porch overhangs sky blue, even when there was no other sky blue paint elsewhere on the house.
The guide said it is to inspire people to look up and think of heaven as per Greek tradition.
There was a lot to learn about architectural design to address the hot climate. Two people on the tour commented that it was SO expensive to heat their Pennsylvanian house in the winter.
Us hot weather residents pointed out that air conditioning bills of $400 per month (or more..) in the summer was not unusual, and the plus side of cold climate is that at least you can always put on another layer of clothes.
Hot weather?
Once you have stripped down to your skivvies to beat the really just can't remove another layer and still function socially, if you get my drift.
Pennsylvania said no, cold is worse.
I'm still wrapping my brain around that one.
You can see all the pictures of the Garden District tour in a slide show by clicking here. It is an easier way to see all the lacy iron work on the houses; I wish someone would photography each style of iron work and publish a catalog.
The steep pitch of this Queen Anne style house really doesn't work in New Orleans. The hot air gets trapped in the high rafters, and the steep pitch is designed to shed snow. New Orleans gets about an inch of snow every fifteen years or so. is a pretty house.
The barrel like structure behind this house is actually left over from a movie set. The movie has just finished being filmed, it is based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and stars Brad Pitt. I'll be watching for this structure, you bet I will.
Lots of movies are being filmed in New Orleans, and the arts are very much alive and growing there.
Another blue porch roof.

A house that sold for 2 million, and authentic restoration cost 7 million. It is a privately owned home.
The iron looks grey here, actually it is black and reflecting the bright sunlight. Lacy loveliness!
I liked how the iron work was used to create little rooms outside the house where you could sit in the shade and the breezes could still get through.
Six and Nine windows. The windows are double hung, so they could be opened wide at the top to let out hot air, and a bit open at the bottom to let in cooler air. The tall windows would have six panes on the top, and nine on the bottom.
Fleur de Lis symbols were everywhere.
Such a Mediterranean look.
Another pink and black house, with shutters that could be closed against hurricanes, or closed with the slats tilted just so, so the people inside could see out, but the people outside could not see in, but the breeze could still get through.
The tour was worth every penny of the $20. I always try to take walking tours or horse or mule drawn carriage tours when I visit places. I always learn so much!
Back to hotel to rest up for the evening events. Bernie finished his time at the convention, and was napping when I got back. I feel so for men and women who have to man conventions. Late night meetings with your own company, then on your feet meeting and greeting people for hours at a time.
So here I am, ready to go, with my backless strapless bra held on by the biggest cloth bandage I could find at Wal-greens.
It worked!
The back of the dress is the sheer fabric like the sleeves, going down to just above the waist.
Add a sparkly jacket...vintage earrings, and I am ready to roll.
(I don't sweat this stuff much anymore. I used to spend hours getting my hair and make up just so, only to arrive in a basically dark ball room where it is difficult to see what you are eating by flickering candle light.)
The other two women (20 something co-workers) gripped when they noticed that all the men showed up in the same suits they had worked in, while they had rushed back to the hotel and spent a couple hours primping.
Live and learn girls, live and learn.
An added bonus feature in the crowd.
Isn't it amazing that men don't realize how much we women adore seeing men in kilts?
The table was elegant...
An illusionist/magician/who knows what to call him performed between honors ceremonies. We are still trying to figure out how Craig does what he does.
Back to the food...more Fleur de Lis. Nice touch!
Yes, we were a little blurry eyed at that point.

And dancing.
We left, planning to take a cab back to Cafe du Monde, and to enjoy a beignet and coffee as we watched the moonlight on the Mississippi River.
I would have blown powdered sugar on Bernie, and we would have walked hand in hand through the French Quarter, mingling with the parties in the street.
Except we couldn't get a cab.
So we didn't.
But someday soon, we will.
We surely will.
And there you have it.
My whirlwind New Orleans diary.
Thanks for coming along with me!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Travel Diary: New Orleans

A while back I had the choice between going with Bernie to Orlando, Atlanta or New Orleans. He had conferences in each of those cities. For me the decision was easy: The Big Easy, aka New Orleans, of course!
I always like going to New Orleans!
I packed my hat box right away. Packed my laptop into my backpack, planning to checked my luggage, and carrying the hat box and backpack onto the plane.
At the ticket counter the ladies asked if there were hats in my hat box.
And asked if they could see them.
Several other ladies raced up to stand in a circle around me as I opened the box.
Was it curious Homeland Security?
Nope, the ladies just wanted to see hats!
Then I got on the plane. As I walked the aisle people looked up, jaws dropped, and people called out "What's in your hat box? Hats?"
MEN were asking me about my hat box, and saying what a what a really gorgeous hat box, wish women wore hats yadda yadda yadda
I think that is funny...on my back is a computer more sophisticated than what NASA used to put men on the moon, and the whole plane is jabbering about a hat box.
My oh my, how times have changed.
When Bernie and I went to New Orleans in 1998, I visited a millinery shop for the very first time, fell in love with a hat, couldn't afford it, and went back for the hat two years later. The shop, the hat, and the pink and black lace hat box converted me to a fanatical hat person.

I even used the hat box as my inspiration for the colors in my hat room at home!

Black lace over pink. I just LOVE that combination.
It was a short and bumpy flight into New Orleans. My seat mates were two guys from British Columbia, heading to New Orleans for a farm equipment conference.
We chatted about BC, the SD fires, and what New Orleans has to offer.
We had a nice chat, yah?

When in the south, do as the Southern folks do...have some grits!
Even the old New England Quaker dude seems to have caught on to this treat! Well, it made for dinner in the room at 10 at night Wednesday at least. I didn't want to head out after my flight and hadn't eaten since hotel rooms with microwaves!
Next morning I wanted to find 1012 North Peters Street. Piece of cake: the hotel Hilton Garden District is on 900 South Peters. I'll just walk one street over, and one block up I figured.
I had tried to open the GSP function in my brand new phone, the feature that will talk me to any place on earth, while showing a map and telling me how far it will be, but I couldn't remember where the link was on my phone. (Favorites, duh.)
I guess I was even worse in math than I thought I was, because it was TWENTY blocks away! They really number things differently around here. I found myself in Jackson Square in the French Quarters. I could have hopped the Charles Street trolley, but no, I kept thinking it has to be here soon...(Peters street kept splitting into other streets, then reappearing. Gotta wonder about which ever Peters this street was named after.)

Jackson Square is dead center of the French Quarters, and at one end is the St. Louis Cathedral. It is gorgeous, and they have the BEST concerts in December, every evening, for free. I've been there for them, they are awesome!
The center of Jackson Square has a statue of (duh) Andrew Jackson.

Bernie's great great great grandfather served under General Jackson in the War of 1812.

I always give the statue a little nod because of that fact.

Against the wrought iron fences there are banana trees, heavy with unripe bananas.

I still am always surprised to see banana trees in the south. Don't know why I can't just take it in stride, like I do peach trees or avocado trees back home in San Diego.

While I was walking around, this was going on in the background. Be sure to have your sound turned on.

No matter where you are in New Orleans, or what time of day it is, someone is always nearby singing a song or making some music. It is part of what makes New Orleans just so wonderful.

I popped into the Cathedral. The Pope has actually visited it too.

New Orleans French heritage shows via a statue of Joan of Arc inside the cathedral. Love her fitted armor!

Nice waistline there Joan!

Yup, the church has been on this location for awhile.
Now what I was really looking for was this shop: The Trashy Diva. Mostly because my formal gown for tomorrow nights events requires a backless strapless bra, and I managed to arrive with only one of the two tapes needed to hold the bra I brought along to my body. I need tape, or I'm going to a gala event cupping one of my breasts with my hand all night long. tape, but get a load of this classy corset.
You know, I've always wondered what real corsets feel like. Like when I read romance or historical novels, and the heroine is fussing with her corset?

Trashy Diva has real corset. The custom made, $400 per type, with steel boning and silk covers.

What the heck...let's give this a whirl.

Three, count 'em, THREE inches off my waist in less than ten minutes. No diet or exercise required!

(The back woogies: not so good. The sales lady explained that is just human form, even underweight girls have back woogies. Right.)

She suggested that underbust corsets would address that issue, and could be worn as a wide belt.

Wow...look at that waistline!

I liked this one alot. The point on the bottom points right to my rounded tummy however.

(by the by, these corsets can be made in any fabric you wish. I just thought this particular fabric combo was just perfect for french New Orleans.)

Now this style I can really imagine wearing as a "wide belt", especially in plain black. Two hundred dollar belt?
I'm thinking....hmmm...thinking...
The sales lady mentions that skinny girls can get only an inch or so off their waists, as the corsets then go into bone which can not be further compacted. Poor skinny girls.
I, on the other hand, am not skinny, so I can be *successfully* cinched down three or more inches!

Isn't that just FABULOUS news!
(Seriously, I do like how the top over bust corset felt on. It made my back feel really good. All of them did. Hmmm...wonder if I could get a Doctor's order for one of these things?)
Special Thanks to Kate Pernia for turning me onto this place during our White Linen Night odyssey!

Isn't this a cute idea, framing lingerie? I absolutely adore lingerie shops with crystal chandeliers.
Next stop: Fleur de Paris, where they do not allow ANY pictures at all. I spent two hours trying on hats. I only got to about a third of them.

They have moved from their old location, and now have all their hat making supplies out on display, and a milliner (Kimberly) creating on site.
Kimberly replace a milliner whose trim works I greatly admired. There are still a few Nicole LeBlanc hats in the shop, but most of the hats are now done by Kimberly. She is a bit wilder than Nicole.

The bad news is that the price of the hats have soared. Load of hats in the $400 to $900 range.

The excellent news is that they now carry men's hats as well!
All that hat trying on is hard work. Plus I am lost. I ask directions here, and discover they have crab cakes for appetizers. That would make a perfect lunch.

Hey Kate! Guess who got seated in the window?
(Kate always says that restaurant owners seat ladies in hats in the window because it is good for business. Here's proof. Oh, and I am wearing a hat I trimmed myself, the grey one in the first picture. The guy at Fleur noticed it on the counter when he walked in and commented that it was a good looking hat even before he saw me. Me: Beaming!)

Crab cakes. I could only eat one, they were the biggest appetizer crab cakes I had ever seen in my life; they were the size of hamburger patties.

Glad I saved room for a little praline sampling down the street. Some of the New Orleans hotels leave pralines on your pillow at night, instead of the usual piece of chocolate. Nothing tastes as good or feels so decadent as a bite of praline and a cup of coffee in bed the next morning!
Urban Outfitters was down the street too. These were the window sized pictures in the front window. Check out those cool hats! NO, they didn't actually carry those cool hats! What is with these bait and switch companies nowadays????
New Orleans is known for their balconies, most of which have beautiful wrought iron work. This balcony is not so scenic, but it overlooks Canal Street, and would indeed be a great place to hold an event. A place to see and be scene, and never mind the fencing.

It is really fun to people watch. A surprising number of women walk along with feather boas. Tourist, for sure. The locals were all wearing Patagonia pile jackets and knitter scarves and gloves; the temperatures had dropped to the high 60's. When your body is used to 90+ degrees most of the year, that is seriously cold for them.

It did look like overkill though when I even saw fir trimmed parka hood worn up!

Head to Toe had loads of lovely items. I bought a pair of black and a pair of white crochet gloves. I got beige my last trip, love them, and have been looking for black and white ever since.

I'll post a picture of them later....

There is only one "Must Do" when visiting New Orleans: Cafe du Monde. I believe they serve coffee and beignets 24 hours a day every day except Christmas and have been doing so at this location since the early 1800's.
One of the most romantic things in life is to walk to the Cafe in the fog on a December night and sip coffee outside in the mist next to the Mississippi River.

It is impossible to eat the beignets without getting the powdered sugar all over your face. The local custom is for prom couples to go there the morning after prom, before heading home. The girls blow the powdered sugar on their date's tuxedos.

You just have to have beignets in New Orleans.
You just do.
You have to eat them hot, with the coffee that is half milk, and fall in love with the romance of life all over again.

The waiters rush about in white shirts and paper hats, bringing the coffee and beignets to the never ending stream of people.
Here's a funny story, part 1. So I was there eating my treat when two guys sat down at the table next to me. "I LOVE your hat!" they commented. They asked if I had ever had beignets before, in thick Texas accents. I explained that I had, and that it is a MUST to do in New Orleans. It was their first visit, and they said they liked Crispy Creme donuts. We chatted briefly, and I left them to there to finish there treats.
I needed to get back to the hotel by six. Bernie had flown in at 4, had meetings, and we were to attend a dinner at 6:30. It was now five thirty. Do you think I could find a cab for love or money? NO.
So I speed walked twenty blocks back to the hotel arriving at 6:05. I even went through a small parade (yes, I filmed on the hoof...) Toweled off the sweat, I threw on my charcoal black pant suit and my Fleur de Paris Scottie hat that I bought on ebay awhile back (the other hat in the first picture), and was down in the lobby right on time.

Bernie's company was meeting for dinner at Red Fish Grill, (best sea food restaurant for the last four years according to the sign; the cabbie said don't drink their tap water. Eeek. Plus oysters all over the menu, I'm allergic) I ordered soft shell crab and a mojito for a before dinner drink. I get seated next to Bernie's boss. Nice guy. Nice evening.
Between dinner and dessert, I excused myself to use the ladies room.

As I pushed my way back through the bar area, I hear a guy say loudly "God, I love that hat!"

I looked over my shoulder, and the guy goes "It's YOU again!"

Yup, the Texas guys from the beignet place. Different hat, same me. I blew them a kiss and headed back to my own man, grinning from ear to ear.

Nice to be noticed. Nicer yet to have a great guy of my own who thinks it is fun that other guys notice his wife's hat.
It's New Orleans, where everyone flirts and calls each other Darlin and Honey and Sweetie.
Even the cab drivers when you can find one.
I'm off for more fun adventures today.
Have a great day of fun yourself; all you need to do is put on a hat and go somewhere!
Trust me; life is always more fun when you are wearing a hat!