Breakfast in America

What goes on in America stays in America… eh? It seems not. A couple of weeks touring the diners of Chicago and New Orleans will certainly give any returning traveller a few extra pounds they didn’t originally take with them; and I’m not talking sterling currency here.

Breakfast in America is not just an album by the old UK rock band Supertramp. It’s an institution not to be taken lightly (as if ‘lightly’ could ever apply to food in the US); it demands time and effort… and an expectation that you might be beaten by the challenge on more than one occasion.

Yolk is a great starting point on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. An unpresupposing exterior camouflages gastronomic morning mayhem. That’s why people are often queueing to get a table; but quintessential US counter culture (of the eating at the counter variety, not the return to flower power variety) gets me in immediately. The more than pleasant greeting of a young woman in a tee-shirt claiming to be ‘Handling your huevos since 2006’ provides a warm inner feeling long before the order arrives. It also leaves me lamenting… “who is going to handle my huevos when Duck One achieves his infantile wall building wish?” The ‘Works Omlet’ with a side of joyous noise eases me nicely into the lazy challenges of the day ahead. Marvellous!

Eggsperience, off the Michigan Avenue Magnificent Mile, keeps the theme of the hen going strong. Omelet or pancakes is the first decision of the day. Oh for such difficult decisions every day! A fleeting thought about a healthy orange juice and blueberry start to the day quickly succumbs to the need for sides of a pancake stack and bacon…

Eggsperience blueberry pancakes

But, a gaze over a shoulder also suggests another visit could be needed for that omelet option! Perhaps a vegetarian compromise could be made. Though perhaps all good vegetarians should be introduced to the necessity of a side of bacon!

Eggsperience vegetarian omlet

The famous Lou Mitchell’s, west of South Loop is an institution that should not be missed on any visit to Chicago. tired of blueberries? Why not add bananas to your pancake stack to bring some variety to the practice of indulgence? I think a side of raisin toast is also called for…

And, before leaving Chicago, get messy with a late morning Cubana sandwich at Xoco, a mere waddle from the aforementioned Eggsperience. A cucumber and lime drink might help balance the spicy fried pork and avocados wrap.

Not to be usurped in the breakfast challenge, New Orleans has its own crowds gathering to sample the delights of Ruby Slipper on Magazine Street. Again, the solo traveller gets to jump the queue with a stool at the counter. Time to try out the Louisianan Omlet of shrimp and grits, with a side of sourdough toast. A foundation fit to build any day upon.

Then there is the splendour of the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. A fine location to keep exploring the unique pleasures of a southern breakfast. This time the shrimp and grits are accompanied by a creole muniere ( don’t ask me, I’m just here to eat the stuff) for added spice to kickstart yet another day of challenging levels of relaxation!

Palace Cafe Canal Street [1]

Palace Cafe shrimp grits and creole muniere

Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square is a place to trade the creole for a touch of the cajun in your culinary morning. A cajun omelet with side of cajun potatoes could just about provide sufficient ballast for a steamboat trip along the Mississippi…

Talking of Jackson Square; for those of us with an interest in cathedral architecture and the Louisiana State Museum, a corned beef hash at Stanley’s comes highly recommended while you gaze at the architectural heritage from the comfort of your diner counter stool.  If you like your eggs ‘sunny side’ let the yolks drain into the corned beef. Just don’t shout out ‘Stella’ in a Marlon Brando impersonation, lest you startle the staff and clientele alike.

Alas, it’s getting near the time to head for the airport. The hotel provides a last port of call, and quite possibly the last eggs I will want to see for, well at least a few days!

Hotel St Marie 2 eggs breakfast

Until we speak again, it is time to return to a good old UK diet. Next time you’re in America check out the title of an old Supertramp album for guidance, but drop any notion of three square meals a day being a good idea (unless square is the shape you are aspiring to achieve).

Zak Show dot Com

 

Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!

So, there I was, a bedraggled and tired travelling cat arriving home from a fabulous trip to the USA. When all of a sudden I am metaphorically arrested by a sight that would send so many Americans into rapturous delight…

Police woman with gun

Why, in American culture there are those who believe in the right that this is what every city street should look like. As for me, in my addled brain, all I could muster as a fleeting thought was an old mantra for self-respecting city cats, Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!”

So, what was going on here? I like the implied message, but couldn’t see how it was meant to be a homecoming for me…

Welcome banner

However, the image did bring to mind the old saying: “lift up any pony tail, and what you’ll find beneath is a horses ass!”, Best be careful who you aim that description at; after all, “Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!”

In the meantime, it seems like all roads home are blocked off…

Tyndall Street

Lloyd George Avenue

Could it be preparations for the stilettoed hordes descending on the city for a long weekend of perma-tanned indiscretion? If so, then the advancing mob above are surely unwittingly walking into a psychodrama beyond their wildest imaginations. After all, “Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!”

It seems that the ‘lionesses of liquor’ have already set up a roll-call of their preferred end of night play-things, with the castle walls providing a historic backdrop for contemporary fantasies. If you don’t want to end up strung up on the battlements, “Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!”

Castle

As it turns out, there was a simple explanation for all this metropolitan malarkey… it was the small matter of the biggest sporting event on the planet this year happening just around the corner from home. As much as I have fantasised about Cardiff City FC going to the Champions League Final, it could be a long wait; so the Champions League Final had come to Cardiff City! For the victors, the spoils, and the opportunity to kiss ‘old big ears’ (affectionate name for the trophy, not one of the belles of bedlam).

Modric jubilant

Until we speak again, all I can advise Luca Modric in the image above, is kiss the metal by all means fella, but “Don’t mess with Valleys Girls!”

Kindness of strangers

Within all the horror of terrorist attacks, most recently Manchester and London in the UK, the abiding strongest message is the reporting of how strangers stop to help each other. But my recent travelling experiences to the USA have shown me that this is not only a response to terrorism.

Travelling solo to New Orleans and Chicago has left me with a great sense of how strangers are more than happy to meet, share thoughts and experiences, and are usually welcoming of people from different backgrounds.

So, to Victoria, Tom and Gayle in New Orleans, Laila in Biloxi, Steve in California, Bob in Massachusetts, Charlotte in Chicago, and Gayle and her sisters from Wisconsin… a special thanks for making a strangers travels a truly jazz funk of an experience…

Jazz Funk guys at RF's

And any blues were of the most welcoming kind (why, here is Buddy Guy in person!)…

Buddy Guy in person [2]

So until we speak again, to Jazz, Blues and all other musical cats everywhere, let the music do the communicating, as it spreads the love better than anything else! And celebrate the kindness of strangers.

Cognitive dissonance revisited

On a recent visit to the most worshipful emporium to the banana (aka Chicago Museum of Contemporart Art), I was struck by a particularly arresting message. No, not the one about anything is possible when you’ve watched a potato crawling across a wall. 

My main reflection was that religion really can mess with your head in a most dissonant way…

Until we speak again, remember it is not only in America that religious cats get to throw you a curved ball or two.

The Gas Man

Some people thrive on hot air and gas, but few promote it in bright lights. Everything below the name is multi-storey car parking!

Until we speak again, while you are in Chicago (or anywhere else) try to stay above the twit guano.

In a NOLA state of mind

When you come to New Orleans you can take for granted they will give you great music and fabulous food. However, you can also expect to be educated in statements of the obvious…

Every step you take will be teeming with life…

They will occasionally greet you with renditions of music hall favourites played on a steam-driven piano…

And, especially for the invading Brits, here is where you’ll find the dogs bollocks (with added shades of cool)…

They will even showcase ubiquitous American violence in an historic fashion…

So, until we speak again, remember that New Orleanians will always have time for you, except when they can’t quite make it!

Icon revival

As much as I would like this heading to be applied to Juno and Bella, thus reversing two tragic demises of recent years, in reality it is an update for my loyal follower. The Coal Exchange building, deep in the heart of Mount Stuart Square, has been apparently left to rot and collapse through gross negligence by local and national Welsh administrations. How nice it is to refer to an ‘iconic’ status on perimeter hoardings, while the subject of said reference basks in a catastrophic state of neglect behind.

Coal Exchange board sign

Coal Exchange exterior decay [3]

Coal Exchange [6]

Coal Exchange approach

Rumour had it that developers of a boutique hotel would be the saviour of the building where the very first £1 million cheque was handed over. No, that’s a historical fact not an inflated cost of a suite in the proposed new hotel!

Well, in March 2017 there were distinctly positive signs, for those who hold a candle (rather than an incendiary device) to the preservation of Cardiff’s architectural heritage! Coal Exchange Mar 17

Then, just as Spring in May should bring a promise of new beginnings, so the revival of a favourite old building seems truly under way…

Coal Exchange May 17 [2]

Coal Exchange May 17 [3]

Coal exchange May 17 [4]

With extensive work still to be completed across most of the site, the ultimate sign of intent is captured… as bona fide hotel residents arrive to occupy some of the small number of rooms early opened.

Coal Exchange May 17 [6]

It seems that Signature Living have sympathetic plans for the regeneration of the building, that will recapture its historic past as well as provide a sustainable basis for looking forward. And while there will be the inevitable carping about handing a community resource over to a commercial venture, the photographs at the top of this post are evidence enough of the only other real alternative!

Until we speak again, Juno’s View promises to bring documented evidence of the interior in the near future. [However, in the interim period, behold views of Chicago and New Orleans coming here very soon!]