Feel the Big Easy

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”, as the famous lyrics go from The Who. But what does this matter in the grand scheme of things down New Orleans way?

Well… “A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says what’s with the long face?” It might sound like the lead in to a comedy routine, but it is just something you might see on an ordinary day in New Orleans…

It is easy enough to ‘see‘ New Orleans… the all-out alcohol theme park that is Bourbon Street, embellished with ubiquitous beads, as it provides the backdrop to a perennial staging of the brotherhood and sisterhood of global redneckery. The hobos competing for hard earned dollars that the tourists wish only to pour down their own throats. The quintessentially potholed grime of French Quarter chic.

Kenaz Filan vividly captures the ‘seeing‘ of New Orleans as “a hospice where morals and good character could die in a suitably entertaining fashion.” Probably most usually accompanied with a suitable greeting and copious amounts of your favourite liquid…

But, is it enough just to ‘see‘ New Orleans? I guess for the inebriated it is, but this is so much more than a city… this is a way of life wrapped up in a diverse cultural history and presented through the medium of a multicultural human gumbo.

Look a little closer and you might just experience a whole new world of beauty and wonder. Because to get to know New Orleans you need to ‘feel‘ the real Nou Awlings.

It may be indelibly stamped with the sounds of jazz and the blues, most evocatively experienced by the street procession behind a traditional New Orleans brass band…

… but why not also listen a little closer to the daily soundtrack… that of competing freight train and steamboat horns that blast across the city; and the churning of streetcar wheels grinding through spacious avenues. Not to say of the constant chatter of back stories and life’s experiences being exchanged in the cauldron-like heat of the day.

However, for a recognizably noisy metropolis there is no shortage of places for quiet contemplation. This is a city truly ‘born on a bayou’, a remnant of which is routinely ignored by tourists who only see City Park on the opposite side of the streetcar terminus. But, for those with a fuller functioning compass, tranquility and a little historic charm (e.g. Pitot House) await…

Then again, if reinventing gravity is your thing, the meditation garden in Audubon Park offers up an Isaac Newton experience, as your breathing exercises are occasionally interrupted by acorns falling from the overhanging oaks…

The French Quarter may be a hotbed of Spanish and Creole architecture, but this is a city of Cajun influences amongst so many other immigrant representatives. Once you have got your head around the voodoo intsrpretations of Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, the street names of Tchopitoulas, Terpsichore and Capdeville, then prepare your tongue for Crawfish Etouffee, Okra and Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, Beef Po Boys, Jambalaya, Muffulettas, and Alligator Sausage. But make your choice of establishment a little more discerning… why settle for a faux tourist French Quarter restaurant when the real deal is a shack only 15 minutes walk away at Li’l Dizzy’s in the Treme?

Then there is the quintessential flirtation with death! They might offer some lotions and potions to hold back the grim reaper, but don’t bet on it…

… But, when the voodoo strikes you down, try reserving a plot in a city of above ground cemeteries that is constantly battling high water table and below sea level inevitabilities!

Be warned, nothing happens too quickly here; there is no better embodiment of the Welsh phrase “I’ll do it now, in a minute!” than a native or adopter of Nou Awlings. In fact, some take the slower pace of life to a whole new level…

And, with a view to doing their own thing, rather than following the spirit of America, just how un-American can you get? (Some things were just meant to rile those Fump Truckers!)…

Until we speak again, I make no apologies for reminding you of the prescient words of Dan Baum, that New Orleans is “a city-sized act of civil disobedience.” Come, look, but above all else, feel it!

A night on the Toon

When you’ve seen a bunch of bridges by day, the next question is “what has Newcastle got for visiting cats to fill the evening?” It seems that it has a bunch of bridges by night!

Tyne Bridge at night

Underside of Tyne Bridge at night

Thirsty work, all of this bridge watching, so I’m unreliably told. But, in Newcastle, who needs an umbrella when even the pub comes with its own shelter?

Bridge Tavern and Bridge at night

So, the so-called business trip turns out to be something else altogether! The aptly named Bridge Tavern (formerly Newcastle Arms) provides an excellent watering hole, if you can’t bear to be too far from your precious bridges. With brewing at the back end of the bar, and a great range of regionally sourced beers, this could be a pub crawl without needing to move from your bar stool!

Bridge Tavern [1]

Bridge Tavern [2]

Bridge Tavern [3]

All tastes catered for, so an Allensdale Cardinal pale ale was swiftly followed by a sample of a Cloudwater stout:

Pint of Allendale Cardinal A pint in Bridge Tavern

 

 

 

 

Newcastle isn’t all about beer. If you’re looking for some culture the Theatre Royal is sure to satisfy…

Theatre Royal at night

But, I should have known, if I send my old soak on tour, resistance to a Rolling Stones reference will soon turn things back to beer…

Pleased to Meet You at night [1]

A pint in Pleased to Meet You [2]

And it seems wherever you are in this city reference to the bridges will always be close by…

A pint in Pleased to Meet You [1]

Sleeping cat

 

Until we speak again it’s enough to give a cat a headache.

Lunar confusion

It’s getting late… You looking at me?a pint or two too many at the City Arms kind of late. These days I miss out on Juno’s quiet air of indignation as I return home later than promised; though I wasn’t sure whether she knew the time, or simply presented in the same way whatever time I got home.

It’s the time of night when sailor’s come into their own, as they navigate a way home by the location of the moon. But such a skill seems to become more difficult than expected in an inebriated downtown central Cardiff. Where is that moon when you need it? In the early hours of a Spring night Cardiff seems particularly blessed by many moons.

Moonlight [1]

Who says that alcohol marinated logic makes no sense? A walk through a local wooded copse will surely be the solution to narrowing the moons down to the real one! Well, perhaps it doesn’t necessarily narrow down the number of potential moons, but there are a few clues beginning to shape up.

Moonlight [2]

Even a few pints of the hoppy stuff can’t dim the realisation that a mix of man-made unnatural wood and a man-made built environment gives a zig-zag trajectory a bit more of a focus and direction. Now I am able to narrow down the options…

Monlight [3]

Strangely enough, the real McCoy presents itself in full-moon splendour just at the moment it is least needed… I seem to be home.

Moonlight [5]

Who needs the moon anyway, when you have a carefully developed and honed homing instinct? Now, just before the hangover kicks in… what do we do on a cloudy night?

Half cat half door

 

Until we speak again, I seem to recall similar escapades in the past, only with the scary addition to the end of the night of something that resembled half-cat/half-door. The moral of this story is drink sensibly, or if you don’t, at least try to enjoy the bizarre distortions that the world presents to those in need of surgical realignment of their ‘eyes-to-sockets’ relationship.

 

A dead pubs crawl

The recent fact that around 20,000 pubs have been closed down in the UK during the last couple of decades hardly caused me a ruffle of the whiskers. After all, us cool cats are much more sophisticated in our tastes… I am more concerned with preserving my premium wine stocks.

Wine stocks

As far as I am concerned pubs are uncouth places where dogs are more likely to be found. However, my ‘resident old git’ seems somewhat more perplexed than I about this dilapidated state of affairs in the ‘world the beer guide forgot‘. It being the beginning of the season to be jolly, I thought I would send the thirsty one on a tour of modern day temperance; and there is no shortage of places in Cardiff you can no longer get a drink!

Whoever said that the pubs of today are being taken over by food has certainly been to The Neville recently. Unfortunately, it seems that this former favourite of fans of the local team has gone the whole hog, its become a local supermarket… so the only grog available here will be the discounted stuff better drunk out of a brown paper bag!

The Neville [2]

An even worse fate for The Splotlands, as the chances of even getting in the inn are now completely blocked. I hope the last customer at last orders managed to get out in time!

The Splotlands

Black Friday and even Cyber Monday have now past us by, but anyone still in search of a bargain need look no further than downtown Butetown. The White Hart either finished off on a sale of its remaining stocks, or more likely has now become the subject of a sale.

The White HartBut not all pubs are allowed to finally give up the ghost and die; take an amble along Constellation Street and you come across a fine residence that probably shouldn’t be… all hail local activism down at The Tredegar as people exert squatters rights as a means of keeping a grand old landmark in occupation other than by rats and mice.

The Tredegar, Tin Street

Talking of rats and mice… just look what happens to a prestigious city centre site when you neglect history. The York Hotel might well have long since given up its final incarnation as an Indian restaurant, but it still serves as a grim reminder of former halcyon days.

York Hotel

My in-house beer monkey returned stoically sober after this particular pub crawl. Until we speak again I hope your pre-christmas crawling is to your satisfaction. Meanwhile I shall continue my duties as Wine Merchant Juno.

[With special thanks to my original guide and mentor into the world of blogging The Gentle Author for the original idea of the ‘Dead Pubs Crawl’].