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!

Premier League Unplugged [1]

Bluebirds v Magpies… get it? Blue of Cardiff City v Black and White stripes of Newcastle United… anybody? No! Okay so they are not strictly stripes. On closer examination maybe there isn’t much black in there either. As for the blue, it’s more Manchester City than Cardiff City. But at least it is on Sky… TV that is, as not many are expecting the much maligned home team to have their name emblazoned across the blue yonder.

Until we speak again, and just for the record, Cardiff won a 0-0 draw.

Perverse principles

With the advent of a Premier League season involving the locals just a matter of weeks away, I was struck by the all-important question…

What do you stand for?

Just what is my local city all about? What do we have to offer to the visiting hordes of demented football fans over the next 9 months? Everyone should be aware of the excellent shopping and nightlife, but what about sampling some unique street food?

Street Food seagull

Then there is our stylish way of preserving historic buildings…

Preservation What's left of the docks?

Our principled way of looking after endanger species doesn’t present any conflict with the pursuit of commerce…

Bear shop [2]

This is a place where you can get sea-sick just by standing still and looking at some of the buildings…

Car park [2]

But, we are proud of the fact that our great historical heritage stands tall (well, tall-ish) in the face of the advance of bland modernity…

Insurance [4]

Until we speak again, don’t let the dark gloomy clouds of potential defeat obscure the important decisions…

Bay & City Centre post

Keep it, change it

If there is one thing that exercises the bureaucratic brain cells of Town Planners it is ‘change of use’. After all, it might just disrupt the delicate equilibrium that only they can divine from a mountain of procedures and committee-based decision-making.

Spoiler alert for all planners… when places first emerge, anywhere on the planet, they tended to aggregate around a few houses, a church, a pub and a some commerce-based building. What they never thought they needed to get the whole affair up and running was an office full of planners and councillors to pontificate on and guide the great new adventure. If they did I would offer a suggestion for its shape, size and sense of relative importance (with a clear and present indication deep down in Cardiff Docks)…

What's left of the docks?

Which brings me to a lovely example of ‘change of use’ a mere few steps away from the above luxury office space. Way back in 1868 a Norwegian Church was constructed between the old Bute East and West Docks, as a place of cultural and spiritual solace initially for sailors of the Norwegian Fleet that frequently used Cardiff as a port of call.

It was originally clad in iron, being known as the Norwegian Iron Church, with a forward-thinking design that would allow it to be dismantled and moved as needed. For obvious reasons when viewed today, it later became known as the Little White Church, and now occupies pride of place overlooking Cardiff Bay, some half a mile from its original location.

Norwegian Church

So, the original design came to be tested in order that it could find a new berth. However,  the demise of a religious need over time also resulted in the very same building undergoing a successful transformation (or ‘change of use’ as the bureaucrats would have it). Who said there are too many coffee shops in the world these days?

Norwegian Church [3]

The old building has a strong link with a great son of Llandaff, and descendant of Norwegian stock, as Roald Dahl was baptised in the very building back in its original location, worshipped there as a child, and returned to sponsor its preservation in the newly emerging Cardiff Bay world of pleasure.

Norwegian Church [2]

Until we speak again, spare a thought for the Little White Church, and how the world has transformed from fire and brimstone to latte and cappuccino!

Cardiff Sharks?

No, it’s not another one of those failed rugby league franchises emerging yet again to demonstrate the wrong way of playing the egg-chasing game in the capitol of the union. It’s more to do with scary visions at 29 degrees, wandering around the neighbouring Bute East Dock on a hot afternoon in Cardiff

While fisherman shelter in their army-surplus rigs on the wrong side of the dock, the creatures of the deep quietly lurk, as if sheltering in natural fjords…

Unbeknownst to the slumbering fisher’s of men from far afield, locally we have developed our own fishing rod technology capable of dealing with the challenge of the Cardiff Sharks

Crane

Then, all of a sudden the calm surface is broken, as if Loch Ness had suddenly relocated 500 miles south…

Fish [3]

Fish [4]

Ducks scramble to take up anything that might resemble protection from what lurks beneath, clearly taking turns at being lookout…

Ducks on pontoon

But for one poor creature, carrying an anchor strapped to your legs is surely going to be an obstacle to survival…

Bird Anchored [1]

Because, if you can’t be fleet-footed or quick on the wing the Cardiff Sharks will know… and then you’re GONE!

Gone!!

Until we speak again, Juno used to occasionally be intrigued by the scent of Cardiff Sharks, wafting on the breeze coming from the direction of the dock.

Plotting an escape

 

 

The Strolling Bones

So, the Rolling Stones are strutting their septuagenarian bones into town. Was that Mick Jagger who was recently seen standing outside a building originally constructed way back in his youth?

Rolling Stones logo [2]

It may be a stadium-sized rock event, but for the music-loving masses I guess that still means only the few are going to get any satisfaction. However, I doubt the band are in any danger of being mobbed these days. At their age, if they were, it would just as likely become the ‘Pick the Bones off the Carcass Tour’

For those of us less interested in attending such events these days, there is still a price to be paid. As the old saying goes, you can’t always get what you want, and I’m not sure that it’s only rock and roll when most things turn to plastic…

Rolling Stones logo [1]

…most disconcertingly the very glasses used for celebrating the avoidance of taking out a mortgage in order to buy a ticket for the gig! For one night only (a Friday night at that!), they will be replaced by the dreaded plastic cups, designed to put all self-respecting imbibing afficianados off their leisure pursuit of choice.

As for this curmudgeon, I saw the Rolling Stones live in Leeds Roundhay Park back in 1982, and I doubt the song list has changed much since. So, it will be a quiet night in serenading the wine cellar…

Wine stocks

Until we speak again, as the shepherd said to the dog: “Let’s get the flock out of here!”

Circling in numbers

Salt Beef Mountain

New York, Cardiff. So good they named it… no, that doesn’t work. But, if you happen upon the High Street Arcade in Cardiff you’ll find more than just an appealing facade…

High St Arcade entrance 2018

But do remember to afford much more than just a New York Minute” for the New York Deli

Arcade view

For here you find that little piece of New York right in the heart of Cardiff City Centre, complete with a mouth-watering menu…

Menu

Take your time, because the choices are amazing. For me on this first visit it had to be The Ritchie Parks with a cup of cwarfee (that’s New York for coffee to the uninitiated!).

Hoaggie and Coffee

I advise that you don’t have a hearty breakfast before planning on visiting this deli, as the salt beef is both fresh and mountainous, topped with Swiss cheese and garnished with gherkin…

The Ritchie Parks

If you don’t feel like walking afterwards you might even be surprised by the arrival of the next subway train…

Mural

Until we speak again, I guess Juno and Bella would have been more interested in that eagle guarding the stairway…

Downstairs view [2]