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2 Days in the Big Easy

I’ve had such a great time here in New Orleans. It’s a big city, no doubt. How big was a surprise to this Charlestonian. It’s like Paris without the Metro (or the Louvre). I finally got the knack of driving it’s streets—pedal to the metal and balls to the wall. Like Charleston, it has a very laid-back vibe in general. Everyone’s been friendly and I’ve never, ever felt threatened, as I was afraid I would be.

Yesterday morning I ate at a little cafe around the corner.

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There was a nice looking lady next to me at the next table. She had a huge manuscript on the table so I asked if she was a teacher (don’t ask how I got that). She laughed and said she was often asked that. We struck up a great conversation. Sara Ann Harris was in the National Park Service for 28 years, had retired and written a book. The book was just okayed for publication so she was really excited. It’s a book about the Spanish that settled a bit east of New Orleans, and their culture. If I got any of that wrong, forgive me Sara Ann. I’m pretty sure I got it right. We traded laughs about tons of stuff then traded emails.

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After breakfast I made my first trip to the French Quarter with the intention of eating lunch at Acme Oyster Bar after walking off breakfast. It was quite an eye-opener, that part of the city. It felt like miles of vieux maisons  just packed sided-by-side over blocks and blocks, and tons of wrought iron. Charleston is so dainty in comparison. This was hard core. And the oysters were perfection!!

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This morning I met Kris Davidson for breakfast. Kris taught me a Documentary Photography class at AAU and she does frequent assignments for National Geographic (among other publications). I knew she lived down here so she was kind enough to meet me and treat me to breakfast! I had a great time picking her brain about the inner workings of a documentary photographer—the stuff behind the scenes that we never learn about in school. Kris is so upbeat and has so much knowledge that it was a joy to talk over breakfast. And no, strangely enough, I did not take her photo! But here’s one from her website (all copyright Kris Davidson):

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It’s always been a dream of mine (and my friend, Linda’s) to work for Nat Geo. I know Kris would say it’s possible. So I’m going with that.

NOLA, I’m here!

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Lafayette Cemetery #1

Today I trekked further southward to New Orleans. The drive from Natchitoches took almost no time (well, comparatively speaking) and was really interesting. I had heard of the Atchafalaya Basin before but didn’t realize how HUGE it is! It’s literally a million acres and stretches 140 miles! When you cross it on I-10, you drive on a raised highway for miles…and miles…and miles. I love swamps so it was a very cool experience for me (other than the messed up drivers).

It’s easy to tell when you hit Nawlens. The traffic sux. It’s like Tacoma driving—80mph bumper-to-bumper. Once off the interstate it was just as crazy but slower. The Lonely Planet guidebook says the residents use the stop signs as suggestions, and it wasn’t kidding. I almost got t-boned by a Cadillac in my first 10 minutes here. My home here is totally funky and I’ll post on that later. I drove around and basically got lost to get to know the city. I ended up in the Lower 9th where Katrina wiped everyone out. I saw the new levee and I have to say if that’s all that’s keeping out Lake Pontchartrain, I’d be a-moving out fast. It’s seriously scary when you see it in real life.

I have a Wednesday breakfast meeting with one of my former teachers at AAU who works as a documentary photographer for National Geographic. Her name is Kris Davidson and here’s her website. Do you think I’m looking forward to it? You betcha!

So, more tomorrow. Lafayette Cemetery closes at 2:30pm (????) so I’ll have to go back tomorrow for more pics. Laissez les bon temps roulez!