“Laissez les bon temps rouler”

Did you think this post was going to be about Mardi Gras? I’ve never been, although I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the city of New Orleans at other parts of the year. And this post isn’t about New Orleans either. Not just New Orleans that is. It is about my favorite cities, of which The Big Easy is one. Portland, Oregon, Chicago, New Orleans, and Edinburgh, Scotland, are all cities I’ve been to, fallen in love with, and would go back to in a New York minute. Sorry New York…maybe in another post.
I was born near Chicago; so near that my dad could walk ½ block, hop on a commuter train, and be at his job in about 45 minutes. We went downtown almost every school holiday, and our school field trips took us to exotic places like The Field Museum (history, dinosaurs, and bones), the Museum of Science and Industry (culture, inventions, a German submarine and Coal Mine I was not brave enough to ride until I was an adult), The Shedd Aquarium, Goodman Theatre, and so on and so on. Did I mention the Art Institute? I still like to play tourist up there even though the cityscape has changed over the years and the Prudential Building is not the tallest structure anymore. The food is amazing, the shopping and theatre are both extraordinary, and there are surprises around every corner. Dirty, scandalous, a city of rich and poor, clusters of small ethnic neighborhoods. Would I live there? Hmmm.
Portland Oregon is where my daughter lives, a point in the city’s favor of course, but the city itself seduced me. Mountains (even though I’m afraid of heights) in the background, the Willamette and Columbia Rivers within shouting distance, a temperate valley where people seem to be greener and friendlier even on those rainy days of winter when the skies are gray and the best place to be is Powell’s Books or possibly a café serving tea and macarons. Portland is a walker’s and a biker’s city. It has The Pearl, Laurelhurst, Mt. Tabor (part of the city is built around an old and hopefully dead volcano) Hawthorne Street, Chinatown, and you can see them in a day or two without running yourself ragged. And the bridges. Portland has ten, I think, linking one side of the city to the other. The Columbia Gorge is an hour away, as is Mt. Hood, the coast is an hour in the other direction and you can visit Astoria, where the Pacific and the Columbia River meet.
Edinburgh is close to my heart and my heritage. The city lives and breathes history, good and bad, with buildings older than the colony of Virginia. The past is revered there. If a building is sound, it is used. There are stairways between streets that pass below windows through which 17th century dwellers tossed their dirty dishwater. There are ghosts and legends and an amazing Castle. My mother came from Scotland as a young girl, and we made the trip to see her birthplace in Ayrshire, a small town named Crookedholm. The town is still there…and still small. But we went to Edinburgh as well, and Sterling. The people are lovely, friendly, and know their origins. Three days was not enough time to see it all.
And then there is New Orleans. The City that Care forgot. I used to think that saying meant that Care never dared show its face in a city so filled with music and cultures, but sadly, it means the opposite. New Orleans is a city of contradictions: music like nowhere else in the world, Cajun, Creole, zydeco, blues, jazz, and, yes, their own brand of rock. Amanda Shaw’s fiddle, Big Sam’s Funky Nation funk, trombones, drums lines, brass bands and mournful pianos and saxophones. Food people travel miles just to experience, whether it’s the mufalettas at Central Grocery, Mother’s famous sandwiches, the bread pudding at Pascal Manale, or crawfish at a boil during French Quarter and Jazz Fests. The people are, for the most part, courteous to friends and strangers alike. I say for the most part because there are always those too busy to stop and say Hey, but I’ve been greeted with smiles more often than not. What you need to know is that New Orleans is more than the French Quarter. It is a city of neighborhoods and cultures, sometimes closely held and sometimes spilling over onto each other. There are places it is not safe to be day or night, and there are beauties like Audubon Park and the Waterfront. And the Mississippi River.
Thumbnail sketches never really tell you everything about a place, or a person, but the words above hopefully share some of the reasons these cities are tops on my list. Good times roll in each and every one of them…as I hope they do for you wherever you are.



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2 responses to ““Laissez les bon temps rouler”

  1. Lynn Martin

    When are you putting the tours together. I want to go!

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