Getting to Saigon during the Holidays 2010

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Jan 132011
 

My alarm began to buzz faintly at 6:30 am like any other Thursday, yet unlike most late weekdays, I was already awake. It’s been 10 years since I’ve crossed a major ocean for travel, but more exciting was today I was leaving for the first time to Asia and the first major trip with my new wife on our Honeymoon.

We’d planned this for months, a 3 week trip to south Vietnam to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) and southwest Thailand islands. Coming from New York, there weren’t any direct options so we booked an 11 am flight through Narita, Tokyo Japan to Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam. On the day of, the car service was on time and it seemed the traffic parted ways for us all the way to JFK this chilly December morning. Neither of us packed jackets, because soon we’d be in 80 degree weather and eating soup from a cart.

Saving money on the travel, we booked economy on American but with fingers crossed we weren’t fortunate enough to get our own row. No matter we had two types of little pills from the doctor, one being a prescription for long term rest. Over the first sixteen hours we both wrestled with sleep. Sometimes watching movies like the Social Network and Temple Grandin and other times waking up to random meals of various quality.

We landed in Narita starving – I guess we missed our morning breakfast. Like lost children at a county fair, we wondered around the airport amazed by the new land we were discovering, yet confused about where and what to do next. We settled on a Japanese ramen bar and each picked a soup dish for our late lunch; she had a miso broth and I the pork noodle ramen. It was 4 pm local time and I was having the best meal I had all weak in the airport for $12 USD a bowl.

We loaded up on various mochi, candies, obscure teas, and all the flavors of Kit Kat I could find. Much like my Europe trip, I’m finding familiar brands in foreign countries with exceptional flavors I can’t get back in the States- I got Green Tea, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry Cream and Wasabi flavors.

Back on the plane we we were becoming increasingly uncomfortable from anxiousness as we were from the long bouts of confinement. The 2nd leg, we had roomier seats but still didn’t get good rest. After another 7 hours of flight we landed in Saigon on Christmas eve. It was just after 11:30 PM local time and the airport was packed. Following the masses we found our baggage carousel and the Law began telling me about the last time she went through customs in Vietnam. 15 years ago, travelers were getting their bags, gifts, and personal belongs inspected roughly and anything of interest or value seemed to be open for confiscation by the “authorities”. Then a full carton of Marlboros and a demure smile whisked her and her Mom through with out a fuss.

Today it seemed just as easy without having to bribe with smokes – we were through in minutes. We pushed through the doors to the outside and immediately we’re brushed over by the humid midnight air. I wish I had my camera within reach, as my entrance into Saigon was that of a subdued crowd hanging out the backstage of a Rain concert, only thousands of Vietnamese locals with flowers, balloons, signs and excited smiling faces waiting for their loved ones to come out the doors for the holidays. With exhaustion setting in, I could barely figure the exchange rate accuracy when I handed over a $100 for change. The last thing I wanted to do was haggle for a taxi to our hotel, but I knew being the first one out to the street, I’d have to fight off the throngs still stuck in customs soon. With the cab stand guy in support I agreed on a 300,000 dong fare to our hotel ($15 USD which later in the week I discovered was still over payment).

We had just traveled 23 hours and barely slept yet we were like kids in the backseat of the car with our heads out the windows checking out the city. There were thousands of young kids out in the night, many taking pictures near a Christmas display erected next to on of the People’s Army helicopters or just hanging out at local stalls. The scene brought me back to Australia a bit where the seasons are reversed and Christmas is celebrated in shorts and oddly decorated trees. The city was busy with helmeted scooter drivers, bustling night stalls and older men playing games later into the night.

We arrived at our hotel, The Windsor Plaza Hotel in District 5. Walking up there was a few hundred scooters parked for the kids out on the town in the area – some hanging out at the American Discotech nightclub attached to our hotel. the hotel was bright and lavish with chandeliers and red marble stair cases. We took the elevator to the 4th floor check in lobby and was greeted with more faux Christmas deco including a 14 foot Christmas tree made of green crystals.

The hotel had upgrades us to a large suite at the end of a long hallway, away from other guests, smokers and kids. Along with robes and slippers, they provided a congratulations cake, flowers and complementary water for our stay. A bite of the cake wasn’t going to satisfy our hunger cravings, so we switched gear quickly and wondered back down to the street to have our first meal of the trip in Saigon. We had no idea where we were and the hotel concierges recommended we not wonder around if we didn’t know exactly where to go – great…

Just around the corner past the club was a small Pho Ga (chicken soup) and some kids were hanging out barbecuing and drinking 333 (Ba-Ba-Ba, a cheap vietnamese beer). The lady managing the stall arose from her cot and put together 2 bowls of soup with fresh vegetables and chilies. Here was the moment of truth. My first street meal of the trip. Was it going to make me sick? Was it going to be good? I felt this was going to set the trend for the rest of the trip. I wiped my communal chopsticks and spoon with napkins and began adding lime, bean sprouts, chilies and several green vegetables like mint, basil and other varieties I didn’t recognize.

Elysa slurped up the noodles eagerly like a home cooked meal she’d been missing for years. I was hesitant but steady. I hand known that Asian grown chicken was leaner and a little tougher from the birds being truly free range, roaming around. It wasn’t bad flavor but I didn’t enjoy the tough texture. The soup on the other hand was hot, spicy and very flavorful. We both finished at the same time, despite my slow start out the gate and I took down another Heineken to cool the extra chilies I had added to mentally kill any bacteria. Adding a large bottle of water to the tab, I paid the woman now half asleep on her street cart 55,000 dong. Still confused about the exchange rate and wondering if we got a decent deal here, however, later I figured it to be about right, about $3 for 2 bowls of pho, 2 beers and a water.

Before heading back to Windsor to catch up on sleep, we stopped by a night market to pick up some dragon fruit and lychee for the morning. There was so much fruit and a third of it I didn’t recognize – I wanted to go Andrew Zimmern on the stalls but it was still early and the jet lag was already kicking in.

We showered and tucked into a firm, lightly covered queen bed around 2 am; smiling, fat and delirious from the time zone differential. Looking forward to a great trip.

Jan 122011
 

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~ Buddha

I’ve just returned from my Southeast Asia trip – all be it, 3 days returned. It’s taken me some time to adjust to the 12 hr time difference. This was an amazing trip for the adventure, history, experience and that it was my first major trip with my new wife (our honeymoon) and as Buddha has said, I spent it all concentrating on the present moments during my trip.

I’ve taken 1000s of pictures during the nearly 3 week trek and already looking through some of them, there’s about 10% gems amongst the rushed pictures, improperly cropped and poorly exposed scenes. I realize that photography is as much about being in the moment as it is, being patient for that moment. When traveling like I did with my wife, where the focus of our trip was to get as much out of the places and people we saw as it was getting as much out of being with each other, our situations did not lend themselves to the patience and timing required for great travel photography. I was torn between the modes of relaxation and enjoyment of the scenes with my wife and capturing them with my camera and in my situation. I wasn’t able to effectively capture both – so I spent more time enjoying the moments with my wife sans lens to my face – and my wife thanks me for this decision.

In doing so, I experienced wonderful cultures, foods, people and history of Vietnam, Thailand, and even Hong Kong. We spent just under 2 weeks in Saigon and Hoi Ann, Vietnam, under 1 week in Koh Lanta, Railay Beach and Bangkok Thailand, and 5 hours in Hong Kong. Within that time, I ate some wonderful street food in Hoi an, experienced the daily life first hand in Saigon with my wife’s family, smiled widely at the sunset over Andaman sea at Railay Beach West, had dim sum in Hong Kong, shot live ammo from an M30 machine gun at the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, boated down the Mekong River eating mud fish and drinking snake whiskey, and experienced first hand the chaos of street travel in Saigon white-knuckled in a cyclo.

I’ll be sorting through my photos to find the best of the lot, but my experiences and memories will carry me farther than my photos of this trip – I’ll hopefully will be posting these quicker than my wedding albums went up. Much thanks to my wife’s family and all the people that we met that made this trip wonderful. I hope to return sooner than later.

Savannah Buzz

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Jan 232010
 

I just finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and my timing is impeccable again as it’s two months after I visited Savannah, GA; the setting for this nonfiction novel and it’s cast of eccentric personalities.

The Law and I spent 3 days getting and intimate tour of the historic district, staying at a local bed & breakfast and relaxing with a “father’s favorite” beers in the last of the 80 degree weather I’ll get till April-May. Savannah is steeped in mystery, intrigue and history viewable daily around the 22 public squares, old oak trees draped in Spanish moss like forgotten Halloween decor and the memorials for those loved and lost during the War of Aggression from the North. As you walk the eerily quite streets, you can feel the presence of the thousands of unmarked dead laid to rest around the city.

We explored the Mercer House, took lapse around Forsyth Park, had candy apples and beers on the Riverfront, breezed through the touristy City Market, had cocktails at Rocks On the Roof over looking the the largest port in GA, and wondered if it’s art or modern design coming out of SCAD these days.

More or a much needed relaxation trip, the rest was guaranteed after all the fantastic eating we engorged ourselves with. I had two of the best meals of my travels at Mrs Wilkes’ Dining Room for some “down home” cooking (I bought her cookbook so I could make the chicken and biscuits at home!) and The Olde Pink House Restaurant for some contemporary high end southern (the fried green tomatoes and crab cake appetizer is a must). Eating al fresco at B. Matthew’s Eatery a former dirty business brothel and Huey’s On the River with excellent Cajun/Creole dishes were both excellent spots was made better sipping local brews from Moon River and Sweetwater.

Even thought he B&B served custom breakfasts daily, we would eat out most mornings, even if it’s just a good cup of coffee at the Sentient Bean after a morning walk through the Victorian district. Clary’s Cafe was the best morning (and evening served) breakfast meal especially when you feel like a regular, from the first “How ya’ll doing this mornin’?”. After a brunch of sharing both a country fried steak, grits, biscuits, omelet and hash scramble I needed a nap in the near by Colonial Park Cemetery.

Disappointments were few, however, I wasn’t impressed with the BBQ (Angel’s) or the “must have” Leopold’s ice cream. Any mediocre cup of gelato in Little Italy would have been better but Leopold’s has that classic 50’s Pop Parlor feel to it – I saw George McFly working the soda fountain.

Savannah has no open container laws in the historic district or on Tybee Island. I took full advantage of this exploring the Riverfront’s Kevin Barry’s, Molly MacPherson’s, Jen’s and Friends (cheap beers and flavored martini’s for those that like em), Crystal Beer Parlor (mediocre food but great deal on 5 beers for $5 “Old Father’s Favorites” – we chatted Savannah history with locals over a few Ole’ Mickey’s, Ballantine Ale, Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, and Stroh’s), and one of my favorite’s Pinkie Master’s Lounge.

The only activity I didn’t get a chance to do was the Hearse Ghost Tours. As kitschy and touristy is most tours are, I would go back just to take a midnight tour in a hearse of Bonaventure Cemetery. And of course to come back for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and stay in Tybee Island – both event and location revolve around southern hospitality aka boozing – which worked out well for this historic Cotton Exchange Fountain originally erected in 1889, mowed down by a drunk driver in 2008:

The rest of my pictures are still being edited and will be up on the Smugmug in a few days but looking through my shots, I didn’t do the town justice. It was obvious that photography was second thought to just taking in the beauty and genteel nature of the people and this great southern town.

One of my favorite condiments just happens to be Savannah Bee Company honey and to taste straight from the comb was an additional foodie highlight. My picture of the day for day 23 of my 365 project was taken over the summer in my parent’s sunflower garden.

photo365_2010_023

Styleo, the first track from the new Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, has been released. The track features Mos Def and Bobby Womack. The album will be released on March 8th and include artists De La Soul, Little Dragon, Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and more. Looking forward to it, here’s a taste (credit Giant Step)

Gorillaz featuring Mos Def & Bobby Womack – “Stylo” from Plastic Beach (right click to download)

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Airline Fee Chart – a must bookmark

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Nov 192009
 

air-travelAs much as I travel for business, you would think I know the ins and outs of airline fees etc. However, unlikely in my case, as I just call up the corporate travel secretary and give the details of where and when, and my travel is booked.

So when I’m traveling for personal, I need to know where the deals are and Airfare Watchdog’s updated Airline Fee chart is a must when figuring out your next flight plan in the US. Matching that up with your flight search on travel aggregators like Kayak.com, you’ll find the best deals for your holiday flights or even your next vacation.

Top Club in America is in Denver?

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May 172009
 

Is it the banging sound of tracks not to be released for weeks even months on the best sound systems, the continuous crowds contributing to a positive vibe weekend after weekends, the sunshine terraces with hot sweaty dancers, clubland holds the night owl draw for many of us. It’s

DJ Mag produced on March 25th, their “definitive” list of Top Clubs of the World for 2009, but I just saw this about a month ago and wanted to comment. There’s not much listed as to how this list is compiled except that it’s voted on by readers of the magazine. I’ve always questioned these voter polls legitimacy, because there’s no criteria except for attendee (or listener, in the case of DJ polls) preference and rightly so at times.

No surprise that clubbing meccas Ibiza, Berlin and London are at the top and I’ve had the pleasure to experience at least 4 of them (bold):

01. Berghain – Berlin
02. Fabric – London
03. Space – Ibiza
04. Womb – Tokyo
05. Amnesia – Ibiza
06. Ministry Of Sound – London
07. Pacha – Ibiza
08. Watergate – Berlin
09. D-Edge – Sao Paolo
10. The End – London

Unfortunately as of press time, The End has reached its end so 11 moving up would be: Cocoon – Frankfurt, Germany.

Of the 100 list, the following are the top American clubs:

23: Beta – Denver, Colorado
25: Ruby Skye – San Francisco, California
28: Space – Miami, Florida
30: Pacha – New York, NY
34: Cielo – New York, NY
40: Avalon – Los Angeles, California
53: Vanguard – Los Angeles, California
60: Mansion – Miami, Florida
65: Vinyl – Denver, Colorado
83: 1015 – San Francisco, CA

There’s some interesting tells of this top US clubs list from the global Mag offering. First, Denver is the top US Club? What? I didn’t see that coming. Not NY, LA, Miami or even Chicago… but Denver. I’m still curious to know what’s the voting criteria here. I understand the DJs and mag subs voted on this but really, what are the standards? Club layout? Sound? Crowd? Lighting? Set up? Back stage perks?

I’m ecstatic to see my home hood of SF represented here, and somewhat malcontent that Ruby Skye is the top club still of the city. I would have thought someone else would have stepped up in the scene and created a contender.

The usual suspects from LA, SF, NY and Miami are represented, I’ve been to all of them except those in Denver, and they all seem to have a repeatable formula in layout, sound and dance music styles that don’t venture too far clubbing mainstream. Space for it’s terrace and Cielo for it’s sound and minimalism are unique in separating from the formula. Conspicuously missing are any venues from Chicago or Las Vegas (the self proclaimed mega club venue of the US).

One thing is clear, America’s club scene is well behind that of the global community according to DJ Mag with Germany, UK, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Holland, and Argentina all topping the list; most with multiple clubs representing. These are all countries where electronic, dance and house music are just as popular as other genres and even more so in some areas as you hear it saturated in every aspect of life: stores, radio, internet and even elevator musak. At least we still have an auto industry and their commercials to help support the scene…

New JetBlue terminal at JFK

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Mar 082009
 

This week I traveled to Orange County, San Diego and Hollywood for both business and a weekend of relief from the sub 40 degree weather. I selected JetBlue to get one last continental flight so I could get enough points for another free flight. I hadn’t flown the young “hip” Blue in quite a few months and this time was taken to Terminal 5 at JFK, the new US hub for JetBlue travel.

T5, the $743 million, 72-acre structure replaces the airline’s previous home in Terminal 6 — the former National Airlines and TWA facility. At the Arrivals terminal drop off, I was treated to a vacant warehouse wall of self promotion and 4 obnoxious round about revolving doors, that just plain don’t work. I with 3 others, struggled with baggage to slowly push around the doors to just enter the terminal – by far the worst engineering design of the terminal. At least those on the departure level had propped open the exit doors to escape comfortably.

The aesthetics are supposed to be white and minimal, with the traditional blue accents around. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore the terminal as I ran a bit late helping an old lady get her 6 bags through the revolving door and to check in. Security was fairly quick except for the idiot first time travelers: one that forgets to take his cell phone out of his pocket, one who would not put their bags on the security conveyor until explicitly told to by an also ticked off TSA screener, and the mother of two babies with strollers and too much unchecked bags.

The terminal boasts several food and bar spots (menus listed for all clearly just as you enter the main terminal after security – pic above), with stores that include: Lacoste, Muji, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Duty Free, and Borders. Free wifi has always been one of the biggest pulls for me to fly jetblue (except for the Oakland terminal) but this terminal also includes some laptop workstations with power outlets. Competitors should take note, as if there’s a difference in flight cost by at most 25, I’ll still take the Blue.

I found the terminal to be quite loud despite not having a lot of traffic, and quite inconvenient to get around from entrance to gate. That being said, I look forward to flying out of here again provided the side to the revolving door is open.

The flight back from Long Beach, CA over the rockies:

Expats leaving Dubai, dumping cars and dreams at the airport

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Feb 242009
 

photo by cabrown01 on Flickr

I have a friend that lives in Dubai, I believe it might be his birthday this week but I’ve been reading about the crashing effect of global downturn in business, especially that of the construction capital of the world: Dubai. It seems that many expats are just junking their cars at the airport as they fly back home, unable to pay their loans or find a new job. I know one friend left his job early to return to the states and it’s clues like these people should realize that this economic recession is worldwide.

Indians flee as dreams crash [Mumbai/DUBAI – JAN 14]
Driven down by debt, Dubai expats give new meaning to long-stay car park [The Times Online – February 5, 2009]
Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down [The NY Times February 11, 2009]

Wine tours in upstate NY

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Oct 062008
 

The last time I went on a wine tour on the east coast was out to Northfork Long Island and the best part of the experience was the scenic drive and just getting some familiarity with LI. The wines were average at best and those that I thought were good, turned out to be sour as my taste had blurred throughout the day.

This past weekend some friends organized another wine tour, this time upstate NY to some of this countries oldest and newest wineries. We started out with taking the Metro North to Salisbury Mills station near Washingtonville, NY. We had a limo service pick us up in a party bus and take us to the first spot on the tour: Brotherhood Winery.

It just happens that this past weekend Brotherhood had their 10th Annual Grape Harvest Festival which included food, craft merchants, bands and long lines at the tasting counters. We were only able to taste one selection of their wines and because of the crowds we were offered a spit of a taste from a small jello shot cup. Smelling the sausage w onions and peppers stand as we walked in, I knew I’d be devouring one of those savory links but we also shared in some of the best food of the festival from the Reggae Boy Cafe with jerk chicken and oxtail soup (check them out in Poughkeepsie, NY).

It was here I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore as I was surrounded by families, kids and even dogs draped in “Palin Country” and “McCain 08” gear, some of it even ripped up from their front lawns. A few sharp hells of hate against Obama further disturbed me but we weren’t here to canvas but to take in what good, was offered from these upstate wineries. Ultimately I did not like any of the Brotherhood wines that I tasted but I’m sure there’s some gems in there, I never got the opportunity to get there.

Back in the bus with some carnival sweets, we headed to Glorie Farm Winery, located up on a ridge overlooking the valley. A great view for a very small tasting “shack”. Glorie offered a few key wines that I would have bought and locally grown apples as well. It was $5 to taste 5. Of the ones offered, the Seyval Blanc Estate Reserve, Glorie De Chaunac Oak and the Cabernet Franc was a close third.

With a few bottles down, some scenic pics in the memory card, back on the bus we crammed to head to Stoutridge Winery just down the road. The property is the largest of the four wineries we saw and the newest as it has been rebuilt in 2001 from a vandal’s fire. We met Stephen Osborn and Kimberly Wagner, the owners of the winery and received more than our share of lecture before tasting on the gravity-flow winery that uses minimalist winemaking techniques. I think Stephen over sold his wines in the lecture and they just didn’t live up to the description; I would have preferred letting the wine speak for themselves with a follow up on the detail.

I didn’t have any favorite wines at Stoutridge but I did like their hard pair cider so it’s good to see that they are branching out into other areas that could work for them. I would have spent some time on their patio drinking other wines but as we were on Tim’s schedule we needed to make it to the last winery for a taste and get back to the station for our ride home.

We took a drive this time up another ridge to Benmarl Winery which is self proclaimed America’s Oldest Winery where Andrew Jackson Caywood first planted and bottled wine in the Hudson river valley. Now Marlboro, NY, Benmarl is the most romantic of the 4 wineries we visited, located up on the ridge with a beautiful grassy knowel for enjoying the wines or the blues that’s typically played through the summer.

We enjoyed our time at Benmarl so much we blew off the train tickets, bought a case of wine and started popping corks! Over all a fantastic trip up north bearing more fruit than my Northfork excursion. I’d recommend this trip over the long island one any day and was a much more enjoyable drive around the valley.


New Orleans & Jazz Heritage Festival 08

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May 102008
 

This past weekend several friends from around the nation gathered in the still broken community known as the Big Easy for the NOLA Jazz Festival. To a certain extend only one of the two iterations of this nickname are still true: The French Quarter is still one big open speak-easy, however, its no longer true that it’s easy to find work here.

I landed late on Wed, however, not late enough and endured a long 2 hours wait for some friends to come through. We checked into my corporate staple – the Marriott, on the boarder of FQ and the Central Business District. Without even claiming space we’re already out on the quarter looking for a hole to get some local grub and a few beers.

We make our way down most of the main strip of Bourbon and right past the tourist wonder of Port of Call to Saint Peters and hit Yo-mamas. $4 – 28 oz draft Abita‘s (the local amber brew), and the best 1/2 lb burgers sided with a fully dressed baked potato as big as your foot. Yo-mama’s doesn’t cater to that handgrenade or hurricane slaying crowd, just bar goers that like their drink strong, and their companions with no bull shit. We went back almost every night and ate here twice. Definitely love the Bull Fighter with extra jalapeños (however back at the hotel, the mates didn’t).

The wed night crowd was light but noticeably less douchebaggy or fratty but we still took down the quarter closing out several bars and getting a good feel for what’s going to be a party, what are the jazz spots and where do we go to meet the people wanting to stay on the strip but away from the tourists. We ended our night at the Old Absinthe House bar on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville; built in 1806 this is where Pirate Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson planned the victory of the battle of New Orleans on the second floor. No green fairy for us but the spot is great to get away from the frey watch those that do partake (we ended several nights here as well).

Starting late in the morning on Thursday set the tone for the rest of the week. We had some more friends come in later this afternoon so we went down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for some beers on the patio. Lafitte’s is the oldest functioning bar in the US and rumored to be the oldest standing building in the entire Mississippi Valley. Good mix of locals and like minded tourists… until the yuppiest of clans showed up chatting up their latest sailing adventures and next trips to Cape Cod we stayed for a few hours before the tide turned.

We sampled the hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, which when you think of the stumbling tourists around the quarter, it’s hurricane’s their usually clutching to keep their tilt sideways. The drink is synonymous with O’Brien’s, created during World War II and one of the most sought-after tourist souvenir.

We witnessed some film cameras in and around the quarter catching the “reality” of Bourbon St. I found later they were there for a Central City show with Luda and Widespread.

The weather turned out to be perfect during the weekend (far from the T-storms predicted).

One of the primary requirements of any travel is getting good food and lots of it. In no particular order I sampled (around NOLA and at the Festival):

Fried Crab Cake w/ Smoked Tomato & Jalapeño Tartar
Soft shell crab po boy
Dozens of raw oysters
Oyster and Crawfish Po Boy from VertiMarte
Crawfish Etouffe
Pheasant, Quail, and Andouille Gumbo
Half the menu at Emeril’s NOLA
Cajun Jambalaya
Beignets and Cafe au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Hot Sausage Po-Boy
Crawfish
Grits, biscuts, chicken fried steak, gravy and other brunch at Cafe Fleur de Lis
late night gyro at Ali Ba Ba’s
… Fortunately! no lucky dogs

Saturday, we picked up round trip bus tickets from a local hotel, which seems to be the best option getting there and started drinking on the way. The line to purchase tickets wasn’t that bad, and we saved on the ridiculous Ticketmaster over charge which I always recommend. There’s so many artists playing in over 10 tents or stages, you really need to spend at least 2 days at the festival to get the most of the music there. Saturday’s headliners were: Jimmy Buffett, Steel Pulse, The Roots, Bobby McFerrin and Marcia Ball. Jimmy’s stage area was packed and not accessable if you didn’t get there hours before his show. Steel Pulse and the Roots were off the hook. I also caught a few riffs of Kenny Wayne Shepherd but don’t remember any of the other great festival artists I heard.

The weekend before NOLA was hit by thunderstorms, rain and consequently caused serious mud and “fun” for many of the participants. Since we’d been here for 3 days, and mass consumption of alcohol has worn our stamina thin. The cooling mist of the auto tent and shade offered a few hours of relief as did the glorious food options.

That evening we rallied and caught the Parliament show which has been one of my top bands to check out live before they stopped performing. More than expected they were off the hook.

New Orleans is still feeling the effects of Katrina. The pain is hidden in the eyes but the life and spirit still carries on strong in the music, food, people and community. I’ll definitely be back for the festival and more food. Here’s a few more pics from the weekend.

“New Orleans is one of the last places in America where music is truly a fundamental part of everyday life. People get together on the weekends and parade through the streets just playing songs; 12-year-old-kids learn funk on the tuba; everyone dances. Life elsewhere in the world simply isn’t as celebratory. If we allow the culture of New Orleans to die by leaving its musicians marooned around the country, America will have lost one of its great treasures.”

-Damian Kulush of OK Go