May 22, 2017

A Confederacy of Vices

The perfectly located Hotel St. Marie looks like an antique building but was built 40 years ago, making it a relative newcomer to the Vieux Carré.

MARCH 2017: A GLAMOR TO GUTTER LITERARY TRAVEL LOG OF FRENCH QUARTER TOURISM, WITH OCCASSIONAL REFERENCES TO A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES. New Orleans is one of the extraordinary cities, a hybrid of old and new world cultures, the perfect package of people, architecture, attitude, and vibe. Tennessee Williams once said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.  Everywhere else is Cleveland.” But what about Chicago? What about Las Vegas? What about Miami? The point is well made, New Orleans is unique and there is no place like it. For a year, my friend Graham and …continue reading

Laura Plantation is Louisiana’s best house tour

Laura Plantation was built in 1805 in the traditional Creole colonial manner with a raised brick basement and briquette-entre-poteaux construction.

Growing up, I never heard of Laura Plantation; but over the past two decades it has been the buzz of Louisiana’s plantation parade. Hard to believe, but this historical gem has been hidden in plain sight within the cluster of other notorious homes like Oak Alley, St. Joseph, and San Francisco. And having seen nearly every plantation across my home state and many house museums around the world, visiting Laura has been on my list. Last year at a wedding in Houston I met Jay Schexnaydre, one of the managers of Laura Plantation. He encouraged me to visit, promising it …continue reading

Tourism during, and Surviving, the Bayou Classic

Melanie’s first experience in the Crescent City, we saw as many sights as we could. We even took a street car ride up Saint Charles

Bullets rained on Bourbon Street on November 27th, 2016, as an argument between two thugs escalated. When the smoke cleared, ten people had been shot, one fatally; and none of the victims had anything to do with the original altercation—none were intended targets. The shooting erupted because of a previous quarrel between the two, and took place a few hours after the conclusion of the Bayou Classic, an annual Saturday night football game between Grambling State and Southern University. It is a dangerous weekend in New Orleans; and this is my own story of tourism during, and surviving, the Bayou …continue reading

Blowout: the Louisiana Tire Catastrophe of 2014

The other day a ping emanated from my dashboard; a diagram of the car lit up and the pressure in each tire was displayed.

The other day a ping emanated from my dashboard; a diagram of the car lit up and the pressure in each tire was displayed. Noticing tires on the lower side of acceptable pressure, my first thought attributed the gauge fluctuation to the chilly change of weather. But then I remembered my blowout: the Louisiana tire catastrophe of 2014. I-10 runs 275 miles through Louisiana—and I have travelled every inch of it many many times. This particular trip, my Springer Spaniel was a young dog and I owned an onyx colored Mercedes E-class sedan, which appeared either metallic black or deep …continue reading

Southern Stories in the Books of 2016

Hathaway Hall in The River Road is obviously Nottoway; Nottoway Plantation by Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA, via Wikimedia Commons.

In November I was a guest at a small party in River Oaks at the mansion of Exxon heiress Joan Blaffer Johnson; I met Joan and one of her sons. It was a sunny day and a lovely gathering on Del Monte Drive. But I recalled a scandal which took place in that mansion; something about a con man who not only took over the family’s finances but also terrorized them for years. After leaving the party one of my friends asked, “Didn’t you read Monster in River Oaks?” I bought and read the book right away. And OMG! As …continue reading

La Tapatia did not just catch fire again—with us it!

We got out of La Tapatia just as the fire trucks arrived.

Last week my friend Stacey Abbott and I had lunch together at La Tapatia, the Montrose location of course, just the two of us. Stacey fashions a weight conscience salad out of fajitas and lettuce; I shamelessly order the cheese enchiladas. But we both love the margaritas—La Tapatia has one of the best house margaritas in Houston. After we finished our meal we were savoring our last drinks when I excused myself for the men’s room. As I stood at the urinal I looked up, knowing that La Tapatia had recently reopened after a kitchen fire, and I admired the fresh …continue reading

Memories, Museums, and Moonlight in Vermont

The last of Vermont's seasonal color on a forest road at Hildene.

My whole familiarity of Vermont came from Newhart, a popular CBS sitcom in the 1980s starring comedian Bob Newhart as Dick Loudon, an innkeeper in rural Vermont; the 200-year old Stratford Inn becomes the epicenter for illogical behavior and odd characters (like Tom Poston as George Utley; and Larry, Darryl, and the his other brother Darryl). George Utley: Dick, I cleared out that obstruction in the chimney. Dick Loudon: Thanks George. What was it? George Utley: I don’t know but when I woke it up, it ran away. And given a list of places to travel, the People’s Republic of Vermont …continue reading

I ate Portland, Maine

Steamed lobster and clams, classic Maine fare, from J's Oyster Bar on Portland's Historic Waterfront.

When I was a kid Alka-Seltzer coined the popular slogan, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.  And my recent trip to Portland, Maine, leaves me with the same sentiment because I ate Portland. Who knew that Portland was such a foodie town?  But when lobsters, clams, fish, and shrimp pulled freshly from the Atlantic are mixed with the plethora of New England grown produce and locally-raised dairy and livestock, it results in what Bon Appétit has called America’s Foodiest Small Town. I have visited Portland before and ate myself silly.  But this last trip afforded me quite a …continue reading

Hildene, where you visit the Lincolns

Hildene in Manchester, Vermont, was the summer home of the Lincolns.

Hidden in the picturesque mountains of western Vermont, just outside the village of Manchester, is a house museum called Hildene, where you visit the Lincolns.  And a house museum it is, indeed.  House museums under the TroysArt Destinations tab are usually highly recommended to get a sense of the cultural and societal influences of an area.  But the summer home owned by the heirs of Abraham Lincoln is not only a house but also a shrine to one of the country’s most significant presidents. Robert Todd Lincoln was the oldest son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln; and the only …continue reading

I read Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou

"Murder in the Bayou" by Ethan Brown. Who killed the women known as the Jeff Davis 8?

I lived in Jennings, Louisiana, a few years back and the hottest topic in town was the unsolved murders of eight women in what has become known as the Jeff Davis 8. Over the past few years I read that an investigative journalist named Ethan Brown set about writing about the killings. His recently published book is the result of years of public record searches and interviews. So without doubt I was very interested to read Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8? “As Jackson peered deeper into the Grand Marais Bayou, he spied the …continue reading