The Big Easy, La Nouvelle-Orléans, aka. New Orelans

Laissez les bon temps rouler! (“Lay-say le bon tom roo-lay”)

“Let the good times roll!”

LouisianaDay 11

Miles Driven: 544

Packed and ready to go by 9:30, we took off from San Antonio and started the long drive to New Orleans! The time between San Antonio and Houston was passed with episodes from a great podcast: Stuff You Missed in History Class. I have been trying to find episodes related to our destinations, so in anticipation of our future stop in Alabama, we learned about Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders. Lunch stop at Cracker Barrel.

Houston, TX looked a lot like Los Angeles, but once through, the scenery changed dramatically. We were closer to the water now. As we neared the Mississippi River, bayou and swamps began to settle along the I-10. On this drive, we saw beautiful birds, an armadillo, and even a small alligator along the side of the road, lurking in the water’s edge.

We drove through a strong thunder storm and discovered a small leak into the car causing a puddle of water to form at the passenger’s feet, so now, I ride with a plastic container at my feet, just in case. 🙂

Day 12

Miles Driven: 117

_MG_1134New Orleans and Louisiana were established as a French Colony and named for King Louis XIV. The United States bought the territory in 1802 through the Louisiana Purchase. Now, many different people live in New Orleans including the ancestrally French Creole, English, and slaves brought from Senegal, Africa. This morning, we drove about 45 minutes photo 1to Laura: A Creole Plantation. This plantation was restored just after Hurricane Katrina hit and was a fantastic tour. We learned about the French General who received a land grant from Thomas Jefferson after the Revolution. The plantations along the Mississippi River grow sugar cane because of the moist sandy earth. The plantation did very well, even through the civil war and was run by generations of female presidents (plantation owners).

The plantation homes are usually lifted above the earth to avoid flood damage. Brick below and local cedar construction above because cedar is bug resistant. The Creole, French speaking, homes are painted in bright colors, yellow walls with green trim, while the English speaking homes are painted white.

On the way back to New Orleans, we walked around the outside of the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation. This elegant plantation is framed by rows of Live Oak trees that are covered with dripping Spanish Moss.

_MG_1149Once in the city, we took the St. Charles Street Car into the French Quarter and made our way to Cafe du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait. They were covered in powdered sugar. Yum!

photo 2photo 3

We walked and walked through the photo 4French Quarter, dined at The Gumbo Shop and enjoyed jambalaya. Our final stop of the day was at a jazz club recommend to us by the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. The Spotted Cat hosted people of all ages and always had a local band playing. It was very fun!

Day 13

Miles Driven: 99

After breakfast, we headed to the Garden District and enjoyed driving past some of the beautiful, gigantic homes in that area. Finally we stopped at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 to explore the interesting above ground tombs. These tombs are a tradition brought over from France but are also ideal to prevent the cemetery from sinking deeper into the soft soil and for keeping families together. Very creepy and very cool.

_MG_1154_MG_1160_MG_1183Our excursion for this morning was a trip with Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour. This tour was excellent. Our group was small, the guide knowledgeable, and the weather perfect for active alligators and wild pigs. We saw so many animals in a very interesting landscape.

_MG_1175_MG_1185photo 5On the drive back to New Orleans we stopped at a recommended local seafood joint, Peck’s, and enjoyed boiled cajun crawfish and shrimp and sweet tea. Yum!

As we pulled into our hotel, I noticed a stream of liquid coming out of the engine. Not good when on a road trip. Off we went to find a mechanic only to discover a puncture in one of the radiator hoses. Luckily it was an easy fix.

We took a little tour through some of the neighborhoods in New Orleans that had been most affected by the levee breech during Hurricane Katrina. In some areas, so much work has been done to restore the damages, while other neighborhoods are left abandoned.

Day 14

We packed the car and hurried into the French Quarter for a final few sights. We visited the Louisiana State Museum where they had and excellent exhibit on the Hurricane and it’s after effects. Final jambalaya lunch at The Gumbo Shop and grabbed some pecan pralines for the road.

Next stop, Alabama!

Total Miles: 3,413

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Hej fra København

14-18 February 2012

Tuesday.

Arrived in Copenhagen at 8pm to falling snow. It was as if Denmark was welcoming us! We took the metro into the city center and were greeted by our Cal Poly friends. We had yummy sandwiches and elderflower cordial at the restaurant Dalle Valle.

The view from my room!

We are all staying with a different one of our classmates. In Copenhagen, the housing situation is much different then ours in Italy. All of the university students stay in apartment buildings called Kollegiums. These dormitories are completely student run. The students have their own room in a long row of doors, share a bathroom, and a communal kitchen. We all got to meet lots of different people, Danish and International students alike. I am very happy to live in Italy and have my own apartment, but I think that my Copenhagen classmates have so many opportunities to meet the “locals.”

Wednesday.

Our friend Jean took us all over Copenhagen today! We began the morning eating fresh Danish pastries; known as Wienerbrod in Danish. I had a yummy raisin roll and an almond pastry!

We walked to the waterfront to see the iconic Nyhavn Historical Harbor. This canal is surrounded by beautiful, colorful townhouses and storefronts and filled with old, wooden boats. The week before, the weather had been so cold, causing the salt water in the harbor to freeze. It was so interesting to see the boats stuck in their positions by the 12” thick ice.

Just around the corner is the Royal Danish Playhouse (Skuespilhuset). This beautiful theater was designed by Danish architects Lundgaard & Tranberg. Situated on the waterfront, I think it showcases the cleanliness of Danish design. The interior structure is covered in horizontal dark stone, while a glass curtain wall incases the lobby and café. The staff and cast rooms occupy the cantilevered roof structure.

We took the water taxi through the icy harbor to the Copenhagen Opera House. This building is very interesting, but I was not as impressed by it. Jean was saying that Copenhagen is not happy with the placement of this building. It is situated directly across the harbor from the Queen’s Amalienborg Palace and in line with the Marble Church. It seems that the new Opera House disrupts an axis created by the historical buildings of Copenhagen.

Just behind the Opera House is the Copenhagen University of Design and houses the Architecture School: KArch. Jean took us to the Senior Thesis Show and we got to see the work of the architecture students in Denmark.

We got a quick lunch and then took the train to northern Copenhagen to the Modern Art Museum: Louisiana. The train ride was very exciting as we tried to figure out their very confusing transportation system – we almost got in trouble with a very grumpy conductor, but she gave us a chance to get our tickets straightened out. (**learned: make sure you understand the Danish transportation system. They like to follow the rules.)

Sweden on the horizon!

Louisiana is a very cool museum that used to fill just one historical building. Over the years, the museum has expanded to other out-buildings and is connected by a series of brightly lit corridors with great view of the sea. The sky was so clear, we could see all the way to Sweden!

Thursday

With snow falling today, Mic took us around the city center. Copenhagen is filled with many, pedestrian only, walking streets. All of the shopping and cafes line these streets. We got to visit their school, the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS), peak inside Danish furniture shops, and even visit the LEGO store of Copenhagen!

We got to walk past the Queen’s Palace and got very close to her front door and guards. We finally made it out to the harbor again to see the very small statue of the little mermaid. Hans Christian Andersen, author of the story The Little Mermaid, was born in Copenhagen and is honored with this statue.

Next we visited Christiania. This neighborhood has been taken over by the “free-spirited” population of Copenhagen. They have declared this area a free state and the law enforcers tend to turn a blind eye to what happens inside. The “green-light district” very interesting and eye-opening part of the day!

We spent the afternoon in a great coffee shop: Paludan. This bookshop and café had the coziest atmosphere and served some of the best chai tea I have had in a long time. I think that the café is something that I miss in Italy. In Florence, the only place of get coffee is in a “bar.” Italians take a shot of espresso in the afternoon while standing at a counter. This does not give you the same satisfaction as sitting in a comfy chair with a large cup of tea and talking with your friends for an hour. When I drink coffee or tea, I like to enjoy it, not down it quickly just to get through the rest of the day. I had such a nice time enjoying the cafes so to relax and escape the cold outside.

We had a little group dinner tonight and then took a walk on one of the frozen lakes!

Friday

Today, the Copenhagen kids had class, so we were on our own. We took the metro south to some of the new apartment buildings that are beginning to sprawl into the countryside.

BIG, Bjarke Ingels Group is a Danish architecture firm that many of my professors like. The apartment building called “8” is in the shape of a figure eight with large courtyards in the middle. The individual apartments are raised slightly above the one next door, allowing each apartment to be connected by ramps. The surrounding countryside was just beautiful!

We spent another afternoon enjoying chai in a café ☺

Saturday

Last day in Copenhagen. We took the morning slowly and I made French toast for our group breakfast. Finished packing. One more relaxing chai before heading to the airport.

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I really enjoyed the clean and industrial Copenhagen. It was nice to see our friends, laugh, and compare our new homes.