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Take A Bite Out Of New Orleans

10 MUST-TRY RESTAURANTS (& WHAT TO ORDER) New Orleans has serious soul. Its rich heritage and distinct culture are discernable with all five senses. There’s music everywhere! And not just classic New Orleans jazz. Ten-piece brass bands congregate on street corners, and talented, solo rappers spit beats (the city gave us Lil Wayne, after all). I can’t imagine a quiet New Orleans. There’s a celebration for everything, and the city goes all out. New Orleans remains alive 24 hours a day, partially because the nightlife rolls straight into the morning. Beads aren’t just prominent around Mardi Gras: If you look up, you’ll likely find a few strapped in the trees and balconies year-round. La Nouvelle, as it once was called, is dressed in history; the diverse architecture reflects the city’s unique past. Its earliest roots were with the French (1718), overlain by the Spanish and personalized by residents from the Caribbean Isles. By the time Americans took over in 1803, each culture had left its distinctive mark. You’ll notice brightly painted Creole cottages in the French Quarter, and the most

Taylor Hagood: Key West Dreaming

When I received my Ph.D. in a year I shall not name, a friend of mine gave me a book written by Joy Williams entitled The Florida Keys: A History and Guide. I was about to move to Florida to start a job as a professor, and I had little concept of the Keys. The only thing I knew about the place was that there was a store in Key West named Fast Buck Freddie’s because my family then had a refrigerator magnet manufacturing business, and Fast Buck Freddie’s carried the products. Fast Buck Freddie’s: I love writing that. It seems to me that if South Florida should ever become a nation of its own it could be called Fast Buck Freddie’s. But back to Williams’s book, as I looked at the cover, with its blue sky and palm fronds with a beach peeking through, I had no idea how deeply my life would take root in Florida. I remember moving down, my father driving a U-Haul while I drove my red Nissan pickup truck (that as I now write has over

Taylor Hagood: Bourbon Street Blues

I imagine myself to be one of a minority of people who prefer New Orleans in the morning. Give me bright sunshine, with palm fronds glistening, the heat and humidity already both menacing and languid, the streets webbed with runnels of fresh water dripping from hanging ferns and washing away the vomit of the night before. Few places blend garbage and beauty so well as New Orleans—no place does better, except maybe Naples, Italy. The garbage makes quite a few visitors nervous, especially folks I have known from the Midwest. But garbage is an important part of the city, and really it is hardly fair to separate it from the city’s haunting European-style beauty. For there is a lovely aesthetic in the gleaming black of 40-gallon garbage bags filled to bursting with the left-overs of some of the finest restaurants in the world. Piled in mute excess, even in the Vieux Carré, bulged like old-time friars dozing into accomplishing daylight, they emblematize the genuine love of pleasure over work and efficiency the city has always been better at than the

TAYLOR HAGOOD – BEALE STREET & BEYOND

Memphis, for me, first and foremost emerges as neon signs either created in the 1950s or made to look so. Certain ones stand out as iconic: the Peabody Hotel spelled out in big red letters on its roof; Poplar Tunes with its arrow-head-tipped musical staff of notes; Leonard’s Pit Barbeque’s top-hatted, cane-twirling pig. But mostly all those twisted glass tubes of glowing light, with their colors balanced on a razor edge of cool and warm, emerge like a grand Dale Chihuly sculpture, redolent of Memphis’s heyist of heydays, when Elvis Presley was living and breathing and at any moment walking down Beale Street decked out in pink, cream, and black, his sleeves rolled up. Meanwhile, only blocks away Johnny Cash was moaning his halting way through a new record, Wanda Jackson was shimmying in her oh-so-tight fringed dress while nitroglycerin-growling her cute voice, Carl Perkins was hacking his way around a new run on his home-rigged electric guitar, or the brilliant and maybe deranged genius Jerry Lee Lewis was banging away on the piano after arguing religion with Sam Phillips in