[one drawing #31] hand: peace

I got bored in the Los Angeles metro, from Long Beach to Downtown. I looked for something to draw but couldn’t find anything particularly interesting after drawing all the fun signs in the car. So I decided to draw a self portrait of my left hand. Regretted that I chose ‘V’ (known to be the symbol of ‘peace’) pose because after about five minutes my hand started to hurt.

***What I learned today***
-Making ‘peace’ with a hand is not an easy task.

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[one drawing #29] wrigley field day & night

I visited the historic Wrigley Field in Chicago (home of the Cubs) a couple of weeks ago. In the baseball park, it is always fun to watch a day turning into night in the middle of the game.

I drew the day and night of the Wrigley Field in four tones with 6B pencil, for fun! Started with two outlines (day+night,) numbered the spaces, and filled them with a pencil according to the numbers.

Wrigley Field, Chicago: day

Wrigley Field, Chicago: night

Four tones used, 6B Fabre Castell pencil

Wrigley Field numbered 1~4

Here is the real Wrigley Field, day & night.

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[Amtrak trip] 24h in New Orleans (1)

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Be nice or leave! Motto of New Orleans

 

10:30 AM The oldest tram in the world

I started the second day in New Orleans quite late. It seemed it was the way everybody was doing it in New Orleans. After taking a good rest, I went for a lunch at Carrollton Market in the west side of the city (Carrollton) beside the Mississippi river.

It was about 4.7 miles from my hotel. I decided to try the historic New Orleans tram #12, oldest streetcar in the world! I could buy the ticket very easily with the smartphone app ‘RTA Go Mobile.’ One day unlimited ride ticket (Jazzy pass) was $3.00.

The tram was made with wood and rattled as it went slowly. There was no window glass on the driver’s seat so the driver could announce whatever he/she wants (like “take the next tram!”) by shouting it out loud to the streets. The tram took the historic St. Charles Ave, which was filled with beautiful/huge houses and large trees.

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The oldest streetcar in the world

12:00 Lunch at Carrollton Market

Carrollton Market was reported in Forbes magazine as one of the four restaurants that you shouldn’t miss today in New Orleans. And the owner/chef Jason Goodenough had been named the chef of the year by New Orleans Magazine last year. The food was very elegant and interior was cozy. I had Oyster Goodenough French Omelet ($17) that was very unique and rich in taste.

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Carrollton Market

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Oyster Goodenough French Omelette at Carrollton Market

2:00 PM Waking around Magazine Streets

Magazine Streets are 6 miles stretching streets in the west side of New Orleans filled with local shops. The streets are abundant of vintage shops, antiques, and various local products. I was not planning for shopping but ended up buying a leather pencil case at Box Paper Scissor (beautiful stationery shop) and two vinyls (SP) of Quincy Jones and George Harrison at Peach’s Record.

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Kaweco fountain pens at Box Paper Scissor

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Peach’s Record

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Very very interesting coloring book at Peach’s Record

4:00 PM Cocktail time

We took the tram again to come back to the French Quarter. It was now sizzling and impossible to stay outside for too long. So like everybody else in New Orleans, we went for cocktails. At first, we just grabbed any seat at the bar Famous Door that was playing live music (something like Irish country songs…?) and drank a big cup of Hurricane cocktail that so many people were drinking (rum+passion fruit juice.)

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Famous Door at Bourbon Street

It was a bit early for a dinner and too hot to walk around, so I decided to go for… another cocktail, thinking it must have been weather that made New Orleans a birthplace of cocktail. My next stop was Carousel Bar at Monteleone Hotel. The bar is the only rotating (yes, spinning slowly like a carousel) bar in New Orleans and according to its website it had been spinning for 65 years now! I had Vieux Carre ($12.00), signature cocktail created in 1938 (Rey Whiskey+Sweet Vermouth+etc.) which was strong enough for a hot summer day

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Vieux Carre cocktail at Carousel Bar (minions not included :-P)

7:00 PM Seafood Dinner at Felix

I had this list of ’10 things that you must eat in New Orleans,’ from USA tourism site and felt like I was running out of time to eat them all in three days. So to check out several menus at once, I went to Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar. It was very casual restaurant that served New Orleans style seafoods. We had half shell oysters, char-grilled oysters, Crawfish Etouffee, and Jambalaya. The waitress recommended seasonal local draft beer which was watermelon (!) beer. It was perfect for the weather and the food.

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Char grilled Oysters at Felix

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The list of ‘ten things I must eat’ in New Orleans

After the dinner, it was cooler than before so we walked to the next spot, Frenchmen St. On a way, I encountered a wonderful shop (Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar) that had hundreds (or thousands) kinds of hot sauce. They even had hot sauce tasting bar (“Taste at your own rick”) to feel the different tastes of hot sauces. I couldn’t resist but to buy one Louisiana ‘original’ hot sauce, although for me it was almost impossible to tell the difference among various kinds.

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Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar

 

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Hot sauce tasting

 

9:00 PM Jazz time

The main street for New Orleans jazz is Frenchmen St, about 15~20 mins walk from the crazy Bourbon St.  According to the website, Frenchmen St. is “the capital of live music in New Orleans. With 20+ bars, venues, and restaurants all within a 2 block area, each hosting various live music events 7 days a week.” So how could I skip it?

The first jazz bar we hopped into was the Maison where the band, Smoking Time Jazz Club, was playing. We sat at the bar and nobody asked for a cover charge. (Later I found out the show is all free unless otherwise specified.) The show was great and so jazzy, quite different from something like $50.00 cover charged live in New York.

After the show and a glass of local IPA, we headed to another jazz bar nearby, the Spotted Cat. This time we had to pay $10.00 entrance fee but the didn’t have to order anything. We were standing in the crowd so it was not easy to drink anyway. The night was turning deeper and so was the music. It was getting warmer from heat of the crowd, but nobody seemed to care and nor did I.

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The Mason

 

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The Spotted Cat

 

[Amtrak trip] Chicago to New Orleans

Day 5. From Chicago to New Orleans

Chicago–>New Orleans
Amtrak 59 <City of New Orleans>, Reserved Coach
Departure 8:05 PM
Arrival 3:47 PM (next day)

8:05 PM Departure from Chicago

The daily train from Chicago to New Orleans, ‘The City of New Orleans’ started around 8:00 PM, just in time to enjoy the sunset of Chicago from the departing train. I remembered the docent from Chicago architecture boat tour telling us the quote from Mark Twain. “She is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Indeed, I shall come back one day.

The train slipped quietly through the night. It was to pass Champaign-Urbana, Carbondale, Memphis, Jackson, and arrive at its final station New Orleans after about 19 hours (934 miles.) I fell asleep as soon as it left and woke up around at 5:30 AM near Memphis. The crew announced that it was ‘designated smoking stop,’ and so many cigarette lovers jumped off excitedly. I realized the train was running about one hour early, meaning that it needed to wait for passengers for about an hour. I had more than enough time to get off and to stretch myself. After Memphis, I couldn’t go back to sleep.

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Stopping at Memphis

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Observation car in ‘City of New Orleans.’ Later this car turned into a party car.

The Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans was a little bit different from the train from Boston to Chicago. The biggest difference was that it had an observation car, where the chairs were installed sideways to look at sceneries through the large windows. It was the next car from my seat, so I went to take a look around 8:30 AM. Then I found out that there was a whole different world being unfolded in observation car. It was not an observation car, it was a PARTY car! People were laughing, talking, singing, playing cards and it was so loud and joyful. Someone even was playing wild music with a Bluetooth speaker and one group was having bachelorette party. The city of New Orleans in the train already!

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Scenery going into New Orleans, Lake Maurepas
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Scenery going into New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain

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Scenery going into New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain

 

2:50 PM Arrival: New Orleans

The scenery outside was changing from coolness of Chicago to warm, hot, wet, swampy scenery of the South. The driver of the train must have been pumping the gas hard, because the train surprisingly arrived in New Orleans about one hour early (!) at 2:50 PM. I was shocked that New Orleans was a large city with high rises. How stupid I was to think that it would be a small city similar to Cambridge (MA)!

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The famous Mercedes Stadium near New Orleans Amtrak station

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Colorful New Orleans Amtrak Station

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Street near the hotel. “Jazz it up”

 

It was so hot and sunny in New Orleans. I walked about 15 minutes from the station to the hotel, Drury Inn & Suite. The lobby was really luxurious, and the check-in staff was very kind. She let us know that we get three free drinks (including beer, wine, or cocktail) and free food every day from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. I couldn’t believe my ears so asked back, “you mean it’s all free?” (Yes, it really was.)

4:00 PM Walking around French Quarter

It was the first day in New Orleans, so I decided to explore the most famous spot, French Quarter, about 20 minutes’ walk from the hotel. It was only 4:00 PM the streets were filled with partying people. The live music was being played in every corner and everywhere you turn, there were street performers playing jazz.

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Park near French Quarter (Jackson Square)
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Colorful phone booth in French Quarter

Everybody walking the alleys were carrying some kind of cocktail in their hands. ‘You can drink outside, smoke inside’ has been the motto of New Orleans, I’ve read, and it seemed to be true. Nobody was covering their alcoholic drinks with brown bag and there were several cigar bars with signs ‘you can smoke inside.’ People used to really smoke inside the bars until several years ago, but it is now banned except designated cigar bars.

We headed for the first food of New Orleans,  the world-famous Beignet. The most famous spot for Beignet was Café du Monde. Luckily there was no line for the inside seats, so we just dived in and ordered iced Café au Lait ($5.00) and one dish of Beignet (3 pieces, $2.73.) According to Cafe du Monde’s website, Beignet is “a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar.” Hot and crispy fried dough was covered with the finest powder of sugar and it tasted like heaven.

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The famous Beignet cafe <Cafe du Monde>

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Beignet with Cafe Au Lait

7:00 PM Dinner at Compere Lapin

After taking a walk for about an hour, we went to Compere Lapin (French for ‘brother rabbit’) for a dinner (about 10 mins walk from French Quarter.) It was a nice Creole restaurant serving local food. I had curried goat which was very unique and tasty. My travel companion drank the signature cocktail ‘Copper Bunny’ which was served in very heavy rabbit shaped copper cup that kept the cocktail cold for a long time.

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Copper Bunny cocktail at Compere Lapin

9:15 PM Jazz at Preservation Hall

We went back to French Quarter to watch the Jazz performance at the historic Preservation Hall. It felt weird to walk around with no cocktail at hands, so I bought the cocktail that seemed most popular among the crowd, Hand Grenade. Finally, I really felt like fitted to New Orleans.

According to Preservation Hall’s website, it has been operating since 1961. You can book for a seating ticket in advance for $35~50 dollars. We didn’t make a reservation so stood in line for walk-in ‘standing’ tickets ($20.00.) The show started at 9:15 PM and we went in with the crowd. It was not a bar, just a music hall, and we were allowed to bring our own drinks. The hall was very small and had the original decoration from 1960s (no air conditioning.) The 45 mins show (by a sextet) was truly great. Its finale was, of course, ‘the Saints.’ (no photo allowed)

It was already 10:30 PM at night but the air still felt very warm, or even hot. Nevertheless, I felt really festive. I bought a beads necklace that everybody was wearing for 50 cents to celebrate my first day in New Orleans and walked back to the hotel.

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Hand Grenade cocktail

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Lively street of French Quarter, New Orleans

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Oh-I-must-buy-this beads accessories

***Amtrak Trip 2018: the full list***