Ending with Style

The 7th day of Mom and Elle’s visit was one of the best. We drove to City Park, 1,300 acres of ponds, art installations, and Live Oaks up to over 600 years old. On our way there, we noticed all the traffic lights weren’t working. It slowed things down, to be sure, and created traffic, but people were remarkably patient. In L.A., it was easy to gauge how well I was doing, how happy I was in life, by how I behaved in traffic. When  traffic became an excuse to pop the top on my convertible, turn up the music and enjoy the palm trees, I knew I was okay. When traffic became the excuse for yelling at drivers who couldn’t hear me, horn honking and pounding on the steering wheel, I knew I wasn’t okay (judge my tantrums if you care to, but L.A. invented road rage and that’s no joke).

Anyway, it was nice to see people cooperating, realizing that the light and power situation was not personal, it was just something that happens and is forgotten by the next day.

It was a pretty day for the park but hot as Hades. And the cafe was closed because of the power outage, so there was no cold beverage to be found. We started in the sculpture garden. The collection is mostly contemporary, ranging from the whimsical (a gargantuan safety pin) to the upsetting (a metallic man hanging upside down from a chain). I guess I have a love of letters because my favorite pieces were the man made of letters (David Letterman?) and the iconic standing “LOVE” by Robert Indiana (photos below).

We wandered into the Art Gallery and were welcomed with a blast of air conditioning left over from before the power outage. Ahhhhhhhh. We sat and took in the modern pieces hanging on the walls and slowly, slowly looked at a map so as to prolong our time in the building, which was actually closed due to the outage. Finally, we decided to make our way to my favorite thing in the park, a Live Oak I like to call, “the bing bong tree.”

Turns out the tree is called “The Singing Oak” (way more official and artsy sounding) and was created by Jim Hart, who used wind chimes, some up to 14 feet tall, tuned to the Pentatonic scale (5 pitches per octave) to create this amazing instrument/art piece. From just beyond the branches, you can hear a little bit of binging and almost no bonging, but once you’re under the umbrella of the leaves, a symphony overtakes you. An instant calm washes over. When the larger, deeper tones kick in, sometimes my body vibrates on a cellular level. It’s pretty darn amazing. But impossible to capture. Here’s an attempt at least.

By the time we wandered back to the cafe, it was open and we were able to refuel. The fast food salads and sandwiches they served were made fresh and pretty darn good. We walked around areas Mom remembered from her childhood and talked about how things shrink as you get older (Have you returned to your elementary school yet? The doorknobs are at your kneecaps). But the park is as vast and beautiful as it has been since the 1800’s. Parents still push kids on the swings, children still dance imaginary shows on the stage, and couples still giggle in corners. For info and a great video of the park:

http://www.neworleanscitypark.com/

Afterward, it was off to La Divina, clearly a big favorite with Mom and Elle. This time, they had my favorite flavor and we had come to boogie, so we all got half Chocolate Azteca and half something else. Elle chose avocado, I think Mom went with something creamy and I went with mango.

http://www.ladivinagelateria.com/

I’ve now earned enough points (ten servings) to get a free gelato next time I go. Yay!

Mom gave me a shoulder massage, which was marvelous, then we all got ready for the piece de resistance, dinner at Commander’s Palace.

http://www.commanderspalace.com/

We got dolled up and walked through my neighborhood, Elle carrying her heels even after we passed the small snake on the sidewalk. As we walked in, I heard a waitress ask the maitre d’ for “the glasses.” The maitre d’ pulled out a beautiful wooden box, like a cigar box, and handed it to her. It was then that it struck me that inside that box would be various prescriptions of reading glasses to assist with the menu. I’ve been to plenty of nice restaurants and maybe they all had that touch, but I’d never seen it before.

They led us through the main dining room then through the back of it to another dining room. I’d really hoped for a good table and worried we would get lost in the bowels of the many large dining areas. We went through another room then to a staircase. I tried to hang onto hope as we wandered through more and more rooms and past yet another staircase. Then we arrived. And I mean ARRIVED. We sat at the best table in the house in a glassed-in room overlooking the tree-filled courtyard. My seat faced so many mirrors that the room looked more like a treehouse to me, filled with sparkle lights and beaded butterflies climbing pillars. It was beautiful. We had a trio of soups including the turtle soup, gumbo and a crawfish bisque. All of our seafood and sides were amazing, even the garlic bread was wonderful, and the desserts were rich and delicious. We were treated like 3 generations of royalty and surrounded by others enjoying the same luxury and attention. Balloons marked the tables of birthday celebrators, couples enjoyed the romance, large groups enjoyed not having to think about anything but food.

The waitress gave me the table number so I could request it in the future and then a tall, handsome man took us the back way through the kitchen to return us to the entrance. It was an altogether elegant, tasty and fun experience.

I will miss having my Mom and my niece here but it was a remarkable, action-packed visit. I remember how much this region and its people impressed me when I was Elle’s age (14). I knew then that I would live here one day. Elle posted on her Facebook when she got home, ” Back from New Orleans, aka the most cultured, laid back, underrated, and most upbeat place on earth!! :]”

Amen, girl! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Filed under Culture, Local Cuisine, moving, walking

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