Archive for the ‘Louisiana trips’ Category

I do love hiking in the great outdoors (mountains! forests! wildlife!) but too little is said about urban hiking. I indeed have been bicycling around New Orleans but you see so much more when you walk. This past Sunday I did an almost day-long ten mile stroll through a big part of New Orleans, starting at our condo on St. Mary Street. Dare I call it flaneuring? This time I skipped the popular Uptown and headed instead for the Central Business District, the French Quarter, Treme, Esplanade Ridge, and Mid-CIty.

Tootie, our dog Rosie and I have been doing an about thirty minute walk every morning, going up to the statue of “Margaret” near the freeway, and then returning. This morning I started off with Tootie and Rosie, with plans to separate halfway through the walk. The three of us left our place and walked down St. Mary Street, a street of pre-Civil War mansions, decaying old buildings, and newer rentals.

We walked alongside Coliseum Square Park. In the 1980’s crime was so bad we were terrified to even come to this part of town. The park is now peaceful and lovely. Neighbors come out on their own and pick up bits of trash. There are lots of people with dogs.

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About a half mile from our condo we arrived at our usual turn-around point, the statue of the nineteenth century philanthropist Margaret Haughery “Bread Woman of New Orleans and Mother of the Orphans.”

Rosie definitely likes Tootie more than me, but she still freaks out when the three of us do not complete our three “person” walk as a group. Rosie looked back anxiously as I walked away by myself, heading further downtown. I first had to walk underneath the freeway which is the onramp to the bridge over the Mississippi River.

Just past the bridge was Lee Circle and its vacant pedestal. It was known as Tivoli Circle until 1883 when a statue of Robert E Lee was erected here. I would support just calling it Tivoli Circle again but the name remains a point of contention. The Lee statue was taken from the top of the pedestal in 2017 in the dead of night under police protection. Earlier this year a smaller sculpture by the Black female artist Simone Leigh was put next to the pedestal, but only for a scheduled six months.

New Orleans was originally settled by the French and Spanish, but “Americans” began moving here in droves after about 1820. During the 1820-1860 period New Orleans was at the zenith of its economic status as the fifth largest city in America. The “Americans” kept a distinct culture from the local Creoles, including their architecture. The wealthiest Americans built wooden Garden District mansions. Almost all nineteenth century housing in New Orleans is built of wood, but in the area of town near Lee Circle many of those Americans built brick row houses similar to the ones in Brooklyn or Philadelphia. They must have been especially hot in the half of the year that is the summer here. Many were semi-abandoned by the 1970’s when this area was New Orleans’ Skid Row. Most of the existing such houses have been rehabilitated.

Julia Street, wiki photo by Jim Steinhart

Further downtown I slowly gained on the skyscrapers.

The New Orleans office downtown is called the Central Business District. Jobs there have declined in the past twenty years and office buildings have been converted to hotels. Tourists now wander around the CBD.

This hotel was formerly headquarters of Hibernia Bank

I arrived on Canal Street, which separates the CBD from the French Quarter. On this Sunday morning tourists lined up at some place called Cafe Beignet.

Across Canal Street was the French Quarter. Before the 1980’s while New Orleanians had been eating artful cuisine for generations, in almost everywhere else in America a fancy meal was just steak and baked potato. I walked by two of the old school restaurants that have been in the French Quarter for over a hundred years.

Galatoire’s, where the local blue bloods still gather for Friday lunch that becomes a party and extends through most of the afternoon.
Arnaud’s, (since 1918!) and its adjoining French 75 bar. Both were closed on this Sunday morning but I could take a photo of the bar through the window. The bar looks relatively commonplace, which shows how much this actual 1920’s decor has been copied by bars all over America.

I continued walking down-river through the French Quarter, mostly on Dauphine Street.

I reached the end of the French Quarter at Esplanade Avenue, and I turned left.

Corner Esplanade and Burgundy
I had never noticed this building before at 1020 Esplanade Avenue: Unione Italiana also called Italian Hall, site of many early jazz concerts. Built 1835 and heavily altered and expanded in 1912; it is now residential condos.

I walked on Esplanade across the wide Rampart Street heading towards the neighborhood of Treme, New Orleans’ oldest African-American neighborhood. It sits opposite the French Quarter, on the other side of Rampart Street. I veered left on North Villere Street into Treme. Pre-Civil War New Orleans had a large community of free-persons-of-color.

My intermediate destination was Treme Coffeehouse. I ordered an oat milk latte, twelve ounce, with one pack sugar, and sat outside and read an amazing The New Yorker article about thousands of boomers moving to Jimmy Buffett themed communities in Florida.

New Orleans is changing, just like places everywhere change. Two young women on the other table were talking about a friend of theirs who recently moved to New Orleans from Harlem NY because “she said a voice was calling for her to live in New Orleans.” Entitled? Sure, but compared to when Tootie and I lived here in the 1980’s New Orleans is much more cosmopolitan. A city like this needs new energy moving here. Young people from somewhere else are ubiquitous. I sense many come here knowing that they will have to create their own jobs if they do not want to work in restaurants. I now know several people living here because they can work remotely. Maybe New Orleans is finding itself as a place that people move to, just to be here.

Refreshed, I left to walk on. Long time residents of Treme are having issues with gentrification, especially Airbnb. The City has recently passed regulations that make Airbnbing more difficult. I crossed under the Claiborne Avenue overpass, then out Bayou Road.

about to pass under I-10, which covers North Claiborne Avenue

Gentrification is not inherently bad or good, it just is what it is, depending on the situation. At the corner of Bayou Road and Esplanade, between Claiborne Avenue and Broad Street, a coffee house was festive at eleven-thirty on a Sunday morning; Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan. The video here is only twenty seconds long.

I walked further out Esplanade Avenue, across Broad Street, then turned a soft left onto Bell Street into a neighborhood I have always called “Dave and Gail’s Neighborhood” even though they have not lived here for thirty-five years. Everyone else calls this area Esplanade Ridge.

Esplanade Avenue and Bell Street both terminate near City Park and Bayou St. John. I walked along the bayou then crossed on the Orleans Avenue bridge.

After the Treme coffeehouse my second intermediate destination for this walk was an outdoor bar called Wrong Iron, a beer garden that I had repeatedly seen on my bike rides but had never actually visited. Why not now? It was just after noontime on a Sunday. I am not all that worried about catching COVID but I still find indoor settings tense and being entirely outdoors like this just more relaxing. The garden was less than half full. Lots of people sat with their dogs.

In recent months restaurants in New Orleans, like the rest of America, have been shorthanded and crowded. I frequently found it easier on my bike rides just to bring my own food and have a picnic, usually at a bench in a park. This beer garden only sells food by third party vendors. I decided to break the rules a little. I ordered a local porter from the bar and looked for a spot where I could eat inconspicuously. I read some more of The New Yorker, this time about how Putin and rich Russians are playing the English.

I had brought two sandwiches, one of avocado and cooked mustard greens with lots of olive oil and sriracha sauce, on whole wheat (much better than it sounds!) and the other peanut butter and jelly. The beer was delicious. Coverage from Jeddah of the Formula One Saudi Grand Prix race was playing on the outdoor TV. The race was at night and appeared to have no spectators. The whole thing looked like a video game, even though it is obviously real. What is the point?

I was very happy sitting here, really. Why not sit here all day? I could call Tootie to drive over here and pick me up!

I did not want to be a deadbeat so after a while I looked at my phone and plotted a course walking home, three and a half miles, this time mostly on Canal Street.

Across the bike path from the beer garden is a 1970’s looking hospital which has been totally abandoned since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, stuck in Louisiana political muck. Locals seem to like the graffiti; it is even lit up at night!

The most famous New Orleans streetcars are on St. Charles Avenue. Canal Street, on the other side of town, lost its streetcars in about the year 1960. They were put back relatively recently. I applaud this but am skeptical about the design honesty of building new streetcars specifically designed to look old.

Lining Canal Street for about a mile is a new medical complex built in the past ten years. While the area where the hospitals were built was not upscale it still involved tearing down many many historic houses, a battle which preservationists fought and lost. Part of the pitch to get this built was that multiple medical establishments would be more efficient if grouped together in new buildings. I guess it was impressive to see a government actually finish something in such short order. Big medicine speaks. As you walk down Canal Street the huge buildings go on and on.

The medical complex ends near where Canal Street runs under I-10 and Claiborne Avenue. Off in the distance, closer to downtown one can see the now totally vacant giant 1930’s art-deco building of Charity Hospital, commissioned by Huey Long. It has sat empty since 2005. There are plans for repurposing it but I am skeptical.

On Canal Street below Claiborne I considered myself back in the Central Business District. The part of Canal Street just below Claiborne has been quite dingy in past years and it is encouraging to see new signs of life. The seventeen story Modernist former Texaco Building from 1951 had been abandoned for years but has recently been renovated into apartments.

Further down Canal Street I took a right on St. Charles Avenue and starting walking uptown. My condo was now a little more than a mile away. On the way I passed through Lafayette Square, which is surrounded by courthouses; federal, state, and local.

Does the Hale Boggs Federal Building qualify as the architectural style known as brutalism?

I walked back under the bridge overpasses, then into my neighborhood. I arrived home at about four in the afternoon.

Until Seattle (and Starbucks) showed superior marketing, New Orleans was the coffee capital of America. I visited New Orleans for the first time while an undergraduate. On that 1976 trip I had Breakfast At Brennan’s as my first real gourmet restaurant meal. I can still remember the intensity of the coffee that accompanied the bananas foster. In 1976 no one served coffee like that back home in Virginia Beach.

Fast forward a few decades. America has changed. Good coffee is available almost everywhere. New Orleans has changed. Independent coffee houses have opened all over the city.

Writers who consider urbanity talk about the importance of a third place, a public setting to hang out that is not your home and not your workplace. On a recent stay in New Orleans I found comfort in cycling for an hour or two or three around New Orleans before sitting alone outdoors at some random coffee house reading (mostly The New Yorker) on my Kindle. These coffee houses are spread over a large area, some many miles apart from others. While traditional New Orleans coffee has been drip coffee with chicory, I always get a latte made with expresso and oat or almond milk. There are a three local chains (CC’s, PJ’s and French Truck) but most New Orleans coffee places seem proudly independent. Most were established in the years after the 2005 Katrina hurricane. I will group them by neighborhood.

Coffee houses in the Lower Garden District (our neighborhood.).

Hi-Volt, a three minute walk from our condo
friendlier and only a five to seven minute walk from our condo is one my favorites: Mojo

There are other coffee houses still within a fifteen minute walk from our condo.

Starbucks, corner Washington and Magazine
Tootie at PJ’s, corner of Magazine and Jackson

on St Charles Avenue a few blocks uptown of Lee Circle
The Vintage on Magazine Street and Seventh Street is a longer walk from our condo but its vibe is sometimes worth the hike. It is one of the few New Orleans places that successfully operates as a coffee house in the morning and a bar at night. They make their own beignets.

The other coffee places are beyond walking distance from our condo, in all parts of the city. Over my week and a half spent in New Orleans I bicycled all over.

Coffee houses in the remainder of Uptown

Cherry Coffee, 4877 Laurel Street

Coffee houses in the CBD and French Quarter

Mammoth Expresso, warehouse district
Maybe my favorite coffee house in all of New Orleans except that it gets too crowded; Envie Cafe at Barracks and Decatur, lower French Quarter
Croissant d’or, lower French Quarter
Backatown Coffee underneath some newer condos on Basin Street

Coffee houses in Faubourg Marigny and Bywater/Ninth Ward

Bywater apparently is attracting hipsters from all over

Petite Clouet, my favorite coffee house in Bywater. The young people running this place (who likely have moved here from somewhere else) are totally on-game, both in making coffee and with customer service.
Darth Vader moving in, corner of Elysian Fields and North Rampart Street

Coffee houses in Treme

Treme, the traditionally African-American neighborhood near the French Quarter, has been gentrifying.

The Flagpole, corner Esplanade and Bayou Road
Also on Bayou Road

Coffee houses in Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge

Hey Coffee is in an industrial area on the Lafitte Greenway just north of Claiborne Avenue
On the Lafitte Greenway just north of Broad Street
On North Carrollton Avenue near the Lafitte Greenway and Canal Street
also nearby, on North Carrollton Avenue near Canal Street
Morning Call dates back to 1870. It left the French Quarter in 1974 and moved to suburban Metairie. Since 2020 it has been at this new location near Cemeteries, on Canal Boulevard. Its big competitor was always Cafe du Monde, which is still very much in business in the French Quarter.
Park Island Brew, on Gentilly Boulevard across from the Fair Grounds
Pagoda Cafe, 1430 North Dorgenois Avenue
CC’s in Esplanade Ridge neighborhood
Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, Esplanade Ridge neighborhood

Coffeehouses in or near Gentilly

In my world this qualifies as diversity. Pontilly Coffee is on Chef Menteur Highway between Gentilly and New Orleans East, across the street from the Baptist Theological Seminary. The clientele is mostly African American. There are biblical quotes and slogans on the interior walls. I have cycled out here and enjoyed this place several times. On my last visit there were several people sitting around doing different kinds of art, holding court.

Metairie/Old Metairie

Metairie, across the line into Jefferson Parish, is New Orleans’ nearest suburb. The closest part, Old Metairie, is little more than five miles from the French Quarter, closer to downtown New Orleans than some parts of actual New Orleans. One can really feel the Red/Blue divide when crossing the Parish line, although Old Metairie is as upscale as anywhere in the New Orleans metro area. In my New Orleans neighborhood of Lower Garden District I sense lots of people are from Somewhere Else and you do not hear the distinct Brooklynesque White New Orleans accent all that often. At coffee houses in Old Metairie you hear that accent constantly, and no one wears a mask. I cycled to the area several times and enjoyed sitting outside, sipping my oat milk latte and reading.

Evolve is further out towards Kenner and the airport, past Causeway Boulevard. It is a nice place but full of unmasked people and no outdoor seating. I paranoidly took my coffee outside and sat on the curb!

Coffee houses in Lakeview

Lakeview is, as expected, near the lake and just inside the New Orleans line from Metairie. It has its own little downtown. While an upscale area it flooded badly during Katrina when the 17th Street Canal failed. Nearly all the small 1940-50’s one story houses that flooded have been replaced by much larger new two story monsters, lined up close together. I rode out there one day with Tootie.

We had coffees sitting on the sidewalk in front of Nola Beans in downtown Lakeview. It is next door to a Starbucks.

We then rode back the seven or eight miles back to our condo.

Tootie and I drove down to our New Orleans second home on about October first and we stayed the whole month. It has been wonderful walking around every morning in our Lower Garden District neighborhood, all these amazing buildings within a hundred yards of our front door. To me it is paradise.

pristine 1850’s restorations one block from our condo
A couple blocks away, an artfully decrepit scene that could be from A Streetcar Named Desire

We rarely used our car. Both of us bicycled to and from the grocery store. Several times we bicycled to restaurants at night.

Tootie on her 1970’s Schwinn Collegiate

I felt a compulsion to bike ride more, to see the whole city! Just about every day that we were in New Orleans I bicycled for two to four hours. On the final day I brought my camera along. Almost all these rides were on the Surly Long Haul Trucker that I now keep in New Orleans. I still don’t really like the heavy feel of that bicycle but I use what I have. This bicycle does feel stable on these terribly bumpy and decrepit streets. This day I left our condo on St Mary Street at about eight in the morning, snapping pictures as I rode.

Directions in the older parts of New Orleans make little sense speaking north or south. They are better described as upriver (uptown) or downriver (downtown). Cross streets go towards the river or away from the river. The three or four hour bike ride I took shown below covered a large portion of New Orleans but by chance mostly excluded Uptown. Other than the French Quarter, Uptown is the area most visitors think of when visiting New Orleans. It is the area in the bottom left on the map below, between Saint Mary Street and Audubon Park. Tulane University is next to Audubon Park. I cycle through Uptown frequently, just did not on this particular day.

The twenty-five mile bike ride I took on the morning of October 27

I left our condo building.

Our building, 1325A St Mary Street

St Mary Street is a one way street going away from the river. I biked a block and a half towards Prytania Street.

looking up St Mary Street

The 1400 block of St Mary Street is by New Orleans standards a somewhat typical block but there is still lots to look at.

1400 block St Mary Street
1400 block St Mary Street
1400 block St Mary Street

I crossed Prytania Street, it was one block further to St. Charles Avenue

1500 block St Mary Street

I had only bicycled two and a half blocks; I crossed over St. Charles Avenue with its famous streetcar on the neutral ground. The tracks are a popular place for jogging.

It was only one block further past St. Charles Avenue where St Mary Street dead ends at a church on Carondelet Street.

corner, Carondelet and Saint Mary St.

I turned right on Carondelet Street. It may change names but Carondelet Street continues about five miles from here all the way downtown through the Central Business District, the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, and Bywater. Traditionally this side of St. Charles it is a rougher and poorer neighborhood. It has been gentrifying.

on the left just after I turned onto Carondelet Street.

Cycling two blocks further downtown on Carondelet Street a former milk processing factory was just torn down and trucks were clearing the site for redevelopment.

with the milk facility torn down you can see the high rises of downtown. The French Quarter is just downriver, beyond those tall buildings.

Six or eight blocks further Carondelet Street passes under a freeway. Dozens of homeless people have moved underneath the overpass.

homeless encampment

Now cycling in the Central Business District I could look again at the forty-five story skyscraper formerly known as Plaza Tower. It must have seemed like a good idea when it was built in 1968 but it has been abandoned since 2002. It is in a difficult location and rehab efforts have failed. I still like its style. Its top floors are currently wrapped, presumably to keep debris from falling.

City bicycling in New Orleans is wonderful but one does need to keep one’s eyes affixed to the road. Potholes are everywhere.

barely marked crater in the road, O’Keefe Avenue

I passed by the entrance to the swanky Roosevelt Hotel.

I bicycled across Canal Street, formerly the main downtown shopping street. Its retail is struggling.

this famous Walgreens sign is from the 1930’s

Downriver across Canal Street is the French Quarter. Burgundy Street through the French Quarter is an excellent street to bicycle on. There are almost no bumps or stop signs.

Burgundy Street
Burgundy Street
Burgundy Street, lower French Quarter

The French Quarter gets less touristy the further downriver one goes from Canal Street. During this month of October I had been bicycling to coffee houses all over New Orleans searching for the perfect croissant. Disappointingly, nowhere in New Orleans had a croissant as crispy as those at Foster Street Coffee in Durham NC. The Croissant D’or on Ursulines Avenue in the lower French Quarter came close, and it was nice to sit in its courtyard eating my croissant with an almond milk latte, one pack sugar.

Croissant d’or
breakfast in the courtyard

I got back on the bicycle and headed out.

Looking back uptown in the direction I had come from

I cycled about three miles further downtown, out of the French Quarter, through Faubourg Marigny and then into Bywater, also known as the Ninth Ward.

cycling downtown on North Peters Street
Bywater
Bywater cottages

I turned around at Poland Avenue where Bywater ends at the Industrial Canal.

Bywater has become trendy. At the turn onto Poland Avenue this building is now an upscale wine bar called Bacchanal.
Poland Avenue
Jack Dempsey’s, old school restaurant on Poland Avenue, famous not for the quality of its food but for the size of its portions!
bar on Poland Avenue

I bicycled back uptown in the direction I had come from but now three blocks over, on Burgundy Street, back through Bywater and Faubourg Marigny. There seemed to be a lot of dog walkers.

early 1920’s monument in Bywater listing names of veterans of World War One, but only veterans from the Ninth Ward, “White” on one side, “Colored” on the other.
Bywater
house decorated for Halloween

I crossed St. Claude Avenue and headed out St. Bernard Avenue, through an area tourists rarely visit; the Seventh Ward.

Seventh Ward

Heading out St. Bernard Avenue I soon crossed South Claiborne Avenue, a street famous among American urbanists as one of many places where the 1960’s exuberance to build the Interstate Highway System lost its moorings. South Claiborne was and is a center of African-American commercial life in New Orleans. I-10 replaced South Claiborne Avenue’s oak trees with a freeway. The pre-1960 supermarket is still here.

Underneath I-10, the formerly oak tree lined neutral ground of South Claiborne Avenue.
South Claiborne Avenue in the 1950’s (photo from Smithsonian Magazine)

There are current serious proposals to tear down this section of I-10, but as with most such things, it is complicated. Meanwhile, I cycled under the freeway and resumed cycling on St. Bernard Avenue, which is wide and relatively safe for bicycling. St. Bernard Avenue continues for five miles, all the way out to the Lake Ponchartrain lakefront. The further from downtown one gets the newer the buildings become.

back to the present day, my view cycling down St. Bernard Avenue
seafood market, St, Bernard Avenue
early 1900’s houses, St. Bernard Avenue
much newer housing as I neared the Lakefront

New Orleans has its own beachfront, albeit on a concrete beach that almost no one swims from. (Lake Ponchartrain is brackish and extremely shallow; difficult to keep clean.) It does make for a pleasant bike ride.

UNO is on the lakefront with its Modernist style campus. I needed a bathroom so I impersonated a student by walking into one of the classroom buildings.

Looks like a motel! That is not necessarily a bad thing; Liberal Arts Building, University of New Orleans

I bicycled along the lakefront over to West End where hundreds of pleasure boats are moored.

Facing the West End yacht harbor are lines of “boat houses”, a fancy spot to hang out in while you stare at a vessel moored in your living room.

boat houses, West End

I assume this is a working shrimp boat; the twenty-four mile long Lake Ponchartrain Causeway in the background

I started cycling back home, this time through City Park; an enormous piece of land stretching southward from near the Lakefront, originally with four golf courses and two stadiums, including the one where the Beatles played in 1964. City Park was almost all inundated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but has been slowly rebuilt and re-defined. Its current sculpture garden is one of the best anywhere. Along Marconi Drive on the west side of the park there is a newish bike path, one of many bayous on my left.

The Marconi bike path runs right by the tennis complex, impressively busy on a weekday morning

As the path through City Park ends I was directed to a bike lane on Marconi Drive as it passes under railroad tracks
I then cycled on Orleans Avenue through the neighborhood called City Park

I was by now very close to one end of the Lafitte Greenway, which stretches almost three miles from near a corner of City Park to the French Quarter. Those who lived and bicycled around New Orleans with me back in the 1980’s would not believe the dramatic change the Greenway has brought to cycling in New Orleans. The Greenway crosses an area of town that none of us ever thought about, or if we thought about it, we thought it as dangerous slums we could never visit.

Lafitte Greenway as it crosses Carrollton Avenue
a coffee house and new apartments lining the Greenway
Lafitte Greenway
Lafitte Greenway
Greenway approaches the CBD and the French Quarter

The Greenway ends at Armstrong Park. I cycled across Basin Street and Rampart Street, then into the French Quarter.

Basin Street, as in “Basin Street Blues”
Second line band warming up for some kind of event, French Quarter

It was less than two miles through the city back to my condo building on St Mary Street.

Cycling up Dauphine Street, French Quarter
Cycling Baronne Street, CBD
Baronne Street passing back underwear the freeway and beside the homeless encampments

On Baronne Street in an even now sketchy area I passed by the building of the late great Uglesich’s oyster bar, open for eighty-one years until 2005.

I took a left off Baronne Street onto St. Andrew Street, my home on St. Mary Street was only three or four blocks away.

For my regular readers I have a couple of news items: Many of my blog posts feature the white 2005 Toyota Prius that I inherited from my late mother Eleanor. Thankfully just AFTER I recently finished driving the Prius 900 miles each way from North Carolina to New Orleans and back: the main battery failed. It needs to be replaced at a cost of thousands of dollars. We are examining our options; it might be time to replace the car.

The other item is that Tootie and I have purchased a second home, a one bedroom condo in a historic house in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans.

View of our condo building from the outside

By myself I drove the Prius down from Chapel Hill to New Orleans, one way twelve or thirteen hours, done over two days. My mission was to get the apartment down there set up, to have a bed and sofa brought in, to get the internet working. While there I had time to do some bike riding.

Most side streets of New Orleans are insanely bumpy from potholes and their slipdash repairs. I have kept a 1970’s fat tired Schwinn Typhoon down there for several years at my friend Kirk’s place. I really enjoy cycling through the New Orleans residential streets but even on that bomber bicycle one finds oneself looking not for the shortest route but the smoothest pavement. I used the Schwinn to bicycle back and forth to grocery stores and the Walmart and Harry’s Ace Hardware, picking up items to set up our new household.

My 1970’s Schwinn Typhoon in the stairwell of our new place
The Schwinn

I bought a cheap pot at Walmart and made some red beans; a New Orleans favorite. I don’t go all-health all the time, but on this day I chose brown rice and Beyond Meat sausage, with New Orleans’ own Crystal hot sauce, and (not pictured) some stir fried curly mustard greens.

I enjoyed biking around the city on the Schwinn. For longer rides I had brought along my Bike Friday. With tiny twenty inch wheels it is deceptively fast. Over three days on the Bike Friday I did three thirty plus mile bike rides.

Metro New Orleans is surrounded by levees. Governments have gotten it together in recent years and put paved paths on many or most of these levees, they make for perfect bike paths. On the first day I cycled about ten miles on New Orleans city streets before I reached the paved path that follows the levee fronting Lake Ponchartrain. The path starts in New Orleans before passing along the Metairie lakefront in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

The levee is so high you cannot see the houses in the city behind it.

lakefront bike path in Metairie, Jefferson Parish.

Suburban Metairie residents clearly pay extra for waterfront property fronting Lake Ponchartrain, but one cannot see the lake as the levee is too high!

Typical of the houses whose backyards front Lake Ponchartrain, just the other side of that grassy space.

There is a reason this coronavirus will not away, some people are not trying hard enough to beat it. Dining at restaurants works if people eat outdoors. It was a reasonably warm day with temperatures in the sixties. I had heard there were good oyster poor boy sandwiches at R&O’s in Bucktown, lakefront near the Metairie / New Orleans line. I passed by there about 11:00 AM and there was a huge outdoor seating area with lots of empty tables. Satisfied that this looked safe, I continued biking along the lakefront all the way to Kenner and back, returning to R&O’s about 1:00 PM, ready for a great outdoor lunch. These outdoor tables were now all filled, but filled with people waiting for a table at the INDOOR restaurant. Apparently R&O will not let you eat outdoors, which is insane. I biked on.

all masked up but not eating, waiting for an indoor table at R&O.

Dejected and hungry, I bicycled back the hourlong ride through the city back to my condo for leftover red beans and rice.

That night I bicycled around my new neighborhood, the Lower Garden District. Our condo is only one block from Urania Street, the first in of a row of nine streets in New Orleans all named after Greek muses. (Urania/Polymnia/Euterpe/Terpsichore/Melpomene/Thalia/Erato/Clio/Calliope.). Near where my friends Tom and Steve had lived in the 1980’s there is a statue of Terpsichore. It was a dicey neighborhood back then, it has gotten safer in the past thirty-something years.

Terpsichore Street

A couple of days later I cycled on a different levee. Starting in Uptown New Orleans near Audubon Park one can now cycle continuously on the Mississippi River levee about thirty miles upriver towards Baton Rouge. I first had to cycle on the streets through four or five miles of continuous older city, mostly nineteenth century wooden houses. Even poorer neighborhoods in New Orleans are stunning to look at.

I joined the Mississippi levee path near the Riverbend Carrollton area of Uptown New Orleans. I have been following this bike path for years and only recently has it been so complete. You can now bicycle on a smooth paved path along the Mississippi River for over thirty miles upriver, starting in Uptown’s Audubon Park, then into Jefferson Parish, past Kenner upriver all the way to Norco.

On this day I set my goal as the Luling/Destrehan Bridge, about twenty-five miles each way. In many areas the river is obviously at a higher level than the land surrounding it.

Just beyond the New Orleans/Jefferson Parish line, with Oshner Hospital on the right.
Ocean going ships on the river on the left

There were indeed a few places to eat and drink within sight of the path, but this one had no outdoor seating even on this sunny day. I did not stop, I had carried a peanut butter sandwich which I ate while cycling.,

Port Side Restaurant in St. Rose LA, upriver from Kenner LA, covers all the food groups.
The levee path went underneath facilities built for bulk loading ocean going ships on the Mississippi River.

Twenty something miles out I arrived at the Hale Boggs Bridge over the Mississippi. The bridge was completed in 1983.

Almost underneath the bridge and right next to the levee is Destrehan Plantation house, from 1790.

I turned around and cycled back towards New Orleans.

On the way back I passed back underneath that other Mississippi River bridge, the Huey Long Bridge, opened in 1935. The buzz is that Huey Long hated the big city of New Orleans so much that he insisted the bridge be built not in New Orleans but about ten miles upriver.

That night back in the apartment I had a to-go roast beef po-boy from Zara’s, a small supermarket Uptown.

I did one final ride the next day, this time on The West Bank. There has always been a ferry across the Mississippi from the foot of Canal Street near downtown and the French Quarter. The ferry is now smaller and faster than before as it now takes only pedestrians and bicyclists. The area across the river from downtown is called Algiers.

Biking from my new place to the Canal Street Ferry

View of the New Orleans central business district from Algiers, the other side of the river. The building in the center, the one with the round rooftop restaurant, was designed by Edward Durell Stone, the same architect who designed the North Carolina State Legislative Building. The New Orleans building, from 1962, formerly the World Trade Center, is being converted to a Four Seasons hotel.
View from the bike path on the West Bank

Most of the West Bank of metro New Orleans is suburban sprawl but a few areas of the West Bank mimic the “real” New Orleans, with 19th century wooden neighborhoods. This is especially true in the older part of Algiers, called Algiers Point.

neighborhood in Algiers Point

The West Bank of the Mississippi has a nice paved path along the levee, where you can watch the ships coming into New Orleans.

Algiers to Gretna

A few miles upriver from Algiers is Gretna, which developed back when there was the Jackson Street Ferry from Uptown New Orleans. Gretna also has a small 19th century residential neighborhood.

older part of Gretna LA

I found the River Shack in downtown Gretna, a bar / restaurant with outdoor seating during a pandemic. For once I was comfortably able to sit down and enjoy a restaurant lunch, in the breeze. I would have gotten the oyster po-boy, but they only had one size, large, and that kind of sandwich does not travel well. I instead got the small cheeseburger with fries, and a beer. It was all delicious.

I spent the rest of the afternoon biking around suburban areas of the West Bank before riding back to Algiers and taking the ferry back to central New Orleans, and then biking back to my new (second) home.