Page 23 of Roosta Travel Blog Posts

Today was mostly another day off. I need to pace myself during big festivals, otherwise I burn out. The main event today was a concert of Christian rock music, so I figured it was a good day to rest. It did have one major highlight. I went to Gryslain. This restaurant is set up like a Parisian bistro. While they serve very good gourmet sandwiches, that is just the sideshow. Gryslain is run by one of Louisville’s best pastry chefs Ghyslain Maurais, and he uses it as a showcase for his work. It has long displays of mouth watering treats, each one looking like a work of art. Just being here will give chocolate lovers hea... read more

North America » United States » Kentucky » Louisville April 30th 2011

Louisville Marching Band Competition Today’s first event is a slice of Southern culture that I have never seen in person. Southerners, especially African Americans, take marching bands very seriously. They have competitions to show off their skills. Today was the one for the Derby Festival. It began with a traditional African drumming group, followed by the eight competition teams. They ranged from community groups to universities. It became one long afternoon of beats. Teams were judged on rhythm, precision, difficulty, and choreography. Marching in formations was just the start of it. People drummed while lying on their backs. People flipped sticks... read more
Louisville bike rack
Soul Asylum
The local stage

North America » United States » Kentucky » Louisville April 29th 2011

Kentucky Derby Festival Today I’m back in Louisville. As almost everyone knows, this date is roughly a week before Louisville’s most famous event, the Kentucky Derby. At first blush, I figured I wanted to be nowhere near here this time of year. The Derby is popular, so anywhere in town is crowded and parking is a nightmare. Even worse, the event attracts a wealthy crowd, so any decent accommodation will raise rates by a factor of ten (and require booking the room for half a week!) Finally, I’m not a big fan of horses in the first place. (In 1970 Hunter S Thompson wrote a unique look at the scene which has become famous: The Kentucky Derby is url= read more
Balloons inflating
Balloons in daylight
Burner fire in a balloon

North America » United States » Mississippi » Clarksdale April 28th 2011

The Crossroads My main goal for today was to drive back to Louisville, Kentucky. This required going through part of the area hit by the storms a day earlier. I was not looking forward to it. Ironically, the day itself was perfect weather wise. The temperature was in the high seventies, without a cloud in the sky. It started with a little treat. While clearing my car top this morning, I discovered a little cotton boll stuck to the roof. It had clearly blown there overnight from a nearby farm. It was the perfect symbol of the Delta. On the way into town, I passed the original crossroads of highways 61 and 49. Ironically, the modern roads have been rerouted and meet somewhere else. This is the interse... read more
The Crossroads
Delta Blues Museum
Flooded Mississippi forest.

North America » United States » Mississippi » Clarksdale April 27th 2011

Mississippi Delta Today I explored the famous Mississippi Delta. The name is something of a misnomer, since it is actually a flood plain. All those floods laid down rich soil, which turned into swamps. Southern planters forced their slaves to clear and drain these swamps just before the Civil War, creating one of the richest cotton growing regions in the country. After the war, the relatively predictable growing conditions attracted sharecroppers from throughout the South. The area has been poor, rural, and primarily African American ever since. These poor farm laborers created the area’s most famous export, Blues music. The Delta is both a landscape and a culture. They are intricate... read more
Onward General Store
The Shack Up Inn
Ground Zero Blues Club

North America » United States » Mississippi » Natchez April 26th 2011

Natchez Today I explored Natchez, another old Mississippi River town. All Southern towns to some degree worship their history, particularly the time before the Civil War. Natchez in particular is consumed by it. Everything here seems to celebrate the antebellum era of the Old South, which in reality was enjoyed only by a tiny elite. In Natchez’s case, this nostalgia is a big part of its modern existence. Natchez was founded on a high bluff above the river. It’s the southernmost river town that was guaranteed to not flood, so it became a natural port. Men came here to set up cotton plantations or become dealers, and make their fortunes. A surprising number came from northern st... read more
Mississippi from Rosalie
Stanton Hall front
Stanton Hall from the side

North America » United States » Louisiana » Vacherie April 25th 2011

Today was another day spent in plantation country. I got to see both ends of plantation tours here, with historical accuracy in one and fantasy in the other, along with both Anglo and Creole cultures. Nottoway The first plantation was Nottoway. Remember that I stayed here last night. The stay came with a free ticket to the tour, so I decided to take it. The guides wear modern clothes, but otherwise the tour is definitely slated toward the tourist end of the spectrum. The house is heavily restored. Almost none of the furniture is original to the plantation; some of it is reproductions. Even most of the artwork came from somewhere else. Keeping that in mind, however, the place does do a good job of recreating the general antebellum era. The tours focus on the standa ... read more
Nottoway white ballroom
Nottoway music room
The modern Mississippi

North America » United States » Louisiana » Vacherie April 24th 2011

Easter Brunch Today is Easter Sunday. I should have realized that in heavily Catholic Louisiana Easter Sunday would be unlike the day in the rest of the country. There are plenty of bunnies and hidden treats for kids, but the religious side of the holiday is the main focus here. It’s treated the same way Christmas is, as a public holiday. The only thing open are bars and tourist traps. This is a bad thing for someone travelling through the region. The day started out very well. On the recommendation of my host, I reserved Easter Brunch at Cafe Atchafalaya. It’s one of New Orleans’ most innovative restaurants and bars. I should have realized something was up when I called and they had plenty of time open in the morning and nothing in the afternoon. The ... read more
Oak Alley Plantation
Guides in hoopskirts
The most famous view in Louisiana

North America » United States » Louisiana » New Orleans April 23rd 2011

Today was the day to pay the price of my fun. I had carefully watched my alcohol consumption and drank lots of water, but I was still much worn down today. I slept a lot. I drank lots of water. Eventually I had to get up and do laundry. I did have one nice thing at the end of the night. As noted earlier, New Orleans has probably the best restaurant scene in the United States. Some like the Gumbo Shop stick to old standards. Others are known for their innovation. I went to one of the latter, Coquette. Like virtually all fine dining in New Orleans, the food was very good. The meat was so moist it melted as I ate it. The sides were spiced to perfection. The only bad part of this meal ... read more

North America » United States » Louisiana » New Orleans April 22nd 2011

Today is my first day in New Orleans. Until 2005, the city was probably best known as a party town, a place where people drank in the streets and anything went. After Katrina, the city was probably known mostly as a flood zone. The reality is now somewhere in between. The oldest neighborhoods, the ones that tourists mostly stick to, were above sea level and have mostly recovered. The newer, and poorer, neighborhoods were below sea level, and are still far from normal. New Orleans is a vital place, a mixture of French, Spanish, Caribbean, and Anglo cultures seen nowhere else on earth. I couldn’t do this trip and miss it. Thanks to other events on the schedule, I ended up having to see it as one concentrated blitz. I didn’t mind much, because I figured ... read more
Decaying tombs
Archie Manning's House
Cast Iron in the Garden District

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