I return from a week-long sojourn in New Orleans to find the new ISS website is alive and doing well. Response, so far, has been positive, with users expressing gratitude for the ease in navigation. While I endorse the organization and simplicity of the design, there's something about this new page that seems antiseptic to me, cold. But so long as folks can find what they need when they need it, the rest is purely a matter of aesthetic preference, I suppose.
I was pleased to see New Orleans reclaiming some of its former fervor and vitality. When I was there for conferences back in March, even the French Quarter seemed depressed and empty. Now the streets are a-buzz once more. Shops are re-opening. Staff is returning to the city's many fine (and thankfully not-so-fine) establishments. My husband, our friends and I caught a great wave of energy once we rolled into the Quarter, and we rode it to the end of one lively week.
We had some great adventures, of course. To begin, we stayed at a lovely historic hotel right on Toulouse, the Hotel Maison de Ville, next to the famed Court of Two Sisters (in fact, our room overlooked the restaurant's charming courtyard, and we woke to the sound of jazz bruch on several mornings). This is the hotel where Tennessee Williams finished A Streetcar Named Desire, and its seven Audobon Cottages were named for the naturalist and painter James John Audobon.
The entryway to the Hotel Maison de Ville, found just north of Jackson Square.
The hotel's beautiful courtyard, where we enjoyed coffee and fresh croissants each morning and watched the turtles swim in the fountain.
During our stay, we strolled through the Quarter (yes, some of the streets still smell quite ripe); partook in Halloween madness down on Frenchman Street; enjoyed a walking tour of the Garden District; visited Lafayette Cemetery (mentioned in several novels by popular occult author Anne Rice) on All Saint's Day; and enjoyed the most exquisite meal at Bayona Restaurant, a culinary gem housed in a 200-year-old Creole cottage. (The goat cheese crouton with mushrooms in madeira cream really was sinfully delicious! Thanks to our server, Steve, for insisting upon it!) We also discovered a wonderfully raucous pirate pub, Pirates Alley Cafe and Absinthe House, and spent a couple of nights dancing with the darklings at Ye Olde Original Dungeon.
Inside the Dungeon.
During one of the trip's more memorable moments, our cab driver, who was hellbent on driving home his point that Americans are lazy and fail to appreciate their freedom, and who was, consequently, not paying attention, actually backed into a homeless man outside the Pontchartrain Hotel. We thought he had crashed into a tree or a telephone pole, such was the impact. Amazingly, his victim was not seriously injured; but it was a startling, sickening moment nonetheless. Try dealing with that on a particularly bleary eyed morning after. We felt like we were in the twilight zone (and perhaps, by that time, we were).
I could ramble on and on with tales from our escapade; but I just wanted to share a few highlights with the many of you who have imparted similar stories to me over the years. My husband and I were engaged at the ISS Expo in New Orleans in 2003, and since then, I am often approached by industry colleagues who want to share their experiences from the city we so love.
This week, of course, it's back to business as usual: deadlines, demands and a wee bit of drama. But, hey, that's the two-fold purpose of a vacation: to promote enjoyment and relaxation while simultaneoulsy highlighting the stark contrast between work and play. It makes the savoring of the experience that much more enjoyable, wouldn't you say?
I'll close with this ... as a memento of our trip, my husband and I invested in a gorgeous print by bodypainter Craig Tracy of PaintedAlive Gallery. It's called "Winter," and it will be a welcome feast for the eyes in the brutal AZ heat. (I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by the canvas. I did say he was a BODYpainter.)