Traveling: Top 5 Romantic Cities

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to write my favorite romantic places I have visited with Cristina

5. Venice: Venice can be grueling because it is all cement and water. That is also what makes it beautiful. Best thing about Venice is that it is a perfect city to get lost. Eventually you find your way, but its a beautiful adventure.

4.Barcelona: My favorite walking city I have visited. Barcelona is a place to do lots of shopping at high fashion stores and at outside food markets. Coffee shops and restaurants are plentiful to sit and have a nice conversation. In addition, the architecture is full of wonder.

3.Paris: Sure the Eiffel Tower is romantic, but so is most of the city. A leisurely stroll down the Champs-Elysees is hard to beat in the romantic department, yet a cruise down the Seine comes close.

2. Rome: Rome is another city best seen by walking (I’m sensing a theme). The best time is sunset when the natural light and the city lights bring the Eternal City alive.

1. New Orleans: Yes, I am a homer, but I cannot see any reason why our city should not be number one. If you know how to walk the French Quarter (mainly stay away from parts of Bourbon), you can easily pretend you are in the Old World. If the moon is out, a walk along the river near Woldenberg Park is as good as it gets. Moreover, I have not even mentioned Uptown and Oak Street which are just as good if not better than the Downtown. As far as restaurants go, well, I think we have it pretty good.

Traveling: The Power, the Beauty, and the Glory, or Three Churches and How Their Architecture and Design Tells a Story

During our 2010 trip to Europe, we visited a few churches. Being raised Catholic is one reason why we made sure we visited them; being history majors was another reason. Churches of the Middle Ages are more than just places of worship. They were landmarks most of the cities were built around. They were the meeting places of the masses. Since most of those masses were uneducated during this time, the Churches served another purpose. They told the story of Christ through their windows and their art. They also told a story through their architecture.

We are not experts in architecture. Yet, when we visited Notre Dame in Paris, The Duomo in Florence, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City we came away with different feelings about the Church.

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Concerting: Minus the Bear and Ben Folds

(First a word from Kurt) Cristina sent me a text message one day demanding I buy tickets to Ben Folds at Tulane‘s McAllister Auditorium. Kind of odd since she never demands anything. I logged in and purchased the tickets. She was excited; I wasn’t.

I have no problem with Ben Folds. I just don’t really care. I was doing this for her. That was until I heard the opening act was going to be Minus the Bear.

I first heard about them around 2002 with the release of Highly Refined Pirates their first LP. Any band that names a song “Thanks for a Killer Game of Crisco Twister” will catch my attention. In fact, their song titles are catchier than most other bands’ songs. The music lived up to the title. Clever and playful melodies that take you somewhere. Learning they were going to be at the show now made me excited for the gig.

They didn’t disappoint. Even though they aren’t presently on tour they were tight and seemed to be having fun. The crowd on the other hand was truly there to see Ben Folds. I truly was the odd ball out in that I was there to only see them plus I was a frontrunner for the oldest guy in the place.

They finished their set with “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse” which is my favorite song of theirs. While were in Paris, I would annoy Cristina by singing the song. How couldn’t I with lyrics such as “we have to plan our day, the Rodin and D’Orsay.” Yet, the day we did have planned the D’Orsay was closed. Well, at least we got to sit on “park bench that’s older than my country.”

Ben Folds

Ben Folds singing

Cristina’s turn to now talk about the amazingness that is Ben Folds. (Yes, Cristina wrote this.)

Ben Folds is one of those people I’ve wanted to see since college. With or without Five, with The Bens, any way you slice him, I adored his music. Unfortunately, I’ve never come close to seeing him live. As I’m randomly checking facebook after school one day, I see he’s coming to Tulane University. For $15. Are you kidding me?!

When Kurt and I arrive, I immediately see some old college friends. Sweet! We catch up with them while waiting in line, and manage to all get about 5th row when we enter the auditorium. Though Kurt was super excited for Minus the Bear and stood up and danced the whole time, I enjoyed them while sitting. As soon as Ben Folds came on the stage, I became the geeky fangirl I’ve always been, taking my turn to stand up and dance.

Ben Folds was everything I knew he’d be. It was just him and his piano, beautifully and masterfully singing his best songs. He was so energetic, funny, and engaging with the audience. The crowd, most of them college students, were extremely into him, which I thought was awesome that he was still touching people musically.

Ben Folds Drum Solo

Ben Folds Drum Solo

Though singing crowd favorites like Army, Still Fighting It, Zak and Sara, Annie Waits, and Brick, he left out my absolute favorite song, The Luckiest (which I know he plays live still!). During B****es Ain’t S***, he pulled a girl audience member up on stage to sing it as he played the piano accompaniment. She did such a great job, and the audience was so supportive and singing along with her. Such a great moment for her! He also made up two different songs about New Orleans on the spot, solidifying my belief that he is a musical mastermind. At one point, they pulled out a drum set and he did an awesome drum solo, making the crowd go wild. He ended the show with Not The Same, having the audience take part with the “ahhh ahhhhhhh” harmonies.

In all, it was everything and more than what I hoped for. Checking this one off the bucket list for musical acts I must see.

Here’s clip of him I shot while singing Brick. Sorry for the weird in and out of focus thing that seems to be going on, I think the strobe lighting was affecting my camera’s focus. Enjoy!

Traveling: Free People in Paris Feeling Unfettered and Alive

We exited the Louvre with no plans. Our last afternoon in Paris and we didn’t have anything to do. Now, this was probably the best planning we had done. Paris wants you to walk aimlessly around.

But first, we had to eat. We were famished. We stopped at an outdoor café in the Jardin des Tuileries. We ordered steaks. They were very good. Looking back on this meal, I realize that I do have one regret about our Europe trip. While the restaurant was very good, we really didn’t research restaurants. We basically ate when we were hungry at the nearest restaurant to us. This often turned out to make for very good and in some cases, though not this one, adventurous eating, I feel we did miss out on something. Maybe on our next trip we will do more restaurant research.

Now, what to do? We had plenty of time on our hands and lots of Paris to explore. We started walking away from the Louvre and the answer was stretched out right in front of us: the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

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Traveling: I Prefer to Pronounce Louvre with the R

On our last day in Paris, I realized I planned poorly. I didn’t think things through. I should have made a chart or a spreadsheet. This day was to be a museum day: The Louvre then the Orsay. Every morning while Cristina was making herself even more beautiful, I would read our Rick Steves book. Skipping over to the Paris section, I read that the Orsay is closed on Monday. Damn it. Well, sort of. I mean we were going to Louvre and that more than makes for a great day.

Outside the Louvre

Outside the Louvre

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Traveling: A Day with French Royalty

On our second day in Paris, exhaustion was starting to take its toll. Our bodies were hurting and tempers were getting short. We planned on going to Versailles this rainy Sunday morning. On the way, we had to change metro stations with a short walk near the Eiffel Tower. We were both miserable. We argued. I have no idea about what. We got over it by having a quiet breakfast at some overpriced café. We then headed out to Versailles.

Louis XIV Welcomes You to Versailles

Louis XIV Welcomes You to Versailles

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Traveling: Temporary Parsians

Even if you are waking up early to go to Paris, you are still waking up early. Even though you know you will see the Eiffel Tower and have mass at Notre Dame, you want to roll over and fall back asleep. Sleep is an amazing thing, but sometimes it just gets in the way. Begrudgingly, we woke up early the fifth of June and made sure everything was packed. We put on our backpacks and started the walk to St. Pancras Station.

I loved that little walk. Very little traffic on the streets from either wheel or foot. You get the feeling that no matter how big this city is, you own a little bit of it at this time. It is a feeling of total comfort and safety. The only other time I felt this way was in New York City in the financial district on a Sunday morning. And every time I’m in New Orleans.

Security at the Eurostar was smooth and efficient. It was easy finding our seats and the journey was smooth. So smooth and easy was this trip that we didn’t realize that we where under the Channel. There was no announcement just a very long tunnel. When we arrived in France the only thing different was the announcements were made in French first instead of English. We enjoyed some croissants on the train and soon arrived in Paris.

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