No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beyond All Boundaries

April 12, 2015

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Beyond All Boundaries

Situated in the heart of the central business district of New Orleans is the amazing National World War II museum. Neither Kathy or I had ever been and we had read that it was a must see attraction in the city and so we took time to head over and check it out before activities got underway at the NOLA motorsports park. 

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The Museum which opened on June 6, 2000, the 56th anniversary of D-Day has a large atrium where aircraft including a Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, and Douglas C-47 Skytrain are suspended from the ceiling. The building is several stories high and consists of two multi-level sections that are connected only by the main floor atrium. The Museum does not solely discuss the invasion of Normandy, but also represents the Allied strategy of island hopping, culminating with nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

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The Museum has several permanent galleries, including the Home Front, Planning for D-Day, The D-Day Beaches, and Pacific D-Days galleries. The third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion includes an observation deck for viewing the hanging aircraft. The second floor has reserved space for visiting exhibits and for special exhibits that change every few months. In January 2013, the museum opened its newest exhibit, The US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, which is the largest building on the museum campus.

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The collection in the US Freedom Pavilion includes a B-17E Flying Fortress bomber, a B-25J Mitchell bomber, a SBD-3 Dauntless, a TBF Avenger, a P-51C razorback Mustang, Corsair F4U-4 and an interactive submarine experience based on the final mission of the USS Tang. The B-17E is the airplane dubbed My Gal Sal, famous for having been lost in a mission over Greenland and recovered 53 years later. The US Freedom Pavilion was paid for with a $15 million donation from the Boeing Company and with a $20 million grant from the US Department of Defense with Congressional approval.

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The entire museum is fantastic and the incredible 4-D movie “Beyond All Boundaries” is worth the visit on its own. It was especially cool to be visiting the museum on the same day as a number of WWII veterans, which just added to the resonance and poignancy of the visit.

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After visiting the museum it was on to the NOLA Motorsports Park for the opening practice and support races for the New Orleans Indy Car Grand Prix. Threatening weather overshadowed the festivities but they did get some action in and the facility was very nice. I watched sports car racing and wondered around the paddock and pits, getting a feel for the place before the rain moved in.

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That evening Kathy & I visited a couple of Garden District hotspots, the NOLA Brewing Company where we sampled craft beer and then moved on to the famous Tipitina’s uptown bar to check out the scene. It was another great day in New Orleans.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

French Quarter Festival

April 11, 2015

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French Quarter Festival

We were happy to find that our trip to New Orleans for their inaugural Indy Car race happened to coincide with what is billed as the largest free festival in the world, The French Quarter Festival. An annual event since 1984, the festival features music, art, food and culture of the Crescent City with 23 stages of continuous live music over the three day festival. Attended by over 700,000 last year, the festival features just about everyone who is anyone on the New Orleans music scene.

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Locals consider it the best festival of the year, beating out the more famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which is more popular and crowded and expensive. One local told us that the French Quarter Festival is “what Jazz Fest used to be” and said it was far superior as far as enjoyment and musical quality. Not having attended Jazz Fest since 1995, it is tough for me to compare, but I sort of see their point.

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Jazz Fest even then had grown into a huge corporate festival with mostly National acts and performers. This festival is almost exclusively local talent, which is still saying something considering the depth, quality and diversity of the musical talent in the city. The festival features traditional and contemporary jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, Cajun and zydeco, New Orleans funk, classical, swing, rock, international and the many diverse sounds that are part of the city's rich cultural gumbo. There were more than 100 of New Orleans' favorite musical performers to entertain—with a whole raft of other New Orleans legends and international all-stars.

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The event also featured a tantalizing spread of beverages and specialty items from some of the best known restaurants in the city, including Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes, jambalaya, blackened catfish po-boys, crawfish étouffée, Cajun meat pies and more. More than 60 food and beverage booths were scattered throughout the historic French Quarter.

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Some of the bands that we saw all or part of performing included many of our favorite New Orleans bands, many who have played Key West, generally at The Green Parrot. These included Mia Borders, Allen Toussant, Trevis Matte & the Kingpins, John Boutte, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Bonerama, Eric Lidell, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Chris Ardoin, Charmaine Neville, The Iguanas, Flow Tribe and Colin Lake.

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Hundreds more played that we could not possible see even a small percentage of what was offered. We did take advantage of the Art Show, featuring artwork from local artists and we purchased a couple of pieces of Folk Art. We met some new friends and even had the good fortune to run into a couple that we know who visit the Key West Literary Seminar annually, Jan & Rick. It was so cool to see them in a new setting.

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It was a pretty amazing Festival and so enjoyable to be immersed in the culture and music of such a wonderful and diverse community. The fact that it was all free of charge is just an amazing thing. I am hopeful that we might be able to return in the future to experience it again.

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