Goodbye New Orleans, Second Lines and almost back to Bees!

I am sitting in an hotel at Orlando Airport with my suitcase and my laptop. I’m in that strange calm limbo land of transit. It’s a little hiatus, a chance to catch my breath before flying back to the UK.

Behind us we leave a million memories, unforgettable images, sounds, tastes, and experiences, all crammed into 3 short months in wonderful New Orleans. In front of us?  Who knows!

And exactly what were we doing in New Orleans for the last 3 months and why the lack of blogging? Well, we were lending a hand with running a B&B, which couldn’t have been further removed from the gentle delights of bees and botanicals.
But sometimes an opportunity to do something completely different presents itself and you have to take a chance, throw caution, reason and common sense firmly out of the nearest window and grab it tightly!
The job was hectic to say the least, non stop from dawn till dusk and beyond, absolutely no time to blog or even turn on the computer some days, but occasionally we did get out to see something of this fabulous city.
And for my taste, the more local the action the better. We ate, drank and shopped local, meeting people who live and work in this great city and became for a short time, a part of the community,  far away from the dubious delights of Bourbon St. ( but of course we did go there as well!).

Dancing with the Second Lines. So sitting here in this calm quiet hotel I am reflecting on what were probably the most memorable experiences and something that will always be New Orleans to me, the wonderful and joyous Second Line Parades.
Those who know New Orleans will also know all about the Second Line Parades but for those who don’t here is a short description:

A Second Line Parade is a neighborhood event during which a local Social (Aide) & Pleasure Club parades through nearby streets.

“By state and city ordinances and law, very seldom do these parades take up routes on heavily traffic laden thoroughfares in the city. Most are held in the back areas, visiting the stops that help the clubs to continue the tradition.  A Main Line is the “main section or the members of the actual club, that has the permit to parade. Those fans, admirers and curious are the “second line” or part two of this planned street parade. These parades have come to be called and known by this fact.”

And we were all of those things, at first curious, then admiring and ultimately huge fans of these joyful rolling street parties that sometimes rock on for 4 hours or more and cover miles and miles.

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“The Perfect Gentlemen” accompanied by  “To Be Continued” Band.

This is probably as close as many of us will ever come to feeling like royalty because, as the parade marches on, the thoroughfares open up before them. Side streets are closed, police cars bar a giant overpass and traffic is halted.

The Parade and its people are king, momentarily possessing the street, for just as long as it takes to pass by. Normal life is briefly on hold but quickly closes in behind this temporary wave of foot traffic, where stragglers may be nudged along by impatient police mounted on bikes and horses.

crowd     man on sign


But  the route ahead is lined with people, they come out of their houses to shout and cheer and wave. They dance on their balconies. Children are hoisted up onto shoulders and whirled around and around.

Riders on prancing ponies appear from the side streets and fall in step. And in the “second line”, following on, strictly behind the yellow tape, everyone, just everyone, dances, even if it’s just a few steps here and there. The kids are just great.


And how could you not dance? The music is infectious and uplifting and the brilliantly dressed and most elegant ladies and gentlemen of the Main Line shake, rattle and roll their hearts out. You are impelled to follow.


So on three brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoons we joined the Second Lines, “cool cool” beer in one hand and superlative Who Dat beefburger from Uncle P’s Party Wagon in the other.

uncle p's wagon sm

Uncle P’s Party Wagon sign .. most excellent food complete with  handy bottle opener and photos of other Second Line processions.

We followed and followed, stepped out and sang our way through the suburban neighborhoods of New Orleans. Out along Washington, Louisiana, Daneel and Martin Luther King on to Broad St, over Canal, to St Peters.

We danced all the way through Treme and along Basin St.  We saw many things which we would otherwise not have seen, new houses, old houses, haunting derelict reminders of Katrina and optimistic rebirths in new development.

We stopped to talk and draw breath and drink and eat before starting off again. Our last fabulous and jubilant Second Line was on Super Bowl Sunday when a break in the cold weather gave us warm sunshine and a big happy crowd as we followed along with the Treme Sidewalk Steppers. A little snippet from the Times Picayune the following day…

treme sidewalk steppers      dancing lady

happy     horses


Had to include this cool cool shop!

busy bee      princesses

photos by Chris from his iPhone

We will, sadly, miss the great tourist event of Mardi Gras, which is a shame, but perhaps these smaller, participatory Second Line parades gave us a more intimate taste of the culture and traditions of New Orleans.

Static photos cannot really convey the atmosphere, especially the noise and the rhythmic drum beats, so for an added experience go to Youtube and just look for the Treme Sidewalk Steppers 20011.. there are some fun Videos!

We are on some of them! A BIG thanks go to our good friend Christopher Hammersla for making it all happen for us!

chris h

If you ever get the opportunity to Second Line, take it. Put on your dancing shoes and follow.

Follow, follow and dance and sing. Your feet will be sore, your head may be reeling, but your sprits will be soaring….

Happy Christmas from The Big Easy

To wish all my wonderful blog readers and friends around the world a very Happy Christmas!


Every day here is different, hectic and fun with no time to blog or paint yet..

Wonderful food, great music everywhere, beautiful architecture and some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

I am hoping to be back to bees, blogging, writing and drawing very soon…… but for now… “Laissez les bons temps rouler”

A very Merry Christmas to you all from wonderful New Orleans!

The New Orleans Bee: 29 Nov 1910

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It was inevitable that I, number one bee fan, would find this, wasn’t it?

The wonderful old newspaper “The New Orleans Bee.” I was really only trying to find beekeepers or even a special Louisiana bee that I might be able to paint and write about.

But what could be better than to start the New Orleans part of the blog with such a wonderful image from just one hundred years ago today.It is really thanks to the Jefferson Parish Library who has digitised all of the publications from September 1827 to December 1923 which are accessible here. Their brief description of The Bee:

The New Orleans Bee/ L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orléans was a French language newspaper published in New Orleans beginning on September 1, 1827. An English section was added three months later. The newspaper continued as a dual language publication until 1872 when the English portion was dropped and once again it became French only. Briefly [1829-1830] there was also a Spanish language section. The New Orleans Bee was originally published three times a week, but became a daily after a few years. Publication ceased in 1925.”

Wikipedia here has a little more to tell:

“Initially published three times a week in French, an English section was added on November 24, 1827,and in this form it was the most successful of New Orleans daily newspapers in the middle of the nineteenth century….Until at least 1897 L’Abeille remained “almost certainly the daily newspaper of choice” for French officials in New Orleans. The title was purchased in 1921 by The Times-Picayune and was published weekly until it closed in 1925.”

We shall be here for a while so I shall be posting a few pieces from this fascinating paper on the corresponding dates.So today, 100 years ago, on the 29th Nov 1910, the English section of the New Orleans Bee was concerned with the demise of the Passenger Pigeon, the lack of respectable refuges for women in London, the rebinding of an exquisite Book of Hours with a gold cover attributed to Benvenuto Cellini in Paris and this little story:


Transcript :

“Parrot mistaken for Man Interrupts Young Woman’s Bath and the Human Pet Rushes in Causing Consternation

Philadelphia – Pat is a parrot owned by Mr and Mrs William Harrington. The other afternoon noticing that the door of his cage was unfastened Pat made for the window and perched on the sill of an adjoining bathroom window.Inside there was much splashing and feminine laughter. Nora the maid was giving her young mistress a bath. Not finding the soap in its place she called to her husband whose name happened to be Pat “
Fetch the soap Pat and be quick about it”
The parrot hearing his name shrieked “Who wants Pat?”
Hearing the sound from the outside both women screamed and swooned thinking some one was endeavoring to enter by the fire escape. The man Pat hearing the commotion dashed into the bathroom and made matters worse, especially for the young woman, by breaking into the room.”

I am very taken with this newspaper and feel I might just appropriate the perfectly appropriate name for my stay here.
And where, might you ask, would a “New Orleans Bee” like to stay?

Well, how about a Creole Garden? Which is exactly where I am. I’m at the delightful Creole Gardens B&B .. more of all that to come.

The Road to New Orleans and a Chef with no Hands

We flew into Orlando on Tuesday and drove out again four days later.

Our travelling day sandwiched between the retail frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A quiet “eye of the storm” day in the middle of the cyclone of 42 million people who were estimated to be swirling around the USA this Thanksgiving.

The directions to New Orleans couldn’t be much simpler. The 638 mile journey is detailed in just one page from Google Maps. You take the Florida Turnpike to Interstate 75, drive 107 miles and at junction 435 turn onto the mighty Interstate 10. Here Google maps merely says: “Go 478 MILES”. And that is just what you do. Go..go go…for 9 hours and some.

Interstate 10 is the magnificent 2,460 mile long road that straddles the south of the USA from Santa Monica to Jacksonville.
On the way to New Orleans you pass through the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi. You cross the Suwanee River whose sign is printed with a couple of bars of its famous song.

You stop at the pleasant rest areas and you stop for coffees. You try to find cheap petrol, try to find something on the radio that isn’t Country and Western, try to count the number of Waffle House restaurants there are on the way and stop very quickly when the maths becomes complicated and of course you stop for a bite to eat here and there.

We have done this trip once before and as luck would have it, found our way back to Sally’s Restaurant for lunch. Sally’s is just off the Ponce de Leon junction and although its very pink décor – both inside and out – is somewhat faded you will find a warm and smiling welcome and some wholesome food.

It’s a local place where locals come to eat and after the dreary conformity of the chain restaurants which line the main road, Sally’s is quite a change!

sallys bg

One thing that might make you hesitate though is the frightening statue of the leering chef outside whose welcoming outstretched arms are horribly handless.

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The Handless Chef at Sally’s

In this quiet wooded area it is easy to let your mind wonder as to the fate of those hands. But just ignore him and the abrupt sign on the door which says “we no longer accept checks of any kind unless you are personally known to us.” and go and enjoy some Southern cooking.

There is an astonishing paper frieze around the top of the room of a French Boulangerie and an extraordinary clock and if the chef outside is handless the cook inside certainly is not and you can see Sally at work in the kitchen and the waitress was just lovely.

Then it’s on and on. The broad flat road is flanked by ever present dull green pines which march along the whole route regardless of state lines, relieved now by a sprinkling of copper tinged autumnal trees. There are swampy areas whose black waters contrast starkly with the white skeletons of drowned trees and then there are the bright steely city skylines of Mobile and Biloxi.

All the way the medians and the verges are wide and immaculately mown, presumably at night by elves who live in the adjacent forests as, on none of the three trips, have we ever seen any mowing activity at all.

In the v-shaped medians occasional wooded strips act as cover for the stealth police cars and as you near the towns, the gleaming silvery domes of water towers rise, UFO like, above the tree line on thin spindly legs.

On the way I saw little rolling pastures with round straw bales which could have been in England and I saw the same long watering gantries that span the fertile fields of East Anglia. I saw some pretty perfectly spotted appaloosa horses grazing in a green green field. I saw beautiful longhorned cattle.
We thought it might be nice to stop at Niceville one day but decided to give the Gun and Knife show at Mobile a miss this time.There are many many billboards to entertain you on the way, some that make we two liberally minded, non religious Brits shudder but, as one sign simply said, “ Billboards Are Groovy”.

On the road we leapfrogged the slower RVs, the Winnebagos, a few cigar shaped perfectly preserved Airstreams, and the magnificent gleaming rigs that are American trucks.

Without trucks America stops” read the stickers on the back.

We stopped to rest only to catch up with them again further along the road. The “Florida Beauty Flora” truck from Miami was with us all the way.

We passed big old rolling saloon cars driven by impossibly small Hispanic men, their heads barely visible from behind.

Huge people in huge pickups pulled huge trailers and a family car towed a canoe full of bicycles, topped with the cat basket… minus cat, I hasten to add.

The sun travelled with us on our left all the way, casting long black strobe like shadows across the road until we crossed the long low concrete bridge which skimmed the now placid Lake Pontchartrain and headed into New Orleans.
There it crossed our path and from our right blazed onto the gleaming Superbowl turning it into a beacon of dazzling fiery-gold.

We arrived in New Orleans at 5 pm, exactly on time… it was a fine trip.