New Orleans: A Walkable City

December 15, 2015

Crossing into Louisiana on I-10

Crossing into Louisiana on I-10

Long bridge over Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans

Long bridge over Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans

Paddleboat on the Mississippi River in New Orleans

Paddleboat on the Mississippi River in New Orleans

New Orleans offers a varied menu of attractions for visitors — live music, food, sports, art, festivals — and after my first trip to the city, I have my own list of favorite things.  I’ll be sharing them with you over the next few days.

Ship in the Mississippi River

Ship in the Mississippi River

I was happy to discover how easy it is to navigate; it’s a very walkable city.  We turned in our rental car upon arrival, and spent four days on foot.  New Orleans is very flat, and the weather was in the high 70s (no rain), and both of these factors contributed to the ease of getting around.

“. . . cardinal directions are of limited use here.  The river that borders the city meanders in many directions; many long streets follow the bends of the river and change directions themselves; the long cross-streets radiate; the city is low, with no hills and few tall buildings, so low that ships going by on the Mississippi River appear to be above you, and the river itself is invisible behind levees.

The compass that orients the world makes little sense here and is not much used.  Instead . . . people define direction by the bodies of water.  In place of north there is lakeside, for Lake Ponchartrain; in place of south there is the river; upriver and uptown are west; downriver is east.  These directions are also reminders that the place is very nearly surrounded by water, an enchanted isle with its own rules.”
— Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Horse-drawn carriage in the French Quarter

Horse-drawn carriage in the French Quarter

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

“Only in the old cities — like New Orleans — built long before cars, do walking humans still feel at home. . . . People navigate their streets like fish:  the streets are our medium, a fluid and changing spectacle that is also the stuff we breathe in and out.  It’s a city for watching and being watched, a voyeur-voyee paradise . . .:
— Andrei Codrescu, “Moving Faster Than My Body,” from New Orleans Mon Amour

Pedestrian on Canal Street passing images of the ubiquitous blue dog (art by George Rodrigue)

Pedestrian on Canal Street passing images of the ubiquitous blue dog (art by George Rodrigue)

“On New Orleans’ ordinary streets one savors a sense both of easement and of unspecified possibilities . . .”

St. Louis Cathedral at the end of Jackson Square

St. Louis Cathedral at the end of Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

“I like the feeling of living in day-before-yesterday and day-after-tomorrow at the same time.  Nothing could be more modern than those neon signs just outside on Decatur Street, or the traffic tearing past between us and Jackson Square.  But the little square itself must look exactly the same tonight as it did a hundred years ago and, while we were passing it, I could imagine all sorts of ghosts wandering around, under the palm trees.”
— Frances Parkinson Keyes, from Dinner at Antoine’s

Streetcar on Canal Street

Streetcar on Canal Street

Map of streetcar lines in New Orleans

Map of streetcar lines in New Orleans

New Orleans’ historic streetcars make outlying parts of the city very accessible.  The $3 all-day pass is affordable, and allows you to hop on and off the streetcars and buses at will.  We loved exploring the city this way, and over the course of our stay, we rode all four main lines from end to end.

“The New Orleans dividing line that used to be all important is Canal Street . . . it formed a porous boundary between Downtown and Uptown, downriver and upriver, between the French — or more appropriately, the Creole — section and the ‘American Sector’ . . .”
— Lolis Eric Elie, “Here They Come, There They Go,” from Unfathomable City

Interior, New Orleans streetcar

Interior, New Orleans streetcar

Mardi Gras beads hanging from Canal Street sign

Mardi Gras beads hanging from Canal Street sign

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The seats of the streetcars had backs that you could move forward or backward, a clever way to change the seating so that you faced forward regardless of the direction you were traveling.  You definitely wanted to heed the signs not to stick head or arms out the windows because at times we passed within 6 inches of trees and signposts!

“Patrolman Mancuso inhaled the moldy scent of the oaks and thought, in a romantic aside, that St. Charles Avenue must be the loveliest place in the world.  From time to time he passed the slowly rocking streetcars that seemed to be leisurely moving toward no special destination, following their route through the old mansions on either side of the avenue.  Everything looked so calm, so prosperous, so unsuspicious.”
— John Kennedy Toole, from A Confederacy of Dunces

The green streetcars moved through the Garden District

The green streetcars moved through the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue

Walking and riding the streetcars were our favorite ways of exploring New Orleans.  The city gets high marks for walkability.

 

 

“But most of these far walks have been taken just for the joy of walking in the free air.”
— John Finley, “Traveling Afoot,” from The Joys of Walking, ed. Edwin Valentine

“Increasingly, walking itself became a source of happiness, something to be enjoyed in its own right, bringing an intensity of experience and a sensual awareness of surroundings that grew more addictive by the miles.”
— Nick Hunt, Walking the Woods and the Water

View of downtown Seattle skyline from Alki

View of downtown Seattle skyline from Alki

At this point in my multi-day project of encircling the periphery of Seattle, I no longer questioned why I was walking these segments.  I simply enjoyed the journey.  I was especially looking forward to this day’s walk because I knew I would have Puget Sound in sight almost the entire day.  I was reminded of how beautiful Seattle’s location is, with distant mountains to the west (the Olympics) and to the east (the Cascades) and the gentle waves of Puget Sound lapping its shores.

I started my walk from the Barton Street Pea Patch at the intersection of Barton Street SW and 35th Avenue SW.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Barton Street community garden

Barton Street community garden

I followed Barton Street west and downhill to the sound.  The Fauntleroy ferry was disgorging cars and passengers.  It would have been a lovely day for a ferry ride to Vashon Island, but I stuck with my plan to walk.

Ferry to Vashon Island

Ferry to Vashon Island

Disembarking

Disembarking

I followed Fauntleroy Avenue SW to Lincoln Park, a heavily wooded space with playground, picnic tables, and below the bluff, a beach with paved walking and biking path.  Families, joggers, and dog-watchers enjoyed the beach.

Picnic table under the trees, Lincoln Park

Picnic table under the trees, Lincoln Park

 

Beach at Lincoln Park on Puget Sound

Beach at Lincoln Park on Puget Sound

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Exercising with beach rocks

Exercising with beach rocks

The Seattle grunge look -- starting early

The Seattle grunge look — starting early

Seattle is a very literary city.

Seattle is a very literary city.

From Lincoln Park I headed north on Beach Drive where I was separated from the beach by a row of waterfront residences.  As I approached Alki Beach, I discovered a set of 27 constellations embedded the sidewalk, West Seattle’s own “Avenue of the Stars.”
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Beach Drive turned into Alki Avenue.  The point here was the original landing spot of the Denny Party, Seattle’s first white settlers, in 1851.  Later they relocated across the Sound to establish Seattle on the shores of Elliott Bay.  Today the beach is one of the city’s favorite recreation spots, especially on summer days.

Blue bottle house

Blue bottle house

Alki Beach

Alki Beach

Alki has its own miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Boy Scouts.

Alki has its own miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Boy Scouts.

Picnic on the beach

Picnic on the beach

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Flowered house on Alki Avenue

Flowered house on Alki Avenue

Alki Avenue turned into Harbor Avenue SW and now the views over the water took in the Seattle skyline.

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Recreation and industry on Elliott Bay near downtown Seattle

Recreation and industry on Elliott Bay near downtown Seattle

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The next stretch of my walk took me away from the relaxing beachfront and back into the city’s industrial area.  Pedestrians are prohibited on the West Seattle Bridge, but I had access to a nice bike trail across Harbor Island on an older, lower bridge.  I passed over the Duwamish River, and Mount Rainier gleamed hugely and whitely on the horizon.

Bike path along the lower bridge

Bike path along the lower bridge

Under the West Seattle Bridge

Under the West Seattle Bridge

Duwamish River with Mount Rainier

Duwamish River with Mount Rainier

Duwamish River looking toward downtown Seattle

Duwamish River looking toward downtown Seattle

My final trek was along East Marginal Way South past the shipping docks.  The Starbucks headquarters punctuated the skyline in the SODO (south of Downtown) neighborhood.  I passed an historical marker near 2225 E marginal Way S on the spot of the world’s very first gasoline service station (1907).  Who knew that Seattle played a role in this part of our country’s driving history!

Loading docks and shipyards

Loading docks and shipyards

Starbucks headquarters

Starbucks headquarters

East Marginal Way South

East Marginal Way South

Bike path into downtown Seattle

Bike path into downtown Seattle

Ferry coming into the downtown terminal

Ferry coming into the downtown terminal

I ended my walk at the downtown ferry terminal.

Total walking distance:  about 12 miles

 

 

 

Under the Bridge

August 13, 2013

Under the I-5 bridge at Ravenna Blvd, Seattle

Under the I-5 bridge at Ravenna Blvd, Seattle

Isn’t this an unusual, artistic treatment of bridge posts?  The posts stand like some futuristic urban “forest.”  I like that a real, natural, tree or two was allowed to survive, interrupting the pattern and creating some interest.

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IMG_3814Being under the bridge reminded me of a favorite children’s story, The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson (1958).  It’s a story about a homeless family in Paris — a mother and her three fatherless children — who are taken under the wing of a curmudgeonly tramp.  I loved the illustrations by Garth Williams, who also illustrated my beloved childhood editions of the Little House books.  The library still holds copies of this classic on its shelves.  I’m glad they do.

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Manhattan: City of Bridges

February 5, 2013

“Along the iron veins that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the fiery pulses of its exertion, hotter and faster every hour.  All vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into the central cities . . .”
— John Ruskin

Traffic on the Queensboro Bridge

Traffic on the Queensboro Bridge

I don’t know if Ruskin was referring to bridges or railroad tracks, but his images of “iron veins” and “throbbing arteries” certainly fit the bridges of Manhattan Island and their flow of traffic.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and under the Manhattan Bridge, but we saw the Queensboro Bridge from the air when we rode the Roosevelt Island tram across the East River.  The tram runs parallel to the bridge.  The tram fare is covered with your Metro pass.

Roosevelt Island tram

Roosevelt Island tram

Queensboro Bridge viewed from the tram

Queensboro Bridge viewed from the tram

Brooklyn Bridge across the East River

Brooklyn Bridge across the East River

Brooklyn Bridge with Freedom Tower

Brooklyn Bridge with Freedom Tower

Manhattan Bridge (posterized photo)

Manhattan Bridge (posterized photo)

View of Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn

View of Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn

 

I’m back from Texas and will be sharing some of my trip photos and impressions over the next few days.  We travelled 1,566 miles in our rented car, so we saw quite a bit of Texas.  If I had to describe Texas in two words, they would be flat and windy!  We enjoyed the Texas weather, which was in the 70s and 80s.

Here are some photos from our Texas rambles:

Landscape near Chappell Hill area, east of Houston

 

Vintage Dr. Pepper sign on building in Chappell Hill. Dr. Pepper was invented by a pharmacist in Waco, Texas.

Weathered sign along a Texas back road. The Wild West is still alive!

The Edythe Bates Old Chapel at the International Festival Institute near Round Top, Texas. It is used as one performance space at this music academy.

Concert Hall at the International Festival Institute. Mighty fancy digs in the middle of Texas!

Inside the Stuermer Store in Ledbetter, Texas. The store has been in business since 1891. We stopped in for malts from its soda fountain (formerly a saloon bar).

Cash register at the Stuermer Store, which is part museum, part local store.

The proprietress of the Stuermer Store is the grand-daughter of the original owner. She rang up all sales.

A maze of bridges near Dallas, Texas.

More bridges in Ft. Worth. Heaven help you if you didn't know where you were going!

Exterior, Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas

Magnificent "Glory Window" in the Chapel of Thanksgiving

Reflections on a Dallas skyscraper look like distortions in a fun house mirror.

Pioneer Plaza Cattle Drive sculpture in Dallas: 70 larger-than-life bronze cattle and 3 cowboys

Silhouette of windmill

The flat fields near Corpus Christi were so huge that it took three tractors in tandem for planting.

The ubiquitous Texas state flag. We saw them flying all over on our trip.

Parked along U.S. Hwy 2 in Montana

After driving State Highway 20 across Washington to the Idaho border,  we continued our journey east to Glacier National Park via U.S. Highway 2 across Idaho and western Montana.  This was another exceptionally scenic route through mountainous terrain.  The colors were a lovely blend of green and yellow and gold.  Much of the highway parallels rushing rivers.  And it seemed we were never too far from a railroad track!

Morning clouds played peek-a-boo with the forested mountain slopes.

We took a short hike to Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana.

Rushing waters by Kootenai Falls

I liked the pattern in the steps of the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks by Kootenai Falls.

Train passes under the pedestrian bridge at Kootenai Falls.

Old barn along Hwy 2 in Montana

Another weathered barn along Hwy 2 in Montana

A cautionary tale: Montana marks the site of each highway death with a white cross. (And we saw lots of white crosses.)