Guide to Louisiana for Wedding Guests Sunday, Jan 29 2012 

Koubi’s Louisiana Visitors Guide

A List of Suggestions for Wedding Guests

Dear Friends and Family,

As part of our wedding invitation, we would also like to invite you to visit the Louisiana that Erin and I love so much. There’s so much to do in this state, and time will certainly be short for most of you. But for those of you who do want to take the opportunity to explore, here are some suggestions for what to do in the region.

Country Roads Magazine’s Favorite Things in the Greater Mississippi Delta Region
Includes things to do, see, and consume “from Natchez to New Orleans,” but based in Baton Rouge.

 Part 1: Baton Rouge

225 Magazine’s Best of Baton Rouge 2011

 Baton Rouge is the state capital of Louisiana, and is also home to my alma mater, Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge is kind of the step sister of South Louisiana cities, wedged roughly between New Orleans and Lafayette and splitting the cultural difference between the two. Still, state government and LSU have made it a place to check out and visit if you have the time.

Where to Stay:

Baton Rouge’s hotels will be super-busy the weekend of the wedding due to a country music festival happening at LSU’s stadium that whole weekend. Use our block rooms if you can, but otherwise, good luck!

Food and Drink:

 The Chimes – Highland Rd. near LSU
The Chimes is the bar and restaurant most-associated with LSU. I had pints there between study sessions for finals my senior year, and it’s still, despite many price hikes on the food menu, a perennial favorite for reunions with friends. I still think the Chimes has the best gumbo (smoked duck and sausage) in the city if not the state. They pride themselves on having a fine beer selection on tap.

Chelsea’s Café – Perkins Road
Erin and I probably go out to Chelsea’s more than any other restaurant in town, mostly because it’s not only good but has an excellent vegetarian selection. Chelsea’s also has live music almost every Thursday – Saturday. I strongly recommend many of their dishes: The chicken fried chicken, the grilled cheese sandwich on focacia, and the fried calamari po-boy.

Sammy’s Grill – Highland Rd. near Staring Lane
The good news is that it should be crawfish season during the wedding. If you want to try this Louisiana delicacy, the boiled crawfish at Sammy’s are top notch and noted by locals for being the only ones in town spiced hot enough to be considered as good as ones you boil yourself. If that’s not your flavor, the prime rib po-boy is my favorite sandwich in the world.

Beausoleil – Bocage Village at Corporate/Old Hammond and Jefferson
One of Baton Rouge’s newest and favorite restaurants featuring a wonderful Cajun and Creole fusion menu and excellent signature cocktails. If you are not going to New Orleans and want to experience fine, locally sourced, Louisiana food, make Beausoleil a priority.

Juban’s - Perkins and Acadian/Stanford
One of Baton Rouge’s oldest fine-dining experiences, Juban’s is a Creole restaurant that harkens to some of the best foods that New Orleans has to offer. Their signature dish, the fried, soft-shell “Hallelujah Crab,” is the stuff of billboards. Their courtyard bar was recently named a favorite watering hole in the city by a guest writer for Country Roads magazine who works with me on a weekly events publication we put out.

Louie’s Café – State St. near LSU
Louie’s is one of Baton Rouge’s oldest restaurants, having opened in 1941. Famous for being a 24/7 greasy spoon and their Cajun hasbrowns, Louie’s is a great place for breakfast or a burger.

Tsunami Sushi – In the Shaw Center for the Arts on Lafayette St., Downtown
Tsunami doesn’t have the best sushi in town, but it does have the best view of any restaurant. It’s located on the 6th floor of a new, modern building built next to the river, and there is no better view of the sunset to be had in Baton Rouge.

Delpit’s Chicken Shack – North Acadian and Laurel
Baton Rouge’s oldest restaurant, operating since 1935. If you like Southern-style fried chicken, go to Delpit’s.

Slinky’s – Chimes St. near LSU
Slinky’s is my old stand-by dive bar. It’s just a bar. The owner, Pam, is a quirky and vociferous women who has an opinion on everything, and the beer selection is excellent for a bar its size. Pam raised money for some projects I was doing while in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, and there is still a poster signed by the kids I worked with stapled to the ceiling above the bar thanking her. The “Lunch Box” is Slinky’s signature drink, and is done in a boiler-maker style where you drop a shot into the beer and chug. It’s a little intimidating to think about, but is actually pretty fruity and delicious.

Teddy’s Juke Joint – Outside of Town on Highway 61
Juke Joints are a Southern thing most popular in Mississippi, and are respected as authentic places to hear live Blues music. Teddy’s is one of the only authentic ones in Louisiana, and is a short trip out of town and worth the experience if you’re not going to actually go to Mississippi to do it up out there. If Teddy is doing one of his “old time record spins,” it’s worth the trip even without a band playing, though be prepared for Teddy’s always irreverent and often raunchy interjections during the songs.

Stuff to Do:

 LSU
LSU is where I went to university. The campus is gorgeous. The wedding is in spring, which means that the campus will be in full bloom under the care of our prestigious Landscape Architecture department. The building architecture is done in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, specifically following the stylings of Andre Palladio, who is famous for his villas in the Venice area. Be sure to check out the main quadrangle and our live tiger habitat in particular. Mike the Tiger VI, our live mascot, lives in a wonderful enclosure where visitors can watch him play from a safe distance. The current Mike is a Bengali-Siberian hybrid and weighs nearly 500 pounds.

Louisiana State Capitol
We have the tallest state capitol building in the nation, and it also features an observation deck from which you can view most of the city. Tours will also highlight the assassination of former governor and then senator Huey Long, who is also buried in the surrounding gardens and was a populist figure during the American depression.

Downtown Museums
Downtown Baton Rouge offers multiple museum options, including the Louisiana State Museum, the Old State Capitol, the Old Governor’s Mansion, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, and the LSU Museum of Art. The State Museum has a great exhibit on Louisiana History and the Mississippi River. The Old State Capitol, which looks like a white castle on the banks of the river, is dedicated to the political history of Louisiana and features an animatronic statue of Huey Long that will lecture you on his story outside of a room dedicated to the story of his assassination. The Old State Capitol has art and a history tour. The Louisiana Arts and Science Museum has a planetarium and science area, as well an excellent art gallery with interesting rotating exhibits. The LSU Museum of Art also has an interesting collection, and is located in the Shaw Center for the Arts.

 The Manship Theatre
The Manship Theatre is a great art-house theatre where Michael bartends some nights. He’s seen some great shows there, including recent performances by Steve Martin and his bluegrass band and George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. The theatre doesn’t do just music, though, but features dance companies, theatre troupes, and movie showings.

 

Part 2: New Orleans

Gambit Weekly’s Best of New Orleans 2011

Getting there:

 There is a bus service that runs between Baton Rouge and New Orleans called the Louisiana Swift. For $5, you can ride from Downtown Baton Rouge to Downtown New Orleans, including a NOLA stop near enough to the airport that a cab ride will be affordable. There is also a stop near the French Quarter.

Brief intro to geography:

NOLA is hard to get your bearings in. It follows the bends of the river and the lake, and straight streets are few. The Crescent City indeed. Lakeside is north, riverside is south (generally). Likewise, upriver is west, downriver is east. The neighborhoods you’ll care about, following the river’s flow, are Uptown, the Garden District, the Central Business District, the French Quarter, and the Marigny. It’s pretty easy to get around with trollies or busses, at least when a Mardi Gras parade doesn’t mess with the routes. There are lots of other neighborhoods, or fabourgs as they’re called locally, but you probably will only explore this main strip of them.

New Orleans street names are weird. Calliope St. is cal-ee-ope (as in hope), Chartes St. is “charters”, and Girod St. and Park is “jai-rod”. You’ll also scratch your head at Tchoupitoulas (chop-uh-two-luss). You’ll figure it out as you go, but it could make communicating with cabs difficult.

Anyway, without further ado, here is an all too scattered and brief list of “musts,” knowing that there are so many you can’t do them all.

Where to Stay:

New Orleans has plenty of fancy hotels, roach motels, and in between. Personal favorites of mine are the R Street Inn (which is located in the Marigny and is also a bar – you are given two free drink tokens each night!) and Hotel Storyville (on the border street between the Quarter and the Marigny and has a seaside theme to the décor). Both are locally owned and operated.

I would also recommend checking out couchsurfing.com to find a place to stay. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s basically an online community where you can stay in peoples’ guests rooms or on their couches for free instead of paying for a hotel. Participants are in it for the community and the sense of sharing. You get to stay for free and get the insight of a local into wherever you’re staying. New Orleans has a strong community, and you’d find a place to stay easily.

Drink:

Sazerak – Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel – Royal Street in the Quarter
Any and every decent bar in New Orleans will serve a good Sazerak, the official cocktail of Louisiana, and some say the oldest known coctail recipe. However, since Carousel bar is a great place to get a drink and has no specific drink they do as a tradition, it’s a good drink to get there on a bar hop. Carousel Bar is knows as such because the bar literally spins around like a carousel (albeit very slowly), bar stools included.

Gin Fizz – Hotel Roosevelt’s Sazerac Bar – Canal St. just by the Quarter
Just as fun to watch made as drink. Known for being Huey Long’s (famous former governor and senator) favorite drink, he often ordered them when rendezvousing with his political cronies or mistresses at the hotel. He once flew the bartender to New York to teach a New York barman how to make the drink.

Hurricane – Pat O’Brian’s – Off Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Pat O’s, as it’s known locally, serves the original New Orleans Hurricane Cocktail. My own Mardi Gras, if I happen to be in the Quarter on Fat Tuesday, is simply not complete without a Pat O’s Hurricane.

Pimm’s Cup – Napoleon House – Chatres St. in the Quarter
Not sure why Napoleon House is famous for serving this drink; it just is.

Mint Julep – Columns Bar – St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District
The mint julep, while most closely associated with horse racing, is still a southern classic cocktail, and Columns bar does them best.

Hand Grenade – Tropical Café – Multiple Locations on Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Famous for being “New Orleans Strongest Cocktail,” this neon green concoction comes in a long, plastic flute shaped like a pineapple grenade with a straw. If you’re doing a tour of drinks and bars, I suggest either skipping or sharing this one, since aside from being a Bourbon St. staple, it has no real history. Still, it’s worth it to say you had one.

Other bars of note:
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – Down on Bourbon St. in the Quarter, well past the other bars

Yes, this is the original building that housed the blacksmith shop of the famous Louisiana pirate, Jean Lafitte, famous for helping us defeat the Brits during the War of 1812 in the Battle of New Orleans (which was, of course, fought after the peace had been signed!). Anyway, great bar with a piano player. Good for a drink on your barhop and a story.

Fritzel’s – Bourbon St. in the Quarter
Great live music, but has a two-drink minimum to come in. Worth it for the usual array of authentic New Orleans Jazz

Anywhere on Frenchman St. – The Marigny, just downriver from the Quarter
Frenchman St. is the epicenter of local nightlife for New Orleans. The Marigny is the most bohemian of neighborhoods in the city, and while some say it’s being overtaken by hipsters, it’s still an awesome place full of music and expression. Mardi Gras in the Marigny is just as crowded as it is in the Quarter, but it feels more like a costume, independent art, and “the band my neighbor’s in” type of experience. I’d recommend the Spotted Cat or DBA. If you confirm that the New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings or Linnzi Zaorski are playing, do go see them. They’re two of my local favorites.

Mimi’s in the Marigny – The Marigny (duh)
A local Marigny favorite. Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk review at least used to have a weekly gig there worth seeing. I love that band. They play old western and and Texas Swing stuff. Good dancing music.

Maple Leaf Bar – Magazine St. Uptown
Great live music, and right next door to Jacques Imo’s, which would be a great dinner option while you’re there.

Food:

New Orleans is, if anything, a food city. I’d recommend you do some reading on New Orleans cuisine before approaching it, just to get your bearing. Here’s a good place to start. Below are some recommendations from my own experience, but there are so many fantastic restaurants that I can’t even begin to list them all.

Fanciest Restaurants:
Commander’s Palace (brunch may be better than dinner)
Gallotoire’s (get the trout almondine if you go)
Antoine’s (get the oysters Rockefeller if you go)

There are many, many more, but these are the oldest flag ships of the city.

Jacques Imo’s – Magazine St. Uptown
Great and eclectic menu of creole-cajun fusion.

Croissant D’Or – Ursuline St. in the Quarter
Great little patisserie for a morning crescent and coffee. I go almost every time I stay overnight.

Camellia Grill – Two Locations (Quarter and Garden District – go for the Garden District location on St. Charles)
New Orleans’s original greasy spoon breakfast joint.

Cafe Du Monde – French Market in the Quarter
Expect to wait in line, but you’ll never have a more authentic New Orleans experience than getting begneits here before walking through the market, the river walk, and the quarter.

Central Grocery – Decatur St. in the Quarter
Home of the original Muffuletta sandwich. Get one there and it’s enough for people.

Parkway Bakery – Bayou St. John
Po-Boys. That’s all one really needs to say about Parkway, because they basically serve the best. While everyone swears by this place or that for a specific sandwich, Parkway is the neutral ground everyone meets at. They also have zip-lock bags hanging all around the place showing the water line from Katrina when they flooded. It’s also right by the New Orleans Museum of Art and would be a good lunch stop before or after the museum.

Cochon – Central Business District, right by the WWII Museum
Great farm to table food with a focus of pork dishes. I went there recently and was very impressed, though the deserts were lackluster.

Slim Goodies – Magazine St. Uptown
First place to reopen to feed the people after Katrina. It served nothing but hamburgers from frozen patties for weeks, a menu item it retains to this day in memory of the storm. Great greasy spoon diner.

La Divina – Magazine St. Uptown
Best gelato in the city.

Sucre – Magazine St. Uptown
Best chocolate in the city.

There a lot more places, obviously, but these are the one’s I like to go to. There are lots of others I’ve been meaning to try, including a place called Stella, but there’s only so much time and so many places.

Stuff to Do:

There is really a lot. Here are my top suggestions, no particular order:

The French Quarter – Just walking around, especially along Royal Street and Jackson Square. Check out a street performance at the ampitheatre across from the square, and remember to tip. It keeps the performers, as one acrobatic troupe once said, “out of the po’ house and out of yo’ house!” If you’re lucky enough, you can catch an excited second-line after a wedding in the cathedral in the square.

Magazine St. – A street full of shops, bars, and restaurants. I recently overheard a horse carriage tour guide state that he hadn’t Christmas shopped in a mall for over a decade because he just goes to Magazine St. Make sure to go to Storyville, a great shop for tee-shirt souvenirs, all designed by locals and not your standard “and all I got was this tee-shirt” fare.

New Orleans Museum of Art – Great permanent collections of local and French artists, including a good bit of Degas, who lived in New Orleans for a period, as well as other impressionists and Ancien Regime French portraiture.

Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the Americas, and Insectarium – All amazing, and you can get a pass for all three at once. You can even ride a riverboat ferry between them along the river.

National WWII Museum – GO. It’s amazing. Make sure you see the film, Beyond All Boundaries while there. If you can get a show at the American Canteen while there, do that too. The Victory Belles do 40’s music from the war (think the Andrew’s Sisters), and there’s a running big-band show and one where they have folks doing old Bob Hope USO-style shows.

St. Charles Trolly – Used by commuters and day trippers alike. It’s a great way to see the Garden District (and the beautiful homes and universities there) without worrying about driving or the long walk.

Shops at Canal Place – A small, high-dollar mall. Has a Brooks Brothers and a Neiman Marcus.

Music:

Way to much to cover here, especially since you never know what’s in town. Check out WWOZ’s Livewire calendar leading up to the visit. They have EVERYTHING going on. http://www.wwoz.org/new-orleans-community/music-calendar There are too many people to list here that I could say to go see, but Kermit Ruffins, Rebirth Brass Band, Gal Holiday, the New Orleans BINGO! Show, and the Cottonmouth Kings are some of my local favorites. If you remind me when you’re about to come in, I can do a scan of the calendar and pick some out for you.

I will say that you must go to Preservation Jazz Hall. It’s one of the last redoubts of traditional New Orleans Jazz, and the musicians there are amazing. Palm Court Jazz Café and Fritzels (mentioned above) are also great nightly sources of local jazz.

Part 3: Outside of the Cities

 Plantation Homes

 Louisiana’s history of large-scale agriculture has left it with some of the most beautiful ante-bellum homes in America. Plantations homes, architectural gems from the by-gone era of King Cotton, are also a grim reminder of the wealth built upon the backs of slave labor. While there are dozens of these in the area, below are some of the most interesting and beautiful. Each is unique in their own way, but all will offer beautiful antique furnishings, good restaurants, and tours of the home featuring its history through the years, the story of its restoration, and how the plantation operated as a business in its active years. Some will even have signature drinks on offer. All are within about an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge.

Oak Alley
Featuring a “quarter-mile canopy of giant live oak trees, believed to be nearly 300 years old, [that] forms an impressive avenue leading to the classic Greek-revival style antebellum home.”

Nottaway
The South’s largest remaining ante-bellum mansion.

Houmas House
Known as “the Sugar Palace,” and featuring 38 acres of gardens.

The Myrtles
Known as one of America’s most-haunted homes.

Swamp Tours

There are many swamp tours on offer throughout Louisiana, but what is arguably the best place to take a tour is Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge, and the best person to lead that tour is arguably Norbert Leblanc. Norbert is an old Cajun man with a long, white beard. He knows the swamp better than anyone and can lead tours for up to 14 guests. If a larger group assembles, he can partner with other tour boats to accommodate a group as large as 50. Norbert LeBlanc Swamp Tours.

Cajun and Zydeco Dancing

Cajun and Zydeco music are almost indiscernible from one another to the untrained ear, but both are alive in Louisiana and provide the beat for a lot of hot-stepping on the bayou. The two best places to go are in Breaux Bridge and Henderson.

Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge
Café Des Amis is famous for its Saturday morning Zydeco Brunch. From 8:30 to 11:30 hot music pumps out of the band. Once you finish your food, guests are expected to get up and dance in order to free up the table

Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing in Henderson
Angelle’s is as “on the bayou” as you can get, literally. To get there, you have to go over the levee to where the bar stands on the edge of the Atchafalaya River’s basin. Every Sunday from 4pm-8pm they have a Cajun or Zydeco band. The focus of Angelle’s is the music and the dancing, so don’t expect a nice sit-down meal here like at Café Des Amis. Make sure to ask Michael or Erin about the bar fight Michael helped end the first time he took Erin there.

The Rest of the Trip Home Sunday, Jan 29 2012 

So rather than upload the rest of the trip in blog form, I thought it would be easier just to post that we went through Parish, where we saw churches and met some Australians and visited Napoleon. We then went to Dublin and drank. You can see the photos here: https://picasaweb.google.com/117556744215746586383

Enjoy my cop-out.

Trip Home Days 14 & 15 – Belgrade and London Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 

The Streets of Belgrade

After Sarajevo Carey and I flew to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and formerly of Yugoslavia, the Land of the South Slavs.  We spent a day and a night there, before quickly moving on to London.  If Cairo was the most miserable (I was sick and it was polluted) but spectacular (the Pyramids ARE spectacles) Belgrade was probably the most laid back (almost boring) but uneasy.  I say unease because it’s hard to go to Belgrade after spending over a week in Bosnia and forget that thousands of Serbian nationalists gathered to mourn Milosevic when he died while on trial at the Hague for his war crimes during the Yugoslav wars.  Walking the streets you could help but wonder if the people walking alongside you supported or even participated in the ethnic cleansing.  Sure, the regular Serb Army didn’t do much per se, but their tacit and direct support of the ethnic Serb militias and partisans in the various conflicts throughout the wars make them just as guilty in my mind.  Now, I’m a little sketchy on a lot of the factual history and timeline, and I’m not an expert on the conflict.  I know there’s a lot of guilt to be thrown around in every direction, but there is such a thing as evil in this world, and it was alive and well in greater Serbia in the early 90’s, and in 2006, while I wasn’t but a few hundred miles away, it reared its head right in Belgrade, on the same streets I was walking a little over a year later.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think all Serbs are guilty of the crimes committed by their people, nor do I think everyone of them supported those crimes, or even the motives behind them.  But the point it I felt like the Doctors Jones in Last Crusade – a pilgrim in an unholy land.

Relaxing in a square with a cup of hot coffee after landing.

Anyway, so in Belgrade we didn’t do much.  Basically we walked around, saw some sites, and went to the zoo.  Here are the pictures.

The lovely view outside our hostel

The Marshall's yummies.

St. Michael's in Belgrade, with a Michael in the front (me!). There was some famous cafe next to it where we ate.

Kalemegdan Fortress and Park

Carey at the park, overlooking the Danube

Either Serb weaponry on display or captured spoils of war, one of the two

Fun at the zoo. There was nothing but a small guard wall to prevent one from falling into the tiger pit with the tigers.

I think this Llama was coming on to me.

He was making a lot of noise.

In case you didn't know which room this was, here it is in 25 languages.

After Belgrade we went to London for a single night, which basically consisted solely of getting dinner with Charlotte, Ian, and their friends.  Still, it was worth it to see them!

Looking thin at the Belgrade airport.

Yay, Charlie!

I think they're talking about me.

Well, now I KNOW they are.

Next stop, Paris!

Trip Home Days 11, 12, & 13, Sarajevo Days 7,8, & 9 Monday, Jul 27 2009 

Bens Blow

Ben's Blow

The last three days in Sarajevo were less focused on exploring the city and doing fun stuff and more focused on just relaxing and enjoying ourselves.  A lot of my time was spent chasing a position at the OSCE.  It didn’t work out, obviously, but it was the first spark of interest in working in Sarajevo.  Anyway, the first night back from Mostar we went out to the Sarajevo Brewery, where Carey couldn’t hold on to his beer, apparently.

Ivana Got a Wee Beer

Ivana Got a "Wee" Beer

Then Carey Dumped His on the Table

Then Carey Dumped His on the Table

The next night we celebrated Ben’s Birthday by making food at the house while he was at work and inviting over a bunch of his and Ivana’s friends.

Dutiful Wife and Buddy Working Away in the Kitchen

Dutiful Wife and Buddy Working Away in the Kitchen

Ivana Lighting the Birthday Log

Ivana Lighting the Birthday Log

Ivana and Friends Enjoy the Party

Ivana and Friends Enjoy the Party

Jacks Boots, You Wouldnt Understand

Jack's Boots, You Wouldn't Understand

On our last day, we pretty much just chilled and wandered around.

My Favorite Sarajevo Picture - Calling out the Prayer without Amplification

My Favorite Sarajevo Picture - Calling out the Prayer without Amplification

I Want to Be This Guy When Im Old

I Want to Be This Guy When I'm Old

WWII Fortress on the Hillside - Used During the Seige by the Serbs

WWII Fortress on the Hillside - Used During the Seige by the Serbs

Gun Turret - Pew Pew Pew!!!

Gun Turret - "Pew Pew Pew!!!"

Marshal Tito

Marshal Tito

Another View of the Famous Holiday Inn

Another View of the Famous Holiday Inn

Trip Home Days 9 & 10, Sarajevo Days 5 & 6 Monday, May 18 2009 

Looking Over Sarajevo
Looking Over Sarajevo

On day 5 in Sarajevo Carey and I spent most of the day walking around and hiking (read: getting lost in random neighborhoods).  The above shot is one of my favorites from the trip.  I’ll just post the pictures without much narrative.  Not much had gone on that day.  The most interesting part of the hike was the cemetary we went through, complete with the guarded grave of the first president of an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović.  A lot of the graves were from the war.  Just thousands of them all with the same years on them during the siege (mostly 92).  Here are pics from that hike.

This clock tells how many hours of daylight are left, rather than time, to aid prayer scheduling.
This clock tells how many hours of daylight are left, rather than time, to aid prayer scheduling.
A street dedicated to rug-mongers.  Yes, I just made that word up.
A street dedicated to rug-mongers. Yes, I just made that word up.
Graves
Graves
The grave of B&Hs first President
The Grave of B&H’s First President
Another view of the city
Another View of the City
Move graves
Move Graves
Me in front of a fortified hill
Me in Front of a Fortified Hill
Another view of the city, this time with Carey

Another View of the City, This Time with Carey

A view of the old library where we saw the concert

A View of the Old Library Where We Saw the Concert

Another city view; note how the cemetaries are built right into the city

Another City View, Not How the Cemetaries Are Built Right In

Carey walking along a fortified hills wall

Carey Walking Along a Fortified Hill's Wall

A good view of the bombed out manor in the city center

A Good View of the Manor That's Bombed in the City Center

Walking along the citys edge at the site of an old fortress

Walking Along the City's Edge at the Site of an Old Fortress

Looking out from the city

Looking out from the City

On day six Carey and I followed the recommendation of our hosts, Ben and Ivana, to visit a town called Mostar.  Mostar is so named because of the famous bridge there (most, pronounced like moss with a “T” sound, is the Slavic for “bridge”).   It was a site of some of the fiercest fighting during the war, as you’ll see from some of the scarring.  The damage sadly included the destruction of the original bridge, but it has since been rebuilt.  Despite the damage, it’s still a beautiful city, though you can still sense some ill-ease in the air.  One obvious symptom was the gigantic church steeple, erected specifically to be taller than any of the local mosques’ minarets.  Still, it was a nice experience if a little touristy.  I think the most memorable thing for me was the strikingly emerald water in the river.

Misty mountains and winding roads

Misty Mountains and Winding Roads

More mist on mountains, but this time over water and an old bridge

More Mist on Mountains, This Time with Water and an Old Bridge

Mountains and sky

Mountains and Sky

Signs of battle in Mostar

Signs of Battle in Mostar

The other side of the street; the tourist town we were visiting was the scene of one of the wars front lines

The other side of the street; the tourist town we were visiting was the scene of one of the war's front lines.

The base of the church with the tall bell tower

The Base of the Church with the Bell Tower

The tall tower

The Tall Tower

Still a lot of rebuilding to do

Still a Lot of Rebuilding to Do

They are making progress, though

They Are Making Progress, Though

Approaching the bridge at the city center

Approaching the Bridge at the City Center

Looking back on our way to the bridge

Looking back on our Way to the Bridge

A look at the tower, with another towering sign of who was boss in the town

A Look at the Tower, with Another Sign of Who is Boss Over the Town

Not sure if this is showing support for a football club or a partisan group or what

Not Sure if This Was Supporting a Football Club or a Partisan Group or What

Wandering around the back alleys

Wandering around the Back Alleys

More wanderings

More Wanderings

The not famous bridge in Mostar

The Not Famous Bridge in Mostar

The beautifully emerald water

The Beautifully Emerald Water

The bridge for which the town was named

The Bridge for Which the Town Was Named

Trip Home Days 7 & 8, Sarajevo Days 3 & 4. Sunday, Mar 15 2009 

Careys Journal

Carey's Journal

Days three and four seemed to have been pretty laid back.  I was still feeling ill form Cairo at that point, but it was still a lot of fun just chilling out with two of my best friends from Peace Corps.  The big news at this point was that I had decided to interview for a job with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  I think it would have been fun, and I thought the interview went well, but, unfortunately, the lady I interviewed with ended up going on vacation right after and then quitting to boot.  I imagine I got lost in the shuffle pretty easily.  I spent most of those days working on my resume and stuff for the process, but still had a lot of fun in Sarajevo.  On that Monday (day 4 of Sarajevo) I had the interview, which is why you see me in a tie later on.  Here are some pics from those days.

Ben and Carey

Ben and Carey

Proof That Beer Loves Me Back!

Proof That Beer Loves Me Back!

A Friend of Ivanas and Ivana Herself

A Friend of Ivana's and Ivana Herself

The Bee Festival

The Bee Festival

Men Playing Chess in the Center Square by the Bee Festival

Men Playing Chess in the Center Square by the Bee Festival

Post Interview Beers with My Boys

Post Interview Beers with My Boys

Birds Over Sarajevo

Birds Over Sarajevo

Sunset Over Sarajevo

Sunset Over Sarajevo

Deflating with a Clove

Deflating with a Clove

We Didnt Know That By Just Ordering Beer Wede Get Wee Ones...

We Didn't Know That By Just Ordering "Beer" We'de Get Wee Ones...

The Newlyweds at It Again

The Newlyweds at It Again

Trip Home Days 5 & 6, Sarajevo Days 1 & 2 Wednesday, Feb 25 2009 

Ben in Front of His Office Building

Ben in Front of His Office Building

Carey and I said goodbye to Cairo on the early morning of Sept. 14th, 2007 and were happy to leave.  We had gotten the hostel owner to set us up with a driver (his cousin or something who had his own independent service).  We agreed upon a set price for the fare, but, of course, the guy wanted baksheesh.  We didn’t tip him despite his qualms and went into the airport.  It was another bit of shuffling around and Carey spending his last Egyptian pounds on us to snack and hydrate.  I was not looking forward to what a flight was going to do to m stomach, but it ended up being ok.  Before a terribly long time we were on our way to Sarajevo.  It felt good to see the Balkans and other such mountains under us once we got back into Europe.  I have to admit, I feel comfortable in southeastern mountain ranges there now.  I enjoy them.  I’m familiar and comfortable with them.  I was not so with Cairo.  I’m sure that I could have gotten used to Egypt, but Cairo was too much.  Once we landed Carey and I were very pleased to be able to use our Bulgarian again to communicate to others (Bulgarian and Serbo-Croation are pretty close) rather than to hide our identities as Americans.  We were able to catch a cab after deciding not to use one guy who was trying to rip us off (or maybe we didn’t and did get taken for a literal ride, but I remember arguing with a cabby).  Anyway, we arrived into downtown Sarajevo without too much incident (no lost luggage this time) and got in touch with Ben to meet us out in his building’s lobby.  After a quick lunch of chicken sandwiches we were able to drop our bags off at Ben’s and explore the city a bit while he returned to work.

Sarajevos Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Sarajevo's Eternal Flame Dedicated to the Fallen of WWII

Carey and I did some walking around, hit up an internet cafe I’m sure, and basically just enjoyed not being in Cairo (recurring theme, I know).  Afterward Ben and his then new wife Ivana met up with us and we went to a street cafe before decided to get dinner at the Sarajevo Pivaria, or brewery.  We ended up there a few nights during our stay, but it was good and fun.  Here are some more pictures from that first day.

Ben and Ivana at a Cafe

Ben and Ivana at a Cafe


Bullet Holes from the War on Bens Apartments Outer Wall

Bullet Holes from the War on Ben's Apartment's Outer Wall


The View from Bens Terrace

The View from Ben's Terrace

Day 2 in Sarajevo (Sept. 15, 2007) was a Saturday, so Ben and Ivana both had the day off and were able to show us around.  Our principal objective for the trip was to weave through some of the old town and make our way to a hilltop cafe called Biban.  We also stopped every now and then for local delights and to just chill and enjoy the city.  Here are some pics from that walk.

A Building Still Bombed Out from the War

A Building Still Bombed Out from the War


Baščaršija, a Famous Street / Neighborhood in the Old Turkish Quarter

Baščaršija, a Famous Street / Neighborhood in the Old Turkish Quarter


At a Mexican Place in Baščaršija

At a Mexican Place in Baščaršija


Carey Eating Burek, Its Hot!

Carey Eating Burek, It's Hot!


Carey and Ben Sitting Opposite the Store I Was Shopping At

Carey and Ben Sitting Opposite the Store I Was Shopping At


The Main Square in Baščaršija

The Main Square in Baščaršija


Never Quite Figured Out What This Place Was, But Better Looks at it Reveal Massive Bomb Damage

Never Quite Figured Out What This Place Was, But Better Looks at it Reveal Massive Bomb Damage


The Old (Bombed Out) University Library

The Old (Bombed Out) University Library


The Bridge Where WWI Started

The Bridge Where WWI Started


A Chinese Tower Cafe, Where Later in Our Stay We Got Refreshments

A Chinese Tower Cafe, Where Later in Our Stay We Got Refreshments


Men Playing Chess During the Sarajevo Bee Festival

Men Playing Chess During the Sarajevo Bee Festival


Ben and Ivana at Cafe Biban

Ben and Ivana at Cafe Biban


Uppers + Downwers = Heaven Mid-Hike

Uppers + Downwers = Heaven Mid-Hike


Sarajevo from Cafe Biban

Sarajevo from Cafe Biban


Still Newlyweds

Still Newlyweds


Narrow Sidewalk

Narrow Sidewalk


A Sarajevo Rose - Site Where a Mortar Killed Someone

A Sarajevo Rose - Site Where a Mortar Killed Someone

After the hike Ben arranged for us to experience a rare treat.  The Italian Embassy was giving a concert in the old library seen above and arranged admittance for us.  It was a great night of excellent music in a beautiful old ruin of a building.  They’re slowly restoring it, but much, much work was still yet to be done.

Getting Pretty for the Concert

Getting Pretty for the Concert


The Italian Chorus

The Italian Chorus


Me Observiing from the Second Floor Balcony

Me Observing from the Second Floor Balcony


A Plaque Commemorating the Attack on the Building

A Plaque Commemorating the Attack on the Building


A Video of the Concert

Dancing with Ivana at a Cafe After

Dancing with Ivana at a Cafe After


Sarajevo by Night from Bens Terrace

Sarajevo by Night from Ben's Terrace

Trip Home Day 4, Cairo Day 4 Tuesday, Feb 24 2009 

Sick as a Dog

Sick as a Dog

I was pretty sick by this time in Cairo.  We made a foray to the Egyptian Museum, but I was having none of that.  I made a quick scan of King Tut’s stuff between sprints to the cafeteria toilet and decided to spend the day resting in the hotel while Carey had fun.  That night we met up with some of Carey’s friends doing mission work in Cairo,ate some fast food, and pretty much chilled.  Here’s some filler images, however, so that you can see more of Cairo despite my own inactivity that day.

El Abd Bakery - YUM!

El Abd Bakery - YUM!

Inside

Inside

Another Look at Sequoia

Another Look at Sequoia

Breathing Fire from Shisha

Breathing Fire from Shisha

The Nile by Night

The Nile by Night

Trip Home 3, Cairo Day 3 – The Great Pyramids of Giza Sunday, Nov 16 2008 

BFE Indeed.  Excuse me, sir, can you tell me how to get back to Interstate Ten?

BFE Indeed. Excuse me, sir, can you tell me how to get back to Interstate Ten?

Alright, I’m super-pissed at WordPress right now.  I FINALLY get back to trying to update this thing for once and it autosaves right when, for some reason while undoing some poor image entry with <ctrl>+<z>, I lose the whole post and wordpress autosaves the post!  I lost everything, and I was almost done!  Argh!  Cairo continues to curse me even after a year plus!  Curse you right back, Cairo!

So here goes rebuilding this post from memory…

Carey and I arranged with the hostel owner to have one of his relatives drive us out to the pyramids on the morning of day three.  This was not a cab.  This was us paying his cousin or brother of third uncle twice removed on his step-dad’s side or something.  Keep that in mind for later.  The ride over was interesting.  Any car ride in Cairo as a visitor is interesting.  It’s just so busy.  I’d hate to have to drive in it, but it’s kind of fun to see it as a spectator, provided you’re in no hurry.  By the time we got to Giza and started to see the Pyramids poke through gaps in buildings we began to see camels alongside the road pulling carts and stuff much like donkeys did in Bulgaria, only this was new and fresh and interesting to us again because, hey, there’s a camel!  This mood was quickly spoiled by our destination outside of Giza – a shabby stable for a racket where our driver oh so kindly took us to a place where we could rent horses or camels very cheap to see the pyramids on.  “Oh, it’s so far, and it’s so big.  You’ll get tired.”  Whatever, dude, we’re not falling for it.  That may work for some fat middle-aged tourist from the industrialized West who isn’t used to walking anywhere exept to his bed, couch, table, desk, or car, but we Peace Corps veterans are used to walking around all damned day.  Also, your camels and horses are not exactly the best looking animals in the world, and I refuse to support your business and the conditions it keeps them in.  Also, I’m not too keen on the smell of the damned beasts and don’t want it to dominate my experience.  So, after being harassed for five minutes there we walked up to the pyramids.

Sphinx, and Two of Three Great Pyramids

Sphinx, and Two of Three Great Pyramids

On of the first things that strikes you about the pyramids, besides their enormity, is how close they are to the city.  In the nice pictures you always see of them they always look like their off in the distant desert with civilazation nowhere to be found.  Not the case.  As Clark Griswold would say, “I think they took this from a different angle.”  The city is right there, and its pollution’s haze distorts your gaze if you look back at it.  This picture from behind the Sphinx illustrates the proximity well:

The Sphinx Watches over Giza

The Sphinx Watches over Giza

The first thing you get to do is walk around the Sphinx, which is in a pit from when it was excavated.  Some of it, as you can see above, has been reconstructed.  It’s still pretty large and impressive, though.  And beautiful.

Riddle Me This...

Riddle Me This...

After the Sphinx you can walk up to the rest of the complex, dominated by the three Great Pyramids.  It also includes a series of smaller ones, however.  Tourists can enter the biggest one, Kufu’s, but they limit that to just a few hundred a day (and thousands come every day), so it’s hard to get in.  The smaller pyramids are, on the other hand, open all day long to whoever wants to see them.  We entered one such pyramid, as seen in these images:

A Smaller Pyramid

A Smaller Pyramid

Where, Apparently, Queen Henutsen Was Buried

Where, Apparently, Queen Henutsen Was Buried

After a Long, Low, Narrow Stair in, You Go Through the Hole and Even Deeper

After a Long, Low, Narrow Stair in, You Go Through the Hole and Even Deeper

Carey Coming Down

Carey Coming Down

Carey Checking out the Glyphs

Carey Checking out the Glyphs

Heiroglyphs!

Heiroglyphs!

Being inside a pyramid is pretty cool.  It’s just amazing to know that your inside something that old.  Of course the signs said no pictures, but the guard said it was ok to do it anyway.  Of course, then he wanted bakhshish for it.  We refused, of course.  It wasn’t our style to pay someone to not do their job.  After that small tour, we spent an hour or so just walking around and looking at the massive things.  Carey wrote a bit in his journal while sitting on the Great Pyramid, I took lots of photos, etc.  Basically we just marveled at the majesty of these huge structures.  Here are the more interesting pics:

Look at the Size of this Thing!

Look at the Size of These Stones!

And If You Thought THAT Was Big...

And If You Thought THAT Was Big...

BFFs on the Great Pyramid

BFFs on the Great Pyramid

The Pyramid of Kharfe

The Pyramid of Kharfe

It If Also Big

It Is Also Big

Very Big

Very Big

And to Think the Other Is Still Bigger

And to Think the Other Is Still Bigger

Hot Sun over Giza

Hot Sun over Giza

Glyphs Inside a Temple

Glyphs Inside a Temple

More Glyphs

More Glyphs

Leaving Giza before Saqqara

Leaving Giza before Saqqara

After walking around for an hour and some more, we reunited with the driver and he dropped us off at Saqqara to walk around some more.

Walking through the Dessert in Saqqara

Walking through the Dessert in Saqqara

The Step Pyramid Peaks through the Distance

The Step Pyramid Peaks through the Distance

Carey Has a Little Captain in Him

Carey Has a Little Captain in Him

The Step Pyramid of Djoser

The Step Pyramid of Djoser

A Redneck in Egypt

A Redneck in Egypt

Saqqara went more quickly than we expected, and we were tired and ready to go, but the driver wasn’t there to take us to the next stop until the when we told him we’d be done, so we had to wait an hour.  We just sat and the shade and waited.  It actually wasn’t too bad of a break, really.  Still, a good driver looking for a tip should have waited around (you still remember this wasn’t a cab, right?).  Anyway, after an hour of waiting he shows up and we head for Memphis.

The Sarcophogus of Amenhotep (Huy)

The Sarcophogus of Amenhotep (Huy)

Ramses IIA

Ramses II

After Memphis, which really only took about 20 minutes, we headed back to the hostel.  It had been a long day already and we were tired.  Of course the driver wanted bakhshish for having done his job in physically transporting us which we had already paid him for, but we didn’t.  Still, it kind of irked us that he would ask after we already paid for his services, especially since they weren’t that great.

So that night Carey and I went out and got some awesome food and shisha at Seqouia, a restaurant on the Zamalek island in the Nile.  It was the best food experience we’d then had in Cairo.  The place is all open air under a large tent, with shisha coal-boys running around constantly.  It’s on the tip of the island, so all around us was the Nile.  It was magnificent.  Check out Carey blowing out shisha smoke and the video of what the place was like.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elkoubi/3032939611/

Dragon Carey

Dragon Carey

Surrounded by the Nile at Night

Surrounded by the Nile at Night

Another Boney M Video! Friday, Oct 10 2008 

Awesome!  I hadn’t seen this version before.  Thanks, Ivan!

Also, I’ve been super-swamped lately.  In case y’all didn’t notice, we had a hurricane come through Baton Rouge, then I had to do a bunch of United Way stuff with that, and now I’m currently working on studying for the Foriegn Service Officer’s Exam and the lenghty application to take the test.  So be patient with me, I’ll try and get some more content up soon, but don’t hold your breath.

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