2016 comes to an end in New Orleans

I’ve told myself a thousand times that if I’m going to keep a blog, the #1 key thing to do is write said blog. Which is all well and good, and it really is all well and good, but I might as well be talking to a brick wall. My sad excuse for an explanation about my four-month hiatus from blog world is that it’s been busy. Too busy for blogging, at least.

But the good news is that the crazy busy is over. What a couple of months it’s been, and it’s great to be at the other side of it all, ready to carve out a new year with lots of blogging in it, I trust!  Let me catch you up on those four months of zig-zagging …

I last left the blogger me in Ireland near the end of August – having spent three wonderful and industrious months there. Then it was on to Greece for five incredible weeks; it was the perfect getaway, and I promise, there’s a blog post to follow! I just have to cull through the umpteen hundred pictures of Greek sunsets first.

From Greece, I flew back to Boston at the end of September and went up to New Hampshire, and got to spend ten days with son Sean, who had flown in from Japan for his friend’s wedding. New Hampshire had a beautiful fall this year. It was an unusually late year for the leaves; they were just beginning to turn the first week of October. Driving along the back country roads, it was a daily delight to watch a real-life paint-by-numbers scene in action: the beautiful New England countryside, with its canopy of green slowly being filled in with splotches and speckles of oranges and reds and yellows.

In the middle of that beautiful setting, I was busy packing up my stuff, with the only really hard part being the books – ten boxes of books that are have-to-haves, they’re my job. The thing is, if you’re already bringing ten boxes of books, how many more boxes of books can you legitimately bring? I said “one,” and I got by with one and a half. There’s always the library, right? And while I was at it, I got myself a 2004 Toyota Corolla, packed up my stuff, and on October 11, headed south for Louisiana.

My idea was to drive, no detours, no nothing, just drive. The upside of just driving, no detours, is it makes pre-planning the road trip totally unnecessary – just get in the car and go, bring enough money for tolls. The downside is you don’t make any plans. So it wasn’t until I was sitting in my hotel room outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, 350 miles into my trip, when I realize that I’ll be in Virginia the next day, and hadn’t I always loved the beauty of Virginia the few times I’d driven through it, commenting that I really should come back one day and stop to smell the roses instead of whizzing by on I-81.

This turned out to be the day. I spent it meandering through Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the part of it that’s in Virginia – and what a spectacular day it was for the eyes and the soul. Van does such a soulful rendition of “Shenandoah” for the Ken Burns “Irish in America” documentary, and it touches my heart every time, and today I’ve got it on repeat till my heart is bursting with the serenity and beauty of this special spot. It’s well worth a blog post, but that’s not going to happen; we’ll just have to make do with a few photos …

From Virginia, is was back on the highway, down through Tennessee, a slice of Georgia, then Alabama and Mississippi, and on into Louisiana. A little factoid I did not know but do now … In 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley declared that the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” would now be plastered on all things tourist-related. The lady at the tourist center located just as you cross into Alabama asked if I wanted a bag for the free map she’d given me. I was about to decline – small carbon footprint, right? – when she pulled out a large white plastic bag with Sweet Home Alabama blazoned across it in blue. I told her I’d take it. It’s a very nice plastic bag, thank you, with a drawstring. First Shenandoah and all that Virginia conjures up about the Civil War, then a bit of Patsy Cline driving through Tennessee, and now my own Lynyrd Skynyrd bag. South, here I come.

First stop in Louisiana is Luling, a little town outside of New Orleans, to visit with cousins and dog-sit Chloe and Wally while the cousins take a trip up to Michigan. My main job, besides dog-sitting, is house hunting. I am the designated scout for our gang of three, let loose upon the rental housing market in New Orleans, to find us the perfect home. The gang is daughter Bridget, friend Steve, and me. Those two would be joining me in New Orleans in two weeks’ time, hopefully at our newfound home.

The last time I went looking to rent a place was in the ’70s, so I’m a bit rusty at this. And picky, it turns out. The short story of those weeks traipsing around New Orleans, minus any angst, is that we’ve got ourselves the quintessential Southern home in a lovely little neighborhood. Yes, it’s got high ceilings, and every room has a ceiling fan, there’s warm hardwood throughout, and there’s a spacious backyard with an orange tree!! (eating one as we speak), but I think what secured the deal for me was the front porch. A porch with a swing – what more could I ask for?

Louisiana may be a southern state, and New Orleans its crown jewel, but New Orleans is no southern American city, no ma’am.  It was founded by the French, later was under Spanish rule, then the French again, until where we are now: a possession of the United States. History will tell us how well that works out in the end, but in the meantime, New Orleans seems undisturbed by whoever it is in charge; it marches to its own drum. To me, it feels like a northern Caribbean outpost that just happens to be in the United States.

Now that I’m here, I’m here. Maybe it’s time to put down some roots. And indeed, if it is time, I couldn’t have found myself a better place.



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