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Archive for April, 2010

A Weekend in New Orleans:Family Fun in the Big Easy

Posted: April 21st, 2010 by

Vintage Postcard Blue Room Roosevelt Hotel, Flickr Photo by howieluvzus

I recently visited New Orleans with my 9 year old son. My Mother who was attending a conference there invited us to join her and we gladly accepted. We were three generations, each viewing this landmark city from a different perspective. My mother, who grew up in rural Mississippi has memories of a post war era boom when the Fairmont Hotel was host to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. For her, a trip to New Orleans represented glamour and glitz, shopping at the big department stores on Canal Street and shows at the Saengar Theater. We stayed in the newly renovated Roosevelt Hotel, formerly the Fairmont Hotel. After an extensive renovation, the hotel re-opened last year. The ubiquitous Sazerac Bar, restored to its former grandeur still boasts the bullet hole from a failed assassination attempt on famed Louisiana Politician, Huey P. Long. 

My memories of this great city are somewhat different. As a young woman, I remember the 1984 World’s fair and the revitalization that came with it. New luxury hotels were constructed alongside the former Grand Dames and the Riverwalk became a new center for tourism. Of course the famous Vieux Carre remains constant, with its mysterious courtyards and secret alleyways, world-class restaurants and street performers; it remains an ever-changing panorama. Having lived for several years, later in my life, in the Riverbend district of New Orleans, I wanted to share my memories of walks in Audubon Park, rides on the St. Charles Streetcar and breakfast at the Camellia Grill with my son. 

St. Charles Streetcar, Flickr Photo by Mr. Littlehand

He had opposing ideas. New Orleans from a child’s perspective is a little different. As a product of the technology era, he sulked the entire streetcar ride from Canal Street to Audubon Park because I wouldn’t let him bring his Nintendo DS. Even though the Spring weather was as perfect as it gets in sultry New Orleans, he complained about the noise and having the windows down. “Why we can’t we have air conditioning?” he lamented.We persevered to the Audubon Zoo and Botanical Gardens which, despite a few of the exhibits being closed for renovation, seems to have rebounded quite nicely post-Katrina. 

Later as we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the French Quarter the allure of the Big Easy began to gradually creep in. As the noise and inconvenience of public transportation receded, the ambiance of New Orleans began to take over. From the freshly baked French bread to the alligator sausage gumbo, to the jazz music humming in the background, my son began to feel the unmistakable magic. Although, the secret alleyways sometimes seemed more frightening than mysterious, and he had to avert his gaze from some of the more risqué establishments on Bourbon Street, a new generation discovered the overwhelming allure of the Big Easy. On our last day he pleaded for just one more night, and another chance to ride the St. Charles Streetcar! 

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, Flickr Photo by chuckyeager

Here are some tips for traveling with children. It you are on a budget there are affordable options for lodging. Be sure to include a streetcar ride, you can take the Greenline down St. Charles Avenue to Audubon Park and catch the free Zoo Shuttle to the Zoo. Also, not to be missed are the Aquarium of the Americas and the IMAX theatre located near the Riverwalk. There is a new Insectarium in this complex as well. Tickets are available which cover all four attractions. Just a few blocks from Canal Street, accessible from the Greenline, is the new Children’s Museum which provides hands on exploration and interesting exhibits for the kids. Dining out need not be difficult, there are so many options in all price ranges and  I found most restaurants offer children’s menus to please even the pickiest eaters. Don’t miss the Cafe DuMonde for beignets, a delicious fried doughnut drenched in powdered sugar. With all this activity remember to include plenty of down time for swimming and relaxing by the pool.

Aarons 499: Where else But at Talladega Superspeedway!

Posted: April 12th, 2010 by

Talladega Superspeedway is “over-the-top excitement – on and off the track,” so says the folks at www.nascar.com.

Talladega, AL Flickr photo by Pamarama73

Construction began on the 2,000 acre site now known as the Talladega Superspeedway, on May 23, 1968, on what was once termed soybean farming land.  And ever since that first race in September 1969, the track has surpassed “every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.”  Talladega has been known for setting precedents (the first 500 miles were run without an incident); establishing records and developing careers (with names like Brickhouse, who was the first winner of a NASCAR Cup Race at Talladega; Pete Hamilton, who won the first two major events and David Pearson becoming the first three-time winner at Talladega).  This list goes on and on, including Buddy Baker, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott for his world stock-car record when he posted a speed of 212.809 mph; and Dale Earnhardt who posted 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Talladega over the years.  We also can’t forget Dale Earnhardt Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps to victory lane.

The 2.66 mile long track with four lanes is banked at 33 degrees at each end, with an 18 degree banking in the tri-oval.  This set-up, along with the 4,000 foot long backstretch has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history where speeds have reached in the excess of 220 mph in competition.

There is so much more to the Talladega Speedway than what we’ve presented here, and you can find it all at: http://www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/This-Is-Talladega/History.aspx

Mark your calendars – Sunday, April 25th when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway for the first time in 2010.