Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Travel tips for NOLA
It is true that I have been to Axum and Kerala, Tierra del Fuego and Caratunk, but never before had I been to New Orleans. And now I am in love.
An abbreviated list of the things to love about New Orleans:
• Street names in French and Spanish
• Wooden shutters and balconies
• Beignets, which are basically fried dough covered with sugar but since the word is French they have NO calories. Don’t ask me how this is possible.
Abbreviated list of what to avoid:
While my sister was busy studying how to alleviate the rising of the waters and the sinking of the city, I wandered the French Quarter and discovered the home of Frances Parkinson Keyes, a writer I had never even heard of. But now I am one of her fans, or I will be as soon as I read her biography of Saints Rose of Lima and Mariana of Quito.
Prior to being the home of the prolific Mrs. Keyes, it was the home of Paul Morphy the chess prodigy, and before that, the home of Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, civil war general and engineer of whom I shall write more later.
Frances Parkinson was born in Virginia in 1885. As a girl she went to Miss Windsor’s School in Boston. (Much later, Windsor - having dropped the ‘Miss’ - was an athletic rival of MAGUS, that is, Milton Academy Girls Upper School. I did not participate in any of those athletics as they all involved hurling balls, and some of them even involved sticks. ) Later Frances married Henry Keyes, who would go on to be the Governor of New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”) and a U.S. Senator. Then he died in 1938.
So in 1950 Mrs. Keyes moved to New Orleans and bought a derelict old house across the street from the Ursuline Convent. Already a successful writer, Mrs. Keyes had to crank up her production to earn the kind of money needed to restore the historic house, and collect her porcelain veilleuses and dolls. A veilleuse is a very small teapot kept warm by resting atop a porcelain stand containing a votive candle, and in my humble opinion is rendered quite useless by the very small size of the teapot. Utility, however, is doubtless not the point of such a collection. Among her many veilleuses, Mrs. Keyes had examples in the shape of classical buildings, Persian dancers, a city in flames, and Joan of Arc. The tour guide told us,sadly, that this collection was not the largest in the US. That honor belongs to the collection of Dr. Frederick Freed in Trenton, Tennessee (“A tea-rrific place to live!”). Certainly Mrs. Keyes had the largest collection I have ever seen of dolls dressed as nuns; there were very many, in various habits, with some quite spectacular wimples. I am sorry photography was forbidden.
Meanwhile, my sister was discussing environmental justice in the 9th Ward.