Houston – May 2019 – Random Views

We had a great couple of days in Houston, coming away with a great feel for the city. This posting is to cover the random sights that don’t fit anywhere else, like the featured image above from the Sam Houston Park Village with a little church in the middle of the skyscrapers downtown.

Even though I had been in Houston briefly a couple of times previously I had never seen the Astrodome. The world’s first indoor baseball and football stadium when it was completed in the early 1960s, it still stands unused.




The Wateralls across from the Williams Tower is 64′ high, 1 foot for each floor of the nearby skyscraper.




The ‘Twilight Epiphany Skyspace’ is located on the campus of Rice University. I had read that this was a cool thing to see, but when we got there in the middle of the afternoon I couldn’t understand why. It turns out you must be there at sunset or sunrise – maybe next time.




Houston is notorious for their traffic, with over 6 million people in the area and very little public transportation. They do however have a streetcar that covers a few miles in the center of the city.




As well as crossing a man made pond in the middle of Main Street.




Discover Park has an interesting pinwheel display with a device that when you blow into it just right, kicks off fans that make all the pinwheels spin.




Buffalo Bayou Park is a nice urban park space complete with a skateboard park.



The highlight of the park though was our tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Once used for retaining water for the city, it is now a cool space to explore on a guided tour.




The city has numerous examples of public art.









I have often wondered who has the concrete contracts for road construction in Texas as they build ramps that seem far longer than needed, and never pile up dirt to make the overpasses shorter.




In the theme of ‘Everything is Bigger in Texas’ – As we left the city and reached the suburb of Katy, Texas we made a stop at a Buc-ee’s. A Texas based chain, Buc-ee’s are massive – this one has over 60 gas pumps (the photo is only showing about 1/2 of them)!



The highlight though was the World’s Longest Car Wash (according to the Guiness World Records) – the 255′ long one at Buc-ee’s easily cleaned off 2,000 miles of dirt and grime. Now it is off for San Antonio!

New Orleans – May 2019 – One Final Look

We had a great few days in the Big Easy, coming away with fantastic memories, and lots of photographs.

Nola = New Orleans, LA (abbreviation for Louisiana) NOLA



Nola is a city with their own language and culture.



The home of jazz music.



One of the best places for local food like Po’ Boys is Mothers.



There are plenty of horse drawn carriages for the tourists, resulting in carriage jams.




The number of wide boulevards are surprising for such an old city.




Louis Armstrong Park – more Nola celebrating jazz.




The locals are friendly, and at times had free beer!



The French Quarter, while touristy, is a unique place.



Plenty of street entertainment.




St Louis Cathedral is impressive.



More views of the Quarter.




Plenty of Voodoo stores to choose from, should you need them.




Did I mention music!




But this New Orleans parade is over….




Time to roll on out of town. À la prochaine.





New Orleans – May 2019 – Then and Now

With a few days in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to search out some ‘time travel’ photo ops.

Carondelet Street at Canal Street. The buildings on the corners seem similar in size, but very different. Looking down the street reveals one that is still the same.




Chartres Street in the French Quarter.





The Cotton Exchange. As noted in a previous posting the Cotton Exchange Building was torn down in the early 1920s and replaced with a more stable, but less opulent, building.




The End of Canal Street. There used to be a statue at the streetcar turnaround. The statue still exists, just a few blocks away in a park (which is shown in the Public Art posting). The streetcars are still there, just not horse drawn.

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The French Market. The market has a checkered past, but now is a coffee shop.




The Opera House. This building was located in the French Quarter. It has been torn down and replaced with a new, but period correct, hotel.





St Charles Street headed into the CBD. The first block is very similar, beyond that are dramatically different with the skyscrapers replacing the smaller buildings.

New Orleans – May 2019 – Getting Around The Big Easy

Getting to and around New Orleans has always been an adventure. Situated near the mouth of the Mississippi, the city is essentially surrounded by water and swamps.

While most people likely fly into the airport, or take I-10 from Mobile or Baton Route, the best route into the city by car is from the north across Lake Pontchartrain.



The Lake Pntchartrain Causeway is a 24 mile long bridge. Completed in the 1950s it is to this day the longest bridge in the world over water.



Which results in a funny looking navigation system – we are in the middle of the lake, still 14 miles from shore.



Eventually you get close enough to see the skyline of the city off in the distance.



Once you make it to town you see plenty of the ride share bicycles.



Although this person chose his own unique ride.



The Port of New Orleans is one of the busiest ports in the country, with constant ships coming in off the Gulf of Mexico and up the Mississippi River.



The tugboats stay busy all day.



At the base of Canal Street is the tourist ship The Natchez, a faux stern-wheeler.



The best transportation however are the streetcars.





New Orleans turned out to be a fairly easy city to navigate.






New Orleans – May 2019 – St Charles Streetcar Line

The St Charles Street Streetcar line is the oldest continuously used street railway route in the world. Streetcars first started rolling down this way almost 200 years ago, in 1833.

The current cars were built by a company called Perley Thomas in the 1920s.



As the route leaves downtown it passes through the Garden District neighborhood, with a number of small shops and cafes.



Some of the homes have been converted into B & Bs.



Further out you pass educational facilities such as Tulane and Loyola.





The Audubon Zoo is along this route as well.



The homes of the Garden District are a highlight. Many are quite large, and all are beautifully maintained.











As you make your way past Riverbend and onto Carrollton Avenue the homes become somewhat smaller, but still nicely maintained.



It takes about an hour and a half to ride the entire distance out and back on the St Charles Streetcar, but it is well worth the time, and the very low fares.






Detroit – April 2019 – Cultural Center

The Cultural Center of Detroit is located in the Midtown section, just north of downtown. We had the opportunity to visit two of the centerpieces of the neighborhood, the Main Library and Institute of Art.

We started at the Library where one of Detroit’s newest features, a streetcar called the Q Line’ was passing as we arrived.





We made our way around the building to the Cass Avenue entrance, which is much newer than the Woodward Avenue side.





The original building is in an Italian Renaissance style, with it’s impressive stairways and ceilings.





This look is carried over to one of the exhibition halls.





While one of the hallways on the second floor resemble a cathedral.





Reliefs celebrating the classics adorn this level.





A look at the main entrance ceiling.





We are still in the library, not the Institute of Art…





Directly across Woodward Avenue is the Institute of Art, with a statue of the Thinker greeting you.





The exterior had a significant amount of sculptures.





It is immediately apparently that the library and art museum were designed in similar style and completed at the same time.





Coincidentally there was a celebration of India going on the day we were there.





We came for the Rivera murals and ended up celebrating India as well!





The artists were happy to tell you about their culture.





A Rangoli demonstration.





This henna artist was very skilled, with a steady hand.





The east lobby had this great display.





Another exhibition hall featured pop art.





Some great chairs.





Ruben & Iabel Toledo had an exhibit called Labor of Love.








They also paid homage to the River murals. The DIA is a destination just for the murals, but the rest of the exhibitions are world class as well.





Chicago – February 2019 – History Museum

Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.

During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.





In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.





Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.

His photographs were used for many album covers.





Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.





The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.





All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.





In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.

This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.





Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.





Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.





A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.





Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.





As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.





Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.





As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.






Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.