Edinburgh Farmers Market – Jazz and Memories in the Shadow of Edinburgh Castle

NFMW2018_MGbannerIt’s National Farmers Market Week and I promised to share, so I’m unearthing more farmers market memories. Today, we’re in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Just last summer, I had this amazing experience in Edinburgh. Only a few weeks after my Dad died, I was on a European business trip which required a weekend stay-over, and the location happened to be Edinburgh. Lucky me. In a hotel that looked out to Edinburgh Castle. Double-lucky me!

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The hotel is in the center of town, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. That was the (zoomed-in) view from my hotel window. Wow.
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Photo of Mary King’s Close from the Guardian by Murdo MacLeod

My colleagues and I did touristy things together on Saturday morning, including a macabre underground ghost tour that taught us all about how the Scots of way back handled the plague, and then we split up, some of them headed out to castles in the distance, some of them shopping, and me – just wandering around and thinking about Dad.

Getting back to the hotel and in desperate need of a nap, I was amazed to learn that the city’s month-long music festival had taken up residence right outside my hotel, the street blocked off at both ends to hold three stages and various food and drink vendors.

Score! I shucked off my inclination for a nap like a new year’s resolution on Jan. 3 and flung myself headlong into the crowd.

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Have you ever heard live jazz, in Scotland, in the shadow of a castle? I hadn’t … wow, what an in-the-moment experience.

Festival in the Shadow of Edinburgh CastleIt was the end of the performances for the day, sadly. The first – and last – tune I heard was, unbelievably, When the Saints Go Marching In.

Here’s a little bit of video of that performance.

Oh. My. Gosh.

The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity. The simple, awesome experience of enjoying delightful live music with an appreciative crowd.

Saints is a tune that is important in my family. My Mom always loved the New Orleans tradition of the second line parade after funerals, that lively and joyful conclusion after the pre-funeral dirges. We made sure it happened just that way after her funeral; I will always be grateful to my friend / ex-husband for bringing his whole jazz band and playing their hearts out in her memory. Joy in sorrow, joy in sorrow.

Before this Scotland trip, I had been at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, when Dad was still alive. I had happily heard When the Saints Go Marching In about 10 times over a long weekend, including once by the legendary Herb Alpert. OMG, he is awesome! Dad and I texted each other during the Herb Alpert performance at Jazz Fest, when the Grill-Meister and I were awestruck at how vibrant he was at 80-something; Dad said, ‘your mother and I saw him ’round about 1965. Good times.” (Another story for another day.)

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Herb Alpert and his wife Lani Hall brought the house down at the NOLA Jazz Fest

Just three weeks prior to the Edinburgh trip, the venerable Saints tune was the joyful conclusion at my Dad’s funeral, just like it had been at my Mom’s 17 years earlier. Just like it will be at mine when it’s my time to go. I’m partial to that song, you might say.  🎶🎶🎶🎶 “O Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”

So, to be in Scotland on a business trip and just stumble into a live performance of Saints was almost too much.

The connectedness. The synchronicity. The serendipity.

I felt Dad’s presence on a grand scale, and my heart grew too big for my body, just like the Grinch’s when he saw that Whoville would still have Christmas without presents and food. It was a transcendent experience.

Back to the the Farmers Market

I haven’t forgotten, truly I haven’t – this post is supposed to be about the Edinburgh farmers market. My journey there tonight took place via music and reminiscence.

As I said, I hit the ground at the music festival at the tail end of the performances. Sigh. I jammed and jazzed to Saints, but then, sadly, the musicians began to break down their gigs and pack up. I was just getting started!  I noticed that there was a farmers market on the other end of the street … hmmm. Curses, is it about to close, too?!!? But no, the stalwart vendors didn’t ‘up and leave’ when the music was over; they were on their regular Saturday market schedule.

And what a lovely market it was. It had everything: produce, cheese, a bridal couple (he wore a kilt), dogs galore, arepas, paella, olives, breads, leather goods…a plethora of products to peruse while people-watching.

I’ll be in Edinburgh again soon, and will likely fall more deeply in love with it. Watch this space!

Related Resources

© 2018, Glover Gardens

Farmers Market in New Orleans – the Real Deal

I’ve been telling you how we love farmers markets here at Glover Gardens, and my Dear Readers, I did not exaggerate.

NFMW2018_MGbannerA farmers market is a must-stop on any road trip for the Grill-Meister and me. And sometimes even when we’re traveling by plane and can’t take home any foodstuffs or plunder, we still seek out farmers markets, just for the fun of it. I’m going on about this because it’s National Farmers Market Week and I promised to share, remember? (Of course you do – you read yesterday’s post, right?)

Crescent City Farmers MarketOn a recent anniversary trip to New Orleans, the Crescent City Farmers Market beckoned to us. The Saturday version, downtown, at the corner of Carondelet and Julia streets.

We knew we’d love this market even before arriving in the sultry summer morning, just from online list of vendors. I read it out loud to the Grill-Meister as we made our plans that Saturday morning, my voice rising and squeaking with each new exciting description.

Wild catfish, alligator, softshell crabs, crabmeat, alligator, frog, crawfish, turtle meat!

Heirloom strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, broccali, cauliflower, cabbage, squash, cucumbers, mustard, radish, tamales (veggie, cheese, jalepeno, bean), salsa (red and green), pico de gallo, tortilla chips, muscadine grapes, eggs

Assorted sourdough bread, baguettes, and pastries including country boules, Pain de Mie, swirls, Fougasse, and more.

Saddle up the Uber, we’re on our way!!!  “Spoiled for choice,” as that old saying goes. No one would go to this market seeking fresh food and come away disappointed. It is a “real” farmers market, with almost all of its space allotted to farmers and merchants with locally grown or locally produced food products (seafood, produce, honey, condiments, etc.) No tchotchkes, doodads, gewgaws, knickknacks or trinkets here – just fine NOLA foodstuffs and friendly folks, and some fantastic music. Just what you’d expect in the Big Easy.

Enjoy the photos, and put this market on your list the next time you visit the Crescent City. They have a market in different places around town every day except Sunday and Monday and sometimes there are cooking demonstrations in addition to the exceptional vendors and delightful music.

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Love the lettuce spilling out of this Green Bragg Bag, and the ice pop to beat the heat. She really exemplifies the farmers market vibe.

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The music from this duo was a delightful add to the festive market atmosphere
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Little Miss in her bright orchid sundress was a sight to behold, and she might’ve had the best time of all. She knew she was rocking that outfit with the matching bonnet. (You see things like this at farmers markets.)

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Resources

© 2018, Glover Gardens

 

Aberdeen Countryside: “Ain’t She Stotter?”

Tunnock's Tea Cakes and Mrs Tilly's FudgeEarlier this week, I posted about my “snack food” vs. “junk food” epiphany in Aberdeen, in which I learned that I was a hypocrite during a break in a meeting.

What I neglected to do was to show you the Aberdeen I saw outside the window in that meeting.

I really, really like Aberdeen and want to share it with you, so here’s the picture I took from the window in the office building where our meeting was held.

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Verdant, bucolic, lush hills with farmhouses, pastures and cattle, right by an office center and busy highway – oh please don’t change, Aberdeen

And here’s another, from close by.

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Just across from a big hotel and busy office center, these cows graze languidly, perhaps knowing they are luckier than Texas cows

Aberdeen – ain’t she beautiful?  Or, in Doric, “Ain’t she stotter?”

Doric is the awesome traditional language of Aberdeen. I wish I had an awesome traditional language.

You’ll keep hearing about Aberdeen on these pages. I feel a kinship with it, which might be wishful thinking, or might have some roots in truth. My maiden name is Harvell, and my Dad always said we had English and “Scotch-Irish” heritage. Google tells me that the Harvell name came to England when the Normans did, way back in ’66, and that we may be related to the Hervies and de Hervis of Aberdeenshire and other parts of Scotland. I hope so! Or, “ah hope sae.”

” Aberdeen, ae day ah ll be back tae bide a while.”

For more Aberdeen musings from the Glover Gardens archives:

© 2018, Glover Gardens

 

A Tea Cake Break in Aberdeen Exposes Me as an Unrepentant Hypocrite

I might be a bit of a hypocrite.

I call myself a foodie, sneer at junk food, avoid fast food and pretty much loathe restaurant chains. I don’t mind if you call me a food snob. I deserve it.

Gimme authentic! Gimme homemade! Down with overly-processed, pre-packaged, over-salted, sugar-laden foodstuffs!

But.

It’s different when it is another country’s junk food.

At a meeting in Aberdeen, something came over me. I saw these Scottish treats as “snack food” instead of junk food. My colleague brought the fudge and the tea cakes as a gift, and so of course I tasted them – – and they rocked! And the super-salty crisps provided the perfect pairing to the sweet treats.

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Like I said: I’m a hypocrite! Of the first degree. And I’m not even sorry.

© 2018, Glover Gardens

Haiku: Going Somewhere through O’Hare

portal to … somewhere
through the rainbow at O’Hare ~
going, going, gone

O'Hare Travelers

I really like the walkways between the concourses at O’Hare Airport. Nice job, Chicago!

I was doubly pleased when I looked at this photo after uploading it onto my Mac and saw the reflections of the passengers in the mirrored ceiling. Serendipity.

It’s the little things.

© 2018, Glover Gardens

Comptoir Vietnam: A Tiny Treasure in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris

Culinary experiences are high on my list when I travel. The only eateries I disdain are chains. Unusual foods, new restaurants, out-of-the-way places that only locals go, famous places that I’ve read about- and salivated over – for years, tiny little spots that offer perfect renditions of traditional ethnic dishes – bring ‘em all on!

So many taste experiences, so little time…

So when I get a recommendation from someone on my internal Trusted Buds List (buds as in ’taste buds’ as well as the traditional sense of ‘buddy’, a person who would never steer you wrong), I try hard to make it happen.

IMG_1021That’s how I had the delightful experience of dining at tiny and wonderful Comptoir Vietnam in Paris last month. A Glover Gardens blog friend who has traveled the world a time or two (or three) recommended it on one of my previous Paris posts, just as I was heading out to a workshop there with several colleagues. He had found Comptoir Vietnam by accident years earlier while taking a walk in the City of Lights. He loved it. He went back. He took loved ones there on later trips. Most importantly (to me), he paid it forward by telling me about it. And now I’m telling you.

You need to know about Comptoir Vietnam. It’s that good.

My colleagues are game for anything, and on the night before our return to Houston, they accompanied me on the very crowded, fairly hot, hour-long Metro ride during rush hour to get to this stellar little place. We weren’t sorry! It was everything we expected, and more.

I’ll set the stage for you. It was overcast and rainy, as Paris often is. (How is it that overcast and rainy in Paris doesn’t ruin the mood, it adds to it??)  The Metro experience was a little different than usual as we got close to our stop, with elevated, above-ground tracks that provided a great view of sudden and unexpected street art, a number of huge and intricate murals on the buildings.

fullsizeoutput_24daWe alighted from the Metro and found ourselves in the 13th arrondissement, an area of Paris that was previously unknown to me. A couple of turns down wet, gray streets that were mostly residential but dotted with neighborhood businesses and restaurants (primarily Asian) took us to the humble front door of Comptoir Vietnam.

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The interior was very small, with only six or eight tables. The menu was delightfully not in English. This ain’t no tourist trap!

Dining at Comptoir Vietnam

Dining at Comptoir Vietnam

Noticing that we weren’t French or Asian, one of the patrons struck up a conversation with us immediately. She wanted to know how we found the place, because “usually only locals come here”. She helped us interpret the menu and decide what to order, and reinforced what we already suspected: this was going to be a great meal.

Oh my goodness!

We had dumplings that took a little while to arrive, because they were steamed to perfection after we ordered them – three different kinds (shrimp, pork and beef). There were piquant dipping sauces that someone back in the kitchen probably made that day.

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Two of us chose Bo Bun Nem, a dish I had never heard of. It was a big bowl of beef and incredibly rich broth and vermicelli or rice noodles and fresh things like cilantro and cucumber and chile peppers and cucumbers and bean sprouts and whole pieces of some kind of crispy spring roll and a deep, oniony sauce – oh my! “This is North Vietnamese food,” my friend had said. “Nothing like we usually eat in the US.” Umm-hmm. And in addition to being super-delicious, it was cheap!

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We didn’t talk much at Comptoir Vietnam after the meal arrived, except to revel in our good fortune. So I’m sharing it with you in case you get to the 13th arrondissement of Paris one day. You should.

As for me, I’ll be back in Paris this week, and I really want to go back to Comptoir Vietnam. And if I can’t make it on this trip, then I will on the next one. It’s that good. And there are soooooo many other dishes to try!

Thanks for the recommendation, my friend!

© 2018 Glover Gardens

A Real Find in Cajun Country: Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant

The People of Suire's – Version 2Looking for lunch on a recent trek home from New Orleans, we took the long way along the coast and found a treasure (and I do mean treasure) in the backroads of southern Louisiana. Suire’s Grocery and Restaurant has been serving delicious Cajun food to hungry travelers, locals and hunters since 1976. It was magic: the food, the ambience and especially the people. The Grill-Meister and I were enchanted.

An Experience, Not a Pit Stop

You know it’s going to be a memorable experience instead of a quick bite right when you pull up to the unassuming white building. The menu is painted on the outside, along with a faded but very friendly-looking alligator to welcome you.

Inside, the feeling that you’re in a unique place is immediately reinforced. The walls are crowded with a fascinating collection of Louisiana kitsch, safety awards, family and local memorabilia, and articles from publications ranging from the New York Times to the Houston Chronicle. Referencing the authenticity of the food and the popularity of Suire’s with hunters and locals, the articles point out different dishes and dining experiences from the individual viewpoints of the writers, but they all have one thing in common: glowing reviews.

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From family pictures to Tabasco posters to mouthwatering descriptions of Suire’s food, the walls here are fascinating
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Suire’s during hunting season; photo from their Facebook page

Menu Choices Galore

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Suire’s pistolette, from Facebook, “good for breakfast, lunch or dinner!”

We didn’t stop to read the articles at first, though. The menu above the counter where you order at the back of the store draws you in and amplifies your hunger. And that’s only a portion of what’s on offer: there’s also a printed menu with so many choices! There are selections that you rarely find outside of Cajun Country, like turtle sauce picante and three kinds of pistolettes (deep-fried rolls stuff with crawfish, shrimp or crab), and just about every Cajun menu staple you can imagine: alligator, boudin balls, shrimp or crawfish étouffée, twelve different po-boys, multiple fried seafood platters, red beans and sausage…you get the idea. And then there are salads, burgers, sandwiches and sides like Cajun fries, potato salad. Oh my goodness!

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The posted menu on the wall is just a tiny portion of what’s available daily at Suire’s; there’s also a daily special, which on that day was spaghetti and meat sauce served with an egg roll or cheese stick and green salad

A Very Satisfying Meal

It was difficult, but we finally made our selections. The Grill-Meister and I had been in New Orleans for 3 days celebrating a milestone anniversary and had enjoyed numerous Cajun and Creole dishes, but we were happy to continue the trend at Suire’s. He chose the shrimp poboy, and I had the shrimp and crabmeat gumbo plate. They were both spectacular: fresh, delicious, perfectly balanced. Humble ingredients transformed into permanent taste memories.

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Simple, fresh and delicious: the shrimp poboy
Gumbo Plate at Suire's
Rich dark gumbo with flecks of crab
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A ceramic fish on the table holds salt and cayenne pepper shakers – love it!
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Other patrons were just as serious about their meals as we were (it’s that good)

The Sweet Smell of Baked Goods

House-made baked goods are everywhere, tempting you while you wait for your meal. This is NOT fast food. There’s time to take in the abundant ambience and ponder your dessert choices while the Suire’s kitchen prepares your order. A huge selection of old-fashioned favorites make it really hard to choose. Peanut butter balls or fig cake? Heavenly hash or rice krispy treats? Brownies, cookies or fruit-filled tarts? And who can resist homemade pecan pie??? After some soul-searching, the Grill-Meister chose the fig cake. I know that he loves me, because he gave me a bite.

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Old-fashioned baked goods are made onsite and wrapped individually

A Freezer Full

Suire's Frozen FoodsA further temptation is the freezer full of Suire’s specialties, fulfilling the promise painted on the front door:

Don’t feel like cooking? … Frozen Foods – Ready to Eat – Just Heat and Serve

We just happened to have an ice chest with us. (No self-respecting foodies would go on a road trip to Louisiana without a way to bring some of the goodness home.) The ice chest got a little fuller.

Dry Goods and Groceries, Too

I’ve been gushing about the restaurant and the ambience, but shouldn’t ignore the other side of Suire’s – the grocery store. I’m from a very small town in Southeast Texas, and I know that the local grocery store can be the center of a small community, the place where people go to chat and get news, and the source of that one missing ingredient for the big dinner you planned to make.

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Saving the Best for Last: the People of Suire’s

The most enchanting thing about Suire’s was the people. We had the great fortune to meet and chat with Joan Suire, who co-owns and runs the business with her sister, Lisa. Happy to chat, she pointed out some of the more interesting articles and photos on the walls and provided backstories. For example: behind the signed celebrity photos from the 1940s was the tale of a relative who worked at the Waldorf-Astoria, met and married a Rockefeller, “and never worked again”.

Jean tells her stories with a charismatic, wry smile and an excellent sense of timing. We could have conversed with her all day; her pride in the family business is evident and irresistible. She told us how here parents had started the business when she and her sister were teenagers, and that she’d never married but has had a great life at the counter of Suire’s. Joan shared a recent testimonial from a customer, a Baton Rouge native who’d just found Suire’s:

Your food resurrected my mother!

Taste memories. They’re important.

It was early Sunday afternoon when we visited, and there was a steady stream of locals picking up to-go orders. Jean knew everyone’s name and asked after their families with a genuine interest.

Southern Hospitality: “It’s My Treat!”

But it’s not just the proprietors that are special at Suire’s, it’s also the customers. One struck up a conversation with me, sharing that a new porch was being built at her house that day, so she was picking up lunch from Suire’s for everyone. A lovely young woman, she almost glowed as she gushed about the food, saying that the crawfish fettuccini was the absolute best. As she was paying for her order, she gestured for me to come up to the counter and said, “Do you want to try the crawfish fettuccini?” I thought she meant a little bite from some big vat of the wonderful stuff back in the kitchen, but no – she was offering to buy us a meal! We had already ordered, so I declined, but she insisted:

I’m going to buy you a frozen one, then. It’s my treat. You have to try it!

So there you are. An absolute stranger bought us a local delicacy because it’s that good. I think her name was Caitlyn and wish I had written it down so I could thank her properly. (Lovely young lady, if you read this and I got your name wrong, please correct me!) Whenever I think about southern hospitality from now on, this experience at Suire’s will come to mind.

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Joan and Caitlyn (I hope that’s right) posed for me and I told them to look for this post in Glover Gardens; what wonderful people

Another Road Trip

The Grill-Meister and I are already planning another road trip, this time with the express purpose to soak up more of that Suire’s magic. Wanna come?

More Info

Note: some of the articles I read when I was preparing this “restaurant rave” post suggested that the 2002 New York Times article put Suire’s on the map and made it famous. I disagree. It might have increased awareness about this little gem, but it’s clear that Suire’s has always been famous with the people of Southeast Louisiana and the the travelers, hunters and fisher-people who visit.

Epilogue: Anthony Bourdain was Here

We didn’t know when we found Suire’s two weeks ago that Anthony Bourdain had visited in February of this year for his Parts Unknown series. Wow. The episode, Cajun Mardi Gras Recap, aired soon after his tragic death. The photo below, taken on Ash Wednesday, is on the Suire’s Facebook page and features Anthony with owners (and sisters) Joan and Lisa. “One of the more awesome locations I’ve ever found,” he said of Suire’s. Indeed.

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Anthony Bourdain with Joan (left) and Lisa (right)

Anthony Bourdain knew his stuff. Suire’s is awesome.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Discovery on Magazine Street: Garlic Beignets at The Vintage

I can’t go to New Orleans any more often than I do, or I’ll need a whole new wardrobe, at least two sizes bigger. (You may have noticed that many of my NOLA posts wax rhapsodic about our culinary treasure hunts.)

Here’s a new discovery: garlic beignets are a thing. Who knew? Not being a big sweets-hound, I can easily and quite happily avoid regular beignets (and the crowds) at famous NOLA haunts like Cafe du Monde, but these savory little nuggets from the newly opened restaurant called The Vintage had my number from the start. We ordered them as soon as we heard of their existence. It needed to be done.

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A little neighborhood bar and cafe that touts “bites and bubbles,” The Vintage appealed to us during an afternoon foray down tree-lined and shop-laden Magazine Street. Trust me, you can work up a serious appetite and thirst while shopping in New Orleans in the summer. The Grill-Meister and I had a great time on our miles-long walk, taking in all kinds of local color, artisan’s creations, antiques, touristy baubles and some downright junk.  Check out the Magazine Street Merchant’s Association for more info.

After all that walking, I didn’t feel guilty about my first couple of garlic beignets, and planned to stop after the third. But one more wouldn’t hurt…  you get the picture. We didn’t finish them all, but we were very, very glad that our dinner reservation at K-Paul’s wasn’t until 8:30, giving us time to walk some more and restore our appetites.

fullsizeoutput_2599What did they taste like? Think of a light, crisp beignet, tossed not with icky-sweet powdered sugar, but with garlic, herbs and parmesan, making its way toward your taste buds preceded by a beguiling aroma. That’s all I really need to say.

fullsizeoutput_2596So, except for the impact on the waistline, I can recommend this little gem of a restaurant as a great place to stop for a bite and a drink and to gin up more energy for walking and shopping on Magazine Street. NOLA.com’s review of The Vintage describes it perfectly: it has “the vibe of a coffeeshop crossed with a bar” . The friendly service make you want to “sit a spell,” chat, and enjoy the laid-back ambience and wry humor of the decor. If you do go, try the garlic beignets. And let me know how you liked them.

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For more of the Glover Gardens outlook on the wonderful city of NOLA, click here.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Surrounded: A Photo from New Orleans

It’s a quick weekend trip for the Grill-Meister and me, celebrating our tenth anniversary.

On a short walk yesterday afternoon, I looked up and saw these steeples framed by the traditional NOLA architectural elements of this stately home and a beautiful old oak tree. All of them both have withstood so much for so long.

It felt great to be in the moment, take the picture, have time to think about these iconic symbols, and then walk on.

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Surrounded

© 2018 Glover Gardens