I love, love, love being in the mountains; there is so much variety in the weather. Here are two versions of the view from the back porch of Little House in the Rockies, close-ups of the mountain range behind us. What a difference a day made!
A winter storm dominated the view in the first photo, and only Palmer Peak is visible. The snow-filled sky cloaks the higher summits of Mount Silverheels behind it.
The next afternoon, the broad expanse of this part of the Front Range is exposed, with Palmer Peak dominated by the higher mountaintops behind it.
A snowstorm came and went between these two photos, and we were snug and warm in our little cabin, watching.
Watching the storm roll in, watching the snow hide the mountains, watching the birds take a few last seeds from the feeder.
I still think of myself as a little girl from a small town who is constantly surprised by her life, and sometimes find it hard to believe that I have a “favorite Italian restaurant in London”. In my 20s, that sentence would have been alien to me; I didn’t even make it to Europe until I was 34. This post is about that favorite little restaurant, and its fame-worthy Spaghetti Carbonara.
It’s Not Just My Opinion
Da Corradi’s carbonara was fantastic!
I think that was the best Carbonara I have ever had.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara with fresh ham is the best you’ll ever eat.
Online reviewers of Da Corradi, a tiny, family-run Italian restaurant in London’s Mayfair district tucked back in the Shepherd Market, agree with me about their Spaghetti Carbonara: it’s the best.
My TripAdvisor review from way back in 2010 when the Grill-Meister and I visited was titled Marvelous – so good we went twice in one week, proclaiming:
The Spaghetti Carbonara is the best I have ever had – even compared to the same dish in Italy.
It’s true. I’ve never had a better carbonara, and I’m fairly sure I never will. It’s that good. Just the right balance of rich creaminess from the egg and cheese, saltiness from the ham, and al dente spaghetti, with a liberal sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. Close your eyes after taking just one bite and you’ll expect to find Northern Italy when you open them. I try not to eat heavy food like this very often, but there’s never even a question that I’ll order anything else at Da Corradi. The only question is how much of it I can consume, and the answer is always: more than I thought!
The food at Da Corradi is hearty-homestyle rather than Mayfair pretentious, and the prices are very reasonable. More reasons to keep coming back!
The Peeps are as Fun as the Food is Good
The staff at Da Corradi are a big part of the overall experience. They’re cheeky and flirty (in a family-friendly way) and their banter with each other betrays an affection and respect that is charming. They collaborate to ensure that your experience with them is fun, filling, and fulfilling. You don’t exactly have a waitperson, you have a wait-team.
A Celebrity Hang-Out (or Hide-Out?)
In its 40+ years of serving great Italian food, Da Corradi has attracted a lot of admirers beyond this Texas gal and the online reviewers I quoted above. The wall overlooking the tiny main floor dining area sports photos of celebrity diners who must enjoy the carbonara and cheeky charm as much as I do. While high-end Mayfair is swarming with tourists and beautiful people, Da Corradi’s exact location within Shepherd Market is a little off the beaten path, a perfect place to avoid the madding crowd. Shepherd Market’s web site says, “This unique little enclave is tucked away between Picadilly and Curzon Street, in the heart of London’s Mayfair. A hidden gem known for its wonderful relaxed village-like atmosphere.”
They Trust Me, They Really Trust Me!
I am blessed with a wide network of friends and foodies in many locales across the world who feed me, enjoy sharing a restaurant meal together, send me their food pictures for the blog, and give and take restaurant recommendations. I love love love it when someone trusts my choice of a restaurant; it’s like setting friends up on a blind date and having it work out (only better because there’s no chance of divorce or blame). It feels good to influence where someone has dinner halfway across the world…just call me the restaurant matchmaker!
Tiramisu and Espresso
Enjoying the carbonara
Holding up the menu for the photo to send to me
Life is good. And so is the Spaghetti Carbonara at Da Corradi in London.
I love to travel and that affection extends to airports, I suppose because they are the gateway to that next big adventure. And I think many airports have picked up their game in the last few decades – it seems like new terminals and renovations have a bigger focus on aesthetics with bright and appealing spaces, art that inspires and a real effort to reflect a sense of place. I’ve found myself taking more and more photos in airports, unless I’m sprinting for that next flight during a too-short layover.
At Dulles in Washington last week, I was enchanted by the rainbow wall and snapped a few photos, including a little boy running along the wall touching all of the colored panels. It wasn’t until I uploaded the photos today that I noticed a sharp contrast in the way adults reacted to the wall – they didn’t even glance at it.
And here’s the little boy. I want to be like him, to take time to touch the rainbow.
luminous colors buoyant carefree little boy share your joy with me
Brrrr! I’m in Paris this week and took a very long power walk the day I arrived to shake off the airplane doldrums. By power walk, I mean almost 6 miles. That’s a lot for lil ol’ me! I started out east of the Arch de Triomphe and made it all the way to St. Germain – in sub-40° misty gray weather.
It was the first Sunday of the month, and that meant that L’avenue des Champs-Élysées was closed off to auto traffic and super-open to pedestrians. I didn’t know about that and wondered why all of the police vehicles were blocking the road, and the military personnel were checking the bags (including mine) of folks who wanted to walk down this most famous of Parisian avenues. I though maybe a terrorist had created a semi-lockdown situation.
But no!It turns out that first Sunday is actually big for family outings in Paris, even on this most cold and wet day. The people-watching was magnificent. The experience was magnificent. Walking down the middle of this historic street with no cars on it was magnificent. Children and dogs were…magnificent.
I was bundled up, but it was super-cold! I needed to warm up in a café with a cappuccino. I got near Café de Flore and Le Deux Magots, expecting one of them to be my solace place. My son and I visited this area on a trip to Paris (click here) where an experience motivated him to write an award-winning essay, and I was eager to warm up in this area. Les Deux Magots was closed for renovations and Café de Flore was packed and on a waiting list, so I took my frozen bones over to Café Louise across the street. I made a great choice!
Ordering a sparkling water and a cappuccino, I admitted to the waiter that I was very, very cold. I was so very impressed with the hospitality that he and Café Louise provided:
The sparkling water came with a very heavy, beautiful crystal glass. The cappuccino warmed my hands after I removed my gloves. The waiter came right back after delivering the beverages and gave me a complimentary snack, “quiche bites”. Oh. My. Gosh. Rich, simple and delicious, I was cold-no-more after devouring them.
The waiter visited often and made me feel like an important guest that they were just hoping to host that day…as though I was expected. I just love that Parisian hospitality.
Thank you, Café Louise. You made me feel at home on a cold, foggy, gray Paris day.
mystery diner savoring thoughts and pasta silent silhouette
Dining at my favorite Italian restaurant in London (Da Corradi), I used my phone to snap this picture of a man who came in, ate alone, and left. He didn’t seem lonely; he seemed thoughtful and deliberate. He didn’t read a book or squint at a tablet or smartphone. He simply ordered his pasta and wine, ate and drank them, and left. I like to eat alone on solo travels, and in looking at him, I decided that he does, too, and jotted down a quick haiku to post with the photo.
But when I looked at the photo later and cropped it, there was an Edward Hopper / Nighthawks feel to it, especially when I looked at it in black and white. Not the style, just the mood. The camera sometimes sees things differently than the eye. I like that. I changed the haiku a little to match the photo. I’m learning about this stuff from another blogger (not the photography – I have a long way to go there – but the wisdom of letting the material drive the finish product).
Staying in a hotel a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London recently, I wasn’t sleepy one night and set out on foot at midnight, camera in hand. The moon was full. I was enchanted.
Just outside the hotel, St. Paul’s loomed large on the left. The streets were alive that full-moon Friday night. My camera trigger finger was hyperactive.
A haiku for that moment, when I was truly in love with the night, the cathedral, the moon, and London:
the full moon beckons ~ ancient cathedral’s appeal: London’s bright magic
I walked all around that magnificent, centuries-old landmark, passing lovers and cyclists and police, and snapped these photos to share with you. If you go to London, don’t miss a chance to go to St. Paul’s at midnight in the moonlight.
Incidentally, after my 360° tour ’round St. Paul’s with the camera, I slept deeply and soundly for 10 hours, dreaming of days gone by and the rich history in these magnificent structures.
You can read about St. Paul’s and its 1,400 years of history here. I took a tour of the inside the day after my midnight photography jaunt, but interior photos are not allowed. And, along the same lines as my post Reading London: A Chance Encounter Down Memory Lane, Literally , I read a book just after this trip that was set largely at St. Paul’s, just after the Great Fire of 1666. The Ashes of London was an excellent read and a great way to absorb the feel of St. Paul’s and it’s massive hulking presence in another time.
This post is in response to a request from a high school friend of my son’s. They’ve kept in touch since starting college in the fall of 2016. She said:
Hi! It’s been a while since we’ve talked – I hope you’re doing well. I’m planning a trip for 2 to New Orleans on December 18-21st and I was wondering if, by chance, you might know of any good things to do in NOLA around that time of year.
Thanks in advance!
And I said: “Oh yeah! I will be happy to send you tips. Thanks for asking; I am so flattered! You are an excellent photographer and beautiful model, so I hope you will consider letting me post some of your experiences in my blog.” (She agreed.)
New Orleans Tips for Mallory
And so, my dear, here is my New Orleans travel advice for you and your companion. It’s probably a bit more than you expected, but I’ve been carrying around this list in my head for a long, long time; I was only 18 when I first visited the Crescent City. And by the way, don’t worry that you’re missing out by being under 21 – NOLA is one of the great all-age cities of the world. You will have a wonderful time.
Packing and Pre-Trip Mindset
Be ready for weather that could be anywhere from 30° – 70° (or even higher), but will definitely be damp; take clothing that can be layered on and off, like scarves, vests and light jackets.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must! And be sure to pack band-aids in case of walking-induced blisters (I speak from experience).
In fact, unless you’re planning to go somewhere that requires fancy clothes, don’t bother with them – New Orleans is about the food, the music and the people-watching, and you won’t see many fashion mavens.
An umbrella or raincoat with a hood is your friend. That’s me below at Jazz Fest in the spring of 2010, but believe me, the rains can strike at a moment’s notice in the Big Easy in any season.
Bring an extra memory card and battery for your camera or be sure to carry your phone charger with you, because you will take way more pictures than you than you imagine and will need the extra memory and power.
Get lots of sleep the night before you go, because NOLA is a 24/7 wonder and you won’t want to sleep much while you’re there (the best time to go to Cafe du Monde is in the middle of the night).
Get in a New Orleans frame of mind early by boning up on its history. If you have time (although I know you have finals just before this trip), go to the library or download a book about New Orleans. It is so fun to walk around in a city when you know a bit about its past and the physical structures that you’re seeing. NOLA has a fascinating and diverse heritage, probably the most varied of all American cities, which adds to the enjoyment of your visit. (I’m reading a book right now called The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, which is far too long to absorb before your trip, but if you’re interested, you can borrow it next summer when you have time.)
Or jump-start that New Orleans feeling by reading a quick novel or watching a movie set in the Crescent City. I have always liked Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, which isn’t about New Orleans, but the city is definitely a character (in my humble opinion) and a sense of place is a recurring theme. Amazon will let you download The Moviegoer for free right nowwith a 30-day trial of Audible. I think you will find this book interesting and thought-provoking, even beyond its connection to New Orleans and travels.
Take a look through The Storyteller blog to see the real New Orleans through the lens and mind of a photographer. I think you will be inspired, given your interest in photography.
If you’re driving to NOLA, park your car when you get there and leave it. It’s a pain to park and much more fun to use other forms of transportation. Parking is also very expensive, because it is at a premium.
Walk as much as you can; much of the magic of New Orleans lies in its dynamic street life.
When you’re not walking, ride the streetcar as much as you can.
Uber is quick and easy, but the cab drivers have the best stories.
Stuff to Do
Amble through Jackson Square and strike up conversations with the artists. There is usually music to enjoy, too.
Go to the French Market and shop, shop, shop. It is seedy, tacky, touristy and full of imports like $7 sunglasses, while also offering cool local art, jewelry and other handmade items at reasonable prices. There are local foodstuffs, and some funky junk. I usually pick up a stocking stuffer or two while I’m at the market. Sometimes there’s live music, and on Wednesdays, there’s a farmer’s market. Green space, trees and tiny parks can be found in the 6 blocks of shopping, too.
Or plan a whole day in the Arts District and take in a museum or three after the galleries. The National World War II Museum is over there (an immersion experience; you’ll have to pick just part of it if you want to fit it into an afternoon), and so are the Contemporary Arts Center and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. All are worth the trip!
There are many other museums scattered across NOLA that you should consider, like the Jazz Museum in the Old Mint, which frequently has performances, and, lucky you, is staging one during your trip (there will be clarinets!). There’s a sculpture garden over by City Park, and, while not a museum, I’ve always wanted to stroll through the cemetery there, too.
If you want the holiday festival experience with rides and an amazing array of holiday lights, take the streetcar out to City Park and go to Celebration in the Oaks(even this kind of big-production, glitzy festival is different and special in NOLA, because of its unique ‘carnival’ food, jazzy music and enchanting, ancient oak trees).
Explore the River Walk and riverfront, checking out the public art, Crescent Park and the fascinating hustle and bustle of NOLA’s river commerce.
If you’re curious about Bourbon Street, take a walk from where it intersects Canal Street all the way to Frenchmen Street, in the late afternoon before it gets too rambunctious. It is very entertaining during the day, and not scary. (You can probably tell that I don’t care for Bourbon Street at night.)
Take the ferry over to Algiers and check out the shops in Algiers Point or walk along the riverfront, or just do a round trip. The views from the ferry alone are worth the $2 trip. Be sure to check the schedule for the last ferry so you don’t get stuck there, because they don’t run at night.
Get on out to the Garden District to see a different side of the city, first printing out this itinerary and map for the self-guided walking tour. This is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and to work off the beignets, muffulettas and poorboys you’re going to be eating!
Get off the beaten path and be open to unique adventures…talk to locals some more and find out what they’re excited about doing in the Crescent City in December.
One more thing on the Stuff to Do List: don’t be in a hurry. Take your time; be deliberate. Look, listen, smell, taste and touch. New Orleans has a myriad of unexpected sights, sounds and people that can only be discovered – or appreciated – if you are truly in the moment. In my humble opinion, that’s the best thing about it.
Food and Drink
Go to Café du Monde if you must (it’s an icon, has great beignets, and you can visit on the day you go to the French Market because it is close by), but also try tiny little coffee houses you stumble across and take time to chat with the proprietors and other customers. They’ll give you the best tips about where to go and what to do.
Be a foodie-on-a-budget by going to a great restaurant at lunch; my favorite is Bayona (click here for my gushing testimonial).
Wine glasses are crystal, as it should be
Flan – yum!
Another foodie-on-a-budget trick is to eat at the bar at popular restaurants, ordering a stellar appetizer to share and then moving on to another stop; you don’t have to have reservations and can still experience stellar cuisine.
Have a po-boy sandwich somewhere – you’ll never have a better one than in New Orleans. Go for an oyster po-boy, or mix of fried oysters and shrimp (you’ll be having a meat-stuffed muffuletta later, so stick with the seafood on the po-boy). With creamy remoulade or tartar sauce spread liberally on freshly baked french bread, a pile of cold, shredded iceberg lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes and hot, crunchy seafood stuffed so full it falls out, the po-boy in New Orleans will rock your world. Trust me on this. I haven’t been there, but the Storyteller blogger in New Orleans highly recommends Cafe Reconcile in Central City in this post. It’s a non-profit that helps at-risk youth turn their lives around, and I will definitely be going there on my next trip.
In addition to the po-boy, you must have a muffuletta. They’re large, so you can split one with your travel companion. I daren’t court controversy by naming a place with the “best” muffuletta because there are huge disagreements over the amount of meat / hot versus cold / size of the bread and how / whether it is toasted, etc. You’ll have to check with the locals and report back on your findings for the benefit of Glover Gardens readers. Here’s a muffuletta picture and recipe from Emerils.com to whet your appetite.
Another food must: have a cup of gumbo somewhere. I don’t always do this any more because I make a pretty mean gumbo myself, quite often (have you had it?), but you shouldn’t miss the chance to have gumbo in NOLA if you haven’t had that pleasure. You could order it at the bar of one of the foodie places you visit, and can be sure that they’ll bring you some crusty french bread for sopping.
And, since you asked, most people wouldn’t call this a must-eat in the Big Easy, but the Grill-Meister and I had a wonderful and memorable lunch at the New Orleans Pizza Kitchen when we ordered their extremely tasty and memorable Jambalaya Pizza.
My usual go-to for jazz is any place on Frenchmen Street, but since you’re under 21, most of the clubs there are off-limits, including my favorite, The Spotted Cat. However, here’s a link to some great recommendations where you can get in. I’ve been to almost all of the places listed, and you really can’t go wrong. Let me know where you go and what you think.
Preservation Hall is an experience unto itself and worth standing in line.
You’ll encounter small bands of musicians or solo artists camped on street corner after street corner – who are just as likely to be self-taught geniuses as they are to have had formal instruction. The music can be folksy or sophisticated, but either way, it is captivating, and you’ll want to be sure to have some dollars ready for tipping. If you feel called to dance, do it!
Be ready to seize the moment and literally “follow the music” at any time, because you might get lucky and see a second line parade. If you do, be sure to join in and become part of the party.
The Grill-Meister and I were awestruck a couple of years ago when we happened on a 2nd line parade that was a wedding party and all of the guests following a brass band in their traditional white uniforms and dancing Mardi Gras “Indians” in elaborate costumes as they made their way from the church to the reception at a hotel a few blocks away. The street was blocked off and there were several tables covered with champagne in plastic glasses (I had one; I’m not sorry). The whole experience was a microcosm of how “living out loud” seems to be commonplace in NOLA. It was magic – the mood, the people, the music. Wow.
Well Mallory, That’s About All…’Til Next Time, or ‘Til We Hear Your Tips
Most of these tips apply at any time of the year, and NOLA is the kind of place that is funat any time of the year. I’m looking forward to hearing about your discoveries during your December journey and posting them here.
Anyone Have Anything to Add?
And finally, here’s a request for all of you out there who love or live in NOLA: what are your suggestions for having a great time there in December, or any time? We’d love to know.
Don’t you love it when you’re reading a book and the character unexpectedly goes to a place you’ve been? It’s like you’re joining in the adventure, walking down the street with them. As an avid reader and traveler, that happens to me quite a bit – I seek books set in the cities I treasure and hope for these chance encounters down a literal memory lane.
My most recent travel-serendipity experience was this week as I was reading Sarah-Jane Stratford’s latest book, “Radio Girls”. Set in 1920’s London, it highlights that pivotal time after WWI as British women won the right to vote, the Nazi movement began to rumble in Germany and the BBC was new and on its to becoming that bastion of news and information we know today. It was a wonderful read, and, having finished it this morning before dawn, I miss the plucky and smart main character already. Here she is as she happened on a street from my most recent London trek:
“Maisie turned from them and held her breath, waiting for the entrance onto the Strand, this last mile of the marathon. So many magnificent buildings to pass on the way, the Royal Courts of Justice, the charming and appropriately antique Twinings tea shop, and then at last, the Savoy Hotel, an almost-palace on a street that once boasted palaces.”
How cool! I was just there earlier this month, walking down the Strand toward Picadilly, taking in the sights and sounds of that wonderful city I love with camera in hand. I felt just like Maisie: “so many magnificent buildings to pass on the way.” The Royal Courts of Justice are gorgeous, and my quick photos do not do justice…
And here I am at the famous entrance to Twinings (the venerable tea shop), which was, as Maisie said, “charming and appropriately antique,” even when she fictionally strolled the Strand back in 1926.
I haven’t made it to the Savoy yet, but it’s on the list. Maybe next time…
I had the good fortune to be in London on a Saturday recently with free time to roam and a friend to share the journey.
Highgate Cemetery called to us, and we answered.
It was a typical London afternoon, cool and foggy, with the subtle air of mystery and contained excitement that the city always holds for me – just perfect for roaming through this “garden cemetery” that was opened almost 180 years ago and is home to the remains of over 170,000. It was awesome.
I’ll share more about Highgate Cemetery on another day, with some of the best pictures, but for now, just a few images with a haiku to set the stage. I hope you’ll see why this beautiful, rambling and nature-lush landmark was so enchanting, and how we longed to know the stories of the dead and those who grieve them.
here lies…mysteries stone tablet forget-you-nots forest of secrets
Cemeteries always become center stage during the Halloween season, but I don’t understand how anyone could see this nature- and memory-preserve as spooky. While it is a monument to thousands of deaths, it speaks of peace and memories, and even life.