The New New Orleans: 5 Things To Do On Freret Street

Here are community leader Greg Ensslen’s top suggestions for visitors to get the most out of a visit to Freret Street.

1) Attend a fair. The Freret Street Market takes place the first Saturday of each month at the corner of Freret and Napoleon (look for the tents in the big parking lot). There’s food, live music, vendors, and it’s easy to shop even if you don’t have cash. Vendors accept tokens that can be purchased at the market’s main table. There will be two markets in December, including Freretstivus, a holiday theme fair on Dec. 8.

2) Have a drink. Cure, the artisanal cocktail bar credited for the revival of Freret Street, opens each day at 5 p.m. Happy hour runs from 5-7 p.m., with classic cocktails for $5 and half price bottles of wine on Thursday. The mixologists will concoct something exactly to your taste. (I brought a bag of grapefruit from the Crescent City Farmers Market and wound up with a refreshing drink.)

If you’d prefer something non-alchoholic, the High Hat Cafe makes its own tonics, lemonades and other sodas. Satsuma lemonade features real orange slices and fresh mint. Company Burger serves its own style of punch, made with iced tea, lemonade and orange juice.

%Gallery-170745%3) Eat something. Choices are expanding every day, but Ensslen considers Company Burger a don’t miss. There’s Dat Dog for gourmet hot dog lovers, and Midway Pizza, an art gallery/pizza parlor with (no surprise) a fully stocked bar. High Hat is kid friendly, as are many places along Freret.

4) Find a bargain. The Junior League of New Orleans operates the Bloomin’ Deals Thrift Shop, which has been a fixture on Freret since 1960. It has a bridal boutique, where all dresses are under $500, which is open one Saturday a month. The shop’s selection ranges from table ware to clothes and furniture.

5) Walk the neighborhood. Like Freret Street, the surrounding neighborhood is in a state of transition. Some homes are still undergoing post-Katrina renovation; others are still boarded up; some are spanking new. It’s a good example of what happened to a typical New Orleans neighborhood as a result of the storm. Just be respectful of homeowners’ privacy – although it’s likely people will be happy to chat.

For more on the New New Orleans, click here.

[Photo credit: Micheline Maynard]

Visiting the Brontë sisters in Yorkshire

People say literary genius is a rare thing, something seen only once in a thousand or a million people. Maybe so, but the Brontës had three (and maybe five) literary geniuses in the same family.

From their father’s parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire, in northern England, the three Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne produced some of the most popular books in the English language. Works like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are still read more than 150 years after they were published. They’ve survived the test of time. The ebook edition of Wuthering Heights is currently ranked number 457 at Amazon’s Kindle store, and number 5 in the fiction classics category. Their work has been made into numerous movies and another version of Jane Eyre is coming out next year.

The sisters also prompted literary tourism to Haworth. It started not long after they died and has steadily grown ever since. While everyone comes to Haworth to see the Brontë home and related sights, they also enjoy a beautiful and well-preserved nineteenth century village full of shops and fine restaurants.

Now I have to be honest here and admit that until I went on this trip I had never read a Brontë novel. They were the classics I never got assigned in school and I figured I’d get around to whenever. Before I left for Yorkshire I read Jane Eyre and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The rich prose and sedate pacing definitely belong to the nineteenth century, but the smartass, independent female protagonist belongs to the modern world.

Much of Haworth remains as the Brontës knew it. The Brontë Parsonage Museum preserves their home and tells their story. House museums are tricky to do well. Despite being a museum junkie, some historic homes bore me to death. This one, however, gripped my attention. Besides the usual stuff like the desks they wrote at and the sofas they sat on (and Emily may have died on), there are the little details that make it stick in your memory. In the nursery where they spent their childhood faint pencil drawings can be seen on the wall. While it’s impossible to say if these literary giants doodled these when they were small, it makes you wonder.

There’s also the story of Branwell Brontë. Who? Yeah, that was always his problem. He was their brother, a failed artist and struggling writer living in the shadow of his superstar sisters. He fell into a downward spiral of alcoholism and opium addiction before dying at 31. The above painting of his sisters is Branwell’s work. He originally included himself in the portrait, then unsuccessfully erased himself. He doodled constantly, illustrating letters he sent to friends. One at the museum shows himself in two images. The first is labeled “Paradise” shows him drunk off his ass and shouting, “I am the lord of the manor!” The other is labeled “Purgatory” and shows him hunched over an opium pipe.

%Gallery-104264%The museum also tells the story of their father Patrick, the local pastor who was also a published author. Many a young woman’s ambitions were crushed in those days by domineering fathers who wanted them to get married and get pregnant. Patrick Brontë was progressive enough not to feel threatened by his daughters’ talent and encouraged them in their careers.

Beyond the Brontë parsonage you can see traces of their life everywhere. Patrick Brontë’s church stands nearby and houses the family’s memorial chapel. The pub where Branwell got drunk is just a short stagger away from the apothecary where he bought his opium. The Black Bull Inn still serves up fine Yorkshire ales, but the apothecary shop stopped carrying opiates when they started requiring a prescription. Otherwise it’s a good replica of an early apothecary and still sells traditional cures.

Haworth’s main street is down a steep hill lined with little shops. You can find delicious local cheeses and preserves, a couple of fine tearooms, some excellent secondhand bookshops, and more gift shops than you can shake a copy of Wuthering Heights at. Several historic inns offer beers and beds. At the train station a traditional steam railway offers rides.

But Haworth isn’t all tea and scones and twee little shops. There’s a dark side to the town’s history, full of ghosts, death, and despair. On my second day I discovered I was all too close to the supernatural. . .

This is the first of my new series Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: Three nights in a haunted hotel room!

This trip was sponsored by
VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire.

[Photo courtesy user Mr. Absurd via Wikimedia Commons]

New shop alert: Fort Greene’s Feliz

The sparklingly new Feliz (185 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-797-1211) is Fort Greene’s latest home furnishings shop. Fort Greene, a National Register of Historic Places-listed neighborhood in Brooklyn, is a popular neighborhood of classic brownstones, good restaurants, and strong arts facilities.

Owner Genevieve Platt opened Feliz on May 15. The shop is so new that there isn’t even a sign outside announcing the shop’s name yet. Inside, Platt has curated a comfortable collection of objects that nods gently to South America, the Middle East, and down-home Americana.

The collection is folksy and imaginative. “I call it a variety store because I’m not good at classifying things. We sell everything from fish plates to sandals,” says Platt, adding: “I’m sure the collection will evolve over time.” Her objectives are simple. She seeks to stock her shop with attractive, well-made, affordable, and functional items, avoiding knick-knackery that will just gather dust on forgotten shelves.

Some of the best items are the least expected, like the shelf of yerba maté from Argentina and Uruguay or the collective-produced Senegalese baskets from Fair Trade Federation member Swahili Imports.

Other standouts include piles of cottage industry-crafted espadrilles from Spain’s La Rioja region and vintage American kitchen and dining products. Some of the latter are quite whimsical, and include a butter mold and a tea bag holder that looks like it is part of an antique chemistry set.

Beyond these, there’s a deep collection of other highly useable objects throughout: Tocca‘s bath and body beauty line products, cards, books, contemporary jewelry by local artist Naaima Z, candles, candle holders, and incense. A few items are produced in-house, as well: some beautiful pillows (raw silk and denim) and refurbished furniture.

Platt, who has lived in the neighborhood for ten years, hopes that Feliz will be the sort of shop that everyone in the neighborhood will feel comfortable visiting. She’s off to a good start.

Yu Interiors, with its outstanding mix of vintage modernist and smart new items, is located just two blocks away. With two carefully selected home furnishings shops in close proximity, this Fort Greene microhood (what would it be called? GreLaDe?) is slowly strengthening its home furnishings credentials.

Shop London – where to go, what to get

One of the best things to do in London is shop. While prices may be steep, as £10 currently equals $14.92 (as of writing, via Google), there are a number of unique districts and stores you simply won’t want to miss — and a number of bargains at any price. In this article, I’ll talk about a few of my personal favorites — feel free to add more of yours below!

Carnaby Street and Newburgh Quarter

Carnaby Street is a legendary Soho street which showcases cutting-edge fashion artists from all over London and around the world. The address itself basically means “one of the next big things.” Naturally, a street grows into an area, and I’d include the Newburgh Quarter as part of the experience — it’s right there, so you’re a fool to do one and not the other. There’s also amazing food on nearby Ganton Street and several big open-air courtyards in the vicinity for hanging out and watching the trendy people go by.

The best way to do Carnaby Street and the Newburgh Quarter is to window shop and go inside when you like what you see. I’d recommend a visit to The Great Frog, the jeweler who has designed bespoke pieces for everyone from Aerosmith to Metallica as well as the Harry Potter movies, the quirky and delightful (and very stylish) Beatrix Ong, who hand-draws Alice in Wonderland characters on the walls of her eclectic shop, the promising generation of designers at Beyond the Valley (above) where neck ruffles rule and the mind-bending photography shop Lomography. If you’re thinking about buying at Lomography, keep in mind that they have a New York store, and it might be best to wait until you’re home to order, currency-wise.

Shoreditch is a hot area in London for many reasons, but to me, there are two things you must see:
1. Robots. ‘Nuff said.

2. Laden. Laden is a carefully curated showroom for young designers. The Brick Lane store, founded by Barry and Adele Laden, makes a point of not just selling clothes, but nurturing the up-and-coming designers. It’s a trendy place to have your clothing sold; even celebrities come and dig through the racks like the rest of us. Anna Friel was recently spotted in one of the designer’s vintage-style dresses. My verdict was that some designers were better than others, but the store definitely held surprises at every turn. You’re certain to find new, unique pieces at Laden.

Camden Market

Camden is London’s own little Amsterdam, where everything goes. Known especially for its goth scene, the Camden Market is full of strange little themed shops with all tights, all leopard print, all this, all that. If you’ve watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer more than twice, get thee to Camden Market, where ye shall find thy broheim. There’s a burgeoning steam-punk influence, as well, and a dash of Harajuku — all for rock-bottom prices.

Fortnum & Mason

Everybody talks about Harrods, but if you want to be a little cooler than that, consider Fortnum & Mason as your luxury food and gift shopping destination. Located right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, Fortnum & Mason is a relatively small department store, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. For example, it’s the only English-speaking store in the world (except for one other in Australia, which is far away) where you can purchase tights by Les Queues Des Sardines. If the style doesn’t get you, the history will; they’ve been there since 1707. Video here!

Portobello Market

Even if you’ve never been to the UK, you’ve probably head of Portobello Market. Well, there’s a reason for that. The reason is: it’s awesome. I spent a whole day just meandering down through the stalls, each one offering unusual things — a lot of it junk, much of it treasure. I ended up walking away with these two Antiques Roadshow candidates for £5 for the pair.

Even if they’re worth nothing, I couldn’t say no to the reproach on those faces. I also had a decidedly lovely lunch, including the most elegant-yet-true-to-its-roots serving of fish and ships I’ve ever had at Ground Floor, part of First Floor Bar & Restaurant, a cozy hideaway in the middle of the market madness.

Where in London do you like to shop?

This trip was paid for by VisitBritain, but the ideas and opinions expressed in the article above are 100% my own.

Photo of the day 2.8.10

Portraiture remains my favourite form of photography, and something in this image shared by borderfilms(Doug) really spoke to me. It could be the beckoning expression of the woman, Mary, who owns the shop, or the curious face of the little boy in the back — or it could just be that this shop looks like the many I used to visit in my homeland of Trinidad. It’s a great reminder that wherever we go, there’s always something familiar. Great image.

If you’ve got some great travel shots you’d love to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day.