It’s Been a While!

Hey there! It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with the blogging world. Since spring semester picked up I’ve been juggling acquainting myself with new classes, easing back into the New Orleans lifestyle and social scene, and also trying to maintain a steady flow of writing; sometimes it’s more than I can manage. But in the meanwhile, I want to share some things with you all other than writing.

Photography has always been a humble passion of mine. Only taking an introductory course in digital photography last summer, did I even begin to scratch the surface on what could hopefully be a lifelong pursuit. Instructional and recreational photography in Paris and Europe offered abundant landscapes and architecture to capture, but it only made me more excited to return home with my new appreciation for simple beauty.

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New Orleans and it’s European and French influence make it just as picturesque. Traipsing through the French Quarter and the surrounding neighborhoods with a disposable camera have produced some of the best and memorable photos I’ve ever taken. I want to share a few of those photos with you all so you can bask in the light and charm that is this city.

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Now you just have to pick up a cheap camera and go find things that excite you!

Big Easy Express

Thousands of miles of train track from Oakland to New Orleans covers some of America’s most scenic views, taking one through beautiful sights you’d all but miss on the more efficient plane ride. In 2012, three bands, folk-rock, indie, and bluegrass – Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – rented a vintage train in California, creating the musical tour of dreams, playing shows along the way as they took the infamous train journey from Oakland to New Orleans covering four thousand miles.

The Big Easy Express is a cinematic music experience that combines a concert movie with a roadie documentary, bringing you in and behind the action of incredible music being made. The quality of the sound makes you feel as though you’re one of the spectators, tagging along at the train stops, dancing in the vibrant crowd at the shows and having a front row seat to their late-night jam sessions as the train speeds through the backcountry.

Baffled by the fact that such a movie could pay homage to New Orleans and I hadn’t yet seen it, a friend and I rented the movie and watched it two times through, and if you haven’t seen it I implore you to do so.

The three band’s sounds collaborate perfectly; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find three bands who so humbly and beautifully respect and enhance each other’s music in such an inspiring setting. There’s a fleeting scene where the Ed Sharp guys are singing “All Wash Out” in between train stops, and you begin to notice the crowd of musicians encircling the band is also strumming along, adding their notes and rhythms to the song.

At the concerts along the way, the bands take turns performing their own songs for crowds jumping with excitement and anticipation, but the finale of the show is worth watching even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of any of the three bands. Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, take the stage together to cover Jonny Cash’s “This Train was Bound for Glory” which so perfectly captures the spirit and message behind the “tour of dreams” as the bands refer to it as. The energy on stage when the all of those talented people are together on stage is nothing short of magical – a symphony of country instruments all playing their hearts out.

Often you think of music as being the brainchild of one musician or at best an impressive feat of collective imagination, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how great music can come from anywhere. The closing scene of the film shows the bands sitting in a train car strumming a melody and brainstorming lyrics about the train experience. Seemingly out of nowhere the poignant lyrics come to fruition – “on a train to New Orleans, and all that country in between. Friends you and I, playing for our lives singing sweet dreams forever on a train in the sky.”

After watching the film, all I can say is how much I wish I was in New Orleans in the summer of 2012.

Voodoo Fest

Halloween festivities are in full swing in New Orleans, with Voodoo Fest happening just this weekend, right before the real deal on Tuesday night. Voodoo transforms City Park into a Halloween themed festival with amazing artists, vendors, food, and attractions.

Some of my favorite artists were performing this weekend, so I went with a group of friends on Friday and Sunday, seeing headliners Kendrick Lamar and the Killers. Some of my favorite moments though were earlier in the day, when the sun was brighter and the crowds were softer.

At 3:30, the Cold War Kids took the Altar Stage and played a few hits from their newest release, and a lot of their old songs too. Nathan Willet, the lead singer, asked the crowd if they could play a cover, before going into Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain”, and the crowd lovingly agreed.

 

 

My absolute favorite band, the Head and the Heart, performed at the same stage two hours later. The six-person, indie-rock band played songs off all three of their albums, beginning the show with the premier single “All We Ever Knew” off their newest release “Signs of Light”, and closing with “Rivers and Roads”, a classic fan-favorite from their debut album “The Head and the Heart”. The sun was setting just as they were finishing up their set, creating the perfect atmosphere to take in the music and energy of the crowd.

 

 

Unfortunately, my phone died shortly after those two performances, so that’s all I can show you. Right after the Head and the Heart finished, we ran to catch Post Malone perform. The crowd was enormous, and the squishing and pushing was all worth it when he performed “Feeling Whitney” – a song that plays on loop in my suite; that my friends and I all agreed he likely wouldn’t play since it is more unplugged and slower than the rest of his music.

The Killers closed the festival on Sunday night, opening with an electrifying performance of “Mr. Brightside”. They paid tribute to the late Fats Domino, an early Rock ‘n Roll singer from New Orleans, by covering “Ain’t That a Shame”, complete with trumpets, saxophones, and trombones.

After always regretting missing the festival my freshman year, I’m so glad I got to spend two incredible days this weekend seeing some of my favorite bands in my favorite city during the best holiday of the year.

 

 

A Vegan Food Diary: New Orleans

Changing something about your lifestyle is always difficult at first, especially when you find yourself away from home. Only two weeks before returning to Tulane, I decided to remove all animal-based products from my diet– meat, fish, dairy, and eggs among others.

Never a fan of diets or dietary fads, I had long snubbed efforts at vegetarianism and veganism by my friends, not seeing the reason or true value behind their personal and ecological commitment. After becoming aware of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the environment and the wellbeing of all species and communities, I had to make the choice to stop supporting that industry. Since committing to a lifestyle of healthier choices for my body and the environment I’ve come to appreciate all of the true benefits of transitioning to a vegan or “plant-based” diet.

I thought moving back south to New Orleans for the school year would present significant challenges in my quest for cruelty-free, environmentally-sustainable, and nutritious food. I was nervous that eating on a meal plan would restrict my options and leave me with repetitive and bland meal options. Luckily, Tulane’s dining services have an all vegan station and offer a few additional on-campus dining options that tend to have healthier options.

There are abundant vegan restaurants in New Orleans and the options Uptown alone, that cater to vegan diets has continued to amaze me. There are many restaurants that specifically target vegan and vegetarian populations such as Seed or Bearcat Cafe. Some of my favorite spots to sneak away to off-campus to indulge in a flavorful and filling vegan meal are:

Seed

Seed is an entirely vegan restaurant with the mission of creating food sourced from local, organic, and natural ingredients that still have the classic New Orlean’s taste. They have a diverse menu of staple vegan choices like avocado toast and an extensive build-your-own salad section, but they also offer traditional New Orleans dishes made vegan including an eggplant or fried tofu po’boy, and gumbo. My personal favorite dish is the southern-fried Tofu nuggets – a much-needed comfort food in the wake of chicken nuggets. The vegan buffalo sauce is just the cherry on top of the cake! Don’t sleep on the brunch menu – only available on the weekends – it might be your only chance to score some vegan chicken and waffles.

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Avocado Toast with a Tofu Scramble
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Vegan Beignets

Surreys – Uptown

Surrey’s is a classic uptown brunch eatery, notable for its funky atmosphere and art-lined walls. The menu features Latin-inspired breakfasts along with other popular specials. While the menu doesn’t feature exclusively vegan options, they have a great asterisk system working for them; one for vegetarians, two for vegans. What puts surreys on the map in the name of vegan-friendly restaurants is the option to substitute eggs for tofu in any of the original breakfast options at no extra charge. Going vegan, for me at least, has meant substituting a lot of the protein you used to eat for tofu, and you start to become wary quickly at restaurants who unnecessarily charge at your dietary requests (don’t even get me started on almond milk). My classic order is the tofu breakfast plate with a side of avocado mash… 10/10.

Tofu Breakfast Plate at Surrey's Uptown
Tofu Breakfast Plate

Satsuma

If you’ve ever asked a Tulane student what their favorite brunch spot close to campus is, odds are you’ve heard more than one person respond with “Satsuma”. On the corner of Maple and Fern street rests a popular cafe that serves breakfast and lunch, with a paid attention to locally sourced ingredients. Their menu is loaded with healthy options, and vegetarian and vegan choices as well. Once going vegan I had to do away with my classic order, a lunch plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and avocado mash. I try and switch up the vegan options I get, but my favorite and new classic order, is the quinoa market salad (with no cheese), a side of toast with avocado mash because I’m never honestly filled up with just a salad. With all the incredible vegan options available, possibly the best part of going to Satsuma is indulging in their delicious double chocolate chip cookie, which you would never know was vegan if not for the little “V” in the top-left corner of the pastry label. Since I spent the first few weeks of school just trying every vegan option or combination on the menu, here’s a few more photos than just my usual order.

vegan Mexican breakfast plate
Mexican Breakfast Plate (no cheese, no eggs, add tofu)
Asian Tofu Scramble
Asian Tofu Scramble
Vegan Salad
My New Classic – The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with a side of avocado toast and an orange juice

Dat Dog

Dat Dog is a popular franchise in New Orleans that expands upon the classic hot dog, by offering nine different types of sausages to choose from, plus three vegan ones, and over 30 toppings to mix and match. Popular locations on Freret Street and Frenchman Street draw crowds to the brightly colored oasis with a quick meal that will satisfy your taste buds, and not break the bank. The first time I returned to Dat Dog as a vegan I tried the Spicy Chipotle Dog, but the second time around, I got the Field Roast Italian Dog, and liked that one much better! Perfect for parties with mixed dietary needs, Dat Dog has options for everyone – even if you don’t like hot dogs, they have fish and chicken “dogs” as well. Be sure to stop by the Magazine Street location on the weekends to eat your hot dog amidst an Art Market that pops up in the courtyard of the restaurant each weekend.

Dat Dog VEGAN
Vegan Chipotle Dog

There are dozens of other vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area to choose from like Hivolt, Slim Goodies Diner, and Poke Loa, which are perfect for dining with your friends, so you don’t have to nervously scan the menu, hoping to find a dish you can eat. I’d love to know; what’s the best restaurant for a vegan meal in your area?

 

 

Halloween Over Midterms

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House on Saint Charles and State street

Usually, college students anticipate the ever-dreaded, bi-annual midterm week by staying in, studying, and getting rest. Unfortunately for me, my midterm exams have been strategically placed over three weeks, falling before and after our fall break. Finding the balance between school and social life for me has never been much of an issue, that is until I decided to continue my education in a place that is just begging you to go out and have fun.

Next week is Halloween, which of course for a lot of college students is an even more anticipated and exciting week than midterms. In New Orleans though, we do Halloween bigger and better than anywhere else.

Each year, Halloween in New Orleans, or Nolaween as I lovingly refer to it as, draws tons of visitors, students, and locals to the city, particularly Frenchman Street for one of the biggest Halloween parties in the country. The street is overrun by folks in costume, people selling food, and playing music, but the real excitement is in the bars that are gleaming with energy, music, and dance.

Bands stocked to the brim with horn and string instruments rock the night away while pirates, vampires, and cowboys drink and dance. The Blue Nile, and the Maison are personal favorites that never disappoint and always have a great band playing.

Halloween also draws one of New Orlean’s biggest music festivals to the city – Voodoo Fest. From October 27th-29th big artists like Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone, and The Killers will take the stage at City Park, and bring New Orleans a little extra Halloween charm.

A personal favorite band of mine, The Head and the Heart, will be wrapping up their fall tour at Voodoo Fest on Sunday. Their excitement and energy during their set will instantly put the band on your radar and make it a live performance you won’t want to miss and will definitely never forget.

These treats of the Halloween season are keeping all Tulane students motivated, myself included, until the weekend when we can relax and enjoy some wonderful music all while masquerading in costume.

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Band Performing at The Blue Nile, September 19th

 

Would you believe me if I told you the name of the band was Rainbow Kitten Surprise?

Last Thursday night I checked something off of my Tulane bucket list that was regretfully long overdue – I went to a show at Tipitina’s. Tipitina’s is a famous venue for live music that has been around since 1977 hosting popular New Orleans artists such as Professor Long Hair. The venue pays tribute to him by naming the venue after his song “Tipitina” and the poster of his face that remains center stage. Now Tipitina’s is a home to artists big and small looking to find their place in the New Orleans music scene.

I was walking to class, listening to “Devil Like Me” a song by the band Rainbow Kitten Surprise, when a little banner popped up on my phone, announcing that the band was playing in my area. With a flutter of excitement, I opened the link to find that Rainbow Kitten Suprise would be hitting the stage of Tipitina’s the following day.

Who would I possibly get to accompany me to this random show? My one friend who even knows of the band’s existence lives in New York, and so I knew I would have to persuade my friends to come with me. “Tickets are only $15”, I emphasized.

After a few stressful hours of texting everyone I knew with a moderately good taste in music, and after getting a series of “What Band?” and “Who?” I was ready to go to the show solo. Until two of my suitemates texted me that they wanted to vibe to the live music, regardless of knowing the band or not.

So, we went. The venue was as cool and intimate as I imagined, and the sound of the opening act as we walked in made me only more excited to hear the band we came to see.I knew this act would only sound better live and was so impressed by the energy they carried on stage.

During the encore, the lead singer, Sam Melo, leaped into the crowd, and crowd surfed back for the last song. It was the closest I’ve ever come to being in the action of a performance, and the excitement and vitality rattled my entire body.

Heres a clip of that insane moment in time. If you’re ever in New Orleans, go to Tipitina’s. Even if it’s a band you don’t know, the excitement of the venue and the energy that it inspires will make it a show you won’t forget.

Hello! Who’s Listening?

Hello! My name is Annabelle and I’m 19 years old, and a student at Tulane University,  in New Orleans, Louisiana. Last summer I was at a concert in Central Park, and I was chatting with a man involved in putting the event together. He asked me who I was, and why I was at the concert. I explained to him that I was interning for a woman working with the festival and I was here to help her in any way I could. He then asked me if I wanted to work in the music industry, to which I told him that while I love music, and would love to write about music someday, what I really wanted was to be a writer. He looked at me and said, “So, where can I read your blog?”

I thought about his question for a while, and at my sheer inability to give him some content of mine to read. I felt so silly in that moment for not marketing myself in the best light possible. I’ve wanted to write for the longest time, and my career aspirations have ranged from novelist to journalist and everything in between. I also have a huge passion for travel, and this summer while taking classes in Paris, I realized the ability to write was everywhere, all around me. I didn’t need to wait for a job or to be the right age to start expressing myself and my ideas.

So this is where that conversation that day in the park led me, to create a blog for the third and hopefully last time. In the past, writing projects I’ve taken on have withered away with the coming responsibilities of my school work and social life, but with this blog, I hope that these parts of my life only serve to further inspire and fuel my writing. I want to share with whoever will listen to the things that I think make life extra special and my perspective on ideas big and small, on world issues that concern us all, and any other things I find worth sharing. I hope what I have to say finds the right eyes, and always brings light and positivity to those who read it. Thank you!