Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Orleans: Breathing life into history daily!

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

New Orleans: Breathing life into history daily!

New Orleans: where the ghosts of history and the spirit of the present live in harmony

Story and photo album by Dwight Casimere

NEW ORLEANS—Few places reverberate with the voice of history, as does the City of New Orleans. Walking the cobble stoned streets of the French Quarter in the pre-dawn hours, when the only other sound is the distant clip-clop of a mule drawn carriage, one can almost hear the faint whispers emanating from its time worn walls. As dawn casts its golden spell from the depths of the Mississippi River across Canal Street, the restlessness of time shrugs the sleepy shoulders of this gracious old Southern Belle and sends her groggily down Bourbon Street, sidestepping half-spilled bottles of Arbita Ale and shattered Hurricane glasses, the dregs of the previous night’s revelry.

New Orleans is history’s museum come to life. Each wayward turn down a rain-slicked alley or peek behind a flower encrusted garden fence is a window into its past and a looking-glass view of its present and future.

A streetcar trundles down Canal Street towards the New Orleans Museum of Art, now celebrating its centennial. Friday evenings, “Where Y’Art” is a series of live music performances, family activities, gallery walk throughs, impromptu theatre performances and speeches.

The nearby Warehouse District is bursting at the seams with new restaurants and museums. The National World War II Museum has both, in the form of a 4D movie and exhibit that traces the course of the war, recalling images of the courage and sacrifice of those who served.

Chef John Besh’s new restaurant, The American Sector, adjacent to the museum, celebrates New Orleans and American cuisine, circa the1940s with a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, complete with southern comfort foods and a USO-inspired floorshow complete with Andrews Sisters look and sound-alikes.

Contemporary Arts Center offerings spill out into the street with examples of cutting-edge art dominating the nearby parks and street corners. Next fall, the CAC will mark its 35th anniversary with its Art for Art’s Sake street fair market, expected to bring out thousands of art lovers from around the world.

Fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans. The gardens seem to vibrate with color. Many restaurants feature garden spaces for casual dining, It’s a great way to enjoy the chef’s dazzling creations and sample the city’s myriad culinary treasures that span everything from classic Cajun and Creole to Latin, Mediterranean and New Orleans fusion.

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and nowhere is that more evident than in the clubs along Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street. Just stray a bit north of the main part of the Quarter and you’ll stumble upon Snug Harbor, the restaurant and cabaret where music legend Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the Marsalis music dynasty, holds forth with weekly jam sessions that often include the likes of local and international superstars Aaron Neville and Allen Toussaint. The upcoming free sixth annual Blues and BBQ Festival, October 14-16 is a perfect opportunity to catch up with these music legends.

The soul and spirit of “Joie de Vivre” lives and breathes in New Orleans.

Friday, August 19, 2011

St.Lucia: Instant Paradise. Just Add You!

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

Scenes from St. Lucia, Caribbean Sea at the Royal by rex resorts

St.Lucia: Instant Paradise. Just Add You!

St. Lucia: Instant paradise at Royal by rex resorts. Just add you!

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

St. Lucia, Caribbean Sea---Now is the time to plan an impromptu or midwinter getaway to one of the most captivating islands in all of the Caribbean, St. Lucia. Royal by rex resorts offers a peaceful 4-star resort experience with its all-suite accommodations and elegant blend of privacy and sophistication.

The recently renovated suites are spacious and well appointed with all of the latest amenities. The island setting is pristine. St. Lucia is still unspoiled. It strikes a perfect balance, retaining the original rustic charm of the island and its people, while offering a pampering, 4-star experience. Visitors can choose between rubbing shoulders with the locals and visiting restaurants, outdoor shopping areas and quaint, intimate restaurants on the island, or remain on the property to enjoy its serene and pampering atmosphere.

Royal by rex resorts at St. Lucia offers an ideal resort experience. Its well-tended grounds are located on a mile-long stretch of St. Lucia’s beautiful Reduit Beach, with a dramatic view of Pigeon Island. Guests can spend the day lolling by the pool or on the beach or indulge in a variety of activities, including windsurfing, water skiing, sunfish sailing, tennis, scuba diving, parasailing, golf and horseback riding. The resort also has an impressive fitness facility with an experienced staff on hand to lead exciting aerobics and high-energy ‘dancercise’ classes on the patio or on the beach. This reporter took an opportunity to ride the famous ‘Zipline’ through the rain forest and to go horseback riding in the surf. Both were exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Restaurants, with a delightful mix of both Creole and continental cuisine, abound both beachside and within the relaxed, calming atmosphere of the resort. Choices range from haute cuisine to casual fare. At the high end, Chic offers the best in five-star French-inspired dining and a comprehensive wine list created by the restaurant’s knowledgeable sommelier staff. There are some terrific finds on the wine list that bring out the exquisite flavors of the Caribbean fusion cuisine, which combines the best of French haute cuisine enhanced with local island spices and fresh locally sourced meats, poultry and vegetables. The seafood is the most pristine to be had anywhere!

L’Epicure & Terrace offer an elegant open-air restaurant right on the beach featuring delectable Creole cuisine with a wide selection of international favorites for breakfast and dinner. There’s nothing more delightful than Eggs Benedict on the Terrace while enjoying the view of Pigeon Island and the soft ocean breeze at breakfast time. It’s an ideal way to start the day. The breakfast buffet is also among the best to be had anywhere. The selection is dazzling and there’s something to please every palette!

The Beach Tent is the place to meet for a leisurely lunch. The beach and sea views offer the perfect backdrop for a Mai Tai and a delicious Seafood Salad. I have never had better Barbeque Shrimp anywhere. You must ask for them either as an entrĂ©e, or an add-on to a Salad dish. They are the largest and most succulent shrimp I’ve ever had and the spices make them mouth-watering.

The list of tropical drinks is endless poolside at La Mirage bar. Swim or walk up to the ‘island-bar’ where daily drink specials entice you to try the mixologist's many tropical creations. Poolside snacks throughout the day and the delightful background music make for the ultimate laid-back atmosphere. “Happy hour” is pretty much all day and starts whenever you arrive!

With the myriad of activities and the opportunity to enjoy the best n cuisine and libations all in one location, one would wonder why a trip to this magical resort had not been higher on life’s agenda.