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The Top 5 New Orleans Fountains

WaterFountains are found throughout New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter and the Garden District. They grace the courtyards of many private residences and they are commonly found among the restaurants and hotels in the area. Even Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street has a courtyard fountain that appears to be on fire at night. Here are the five most fascinating and historic fountains in the city of New Orleans.

Darlington Fountain

This fountain in New Orleans’s West End was erected prior to World War I. It was known as a musical fountain because an operator controlled the water flow and the lighting by hand to synchronize the fountains with the music contributed by bands and orchestras at special events. The three-dimensional effects produced resulted in it also being known as a “prismatic” fountain. This century-old masterpiece became one of the inspirations for later automated musical fountains, such as those found at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The original drawings for the fountain are dated February 1915, and construction likely concluded in 1916. The Darlington fountain later became the symbol for West End Park. Yacht clubs and restaurants also embraced the iconic fountain by using it in their logos. The fountain is slated for a full restoration by the Friends of West End.

Fountain in Jackson Square

This historic fountain is found in Jackson Square, which is situated exactly where the French Mississippi Company built the very first settlement. Fittingly, the fountain in Jackson Square was dedicated on April 29, 1960 to memorialize the visit of French President General Charles de Gaulle and his spouse, Yvonne.

The landscaped area on which the fountain stands was designed in 1721 by architect Louis H. Pilié. For a time it served as grounds for military parades. Today it stands at the heart of the French Quarter in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the longest continually operating cathedral in the U.S. The current home of the New Orleans archdiocese, the cathedral first opened in 1718. The present structure was built in 1789. Pope John Paul II visited in 1987.

Fountain at Coliseum Square Park

South of the French Quarter, in the lower Garden District, is the lush greenery of Coliseum Square Park and its beautiful fountain. Strollers and those on Garden District walking tours often stop to enjoy the tranquil sounds experienced here. Both biking trails and walking trails abound in this park that dates back to the mid-1800s. The park and its fountain are only two blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar stop.

Fountains at Longue Vue House and Gardens

Just off Metairie Road, at 7 Bamboo Road, are the Longue Vue House and Gardens and its 22 fountains. Longue Vue is often thought of as one of the highest quality city estates in the nation. It is open to the public on a paid admission basis. It’s been a National Historic Landmark since 2005.

The Classical Revival mansion serves as a stunning backdrop to a long rectangular pool and lyrical fountains. The fountains frame the mansion in endless photographs captured by enchanted visitors. The fountains are a vital part of the eight acres of gardens inspired by the Gardens of the Alhambra in Spain.

The home was built by New Orleans businessman Edgar Bloom Stern and his wife, Sears heiress Edith Rosenwald Stern. The gardens have been fully restored to the original specifications created when the Sterns built the estate.

Pavement and GrassFountains at the New Orleans Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, in City Park, is home to the country’s largest stand of mature live oaks. The cool shade and the fountains offer a wonderful respite from city life. Bronzed statues and sculptures blend well with the historic cast-iron fountains. Photographers never tire of framing scene after scene with low-hanging oak branches. The conservatory has been renovated, and it includes a roaring waterfall and beautiful hanging vines in a simulated rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species can be explored here.

New Orleans truly is a city of fountains, and these five examples have long represented, and help contribute to, its overall vibrancy and heritage.

The author found a great New Orleans-style copper fountain for his home at: www.fathomfountains.com/copper-fountains

Easy Tips for Gulf Coast Homeowners to Keep Cool This Summer

Woman in Front of ACBattling summer heat in an arid region is tough enough, but when you’re living in New Orleans, or any city in the Gulf Coast region, you have to deal with both heat and humidity. Use the following tips to keep you and your family nice and cool during your Gulf Coast summer.

Stay Inside and Crank Up the A/C

This one is simple enough. You probably don’t want to be a hermit all summer long, though, so if you’re going to spend time outdoors, aim for early in the morning or later in the evening when outside temperatures will be more manageable.

Electric Fans

Letting your air conditioner run all summer can be expensive. If you want to cut down your electricity bill, use an electric fan instead. Keep in mind that once temperatures go into the high 90s, an electric fan won’t ward off heat-related illnesses. Take a cool bath or shower if you start getting too hot. You can even turn your fan into a makeshift air conditioner. All you need is a metal bowl filled with ice. Place this bowl directly in front of the fan, and it will go a long way toward cooling the room.

Drink Plenty of Water

You should stay hydrated all year round, but this is even more important during the summer. Drink eight ounces of water each hour. Avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with high levels of caffeine, as these will dehydrate you quickly. Drinking enough water has numerous health benefits, so this is a good tip follow throughout the year.

Protect Your Body

Put on plenty of sunscreen and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Ideally, sunscreen should be applied approximately thirty minutes before going outside. You should also wear a hat and sunshades in order to ward off heat stroke and prevent your eyes from being damaged by the sun’s UV rays.

Keep Strenuous Activity to Minimum

Those of you looking for a good excuse to avoid home and yard work are in luck. Participating in strenuous activities during a heat wave is dangerous, so either cut back on your work hours or limit your activities to the early morning or evening. If you exercise regularly, you should either alter your workout schedule to avoid the hottest time of the day or exercise in a building with a good air conditioning system. Or, you can take part in outdoor activities that can simultaneously keep you cool, like visiting some of New Orleans’ public pools.

Wooden TableTake Walks by a River

On hot summer days in the Gulf Coast, a large body of water is your friend. If you live in New Orleans, take a stroll through Woldenberg Riverfront Park and watch the ships sail down the Mississippi River. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and beautiful scenery.

The Canal Street Ferry

Speaking of New Orleans, a ride on the Canal Street Ferry can provide you with a fun and cost-free way to cool down. The ferry operates seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

To offset some of the costs associated with cooling his Gulf Coast home, the author recently invested in an energy saving water heater replacement.

Treasure Trove: Renaissance Interiors

Written by: Simonette Berry

It’s hard to let go of that gorgeous antique writing desk or second set of china that you simply have no room for anymore, but at Renaissance Interiors, your piece will be in good hands. Renaissance Interiors of Metairie has become the leading high-end consignment shop in the South, offering quality furniture, art, silver, china, and collectibles. They accept consignment from individuals and businesses within a 200-mile radius of New Orleans. If you don’t want to make the drive yourself, take advantage of their pick-up, delivery, and shipping services.

With an 18,000-foot showroom and a steady flow of traffic, you can’t go wrong putting your quality consignments with the Mann family. Larry, Dennis, and Sibel Mann discovered their niche in New Orleans in 2002 and have grown quickly, expanding their floor space and services with each location. “As the years went by, the variety and quality of the pieces and the number of customers grew rapidly. Now we have approximately 2,000 customers passing through the store each week,” says Sibel Mann.

“Whether your furniture is antique, nearly new, or in between, we’ll do a great job of getting it out the door and getting a good price for it. We specialize in selling small items such as china, jewelry, silver, household decorations, art, collectibles, and mirrors,” she says. Renaissance also accepts consignments from closing stores and offers pick-up service anywhere in the New Orleans metro area.

The Manns run a hands-on family business. At least one of the three owners is usually in the store, and they are passionate and knowledgeable about what they sell. “We specialize in the sale of antiques, gently used high-quality furniture, antique oil paintings, silver, china, jewelry and specialty items. We recently sold an 1835, six-pound mountain howitzer cannon; two antique barber chairs; a French bicycle from 1920; and a pair of handmade, custom stained glass doors from the 1920s. We also sell antique doors, fireplace mantels, stained glass, and other architectural features.”

There is an incredible variety of items at Renaissance Interiors. The ever and quickly changing inventory guarantees a new collection of treasures every time you walk through the doors. Renaissance also has a unique pricing and discount system, based on how long an item is on the showroom floor, to facilitate sales and get customers the best deals.

“Probably our greatest attribute is that in addition to many new customers from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, we have many people who religiously come by one to three times a week, just to see the new items that have come in. We get new things in almost every day,” says Sibel. The high turnover and staggering amount of inventory has made Renaissance Interiors a hot spot for the movie and television industry. Hundreds of items originally found in Renaissance have found their way onto the sets of some of the biggest productions. “Recently, we did 21 Jump Street and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and we’re working with the crew of Parker, Ricochet, and G. I. Joe right now,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Renaissance Interiors
2727 Edenborn Ave
Metairie, LA 70002
504-454-3320
yourrenaissance.com

Romancing the Stone: D&D Ornamental Concrete

Written by: Simonette Berry

Where can you encounter a giant gorilla, a baby dinosaur, a slumbering dragon, and an angel with a six-foot wingspan surrounded by a host of genuflecting saints? Not in your dreams or even Disneyland (they don’t have saints), but the epic statuary section of D and D Ornamental Concrete. D and D has been offering an inspiring collection of statuary, fountains, birdbaths, garden furniture, and garden ornaments since 1986. With four acres in Napoleonville and another acre at the Baton Rouge location, D and D’s huge selection, among other things, has made it the largest wholesaler and retailer of statuary in Louisiana.

D and D was founded during the oil bust in the 80s and has grown steadily since its inception, thriving even through today’s recession. Founder Mike Dubois grew up working with his parents, Helen and Paul Dubois, at Dubois Nursery in Houma, where they carried a small selection of stone statues. Mike and his wife, co-founder Patricia Dubois, were attracted to the idea of being makers of their own destiny. With the help of Mike’s parents and a retiring statue manufacturer that offered to show them the tricks of the trade, the young couple started D and D Ornamental in 1986. “We started selling to other nurseries that I knew through my mom’s shop, and pretty soon I had a steady clientele. Almost every year we’ve earned more than the one before,” he says.

Patricia worked by Mike’s side as a statuary painter for the first 10 years the business was in operation. Now, she runs the Baton Rouge store and manages the accounting while Mike focuses on sales, production, and fountain installation at the Napoleonville location. People come through both stores on weekends in droves. Though D and D does a good bit of retail, the biggest business comes from wholesale customers; the company serves hundreds of them throughout the Gulf Coast region. “Wholesale was always our biggest market,” says Mike. “My mom’s nursery business gave me lots of ready-made connections, and word spread fast. For the first 15 years or so, it was word of mouth only. We didn’t need to advertise; we could barely handle the business we had! Now, we’ve expanded enough to advertise, and about seven or eight years ago we created the website. People can shop from their homes just by looking through the online catalog.”

“A lot of people come out just to look around. If you come here, make plans to spend a little time so you can see everything. We love having people, and we hardly ever lose customers once they’ve bought from us. Our prices are very competitive because we make 80 percent of everything we sell. So many people say to me they can’t believe how good our prices are, but I explain that we try to give our customers the same benefits we have.”

Mike pumps new life into the business every year with original sculptures, fountains, and ornaments. “We hire a sculptor from time to time to create new work or to do commissions. He’ll come into the shop and sculpt the pieces, and from those we make our own molds. He just did a huge fleur de lis fountain for us. He’s done giant tigers, 14-foot alligators, large Jesus and Mary statues, life-size angels, all sorts of things.”

“Our religious statues are very popular, especially here in the South. People tend to buy them especially after hurricanes, I’ve noticed. We have a lot of original religious pieces and a large selection, so people come from as far away as Houston, Shreveport, and Lake Charles to get them. It’s a fun way to meet people. The Wall Street Journal even did a feature in 1999 about our Virgin Mary statues.”

Driving around south Louisiana, you’ll find D and D pieces proudly displayed in front lawns, schoolyards, church courtyards, and businesses. St. Charles Avenue’s twin vistas, Audubon Park and Tulane University, are dotted with D and D classic benches, urns, and planters. Less than a mile away, Ursuline Academy has a seven-foot custom-made religious statue on their lawn. “The 12-foot-tall crucifixes with Jesus are popular around here, too—you’ll see them out on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge and in some of the church courtyards,” says Mike.

D and D statues are also popular for lighthearted lawn decor and advertising gimmicks. “The big blue gorilla statue on Highway 90 is ours. There’s one like it in Plaquemines Parish in a man’s front yard. He dresses it up like Santa, the Easter Bunny, sometimes like an LSU player. He makes the news just about every year,” he chuckles. “It’s a good feeling to ride down the road and see pieces you made 20 and 25 years ago in people’s yards. It’s a good feeling to make something that people want,” says Mike.

The Secret to Success: Brian’s Furniture

Written by: Simonette Berry

Louisiana has many “locals-only” secrets; where to get the best boudin (Hebert’s Meat Market in Maurice), where to go hear the best music (if you don’t know, ask a local), and where you got them shoes (according to the French Quarter scam artists, they’re “on yo’ feet!”). In the heart of downtown Port Allen’s historic district, there is another well-kept secret; a city block transformed into a shopper’s paradise. Brian’s Furniture is anything but a simple furniture store. The 40,000-square-foot complex is made up of four specialty shops offering indoor and outdoor furniture, accessories, art, and miscellaneous architectural pieces. You’ll find everything from bedroom sets and patio furniture to original Louisiana art and a life-size Star Wars C3PO and E.T. for your lawn.

At one time, Brian’s was a 5,000-square-foot warehouse that offered interior furnishings only. Thirty years later, it has become a destination spot where shoppers stop to spend the day. Brian Fourroux, owner of this unique, family-run business, says his success is no secret. He is constantly recreating and adding to his space. Brian works with his wife, Keri, and his nephew, Tyler, to keep each space lively and never the same the next time you visit. “We’ve become the superstore of outdoor living. People come from all around to see what we’ve got,” Brian says.

“Saturdays are big here,” he says. Across the street from the large indoor furniture store, Brian converted his father’s old service station into a quaint, New Orleans-style courtyard. On certain weekends, a musician plays traditional jazz, his melodies filtering sweetly through the sunlit rows of chairs, statues, and fountains. Several artists hang their paintings along the fence, and you’ll often find Brian’s in-house artist painting on the patio or decorating the sugar kettles and furniture in brilliantly colored finishes. A variety of aluminum patio furniture, mailboxes, lawn ornaments, bronze and copper fountains, and garden ornaments fill the space. “The jazz and the art on the fence give the space that old New Orleans feeling. It’s got charm. People love it,” he says.

Brian’s Furniture offers a milieu of outdoor elements. The New Orleans courtyard is filled with the largest selection of unique outdoor furniture, architectural pieces, mailboxes, light posts, and miscellaneous outdoor accents. “We have New Orleans-style light fixtures in aluminum and copper, and over 20 different styles of mailboxes alone to choose from.” A popular item is Brian’s custom designed fleur-de-lis patio set, which he had custom designed around the fleur-de-lis that was once on the old Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi. The fine workmanship and designs of Brian’s aluminum patio furniture almost supersedes its other charms. By virtue of being aluminum, it’s easy to move around and rust-free; and the pieces are all powder coated, which makes the product virtually maintenance free.

“Our niche is the New Orleans-style courtyard, but we have much more to offer, and people see that once they walk in the door,” he says. Brian’s Furniture just added another location within the complex; a sugar kettle yard. “We have hundreds of sugar kettles, probably the largest collection and selection in the entire southern region. We have cast iron sugar kettles guaranteed not to rust in two, three, four, five, six, and seven foot. We call the seven-foot sugar kettle ‘the coonass hot tub!'” he laughs. Brian’s Furniture also offers fiberglass sugar kettles made from molds of old Louisiana sugar kettles, with New Orleans, LA stenciled on the rim. “We have the fiberglass in two, three, four, five, and six foot. They are absolutely beautiful kettles, and once the natural aging process begins, you can barely tell the difference between the fiberglass and the iron.

In the main furniture store, Brian has a huge selection of indoor home furnishings. “In our main store, we specialize in reclaimed cypress pieces,” he explains. “I have a talented carpenter, a true Louisiana craftsman who was trained as a cabinetmaker. He creates beautiful consoles, desks, dining tables, end tables, armoires, buffets, and many customized pieces from Louisiana cypress wood.” The main store also houses Brian’s mid- to high-end imported reproduction accent pieces for the home. Next door is Brian’s furniture warehouse, where you can find great deals on discounted pieces. Biannual auctions are held in the warehouse (for more information on the auctions and special events, subscribe to the newsletter at www.briansfurniture.com).

Brian’s Furniture also features over 400 pieces of art by local artists inside the main store. Every week he spotlights a few of them, creating a constantly rotating wall space filled with Louisiana imagery and local color. If the music and art doesn’t grab you from the street, the comic relief out front will. Brian’s sense of humor shines through his choice in statuary; his street looks almost like a scene from a fantastic children’s book or television show. “We’ve got a life-size tiger, a huge alligator, life-size cigar Indian, a giraffe, and a six-foot-tall pelican along the fence out front. It adds a unique touch to downtown,” he chuckles. “Bring your camera!”

Following the Music: Dancing in Louisiana

Written by: Simonette Berry

I’ll never forget learning to Cajun dance on the worn wooden dance floor of Mulate’s Restaurant in New Orleans, my little feet poised on the toes of my mom’s high-heeled shoes as she walked me through a slow waltz. I was utterly mesmerized as my legs magically moved in time with the giant pairs of legs gliding past me. Fast forward 23 years and I’m still enchanted by Louisiana music, learning new steps every chance I get, and attending dance classes to learn new styles. I’ve grooved to Rockin’ Doopsie, two-stepped to Rosie Ledet, second-lined to the Dirty Dozen, undulated to Tab Benoit’s sultry swamp blues, swung to the Cottonmouth Kings, salsa danced to Los Poboycitos, and shaken it to TBC Brass Band on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres. Twirling through countless festivals, backyard ballrooms, and fais-do-dos each year, I’ve noticed that a dance renaissance has risen from the ashes of Katrina-struck Louisiana, creating a whole new generation of dancing schools. There are lessons throughout the state for such a variety of dance styles that you could spend your whole life taking them and never learn it all. What a better way to spend August, when the festival junkies go into withdrawal, college kids flee to cooler climates, and restaurants and clubs often close for reno(vaca)tions. The best way to follow the music in this heat is to act a little bit like a vampire—wait until the sun is laying low in the sky before you emerge from your air-conditioned cave to hit the streets and heat up the dance floor.

In New Orleans, the hottest steppers on Frenchmen Street are the swing dancers. It only takes a few weeks of practice to get the hang of the basic moves, and before you know it, you’re jumping, jiving, and wailing to the best traditional jazz, big band, and swing music on the block. There are three free beginner classes weekly: 5 pm on Sundays at d.b.a. on Frenchmen, 9:30 pm on Mondays at Mimi’s in the Marigny, and 5 pm Wednesdays at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen. Nola Jitterbugs, the company that puts on these free lessons, is stationed above Maison on Frenchmen Street, where they teach workshops and classes every Monday in August. Classes are cheap, fun, and packed with people. You don’t need to bring a partner, and it’s a great way to make friends and meet potential dancing partners on your level.

The NOLA Jitterbugs are one of the sponsors for the annual Satchmo Summerfest, a three-day-long celebration of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his musical legacy held August 4-7 at the old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter. Nola Jitterbugs will be hosting an indoor dance floor and free dance lessons between bands at the Back O’ Town Stage. Also, check out the free event “Satchmo Swing Dance” in the Stage Door Canteen at the D-Day Museum. The D-Day Museum is another hot spot for swing dancing, weekly swing dance shows, jazz concerts, and lessons.

Traditional Louisiana dances are easy to follow and great to learn for festivals and fais-do-dos, when someone will inevitably walk up and ask you to dance. One of the best ways to pick up a few Zydeco steps is to go to Zydeco night at Rock-n-Bowl in New Orleans every Thursday. You’ll go from partner to partner, dancing the night away and learning basic steps from each one. To get schooled in a fusion of Cajun Jitterbug, Whiskey River Jitterbug, Zydeco, and Cajun Two-Step, register for a class with the Cajun-Zydeco Dance Association. They teach at Tooloulas in Slidell on Mondays and at Rock-n-Bowl on Tuesdays.

The Cajun French Music Association in Baton Rouge offers free dance lessons starting at 7 pm before each CFMA dance (admission $10). Located at UTC hall on Florida Blvd, this month’s dances feature Blake Miller and the Vermilion Playboys on August 12 and Wallace Trahan and Rice and Gravy on August 26. The CFMA also has a chapter in Lake Charles, where free dance lessons are held on the third Thursday of each month at the CFMA headquarters on East Prien Lake Road. Practice your steps at Boutin’s restaurant in Baton Rouge, where there is a live band every night of the week. Once you’ve got the hang of it, go to Acadiana for the litmus test. In Lafayette, the two most popular dance spots are Randol’s Restaurant and Prejean’s Restaurant, both famous eateries and lively dancehalls.

If you’re in north Louisiana, the new craze is belly dancing. The Port Belly Project is the dance company responsible for Shreveport and Bossier City’s blossoming belly dance scene. This beautiful form of dance is slowly starting to change from something unapproachable and risque to a fun way for women to exercise and learn graceful dance sequences. The Port Belly Project’s dance troupe performs regularly and offers a variety of dance classes out of their home base, the Lotus Studio. For a wider array of more traditional styles in Shreveport, Sandy’s Dance Studio offers private and group lessons in Ballroom, Swing, Country Western, Line Dance, Tango, and Salsa.

To keep up with the latest music events, I start by browsing the web. In New Orleans, the best music calendar is the WWOZ Livewire, which you can view online at wwoz.com or listen to, along with a fantastic array of Louisiana music, at the top of each odd hour on 90.7 FM. Clarence’s List of Cajun and Zydeco music is a great resource not only for music but also for Cajun French lessons and dance lessons in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma, New Orleans, and surrounding areas. You can find this at cajunradio.org. In north Louisiana, go to shreveportbossierfunguide.com to find out about dance, music, and cultural events. Though this is only a small part of what Louisiana has to offer, it should get you jitterbugging in no time.