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New Orleans Soul

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in New Orleans for this year’s Mardi Gras festivities. As I do with any getaway, I did my research before I left and found out that popular areas such as the French Quarter and Garden District were up and running, ready to accommodate tourists once again. I hadn’t been to NOLA since pre-Katrina times and was eager to see this rebirth with my own eyes.

I wondered if the contagious spirit of this vibrant city would infuse its visitors just as it did in the past. Would the courtyard at Pat O’Brien’s still be packed with intoxicated tourists who go there to knock back a Hurricane or two before begging for beads on Bourbon Street? Would freshly baked beignets topped with heaps of powdered sugar still beckon patrons to Café Du Monde’s canopy-covered patio? Would jazz musicians dot the sidewalks, propelling those make-you-wanna-dance tunes through the air for all to hear? Basically, would all-things-NOLA still make New Orleans, well, New Orleans?

The Year of the Pig

The Year of the Pig begins on Sunday, and condom sales are super sluggish in China and South Korea. You can read that line again, but it’s not a non-sequitur. This Chinese New Year, the presiding pig sign brings especially good fortune to anyone born during its reign. As a result, lots of people are getting busy trying to make babies. And I mean lots: Many Chinese maternity hospitals are booked up for the rest of the year, and a population surge is expected across the country, according to CNN.

If this sounds like a compelling reason to learn more about Chinese culture, you need not dig a hole to China. The good news for those of us on a limited budget is that there are Lunar New Year celebrations taking place much closer to home.

Aloha Spirit

As an east coaster transplanted in California, I didn’t make it to Hawaii until my 31st birthday. Since then I’ve been nine times, including the trip I just returned from–celebrating my 34th on Kauai. Averaging about three visits a year, I can’t seem to get enough. Plus, with tourism being the islands’ biggest moneymaker, I rationalize that I’m doing my part to support their economy. Truthfully though, I just love it.

It was my first time in Kauai, and we didn’t stop for six days straight.

Cowboy vs. Couture

Born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I’m quite familiar with the unspoken rivalry between the two cities, which are separated only by a 35 miles stretch of highway. Dallasites turn their noses up at the prospect of venturing to the city known as Cowtown, and Fort Worth natives have probably been guilty at one time or another of calling their neighbors to the east snobs.