The great trumpeter’s house is standing in a neighborhood where nobody would expect it. Corona is a mainly Hispanic working class neighborhood in the middle of Queens. I went there and got my individual tour of Louis Armstrong’s amazing house.
To get to Corona from Astoria I took an M train to Jackson Heights and the 7 from there to 103rd Street – Corona Plaza. The 7 train runs elevated along bustling Roosevelt Avenue all the way to Flushing. There is nothing spectacular in Corona. Little houses, mainly having vinyl lining, small apartment blocks with front balconies, shops for the daily needs.
From outside Louis Armstrong’s house doesn’t look spectacular either.
Tours are by the hour and I arrived at 2:45. I bought my ticket and had a look at the garden and the exhibition first. Nobody else showed up, so I was the only visitor on the 3 pm tour. The very friendly and knowledgeable guy let me watch a video first, which showed a concert and gave some basic information about Louis Armstrong’s life. Then he took me upstairs into the apartment where Louis and his wife Lucille had spent their lives. Lucille had bought and designed the house while he was travelling, what he of course did a lot. I asked why they chose to live in that particular neighborhood and not for example in Harlem. It was simply because Lucille had friends there and so did not feel alone while he was on tour. The guide took me through the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and Louis’ den. In every room I could listen to one or more audio clips about something related to the room. The most spectacular room and the only one that looked like rich is the bathroom. Mirrored walls, marble and gold, fancy appliances. Everything else is well designed but modest compared to the wealth they owned. The beaming blue kitchen is full of practical ideas. It looks stunning because of the blue. I bought a postcard – photos were not allowed.
When I left the guy just explained the way to the Lemon Ice King of Corona to a couple. I remembered having read about this place and decided to walk there as well. It was a bit of a walk, about 15 blocks, and took me to the other side of Corona south of Roosevelt Avenue and the 7 train. It is still very Hispanic and residential there. After passing a more commercial part I reached an Italian area. That’s where the ice place sits at a corner. The ices – not ice cream – all have pieces of fruit in it. There is a great variety of flavors. I asked what is the best and get to know the classics are lemon, cherry, pistachio and peanut butter. I decided on pistachio and it came beaming green. It was good but to be honest I do prefer ice cream.
A Q23 bus took me back to Roosevelt Avenue and the subway took me to Astoria via Queensboro Plaza. I got off at Broadway and walked home along Broadway to check for dinner places there. I was dying for a good pizza as I had seen a pizza place in the Italian part of Corona. There is everything else on Broadway but no Pizzeria.
Rachel didn’t know one either. I did some online research and the only one I found is on Astoria Boulevard beyond the elevated train. Quite far to walk – and closed on Wednesdays. All other pizza places are take outs. So I forgot about pizza and decided to go for Mexican food. Rachel could help with that. The most authentic restaurant around is El Mariachi on Broadway, she said. So I went there.
It’s one of the places where I would not go to without a recommendation. It doesn’t look inviting, pretty plain. Two TV screens showed soccer. But there were Mexicans in there. I ordered spicy pork with cactus and fried eggs. I was curious about the cactus. I got a plate with a huge but thin piece of meat, slices of sautéed cactus – whatever type of cactus that is – and a fried egg, another plate with rice and beans and a bundle of tortillas wrapped in paper. Again I had no idea how to eat it. What was I supposed to do with the tortillas? I filled two of them with meet and cactus, then I decided to skip them. It was plenty of food anyway. The meat was nicely spiced and not too hot. The cactus did not have much taste. Could have been anything. But it was interesting.
What I learned today:
Astoria is not a place for Pizza