Archive for November 2016

New Orleans — The follow-up (Christmas Trip)

We survived!!  It was a great get-a-way (or at least I thought it was), and I came home without being in debt or having a high credit card bill to pay off.  I had saved money through the year and was able to pay cash for everything — a good feeling.

We traveled home on Sunday, we stopped in an outlying city to have beignets one last time at a Cafe du Monde.  We were in a small city called Kenner…and the beignets were just as tasty as eating them on the water front.  Tip about eating at the cafe on the water front, where there happened to be a nice breeze while were were enjoying our treats.  Don’t sit downwind, don’t wear black, and don’t be afraid of sitting down at a table with dirty dishes on it.  If you wait for a clean table, you will probably never sit down, and if you wear black and sit downwind you will likely walk away looking like a frosted doughnut yourself — just ask KJ. :)

Sunday coming across the 26 mile bride over the wetlands out of New Orleans, we ran into one of the “what if” scenarios and hit traffic due to construction on the bridge.  Made one question the solid structure, they had a crane on the bridge with a bucket over the edge…which allowed to unseen person to do “upkeep” on the structure.  At least they were doing some upkeep, for future safety measures.

Now a thought about the funding of the trip.  A lot of people say that going on vacation is to expensive, yet they eat out on a regular basis and spend money on non-essential stuff.  If you eat out one time a day, five days a week, you spend approximately $50 a week (and a lot of people eat out more than once, or also eat out on the weekends, which is more money).  That ends up being $2400 a year spent on food, on top of the money spent on groceries.  If you take your lunch, you can save that money for vacation, go home and put the money you would have spent in a “vacation jar”.  I took a family of four away for five days for less than $2000 dollars.  It is doable, it just depends on if you want to have an experience of a life time, or eat junk food.  Just a thought. :)

New Orleans is not a fancy clean city; it’s old with an old soul.  Katrina messed the roads up, and it is more like you are driving through a field on the back forty instead of through the streets of a city — a little bumpy and some pot holes.  To some people it may be considered dirty, but the history there more than makes up for the buildings that are not state of the art.  I would recommend it for anyone.  There are some places that do not allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter; there are some things that are seen when walking down the sidewalk that could be a great conversation starter and education moments, it would be up to the individual people on if you would consider taking children with you on the trip.

On that note…I would do it again in a heart beat.  The old soul of the city is a great experience.  The music, the food, the activity that was seen around Jackson Square…all good things.  You can shield the younger ones, because they are a little oblivious still to some things.  We were in our motel by 7:30-8:00 and did not mix or mingle into the night life of the city.  We did go out for coffee and beignets, but were in the Mid-city area and did not run into craziness.  To see the expressions as we sat and listened to music on the street and at Preservation Hall made it all worth it.  To listen to a street performer play/sing Amazing Grace and realize that everyone in the group had the same goosebumps because of the experience.  Nothing like standing on a street, in front of a Cathedral, listening to street performer sing Amazing Grace.

All in all it was a great trip.  I got to see and do a lot that I wanted too.  Will I go back, most definitely.  This trip was a little less structured than the one we took to Washington D.C., and it was just as good.  We had no deadlines to meet or places to be (except for the swamp tour), I came home feeling like I had been on a vacation instead of rushed through life for a week.

Until next time…ERM

 

New Orleans – Saturday 11/19/16

Last day to play, tomorrow is check-out and travel day.  BOO!!  It’s been a great time, getting to see the city and experience the culture that is New Orleans.

Last night after hanging out for a bit at the suite, we decided that we wanted to go check out Morning Call in the City Park.  The beignets did not compare to Cafe du Monde’s, but the frozen cafe au lait hit the spot.  We also tried their mini muffuletta’s, and fell in love with the sandwich.  The park was decorated for Christmas, had lights in all the trees and different lighted scenes throughout the park.  Very neat, from the dinosaurs to the pirate ships.  We were looking a little ragged, sporting our Southeast Missouri shirts and 4H, that had people taking double takes…or maybe that was the super hero leggings being sported by one party member.

We were preparing to leave, one party member wanted us to “bring the beignets back” as she lounged on the couch.  I decided that it was more than just a trip participation award and all parties that wanted something to eat would have to put forth the effort of obtaining the food.  No awards for nothing. :)

This morning the kids slept in and I lounged around the suite.  Checked in on my cats and my mom, all is well on the home front.  I then got the kids up and going for our day ahead.

We went back down to the French Market area and went to the Audubon Aquarium.  I enjoyed the aquarium in Gatlingburg this summer better than this one, but they had areas set aside for the Mississippi river area and swamp areas.  The ocean fish tank was a little less enthraling, though their sea turtle was more lively.  The kids enjoyed it, and that is what mattered.  It did have a lot more hands on stations for kids to learn.

We left the aquarium and walked down the water front to the French Market, looking for last minute trinkets for friends and just taking in the sights.  There was a bigger crowd than there was on Thursday, but there was also more to see…people wise.  There are random fights between homeless people, they yell at each other about who did what and said what, when.  I think they do it to see who will pay attention.  We did have one the other day that tried to guilt us into giving him money, he said “just ignore me why don’t you” then muttered something about God loving us.  It is sad to see them living under the bridges and sitting on the streets, I feel for the animals too that they claim and have as mates.  It has been an experience to see it so closely.

Jackson square provided more entertainment today, worth stopping by and checking out.  The different bands and a guy that was doing a contemporary dance routine with a large metal hula hoop.  All great performers.  There was a parade of Hare Krishna going on, a large float with a hindu priest ministering to the crowds along N. Peter’s street.  All the followers were handing out pamphlets and oranges to people along the streets, then a group of them were in the street dancing and chanting ‘krishna’.  The kids were unaware of what they were, and questioned what they were doing.  Other than doing outreach, with the police blocking the streets and causing a back-up of traffic, they had a colorful float.

After all the crowds and excitement of the Quarter, we headed out to the Garden District to look around and walk through Lafayette Cemetery #1. Several movies and TV shows feature this cemetery.  The houses in the Garden District are a step above the other areas of New Orleans.  The cemetery had sea shells all over the ground, I’m guessing from when Katrina blew in.  Speaking of cemeteries, they are EVERYWHERE down here.  Not normal ones like you see at home, they are all mausoleum style.  The lady at the cemetery today stated that there are people selling their family mausoleum’s on craigslist; they go cheaper if the body is left from the previous ‘occupant’.

We headed back to the suite to kick back and relax, and start preparing to head out in the morning.  Have had a great time, enjoyed the food, and getting to see all the different sights.  It is a place that I will probably re-visit at some point in time.  There is so much to see and do.

ERM

New Orleans: Swamp Tour – 11/18/16

Day three in NOLA and I think the kids are starting to feel it.  A long day of driving on Wednesday, a long day walking around the French Quarter yesterday, and then today we drove out of the city for the swamp tour.  Factor in the late nights…I have tired kids

One thing about traveling down through here is the fact that we are constantly crossing water, going over bridges, and around water.  Coming into the city the first night there was a sign that said “No Fuel for 26 miles”, I thought this odd until I realized that we went up onto a 26 mile bridge that was the “highway”.  To get into New Orleans we had to cross the swamp.  It was neat, but weird when you think of the “what if” scenarios.  But, it’s very pretty.

This morning I woke up at 0600, bleh.  I worked the five days prior to leaving this week and my body is set to “wake-up” at 5:30.  I try to be quiet and do things without disturbing the others, but it doesn’t always work.  The rest of the crew got up around 0900, and we headed out to grab breakfast before going on our swamp tour.  We went to Biscuits & Buns on Banks.  The food was great!!  I had waffles with roasted brie and blueberry compote.  KJ had french toast with carmelized bananas and bacon; Simeon had waffles and chicken; Peyton went with potatoes and cheese.  All the food was tasty, the atmosphere was homey and they staff were all very friendly.  It was a great way to kick start our day.

We drove out to Cajun Encounters for our swamp tour.  We were pre-paid, picked up our wrist bands and life jackets for the minors, and headed out on the boat with our tour guide, Ryan.  At first I was afraid that we would just be riding around on the water for an hour or so…but we ended up getting see alligators, pigs, raccoons, and snakes.  Our boat ride was fast and the breeze felt great.  Ryan, was very informative and was open to questions.

Given the state of tiredness of the crew, we just went back to the suite and vegged.  Ate at a local burger joint and a food truck for dinner, and watched TV.  It was a great day in NOLA for this group of excited but weary travelers.

ERM

 

New Orleans – Christmas Trip 2016

I love to travel.  Plain and simple.  I love to experience new cultures, foods, and see new sights.  To take things in that one has read about and been told…but to see it with ones own eyes and get the “experience” for oneself cannot have a price tag placed on it.

I not only enjoy traveling, but also sharing the experience with others.  I have started giving “travel” (either with myself or cash funds to supplement travel plans) to my nieces and nephew as their Christmas present instead of “things”.  So often we purchase stuff that ends up getting put in a closet and never worn, used, or seen again until a “purge” and then it is drug out and put in a yard sale or given away.  By giving travel, I get to go places and there is no clutter involved.

This all started three years ago when we went to Washington DC (you can check out the previous blogs from back in July-August 2014), then I took Kirsten to Utah in 2015, and then we hit Gatlinburg earlier this summer for her 2015 present.  We opted for New Orleans for the 2016 trip, for all of us.  I’ve wanted to visit, and this is one state that I was unable to “color” in when marking a map…now I can mark Louisiana off the map and New Orleans off my bucket list.

We headed out Wednesday morning early to make it to NOLA before rush hour traffic.  Let’s just say that Mississippi is the LONGEST state EVER.  The majority of the trip was driving through Mississippi.  The kids slept the majority of the way.  We made it and checked into our “motel”.

I reserved a suite in Mid-City area, it was the same price of a motel room, but it’s a two bedroom, two bath suite.  Has a kitchen and sitting area, and laundry available if I get to bored.  Enough space to kick back and relax, and be able to get ‘away’ from each other if need be. :)  We’re not trying to sleep, eat, and relax all in the same space.  It’s a great little house owned by Hosteeva (google it…they have a cool locations).

Thursday morning we slept in and then went and toured the French Quarter.  Started the day off at Cafe du Monde for beignet’s.  We were able to grab a table, and wait for it to be cleaned off, placed our order and enjoyed some of the french donuts.  Powder sugar galore!!!  Well worth the wait, and we can say that we ate at Cafe du Monde!!  Rumor was that it was a dirty cafe, but they either have cleaned up their act or working as a nurse has changed my idea of “dirty” to the point that I didn’t notice it being bad.  LOL.  It’s amazing what a nurse will do before going and grabbing lunch…or break from eating then come right back.

We spent the day wandering around the French Quarter, shopping, eating, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Every corner had different music going, and it is flowing through the streets.  We saw one group that played Amazing Grace, it sent chill bumps down my arms.  So much raw talent on the streets, and playing for a buck.

We had the opportunity to see a wedding procession stop traffic and walk down the street, just prior to the lighting of the Christmas Tree across from Jackson Square.  We thought there was some people that were really dressed up for the tree lighting ceremony, then a lady says “o.k., you can play now”.  A band struck up a song and then people started dancing down the sidewalk into the street waving white handkerchiefs.  It was pretty cool to see.

We hit up a small joint called Preservation Hall tonight to listen to “big band” music, and so Peyton could write a paper for her music appreciation class.  It was AWESOME!!!  It was old school band music, the leader stated “Now you can say you been to New Orleans”.  My minds eye envisioned 1920’s Flappers dancing around.  They performed and sang, at one point the leader had a Louie Armstrong voice that brought a smile to my face.  It was well worth the wait around town and standing in the old building feeling the atmosphere.  Recommend a stop by this place if you are ever in town.

We found a little food joint next door, Ali Baba, that was serving up fresh Gyros.  The guy cut the meet fresh from the slab that was kept in a “cooking barrel” (for lack of better term), and made the food to order.  Very small…but very tasty.  The obscure little places are sometimes the best.

When we made it back to the flat, I kept trying to put the key in the slot that did not have a key-hole.  Simeon kept stating “it’s this one” as he tapped the doorknob.  Maybe I was just a little tired.

Great start to our Christmas trip.

ERM