Wednesday, February 29, 2012

C'est en Louisiane que mon coeur chante...

I am aware every day how blessed we are to be on this adventure and what great things we are experiencing. Spirit has led us to "the right place at the right time" again and again. This time was the best, so far. (I say so far, because I never know with Spirit what's next!)

As most people know, I love music. But what only a few know, is that both Jack and I, really like Cajun music.

When we had stopped at the Louisiana Visitor's Center and talked with that very nice lady, she casually mentioned that since we were staying at a place not far from Scott, we might want to pop into their visitor center on Friday, as they have a local musician's jam session then.

So, after our full day of sightseeing, we decided to check out this center and see what she was talking about, maybe it would be worth sitting in on for awhile...

La Maison de Begnaud, City of Scott's Heritage Visitors Center is run by a warm, wonderful woman named "Mama" Reddell Miller (Tourism Coordinator). She greeted us and said "yes, they do have a jam session on Fridays, that the musicians usually start showing up around 6pm and things get started around 6:30". It was about 5:30; we decided to stay and see what it was like. We then met Lucy, who is college student from Canada doing her doctorate on the Cajun culture. She was not only delightful, but filled us in on all kinds of wonderful tidbits surrounding the Mardi Gras traditions that just had taken place, etc.

By 6:30 things were in full swing. Tables were moved out, chairs set up and musicians were arriving and getting their instruments ready. At any given time during the night, there were more than 20 players, with only a very few of us "non-players" in the room. They ranged in age from about 10 years to 90, playing fiddle, guitar, Cajun accordion, triangle, spoons and wonderful, wonderful music all through the night. Toes were tapping, hands were clapping, the place was alive with their energy! Several of the young boys, ages 14 & 15 were self taught, playing tough instruments, superbly and with great joy. It was so wonderful to see these people of all ages, mixing together, keeping their music culture alive, willingly. One of the parents told us his son goes to several of these jam sessions a week!

I never understood a word they sang, but my heart sang with every beat of their music...
































































video


If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...kicking back in Louisiana, Marie

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The varied history of Louisiana...

Our first stop, Avery Island, where Tabasco Sauce is made! Avery Island is actually an Island, and is owned and operated by the same family who owns and operates the Tabasco Pepper Sauce factory, along with Jungle Gardens and Bird City. All of this has been in the McIlhenny family for generations.

They give you a short history of "who, when & how" it all came about and how it's made. Then they show you the bottling plant and send you on your merry way to the "Tabasco Country Store" where everything, and I mean everything you could even begin to think of, has the logo Tabasco on it! Along with all their fun merchandise, they give you free samples of all their other products that they make...did you know they make things like Tabasco mayonnaise? Or Tabasco Chili Starter? They are actually quite good (I bought one of each!) Or ice cream? Yep, I tried that too! We got out of there with just a small bag of goodies, not to bad considering all the tempting doodads they had!! ;-)














































From there we dashed over to Vermilionville, as we knew this place would take up the whole rest of the day, and we were already getting hungry for lunch (hot samples only gets you so far, you know!). As soon as we paid our admission we went straight over to their restaurant (we had read great reviews) as I was ready for some good Cajun food! I'm not a big catfish fan, or fried okra, which was the "special of the day" so I settled for a brisket po'boy and wasn't disappointed. I got sweet potato fries and they covered them with sugar cinnamon, um mm good!

Tummies full, so off we went to see what this place was all about. Since it's "off season", it was pretty quiet - up side, not to many tourists to compete with, down side not as many costumed historical interpreters around to talk with, but the day was nice and we could take our time. The historic village contains 19 structures, including seven restored original historic homes which are filled with artifacts reflecting life in the Acadiana area between 1765 and 1890.

The place was very interesting and very beautiful. We met some fascinating people who shared their interests with us and Jack actually was able to share some insights with a couple of them as well! At the woodworker's home, he noticed a wheel measuring tool and commented on it to the gentleman. He hadn't known what it was used for, so Jack explained it to him. He was thrilled to learn about it! In turn, he took Jack into the Blacksmith's shop that isn't currently being used (they don't have a blacksmith) and invited him to browse as much as he liked.

Walking along the bayou, looking at all the beautiful trees full of hanging moss, small docks out onto the water, it's just as I imagined Louisiana would be...I just didn't know I was a hundred years to late...






































































If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/


...kicking back in Louisiana, Marie

Friday, February 24, 2012

Goodbye Texas, hello Louisiana!

Finally we leave Texas! Phew! That's one BIG state!! ;-) Our last night was in Beaumont. Didn't do much but spend the night, but we did make one small stop before we left...to the "largest fire hydrant"!! (You know we've just got to go see that sort of thing!) It's at the Fire Museum of Texas. It's 24 feet tall, and what a beauty it was too! Couldn't resist getting out and "posing" with it! ha ha Snapped one of Jack with the more somber Texas Firefighter Memorial. Then we hopped back in our rig and took off for Louisiana!




































Skies were gray and windy, but my "trusty driver" pushed on, undaunted! We sure spotted a number of rice fields along the way. I didn't know that was such a commodity around here, but quickly learned that it sure is. Guess they put all their water to good use!





























As soon as we entered LA, we stopped at their Visitor's Center to find out what we should see in the very short time we would have here (this trip). Very nice ladies there (and really good coffee!). It was decided that we would spend the rest of this day seeing Breaux Bridge, where we were staying, then all the next day seeing Avery Island where Tabasco is made, and Vermilionville which is a Cajun/Creole Heritage & Folklife Park.

So, off we went, with brochures in hand, to find our RV Park and get settled in, so we could go "sightseeing"!

...and went...and went...and went. Two phone calls, three maps and two very frustrated people, just about ready to "find another park" finally found the park! Ugh. This was definitely one of those times that GPS didn't help, and in fact, actually hindered the situation. Don't ask me how, but it did, that's all I know. Maybe the swamps confused it, who knows, but after an hour plus, we were about ready to throw it out the window. Oh well, you get the picture...

Once we settled in, we took the Toyota into town (brave, huh?) wandered around (all the shops were decorated so nice for Mardi Gras) and found a lovely French Cajun restaurant Cafe des Amis. Wonderful food and a much appreciated glass of good wine, and all was well with the world once again...































If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...kicking back in Louisiana, Marie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sand, sea, shells...but no birds?

When we learned that our friend in Houston was not going to be in town during the time that we would be there - I took the opportunity to reroute us to the Gulf Coast, near Corpus Christi. I had heard so much about this area on how great the beaches were and what great birding areas were around there, that I was anxious to see them & try out my new bird book (thanks to my Zoo team!).

We checked the weather, clear and sunny. Found a place in Rockport, so off we went!

By that afternoon we were in the Toyota driving around Rockport looking for beaches and birds! We found the beaches. Soft, soft sand. Like baby powder soft. Lots of shells. Birds, well, that was something else. Where were all the birds? We kept driving. One or two here & there...they must be somewhere else? We finally gave it up for the day, and went to dinner along the shore.

Next day, map in hand, we had it planned out - we would go up the coast to Corpus Christi, including the ferry at Point Aransas, and hug the coastline all the way back down. We did. Stopping all along every nook, every "bird observation" location we could find. All we saw were a hand full of American White & Brown Pelicans, Franklin's & Ring-billed Gulls, a nice collection of Canvasback & Redhead Ducks and one, just one Great Blue Heron. That's it. This was supposed to be the Whooping Crane capitol! A big celebration for them is happening in a week, but could I see any? Noooo, not one! They can't all be waiting until next week to show up for goodness sakes!! I just kept thinking that we were looking in all the wrong places, but Whooping Cranes aren't small, easily hidden birds!

Darn, all the way to Gulf of Mexico and no Whooping Crane spotting...guess we will just have to come back!



































































































If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...one the road in Texas, Marie

It's just pizza!

First night we arrived in San Antonio it was raining. By the time we got settled in, it was to late to do much but eat dinner...

Before leaving on our adventure, we made notes on places to visit. Places people told us about and places we saw on tv or read about. One such place was "Big Lou's Pizza". It was showcased on the Travel Channel on Man vs Food. When we saw that it was in San Antonio, we added it to our list!

Sooo, back to our first night in San Antonio...we looked up Big Lou's Pizza and low and behold it was just down the street from where we were staying! So, off we went!

...and so did everyone else! Their very large parking lot was full, along with the side streets, but as Jack dropped me off, he saw a spot opening up. I dashed inside, only to find a hallway full of people standing in a long line! I jumped in the line (not knowing what for) then asked what was going on? "How it's done" was explained to me (wait, order, wait, etc)

It seems that this place is "popular"! It was before the tv show, and went even crazier after the tv show! People wait for hours to get a table, and feel it's worth it. Because we were "only two people" (seems mostly groups go there) we were actually seated rather quickly (about 45 min) - seated, mind you, not served.

The place is huge, several rooms with two bars. Signs fill the walls, mostly neon beer, but almost any will do, it seemed, as long as it covered the wall. We watched as the pizzas came out, most were for the "large". These are 4' (yes, 4 feet) across! They filled the whole table. No one has to reach for a slice, but it took two hands to hold onto the slice once you got it!

Well, two glasses of wine, and some time later, our pizza finally arrived. Now, I'm a "veggie" pizza person, so it's always fun for me to see what veggies the restaurant chooses to uses. The standard is bell peppers, black olives, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes. Extra points in my book if they add artichoke hearts or anything additional. They added green olives. Jack just goes for plain cheese.

It was just pizza. Nothing special. We kept waiting for the "wow", but it was just pizza. Oh well, it was quite entertaining and now we can say that we've eaten at a place that the tv show talked about! ;-)









...kicking back in Texas, Marie

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bienvenidos a San Antonio!

Few cities combine the allure of living history - so present at the Alamo and Spanish missions - with the exhilarating mood of a party, like San Antonio! That festive feeling was everywhere we went and with "Mardi Gras" just around the corner, made it even livelier! With only two days to "get it all in" we decided to take advantage of the two-day hop-on-hop-off Grand Trolley Tour. The first day we took the full 60 min. tour to get the lay of the land and see what we really wanted to spend our time at the next day. We then spent the rest of the day at the Alamo, and along the River Walk. As our luck is still shining, we arrived just in time for their Mardi Gras Boat Parade! It wasn't big, nor all that "fancy" but it was loud and fun! They sang, and cheered, and threw lots of beads to all the hungry hands, of which Jack caught lots for the grand kids to have! I just kept taking pictures, of course! We did stumble upon an incredible restaurant tho, the Iron Cactus. Jack isn't into Mexican food much, but he tolerates it for me. Being in Texas, I wanted to have some of the "local flavor". Reading their menu, it appeared to be more along the "southwestern" style and looked quite promising, so we tried it. Jack, to my surprise, ordered "lobster tacos", and I ordered their shrimp enchiladas with the lobster & cheese cream sauce. I'm here to tell you, that those two dishes were INCREDIBLE!! OMG GOOD!! Prices were really reasonable...and all this at a "tourist location"! Beyond our expectations!




































Day two - Up bright and early (well, for us, anyway) and off we went to our "2nd day hopper". As we waited for the trolley at the beginning and again at the mission, you would have thought we were the tour guides! Here was Jack, telling them all about the restaurant, or how to get to the River Walk, or I was advising about which mission to spend their time at, or if they wanted "history" vs "souvenir shopping" experience! Guess you can't take the "guide" out of us, no matter what city we are in! ha ha

We really enjoyed spending time at the Mission San Jose. I haven't had that much fun taking pictures of ruins since my trip to Greece! Beautiful, just beautiful.













































Next we walked all around La Villita, San Antonio's first neighborhood, now restored to house art galleries, craft shops, boutiques, etc. Quiet, peaceful, nice.































After we left the trolley, we walked to a few of the areas we wanted to spend some extra time at - One of the areas that the trolley can only "pass by" is the German neighborhood called King William Historic District. These homes were built in the 1840's, originally settled by prominent German merchants. To say these homes were breathtaking, would be an understatement. As I walked along, snapping away, I would say, "just this last one"... then I would see another that was "so unusual" I would just have to take it's picture too! It's moments like this that I'm glad I no longer use 35mm film!





























One last stop at the San Fernando Cathedral, and we called it a day. I must share, tho, that when I saw the pictures of the "before" (as it was built in 1734); it's simple beauty, I was appalled when I read that the diocese spent 3.1 million dollars to turn the "holy alter" from it's simple beauty to it's now "gold decadence"! What a waste of money, when it could have been used for so many other (human needs) better uses! Sad.





















The campground we are staying at is really nice, and full of "rodeo folk". Their big rodeo is in town, right next door and many of them are staying here! Big rigs, real BIG rigs! We would have liked to gone one day/night, but we just couldn't fit it into this trip's schedule...oh well, another time to show Jack what a rodeo is all about!

It's off to Corpus Christi in the morning, so early to bed, early to rise! Yee ha, a new road to travel on!






















If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...on the road in Texas, Marie

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freedom, it's a wonderful thing...

One of the great things about this trip is the freedom of spontaneity. While we were at Las Cruses RV Park, one of the gals there was telling us about taking a side trip before heading to San Antonio. She suggested we get off the 10 east, and take the 90 south to Langtry and check out Judge Roy Bean's place, then head on further down to Del Rio to see Seminole Canyon and Amistad Lake.

When we stopped for the night at Ft Stockton, we pulled out the map and took a look at our options. Taking her advise would mean getting off of boring Hwy 10 for awhile and adding some site-seeing into the mix. On the "con" side Del Rio is right on the Mexican border. One of the gals there at that place said that they had been told to steer people away, as it was "unsafe". We made a call to Langtry, and asked them what they had heard about the "safety" of Del Rio, and she said she hadn't heard anything of the sort. We called the KOA in San Antonio that we had reservations at and were able to move the dates (a big rodeo is in town, so we weren't sure if we could) and they were able to do so. So, off we went to Langtry and Del Rio for the day & night!

Hwy 90 has a whole lot less traffic, less trucks, but pretty much the same sagebrush scenes! I guess this part of Texas, is still Texas! Langtry was a spit of a town, with the Judge's place being the only stop and the Visitor's Center all in one. Nice stop tho. On to Del Rio and Amistad Lake. If you are a fisherman, it's a dream place, I guess. "They" said the lake was down 14 ft. from last year, but the bass are still running, and a tournament was scheduled for the coming weekend. Nothing to "write home about" in my opinion, but a lot better than Hwy 10. Worth the detour.

Rain came in that night, heavy, maybe even some hail, at least it sounded like it. Next morning there were puddles surrounding us, and we had high fog most the way towards San Antonio. We hit some light rain here and there as we got closer to town, but not bad. We were able to pull into San Antonio by mid afternoon, so it wasn't to bad. All in all, a good decision I think!

I just love life's little surprises! I wonder what's next?















This looked like a good place to try my hand at the wheel!




















































































...kicking back in Texas, Marie

Thursday, February 16, 2012

One Night Stands...

Since leaving Huachuca, we've just been tootling along Highway 10 east with a string of "one night stands". We finally said our "good byes" to Arizona, and started our trek east (towards our ultimate goal of Florida by March 1st). Our first night was a stop-over in Las Cruses New Mexico. Nice little RV Campground with really friendly folks running the place. While chatting with them about our travels, they gave us some ideas on some places to see and to stay at along our way (love that!).

Last evening we made it to Ft Stockton Texas. We had been playing tag with another RV along the highway, and when we pulled into the campground, so did they! We introduced ourselves, and later joined them at dinner in the on site cafe for a nice rib dinner. Joe and Birtha shared that they too had been full-time RV'ers once, but now did it for a few months at a time, splitting their time between Ohio and California. We were both heading to San Antonio and ultimately to Florida. We shared with them that the folks from the last place had suggested taking a side trip, via Highway 90, getting off of the 10 for awhile, and seeing Langtry where Judge Roy Bean had presided, then on down through Del Rio. It sounded interesting to all of us, but also a bit of a concern with it being so close to the Mexican border. We all decided to sleep on it. Either way, we might run into them again in San Antonio! Nice couple.

These towns were really nothing more than a "one night stand" for now, sometimes that's what gets you through until the "main attraction" comes along!

One last "good bye" sunset from Arizona...















View of Las Cruses New Mexico & at our campground...





























The joy of driving Highway 10, New Mexico to Texas...































Jack relaxing at the Ft Stockton RV Park...



















...on the road in Texas, Marie

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wild West Remembered...

So far, we've really lucked out in our timing, and this visit was another example. Arizona is celebrating it's 100th Birthday this year (on Feb. 14th actually) and Tombstone chose this weekend to celebrate by having live gun fights, music and a number of people roam around in their late 1800's finery! The weather was perfect (a little windy, but not to bad) and the crowds not to big. What we thought would be a "couple hours visit" turned into a full enjoyable day!

We leisurely walked the town, in and out of the shops, watched the gun fights and the saloon antics, listened to the western music, ate at Big Nose Kate's Saloon (pretty good too), visited the Earp brothers' house, watched a bride & groom take photos at the Courthouse where they just got married, saw where the longest continuing newspaper printing (the Epitaph) and ended it all with a visit to the famous Boothill Graveyard on the way out! Phew, what a day!

They had tours that you could purchase - stagecoach tours, to see the old Bird Cage Theatre or to see the OK Corral reenactment, but we really didn't see any need to add them to our day, it was full enough without them, or the additional $10 each, cost. The town itself had plenty enough to see on it's own.





































































































































If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74905158@N04/

...kicking back in Arizona, Marie