Category Archives: Summer 2015 – New Orleans

New Orleans, Day 2

OK, first — the beignet thing. I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that they were “meh,” and much like some reactions I’ve seen from my seafood-loving friends who are quite — shall we say — freakishly enthusiastic when confronted with people whose taste preferences differ from theirs (“WHAT? YOU WON’T EAT OYSTERS? YOU’RE NUTS!!!”), I expected an upbraiding from beignet devotees. Turns out, the blowback wasn’t bad at all. :-)

Seriously, since we’re trying to cut down on sugar, we planned to get one beignet and split it. I was going to brush off the inch of powdered sugar they put on top and just try the pastry to say I’d tried one, and the Thriller was going to finish the rest. Unsure about whether we’d encounter capacity crowds at Café du Monde again, when I called room service to order a pot of coffee, I asked for one beignet to be sent up as well. ONE beignet. They arrived with this. Of course, after I’d had my “bite” and posted my reaction about it, I found I couldn’t let all that breakfast just sit there, so I ended up trying more of them to see if they “grew” on me. Big mistake. When you’ve been off sugar since June…anyway, after recovering, it was off to our busy day.

There is a reason why the World War II Museum ranks #1 out of 478 on the list of “things to do in New Orleans” at TripAdvisor. If you ever visit NOLA, this venue must be on your list of things to see. It would take much longer than what I have this morning to list all the reasons your perspectives will be challenged (and changed) after seeing it, but trust me: see it you must.

Suffice it to say that if the United States military, FDR and Congress were worried only about avoiding American casualties, our country would be quite different today. Of course, this was a different time and Hitler declared war on us, but had he and Mussolini been treated diplomatically, the USA we know today — warts and all — would not exist. Sixty-five million military and civilian lives were lost from 1939-1945 worldwide; the film we watched, the interviews and interactive pieces we heard, the photographs and the artifacts we saw drove the point home over and over: this war couldn’t have been conducted any other way with the end result being the defeat of Germany and Japan. I was in tears at the end. It took several hours to see what we saw, and we didn’t see everything.

One of many beautifully maintained Garden District homes

One of many beautifully maintained Garden District homes

Afterwards, we took a taxi back to the hotel and mapped out our Garden District walking tour. This neighborhood of historic homes large and small, just minutes from the crazy downtown city streets, is so quiet you can whisper to each other on the sidewalks and still be heard. It was a beautiful day to stroll down street after street and admire the architecture, while imagining what it might have been like to live here in the 19th century. They have withstood war and fire and weather, and most are just as beautiful now as the day they were built.

Two of the "Seven Sisters" homes

Two of the “Seven Sisters” homes

We had the taxi driver drop us at Prytania Street, where we walked for an hour and saw dozens of beautiful houses. The Seven Sisters homes (near-identical houses, built next to one another in “shotgun” style, meaning that if one fired a shotgun through the front door, the shot would exit the back door without hitting anything) looked like the kind of places I could easily make my retirement home.

Of course, I had to see Anne Rice’s former home, bringing back memories of the Mayfair and Lioncourt families in her novels. It was a great experience, and even though it was 94 degrees and sunny, we did fine — that is, until we had the bright idea to just hoof it back to the hotel instead of calling a taxi. (What were we thinking?)

We made it 1.4 miles before stopping at the 1940s-themed Soda Shop, located at the WWII Museum, for a drink before we both fell down. Neither of us had a real idea how totally gassed we were until we sat at our booth with Cokes. With over a half mile to go to Harrah’s, the Thriller decided to just hail a waiting cab outside the restaurant, and we arrived safe and sound back in the air conditioning by 6 p.m. I was fine with that. :-)

Selfie in front of the Creole Queen

Selfie in front of the Creole Queen

After showering off the dust of the road, we walked a few paces down to the river, did a little shopping at the Riverwalk Outlet, had a light dinner at Poppy’s at the Port of New Orleans, and took a stroll down the shoreline, after which we played a bit in the casino, came back upstairs, and crashed. What a day!

Today, we plan to go back to the French Quarter, do some shopping in the Market, and check into our new hotel for our final day and night in New Orleans. It’s been a blast. More tomorrow, and thanks again for following along!

New Orleans, Day 1

Greetings from “[dozen different names for New Orleans]!” We arrived yesterday late morning and hit the ground riding and walking. When we finally got back to the hotel (we’re at Harrah’s again, since you can’t beat free) in the evening, we walked the street (Fulton Alley) and took in the party atmosphere. What a fun place.

Our ride approaches

Our ride approaches

After dropping off our bags and our car with the bell captain, we toured the grounds and hung out at the casino until our room was ready. After checking in, we hit the bricks for Poydras Station down the street, which would take us to Café du Monde, where we planned to eat a beignet and have some of their famous chicory coffee. After that, the afternoon was pretty much open to what looked good at the time.

We boarded the streetcar and found the only remaining seat, behind a cutie pie of a fellow passenger. We started down the tracks, and stopped at the next station — which was where everything kind of went a bit sour. They kept adding riders and adding riders, and when we thought there was no possible way any more bodies could be pressed into the train car without people suffocating, more riders got on. It was worse than any NYC subway ride I’ve ever taken. Ridiculous, actually, and on a streetcar with no air conditioning on a 90-degree day.

Now I’m no prude, and I have been in many situations where my personal space was invaded and I did fine, but this was exceptional. Fortunately, I was able to just lean out the window a bit and watch the track ahead. The entire ride (actual moving time) only lasted a few minutes. The rest of the time was spent stopping to load up the burgeoning sardine can. I think we decided at that moment to be happy with experiencing a streetcar in NOLA once, and we’ll walk it or taxi it from now on, thanks anyway.

The streetcar deposited us in the Quarter, and we headed to Café du Monde to have some coffee and a beignet. Well, that didn’t happen. The place gave the streetcar a run for its money. Bodies writhing everywhere, all wanting to have lunch, and the takeout line ran the entire length of the place. We decided to postpone the trip until Monday morning, and instead went to the CdM Company Store and bought some nice things.

Inset is an enlargement of the sign, listing the apartment as "not haunted." We saw several of these signs that listed the place as "haunted" as well.

Inset is an enlargement of the sign, listing the apartment as “not haunted.” We saw several of these signs that listed flats as “haunted” as well.

After shopping, we walked the area and visited Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, where photography was forbidden (but people took pictures and video with impunity anyway). Fascinating. We loved the “oldness” of the architecture, and the endless iron balconies and flowers and places to eat and drink outdoors. And speaking of eating…

In the last 18 hours, I think we’ve each gained ten pounds. The food, the food. It’s wonderful.

Most of you know that I am not a Creole foodie; I generally avoid sea creatures (other than tuna, salmon, haddock, and other mild fishes), and definitely don’t dig spicy stuff. Fortunately, there happens to be plenty of other tasty cuisine to be enjoyed in New Orleans, and I availed myself of it when we visited Dickie Brennan’s Tableau restaurant in the French Quarter.

View from our table at Dickie Brennan's Tableau

View from our table at Dickie Brennan’s Tableau

We happened upon the place quite by accident, after looking in the windows of several bistros and cafés and finding them crowded to the ceilings. After looking at the menu, we went inside and were greeted and seated immediately. It was a cool, friendly place, and not crowded at all. It was going on 3:00 by now, and we hadn’t eaten since 7:30 a.m. Time for chow.



Oh, my. I had the Croque Madame, and this madame could have croaked. Shaved ham and Gruyère on brioche with a fried egg on top, and covered in delicious mornay sauce…who says it has to be spicy seafood to be awesome? The Thriller had their signature burger with Gruyère and veggies, and the homemade pommes frites. We floated down the street, like great huge blimp-things.

Today, we’re starting off with a visit to the National World War II Museum. After that, we’ll go see the cemeteries, Louis Armstrong Park, then…who knows? We’ll find some trouble to get into. And food. We’ll find food.



We had a relaxing and fun two days in Biloxi, a place neither of us had visited before. One downside, however, was that when we showed up for the train tour of the city, we were the only ones there, and they canceled the tour. Apparently, our money wasn’t quite enough to make the drive around town profitable for them. OH WELL.

Built of cast iron in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse stands in the middle of a busy street.

Built of cast iron in 1848, the Biloxi Lighthouse stands in the middle of a busy boulevard.

So, we walked across the street and visited the Biloxi Lighthouse, which has the distinction of being the only lighthouse in the world that sits in the middle of a busy city thoroughfare (years ago, the shoreline was extended in an effort to protect the seawall, putting the structure farther away from the beach). When much of Biloxi was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina ten years ago, the structure stood fast, even though the storm surge reached 21 feet.

View to the east from the light room.

View to the east from the light room.

The trip up to the top is not for the claustrophobic. After climbing the spiral staircase of 57 iron steps, visitors must shimmy up an 8-rung ladder and through a 19-by-23 inch trap door to access the light room. Once there, you can see all of Biloxi on one side, and all the way to Gulfport on the other. But you don’t want to stay up there long — it was at least 20 degrees hotter in that enclosed space than the 90 degrees outside. Still, it was worth the climb.

The Tullis-Toledano house, built in 1856.

The Tullis-Toledano house, built in 1856.

Since we had no tour guide, we decided to take a drive around the city ourselves, armed with some basic knowledge the bellman at the hotel gave us. Biloxi was once the third largest city in Mississippi; it’s now the fifth largest, as much of the population moved away after the devastation caused by Katrina. Many historic structures — priceless places — were destroyed. Among the saddest of the storm victims was the Tullis-Toledano House.

When Katrina’s massive storm surge hit the Gulf Coast, one of the casino barges broke loose and crashed into the mansion, completely destroying it. The photo on the left was taken after the complete renovation of the place following Hurricane Camille in 1969. This is what the property looks like today. Tragic.

There are empty lots like this all over the city, right along the shore. The bellman told me that people simply couldn’t afford to rebuild; it was cheaper to move away, so many did. Still, the town has a family vibe, in spite of the overwhelming casino industry presence on the east side. There are probably 10 huge casinos, with more being built. I can see them through our hotel room window.

Today, it’s on to New Orleans for the main part of the Odyssey. We’re excited! I’ll post more tomorrow. Ciao!

Brief, but wonderful

Here’s what happened, OK? ;-)

Daddy :-)

Daddy :-)

The construction congestion gods all got together and said Wouldn’t it be funny if….? The entire 11-hour drive was accompanied by orange barrels, I kid you not. But the reward for our struggles was sweet.

While it was not nearly long enough, we had a fantastic dinner and visit with Daddy & Kathy in Fulton, Mississippi (a quiet little town about 20 miles from Tupelo). We talked about music and family and work, then about music again. We even talked about planning a family reunion for Daddy’s side, which would be out of this world. Mavis and Kathy — the organized brains of the outfit — will need to get on the planning, and just give Daddy and me jobs to do. It might be outrageously fun, this reunion…

The single downside of the drive down here was its length, which honestly just wore the Thriller and me clean out. It probably didn’t help that I decided to wait until the last minute to clean my entire house before we left, but by the time we hit the Mississippi line, my spine was barkin’. We pretty much decided that our all-day-long driving sessions were over. We plan to split up the drive on the way back north.

Still, everything was worth it to see these great people. Can’t wait till the next time.

Today, it’s off to rainy, stormy, hot Biloxi. We hope to get a guided tour in before the craziness starts, but we’re playing it by ear. No pressure today, and the five-hour drive will be totally bearable. See you tomorrow, fiends. Thanks for following along.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Indeedy. We’re starting our Delta Odyssey this morning, soon as the coffee’s gone and breakfast dishes are done and last-minute items are packed into the Finkmobile.

It was actually pretty easy to get ready, which should definitely be the case, as road trips large and small have been a part of our life since the fall of 2009, when we got the bright idea we might like to navigate Route 66 from beginning to end. Big fun.

While this Odyssey will last only a week, we’re both happy to get out of Dodge and be wanderers for a while. Maybe it’ll give us a chance to talk about our most ambitious roady yet: driving to Vancouver. We really want to do it. But do we want to live like monks for the next 365 days in order to pull it off? Hmmm. Yeah, maybe. ;-)

Our first stop is Fulton, Mississippi, near Tupelo — about a 10.5-hour drive from Finkville. We’ll have dinner and chat the evening away with Daddy and Kathy, then crash at the hotel before heading out to Harrah’s on the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast for a couple of days of walking the beach, shopping, playing games, touring the city (we plan to take a guided tour of Biloxi and learn more about its recovery from the Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Katrina) and relaxing. After that, we point the car two hours east for for three days in New Orleans, where the weather is supposed to be pretty good. With those temps, it should only take the Thriller about 30 seconds of standing outside to look like he just finished a half marathon in Hades. We packed his standard around-the-neck hand towels — especially for the non-air-conditioned streetcars. But hey, it’s the experience, right? We plan to cram as much NOLA into three days as possible, including a stay at the gorgeous, historic Cornstalk HotelTrès excité.

A big-big thanks goes to my sister Mavis and her family for taking Pax and Remy for the week and spoiling them so badly they won’t want to come home, and for others in our family who are going to stop in and house-sit. You guys are the best! Love to all, and au revoir! I’ll check in with you tomorrow.