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Long way home: Jackson Mississippi, Graceland & Devonian Fossil Gorge by Ann Treacy
April 2, 2013, 4:08 am
Filed under: Iowa, Mississippi, Tennessee

I’m 62 minutes away from home according to the GPS. It’s been a long day but a fun vacation. We had an amazing time in New Orleans and managed a few fun stops on the way home.

It started last night in Jackson Mississippi. We had a quick (but really good!) dinner at Babalu. The dinner was so quick I decided we could take some quick pictures at the Jackson State Capitol. It’s pretty. Actually we were quite impressed with Jackson. On the way to New Orleans we stopped at the car wash – this time we were in the high brow neighborhood. Very nice houses.

Then we plowed through to Memphis with one plan in mind. We checked out Graceland Memorial Gardens because well, first Graceland is cool. But more importantly given the posse with which I roll, it is free to visit the gardens if you come between 7:30-8:30 am. How cool! We got to check out the grounds and see Elvis’ grave. It was more than enough for the girls. It got them out of bed early and helped us get on the road. I’ve visited Graceland before and would easily visit again – but again given our crowd the quick, cheerful and cheap tour was best.

Then we drove forever. We had a nice dinner in Iowa City. (I know, who knew?) We stopped at a place on the campus called Graze – nice small plates. Then I learned about Devonian Fossil Gorge. It apparently an inland sea that has dried up a few times (in the last 15 years) resulting in tons of fossils. It’s probably a lot better when it’s warm outside. Although it was very close to the city, very easy to get to, a good break for folks who have been in the car – just if it were a little warmer.

Now we’re just waiting to dock at home!

 

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Easter Sunday in New Orleans: Swampland and Parades by Ann Treacy
April 2, 2013, 12:16 am
Filed under: New Orleans

Easter Sunday we woke up and went to the swamp for an alligator hunt on an air boat. Remember the big swamp boat with the propelling fan at the back from that old 70s show Flipper? Well that’s what we were on. It sat about 15. Aine scored the seat of honor at the top near the driver. I was very jealous and must learn how to cute it up for next time.

Kate was really the driver for checking out the alligators. And it was a really good call. It was so much fun! Not necessarily cheap, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The swamp we visited was family-owned and used primary for the tours. We were one of about 6 boats that seemed to be out on the swamp. But it didn’t feel like Disney ride or anything – I think we all felt that we were on a hunt of sorts. We saw tons of alligators and some turtles, bald eagles and cows!

I learned a few things about alligators – so I have my fingers crossed for it being an upcoming Pub Quiz topic! Here are some of the more interesting (or at least memorable) facts:

  • A baby alligator has 1-2 percent chance of making it to 6 feet (adulthood)
  • Alligators like white food – like marshmallows
  • An alligator egg is worth $18-22
  • It takes a 6 foot alligator to make a boot (a pair of boots starts at $1200 – I wear 6.5 if you’re shopping!)
  • There are 3.3 million alligators in Louisiana
  • A bayou is a path through the swamp

But mostly the trip was just really cool. It was fun to be in the boat thing. It was fun to see – and hold – an alligator. It was fun to see terrain so different from what we’re used to seeing.

After the swamp tour we quickly got gussied up and headed out to the Easter Parade in the French Quarter. We thought we’d see it for a few minutes but the parade wound its way around the French Quarter as we snuck in out last must-do activities before hitting the road. Aine got a ton of necklaces. The floats toss out beads and other trinkets. And we finally got to try the beignets – which were delicious! And we soaked up the last of the fun spirit and sunshine of New Orleans.

Our funny last look was the fact that we had almost no gas when we got back into the van. Something we didn’t pay enough attention to – until we found ourselves on the raised highway above the swamp. There are no off road locations when you’re between a lake and a swamp. Also everyone melted down a little once we got into the car. So we have people spraying perfume, complaining about plugins (mobile wifi we can share, plugs, not so much), whining about being hungry (delicious as they are apparently beignets aren’t really lunch), a big rain storm started and we’re worried about running out of gas. Luckily it didn’t happen. We got gas, food, power, sleep and remembered rain isn’t like snow even if everyone in Louisiana seems to drive like it is.



New Orleans Day Two – Creepy but cool by Ann Treacy
April 1, 2013, 8:14 pm
Filed under: New Orleans

Our second day in New Orleans started with a tour of the Voodoo Museum. It was pretty cool – in my favorite vein of creepy but cool. We learned a lot more about top Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. We saw a working alter and lots of paraphernalia. We learned that many Catholic Saints have sort of become Voodoo symbols – or maybe it mostly has to do with the statues of the saints. Either way I sort of liked the connection. Lily had a great interest. Aine was a little nervous in the museum. The woman working at the museum was very nice.

What was cool was that we could take pictures – so I took a bunch. The girls were *not* interested in being in the pictures since Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo shop had made a point of saying that taking pictures was entirely forbidden.

After the Voodoo museum, we couldn’t pass up the cemetery where Marie Laveau was buried. Well, buried isn’t the best term. Entombed is a much better term. Burying the corpses doesn’t make sense when the city is built on swampland. One good flood and you could see where the idea of zombies could spread. The tombs are different. We saw one modern-looking tomb that was shaped like a pyramid; mostly they look like European tombs. I have some pictures of Marie’s tomb, although there seemed to be some dispute about which was actually hers. It sounded as if both the contenders were family vaults, but unclear which was hers. As you can see from the pictures, people leave keepsakes by the tomb. You make a wish, leave an item and if Marie likes the item, she’ll grant your wish.

We also stopped by the Louis Armstrong Park. Very nice area with great fountain and modern art all around. Really it was just to be a little hot for a change.

In the afternoon we took the free ferry to Algiers, which is really just a hop and skip over to the West side of the Mississippi – but who can turn town either free or ferry! It does give some really nice views of the city. And it seems as if Algiers did not have the flooding that the rest of New Orleans had during Katrina – so the houses are beautiful and unique with beautiful gardens. And cats. The number of cats actually got a little creepy. (In fairness, I can find one cat creepy – and never cool!)

On Algiers we found a British Pub. It had something for each of us – the front door was a TARDIS (that’s the time travel machine from Dr Who for those who went to the prom), Dr Who played on the TVs inside, they had nice pints and Wotsits, which are my favorite British crisp-type thing. (They’re like cheese puffs.)

After the super quick trip on the ferry, we went to the 11th floor of the Westin for another great view of the city. You can sneak up to the 11th floor from the shopping mall beneath (very near to our hotel). On the 11th floor is the hotel lobby, which they seem happy to share with non-guests. The view was gorgeous.

After that we seemed to roam the city aimlessly for hours – eventually finding a fancy dinner at the Hotel Montelone.



New Orleans Day One – all about food! by Ann Treacy
April 1, 2013, 3:09 am
Filed under: New Orleans

Dad and I started the day in New Orleans with a good walk around while girls caught up on sleep. We checked out the French Quarter and picked out some good places to eat. We even crashed a Good Friday parade.

We started with an amazing brunch at The Court of Two Sisters on Royal Street. The have a live jazz brunch every day. The food was amazing. Tons of peel and eat shrimp and some other stuff. Actually while I could be happy for a long time with peel and eats – everything was really good. And the jazz was just the perfect amount. We were about 5 feet from the musicians – but it was fun, not overwhelming.

Then we checked out the French Quarter. We saw some buskers. Aine was selected as the magician’s helper, which is always fun. She did a good job. We saw tons of shops – including Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo, which caught Lily’s eye. We saw some great musicians. There’s not a ton to report – but we had a great time. It was nice to be warm and at times actually hot. It was easy to see why New Orleans is called America’s best foreign city. It’s a good city for walkers. There are lots of nice places to eat – inside and out. Stuff feels old.

Not having visited before Katrina, it’s tough to say if anything was different. There are places that are boarded up – too many really but I can’t say for sure that’s all Katrina-related. There are many super gorgeous balconies and intricate ironwork and flowers hanging from above – despite frost warnings earlier in the week.

Patrick flew in Friday night. So we all checked out Orleans Grapevine Bistro, which was another amazing meal. We walked back around Bourbon Street, so the girls got a flavor of the scene – but not too much. The Patrick and I hit the town. We ended up on Frenchman Street watching a great band. Their encore was a great version of These Boot were Made for Walking. And one of us got asked to dance several times. I won’t say which one.

I do have to note one of my favorite pictures – Aine in front of the St Louis Cathedral with the big shadows!



Road to Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi & Louisiana by Ann Treacy
April 1, 2013, 3:04 am
Filed under: Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee | Tags:

Day two on the road to New Orleans. Not a ton to report. We had brunch at a place called Brother Juniper’s in Memphis. Monte Cristo with maple syrup – nonstandard, yet really good! Then we tried some car washes in Jackson. And we drove a lot. We saw snow until nearly Memphis – which was a little sad.

We arrived in New Orleans in time for dinner. We ate at a place called Mother’s. Apparently it was on Man v Food. Man tried to eat the giant Po’ Boy. We didn’t. The food was good. Poor Lily had nothing to eat with Mother’s does no specialize in vegetarian dishes.

 




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