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Last day in New Orleans: a ghostly good time! by Ann Treacy
June 25, 2021, 4:04 pm
Filed under: New Orleans

I’m always slow getting the last vacation post online – especially if the vacation ends with a bumpy flight home. The amazing thing about our time in New Orleans was the little rain we saw. Given that there were predicting a tropical storm a few days earlier – we got lucky. We spent the day walking. The girls like to shop and see voodoo museums. I’m happy to just walk. So that’s what we did with most of the day.

We did a walking ghost tour at night. The tour guide was very good – very enthusiastic and she knew so much. I should make the girls type up the stories for me; they remember them so much better than I do. I know it was our second time hearing some of the stories and still I barely remember. New Orleans is/was very Catholic. It’s interesting to hear how often that’s a factor. The church has so many rule and then so many rules to get around the original rules but mostly designed to keep comfortable people comfortable and keep other people keeping them comfortable by basing laws on race, color, gender and religion. We heard stories of immigrants working as domestic help being tortured mercilessly and a woman being dying naked and cold to convince her boyfriend to marry her. (He got drunk and forgot that she was out on the roof proving her point.) So many sad stories in a town where the live between living and dead seems so blurred.



New Orleans Day One: Familiar places, Brazilian food, Frenchmen Street and people on the streets by Ann Treacy
June 23, 2021, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Louisiana, New Orleans

We are back. The girls love New Orleans. I love any walking city. Kate is very happy with the vegan options. The girls took me to a lovely Cuban-Brazilian restaurant last night and it was very tasty. We have a fun lunch at the French Market.

We are all happy with the people watching and music everywhere. We are staying in a really nice place near the French Quarter. Also apparently conveniently near to Bourbon Street, since the girls seems happy to walk by in any time day or night.

We have popped into shops and voodoo places and today we might do some tours but honestly the girls regale me with what they remember from past tours as we walk places. I feel like they could be the guides at this point.

Kate, Lily and I walked down Bourbon late at night to Frenchmen Street to bars that are more music than party-focused. We saw some awesome music, as you can see the in the videos below. I snuck a video of the girls and talked them into letting me post it on the promise that they would be happy to see it in 10 years time. And they will!

While we love New Orleans,  it’s hard to say anything without a nod to the huge number of people experiencing homelessness. Lots of people sleeping outside. I saw a young woman asleep in a doorway holding a mean looking dog last night. Many folks will know that I’m terrified of dogs and subsequently don’t like them much – but it seemed like a solid move to get a dog if you’re sleeping on Royal Street. There’s almost a romanticism of young people living on the streets. There’s clearly a community among people. Even from a distance you can see camaraderie and concern for each other. That romanticism does not age well. I noticed a couple of old men, on benches, shoeless with feet that were painful to see from a distance. They were altered – maybe drugs, maybe mental health, likely a combination of both. Makes me wonder where that tipping point is. What is the Ven Diagram of substance, mental health, having fun and finding yourself in pain and on the streets. And the better question, how can we support people into healthier transitions for the long term?



San Antonio – nothing beats dumb luck and live music! by Ann Treacy
June 21, 2021, 6:42 am
Filed under: Texas

We had a couple of free days during our vacation and we spent one of them in San Antonio. Bonus! We happened to be here at the start of the Fiesta de los Reyes. Even better? Lily unknowingly booked us into the hotel directly across from the festival. So lucky! Honestly, most people parked farther than we lived. (In the pictures below, you can see Lily at the festival with the La Quinta sign in the background – that’s our hotel!)

 

It was so much fun. Below is a compilation of the music and dancing. There were three stages. One seemed to have a DJ with dancing. We saw a Grammy nominated singer, who was an awesome performer. (And whose name, I clearly don’t remember.)

There was also a ton of food. We had tacos, gorditas, elote and fruit. The tacos were just how I like them with limited “stuff” on them. Just meat and onions. Kate was stuck being a little hungry as there weren’t a ton of vegan options. The people watching was amazing!

We did take a break from the festival to check out the San Antonio Art Galley and the downtown River Walk. Both were great. We also tried to get food at the Pearl while on the walk. Turns out there still weren’t a ton of vegan option sand we were all getting very hangry and very hot. We did what we could and we all decided that San Antonio was a super fun town to visit Oh the other bonus, was that there was an outdoor pool. We don’t see many of those in Minnesota.



San Antonio, Houston, Beaumont to Lafayette – they can’t all be winners! by Ann Treacy
June 21, 2021, 4:32 am
Filed under: Louisiana, Texas

Today was our travel day. Today was that one day every family has on vacation – that day that just stinks. Start with I truly hate driving but I am the only one old enough to drive the rental car and the only one with more than 20 minutes experience of highways driving. But it was way better than taking a Greyhound! (No offense to Greyhound.)

We tried to get a sneak peek at The Alamo on the way out of town. Construction meant that we are unlikely to remember The Alamo. (Although fitting in that terrible line makes it almost worth it.) We headed to Houston. Too early for lunch, Lily looked up a few things we could do. The overwhelming winner was street art murals. Picture any old low end strip mall, closed and derelict. Then picture a few folks drinking bear and spraying painting all of the back of the mall. That was it. I will never look up how far much faster it would have been to bypass downtown Houston. We did listen to Southtown Girls on the way out, which also made it a little better)

So that left us in Beaumont, TX for lunch. Kate is vegan. She had a bad day trying to find food at the street festival or the bougie food mall we went to yesterday. So she picked out a restaurant where should through she might get food she liked. So we went for an Indian meal in Beaumont. I won’t name it but there was water dripping from the ceiling in part of the restaurant and the sign in the bathroom said don’t flush paper towels or toilet paper in the toilet – but rather into the bin. Apparently their vegan food was good but I just couldn’t eat the chicken I ordered after that. It’s tough to be vegan!

So onto Lafayette. We planned to stay overnight and I had an interview at 9pm so we had some parameters. Lily found a very funky guesthouse and bar. I suspect this place is the epicenter of a few music fests throughout the year. They have bands play. The vibe is great. Except the bar is not open tonight. No live music. We are the only people staying. Due to a slight miscommunication, they weren’t open when we get here. So my 9 hours in the car turned 9 and a half. Normally I might go for a walk but it was pouring rain. Again, cool place but wrong time!

The night got better when we had a nice Cuban meal and starting planning for our day in New Orleans tomorrow. The girls have been a few times so they have a list. We are just holding our hope that the repercussions of the tropical storm that just missed on Saturday are minimal.



Austin TX Day Two: Sad history, swimming hole, peacocks and music by Ann Treacy
June 20, 2021, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We (mostly I) got a little Austin history today. First – and quickest – The University of Austin Tower, from a distance. This is the location of a deadly mass shooting in 1966 when Charles Whitman (after killing mother and wife the night before) took to the top of the tower and opened fire. He killed 15 people and injured 31. It was the most deadly mass shooting for 18 years. Second – Juneteenth, the celebration and anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. It began in Galveston but I recently learned that June 19 1865 reflects the date that federal troops enforced the emancipation in Texas. Unfortunately the actual Emancipation happened in 1862. That’s a three year difference?!

Anyway – I happened to walk by “the” view of the tower today. Yesterday Kate and I stopped by the Austin Capitol and read about the history of the emancipation; they recognize that it wasn’t timely but didn’t specify. Today I headed to a Juneteenth celebration. It was festive and full. I had no idea what to expect. In fact I was late to the party and expected nothing. It was nice to see police playing a role (handing out candy) in the parade. Strange to see these days coming from the Twin Cities.

Then I met up with the girls at Barton Springs Pool. It’s a strange mix of pool/river/cold spring. Luckily I walked there and realized that only part of the river is the pool, which means you have to pay and (more importantly) wait in line to visit. So once the girls got there we walked down river and they took a dip. They seemed to have a great time. I did dip a toe.

After the swim, we went to Barton Springs Picnic, a food truck park. We were hot and hungry and crabby when we got there. We all decided before we left that none of us was even one little bit sad with our choices. SO good. Then we stopped by the Umlauf Sculpture Garden on the way home. (Pro Tip: not all sculpture gardens are free.)

Then at night, some of use went to the Mayfield Park, which was so much fun. They have peacocks wandering about. And we saw one in full plumage!! I can only imagine what Kate will paint after that.

 

We went to a Juneteenth celebration in in a park (near some bars) and saw a really fantastic singer, Dionysus. He was sitting in a battered chair, sometimes reading the lyrics off his phone and still had an amazing stage presence. Finally at night I talked the older girls into meeting me at C-Boy’s Heart and Soul where we saw Kimmie Vaugh and they talked me into going to what they called “Bourbon St of Austin” to see a Johnny Depp lookalike band. A good time was had by all!!



Austin TX Day One: Shopping, walking, art and bats by Ann Treacy
June 19, 2021, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Texas

We arrived in Austin in the very early hours of Friday morning. It’s hot but we knew that going in. We are staying downtown, near the University. It’s pretty central but we spent much of our first day on Congress and South Congress Avenues. It’s a shopping, eating, street art sort of street. I’m going to start with our night activity – we went to see the bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

Apparently a million and a half bats emerge each night from under the bridge. It seems to happen about 30 minutes after sunset. They are hard to see because they are so fast and small. Mostly what I could see was displacement of the colors where they flew. But it was pretty cool. Adding to the excitement we viewed from under the bridge – risking bat droppings. (That always ups the ante!)

After that we had tacos and fancy cocktails (those over 21) at Lincha. Earlier in the day we walked up and down Congress. (Some of us may have Ubered half the way and some of us got 14 miles in for the day.) Aine ended up buying a bag. We saw lots of murals. It was a fun day.



Sunny day in Chicago? Do the Loop Mural Walk! by Ann Treacy
June 16, 2021, 1:08 am
Filed under: Chicago

Day two of visiting Katie – we put on our super sonic sneakers and checked out the Loop Mural Walk. There are three walks downtown that feature 21 murals. Some are done by famous folks and some seem pretty local. Available now through July 4 – although it feels like those murals are pretty permanent. Doing the walk – and maybe diverging from the map a few times – we walked about 4 miles. It’s a fun walk through the loop. The walk isn’t tough but the navigation can be tricky.

Some of the murals are very obvious; some are harder to find but that’s part of the fun. We learned that if we swore we followed the map, we knew we were right, that the answer was to look up. Some of the best and biggest were a few flights up.

Another challenge was the one diversion into the pedestrian mall but it was the first time we had been in the mall so that was fun. Also, we went through the Chicago Cultural Center to get there, where we happened upon the filming of The 4400, which is apparently a TV show. We were thrilled!

We did get to take a walk through the alley side. (Pro Tip: walk on the side away from the garbage cans for fewer rat sightings!) Also we met a kind Irish man on Lower Wacker Drive, who pointed out (again kindly) that maybe we’d made a wrong turn. We were flattered that he cared and he probably wasn’t wrong.

It was a beautiful day. We kept walking after the murals and got another 3 miles under our belts. We visited a few things we always love to see – like the Harold Washington Library. (Snotty aside: I took classes there when I did my MLIS.) The Bean!! Of course I had to stop by the Art Institute of Chicago Lions – because I love them. The River walk is another fave.



Human + Nature at Morton Arboretum: an Art Break by Ann Treacy
June 14, 2021, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Chicago

Dad and I went to Chicago in part to visit Katie. Yay! Today we took a walk on the tree side with a trip to the Morton Arboretum. It’s about 30 minutes from where Katie lives. The Arboretum is all about the trees and walking paths and making it easy for people of all abilities to access the trees. Turns out, they have 1700 acres of land. There are lots of paths – some more paved that others but obviously so.

We noted that a mom (or two) with a bunch of kids could manage to get a few miles of walking in with their various half-mile or one-mile loops, a progressive picnic lunch and visit to the kids gallery. Back in the day were pretty much experts on that. You could get a stroller (or wheelchair) through most of the paths. Or I bet you could have a very meditative day walking on the various paths if that was your jam.

Today we were there for the Human + Nature exhibit, five large (15- to 26-foot-tall) statues hidden around the grounds. To be fair, they are less “hidden” if you pick up a map. Sculptor Daniel Popper hails from Cape Town, South Africa and his works have been seen all over the world. The statues are welcoming with open hands and open heart. Climbing on the statutes is not encouraged but you can easily walk through and touch it. They are a delight to see from a distance hidden in the woods and just as delighted to interact with at close range.

Pro Tip: they have some COVID-inspired rules, such as you need to sign up in advance. And special thanks: for letting us get around those rules. I’m not suggesting you thwart the rules; they are easy rules. Just appreciation for people who make space for other people, who sometimes don’t plan.

Also special mention to our delicious meal last night at D&J Bistro in Lake Zurich. I had foie gras for dinner. Tough to beat that unless you also started with share appetizers of scallops, cheese and beef tartare.




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