Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Remembering New Orleans

I visited the Big Easy a week after Mardi Gras (2012).  Any other town would have felt like it was recuperating ... but, activities in the French Quarter still felt up beat and in the swing.

After doing some research, I decided that I'd dedicate a full day to walking around the French Quarter.  For safety, I spent the money to park in a gated parking lot.  I arrived early in the morning and had my pick of parking spaces.  I parked facing Decatur (the main drag).  That proved to be a good strategy as I could use my car as a place to rest, have lunch and still people watch.

I made sure to visit the two National Parks in the French Quarter --  the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, and the French Quarter Visitor Center of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

To say the least, it was a very full day of exploring and walking; I was especially tired as I drove away at dusk ... but, what memories!  Here are some pics, shared in the order taken ...

It's morning and horse-drawn carriages are
 lined up and ready to be hired by tourists on Decatur St.

Decatur St. with carriages, in front of Jackson Square
 and St. Louis Cathedral

Cafe Du Monde's open-air dinning area where I enjoyed
french donuts (beignets) and their coffee (with chicory)

Inner courtyard at the Jean LaFitte Visitor Center.
Although it's called the "French Quarter" the architecture is mostly Spanish.

Statue of the Father of New Orleans,
Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville,
one of the many sites seen on a
National Park Ranger led history tour
of the riverfront.

The Mississippi River on a chilly day

St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square

Tourists on Decatur Street

Watching some acrobatic street performers (in red shirts)
among the tourists, across from Jackson Square

Leftover Mardi Gras decorations

I really enjoyed the street performers.  Great talent.

One Man Band

Really wonderful group.  Every flavor of jazz here.

Amazing clarinet player.  She could do circular breathing
and hold a single note "forever."

Even the street sweepers couldn't resist the music and got into the act!

Statue of Major General Andrew Jackson
in the Middle of Jackson Square
I next went to the Old United States Mint

The Old US Mint is a national historic landmark
with a museum

This is an unusual kind of photograph from me, but I thought it
truly captured my feelings of being into the music at the time.
I was absorbed in the performance of an old time gospel/jazz group
 as part of the Music at the Mint Program.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gulf Coast Wildlife

Some of my favorite experiences while on the road is seeing wildlife.  On my Gulf Coast trip, February-March 2012, I specifically visited National Wildlife Refuges to get a real appreciation of the areas' natural inhabitants.

Flying in formation, South Padre Island, Texas

Shore birds, Boca Chica Beach, Texas

White pelicans, seagulls and other shore birds ... fisherman throws out fish parts
Bird Island Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

White pelicans paddle off at sunset.
Bird Island Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Seagulls follow the Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry, Texas

Brown Pelican, McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Roseate Spoonbills, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana

Early morning spider webs at a wildlife refuge visitors center, southwest LA
Wild hogs at Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana

Cardinal defending his territory from the "intruder" in my side view mirror.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, northwest Florida Gulf Coast

Garter snake, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, northwest Florida

Swallowtail Butterfly, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Black vultures line the dock at Manatee Springs State Park, Florida

Manatees at the Tampa Electric
Manatee Viewing Center, Florida

Ahinga (snake bird) at Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Cormorants at Everglades National Park, Florida

Alligator swimming among mangroves in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Great Blue Heron and Alligator, Loop Road, Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

Alligator, Loop Road, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Great Egret, Loop Road, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Wood Storks, Loop Road,
Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Osprey in nest, Flamingo area,
Everglades National Park, Florida
Crocodile, Flamingo area, Everglades National Park, Florida

Manatee, Flamingo area, Everglades National Park, Florida

Miniature Deer, National Key Deer Refuge, Big Pine Key, Florida

Great Egret, Loop Road, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Of course, I saw wildlife of which I didn't get pictures.  My most memorable sightings include a caracara pair (large raptors) off of the Boca Chica Hwy in Texas, a huge eastern diamondback rattle snake sunning itself on the road in the Everglades National Park, and an alligator (about 5') pass us as we canoed through a mangrove tunnel in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gulf Coast Bites

For the past several months I've been keeping close to Washington State as hubby John's family has been dealing with some serious health challenges.

But, that doesn't keep me from both remembering and savoring my past experiences, as well as planning some new travels. So, this post is dedicated to the foods I tried and enjoyed last winter as I was exploring the Gulf Coast, February-March 2012.

I ordered Cap'n Roy's grilled shrimp just after sunset, South Padre Island, TX
 I did take-out and enjoyed it at the marina at the south end of the island.
Probably the best shrimp I've ever had!

Andoulle (Cajun/French sausage) in Louisiana ...
purchased in town and enjoyed at a state park near Abbeville.
Very tasty.

Boiled crawfish ... near New Orleans, LA

To eat crawfish: break off the tail, peal off the shell, eat the tail
 ... tastes a bit like shrimp ...
for a spicy taste, also twist of the head and suck out the juices.

Watching beignets (French donuts) being made at Cafe Du Monde in the
French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana.
These are deep fried and served with powdered sugar in sets of 3.
I sat in the open-air dining area and enjoyed ...
along with a cup of their famous coffee.

Crawfish is a big deal in Mississippi too
I recommend Clawzilla's in Bay St. Louis

Lambert's Cafe in Foley, Alabama serves traditional southern cooking.
Side dishes are offered from large bowls by the waiters as they visit table to table
... and they throw their rolls to you!
Miccosukee Restaurant, a Native American owned and operated business
within the Everglades NP in Florida, offers local and traditional fare
... just down the road from where I took the picture of this snoozing gator ...
I ordered a variety plate of alligator tail bites, frog legs, hush puppies and fry bread.
Mario's offers traditional Cuban food in Homestead
(on the Atlantic side of south Florida vs. the Gulf side)

Mario's Vaca Frita (shredded beef with onion)
Mario's Maduro (sweet fried plantain) & Yuca
Great trip, good food.
Note: I used, both via my laptop and a smart phone app, to find local restaurants with good ratings and cheap local/traditional foods.