Son returns to Phoenix

road tripSo after our enlightening, whirlwind trip to New Orleans, son and I enjoy some much-needed downtime home in Colorado.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a road trip without the RV and although we lucked out and had some great hotel experiences……well except for one night, I really missed my RV.

There’s a sense of freedom hauling ones home around.  A sense of independence.  A sense of self-sustainability.  But that sense of freedom is amazing.  It’s so liberating.

I won’t complain about the low cost of travel with sons vehicle versus the fuel cost of RV travel.  Son’s Hyundai Elantra got on average 35 miles per gallon.  The F-250 gets 10-13 mpg while pulling the rig… today’s lovely Diesel prices…ouch.  However, traveling by car requires the added expense of lodging.  At an additional charge of $75-100 per night (those taxes added to the room charge are always a shocker)  I’m not sure if there’s a clear winner on cost savings.  It would depend on RV Park fees.  There’s always a cost to traveling, always pros and cons, and above all personal preference.

Fashion Square Mall Scottsdale
Fashion Square Mall, Scottsdale

After a few days of relaxation and recovery from the arduous drive between Colorado and Louisiana, son needs to return home to Arizona and guess who decides to keep him company on his drive home?  None other than moi.  Turns out a dear friend of my had some surgery.  She lives about 35 minutes south of my son in the Phoenix area.  She would love some company.

Son and I left Colorado the day before a cold front rolled in.  While Logan and I enjoy 90 plus degree temperatures and sunshine in Phoenix, hubby and daughter enjoy Denver’s first flakes of the season.  This is a reminder, Al and I will need to get organized quickly and get the RV out of Colorado in the very near future…..preferably earlier rather than later.

San DiegoAs part of girlfriends recovery from hip surgery, regular walking is a must and since the outside temps are in the upper 90’s, we head off to a local mall; Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale.  This allows an abundance of level walking surface in air conditioning, as well as plenty of spots for breaks (i.e. coffee break).  We had a great visit and accomplished physical therapy as mall walkers.  We discuss plans for hiking this winter as her recovery continues.  No shortage of great hiking opportunities in the Phoenix area.

As if Logan and I have not spent enough time on the road, tomorrow we’re off to San Diego, California…….

Images of New Orleans

In our short and rushed visit to New Orleans, I’m grateful for the IA (intelligent/auto mode) on my camera.  There was little to no time to think about photographer.

Joan of Arc
statue of Joan of Arc

Hurry up, point, and shoot was all the time I had.  Son and I tried to see as much as we could in our short stay.

New Orleans
Logan inside the St. Louis Cathedral

Logan and I felt like we had traveled to another country.  The architecture, the food, the accent, the landscape, the people, and of course the insects are so vastly different from most other parts of the United States.

French Quarter
French Quarter, Bourbon Street

But at ever turn we were reminded of the history of this interesting part of America.  At ever turn was another statue or plaque honoring the memory of someone special.

New Orleans
plague mounted on the wall inside St. Louis Cathedral

We are reminded of America’s multi-cultural roots.New Orleans

Reminded of a Civil War.New Orleans

Reminded……New Orleans

New Orleans

Ah, and the food, we cannot forget the food……..

Shrimp & Alligator Sausage Pasta
Catfish Po Boy

Yes, New Orleans is colorful on so many levels.

New Orleans
Mississippi River

New Orleans

New Orleans

New Orleans
Lutheran Church, built-in 1800’s

And although I look forward to another visit,  a lengthier visit with a slower pace,

I’ll keep my residence in America’s west…..Colorado for now  🙂

New Orleans
Lafayette Square, music and food
New Orleans
St.Louis Cathedral

The Big Easy

New OrleansNew Orleans is nicknamed The Big Easy and after spending a couple of evenings at the French Quarter I think I get it….it’s all about taking it easy, having a good time.  Hey man, life’s short.  Enjoy it while you can.

French Quarter
The spray painted guy is a “street performer”. He’ll pose for photos for a donation. He and the cop are conversing like buddies…..talking about a football game.

Well enjoy we did!  New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana and the 46th largest city in the United States.  It’s a multi-cultural city with strong French and Spanish influences.  On average, the land sits at an elevation between two feet below sea level to 20 feet above sea level.  Most of New Orleans sits AT sea level.  The humid, subtropical climate can feel quite warm hot.

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street….another ‘street performer’ on the left. This time spray painted silver. Plenty of opportunities for a horse and carriage ride.
Bourbon Street
I shall spare you the image of this MAN from the front!!!

The French Quarter is well-known for its notorious nightlife, festivals, Mardi Gras, and the birth place of jazz.  Car traffic down Bourbon Street is cut-off via barrier sometime around 6:00 p.m.  I’m convinced it’s to keep the wasted partying folks from getting hit by a car, or better yet, save the cars from potential damage from wild revelers.  As the night unfolds, so does the craziness.  Eclectic might be a good choice of words to describe the Quarter….everything from red light district activities to upscale Jazz halls.

This is our second evening strolling the Quarter.  We start with a delicious spiked Slurpee (i.e. frozen daiquiri) in hand….come on, it’s hot out.  We then return to the same restaurant where we ate last night …. Bourbon Heat.  The food was so good and we really enjoyed sitting in the courtyard.  Logan eats more alligator!

There are tons and tons of restaurant choices.  Many of the places have live entertainment and at some the music can be excessively loud.  The talent is obvious as music French Quarterwafts the air.  It’s easy to get caught up in this place.

Please note; with the completion of one frozen daiquiri and the start of a second, the music and overall experience was greatly enhanced and thus highly recommended.  In other words, the French Quarter is a lot more fun when one is buzzed, like everyone else.

We visited the Quarter on a Tuesday and Wednesday night and were back at the hotel by 9:00 p.m. (party poopers)   We saw plenty of craziness during these two week nights.  A sampling of some of Logan’s comments;  “You got to be kicking”.  “What the heck is that?” “Really?”  “WTF”  “OMG”. “Hum, lingerie night?”  “Peep show?”  “Did you see that”.

French Quarter
Logan experiencing the French Quarter
French Quarter
Street Performer. Bucket for tips!

We people watched, watched street performers, and stopped to listen to music.  In the photo to the left, is a ‘street performer’, I use the term lightly.  I guess his talent is climbing a free-standing ladder….a ladder to nowhere.  The ladder is NOT up against anything.  He just climbs and balances on the ladder.

Okay, moving on.  Later in the evening, down the street, we watched two guys street dance and they were pretty entertaining.  Michael Jackson would be proud of the unique moon walk.

Never once did we feel unsafe.  New Orleans finest were plentiful, patrolling by car, on motorcycle, and on foot.  These officers were regularly engaged in conversation with locals…..very friendly and civil.

There were times it was all Logan and I could do not to stare or open our mouth in shock.  We can’t fathom what it’s like on a weekend or let alone Mardi Gras.  Party Central is putting it mildly.  Everyone should experience New Orleans’ French Quarter, at least once.  I’m glad we did, even though my behavior, in comparison to others, could more easily be associated with a nun…..not so bad, considering this is Catholic country after all…..St. Louis Cathedral

Can you say Yum?

It’s been a long day.  We drove from Shreveport, Louisiana, to New Orleans.  We took a short break settling into our hotel room  before walking down Decatur Street.  We visited the historic St. Louis Cathedral and viewed the Mississippi River.  I think it’s high time for dinner and drinks.Bourbon Street

What better place to enjoy a yummy New Orleans meal than the French Quarter….Bourbon Street to be exact!  From Decatur Street, we take a little side street and walk slowly over to Bourbon Street.  We take in all the sites, sounds, history, architecture, and atmosphere.

French QuarterLogan has never seen such narrow streets or such old buildings.  We round a corner and there’s no doubt when we reach Bourbon Street.  Neon lights, music, and activity abound.  As we continue down the street, the sound of music becomes a main component.  It’s still early….perhaps 5:30 p.m. and we’re hungry.  We read some posted menus to see what we’re in the mood for.

Logan reads “alligator sausage” and immediately says, “I gotta try alligator”.  So alligator it is.  The name of the place is Bourbon Heat.  It’s more bar than restaurant but a walk- way toward the rear of the building reveals a courtyard.  We grab a table and order the house French Quarterdrink.  When I say house drink, I believe it’s more of the popular drink here in the French Quarter…….frozen daiquiri’s.  These “ice-e” machines are everywhere making frozen daiquiri’s and margaritas served in ‘to go’ cups.  My kids and I are huge Slurpee fans.  So these frozen strawberry daiquiri‘s hit the spot.

I’m not sure how big the portions will be, therefore we decide to split an entrée, especially since Logan orders the appetizer alligator sausage on a stick.  For our entrée, we order Catfish Lafayette.  This entrée consists of a large piece of catfish, lightly breaded, Cajun seasoned, deep-fried and served over a bed of rice in a cream, Cajun sauce.  My mouth is watering as I write this.  It

French Quarter
Catfish Lafayette

was simply delicious.  The atmosphere was exactly what we needed….simple, casual, laid back.

The food is served on paper plates with plastic utensils.  Our daiquiri’s are served in large styrofoam cups, making it very convenient for drinking ‘on the go’.  We are quickly reminded to slow down while slurping this yummy concoction…..brain freeze!

After devouring our meal, we slowly meander our way back to the hotel while drinking our spiked slurpees.

Logan getting ready to try alligator sausage

The French Quarter………I’m speechless!  I thought I saw it all while living in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I’m not kidding when I say “I’m speechless”.  I need to think about putting our short visit to the French Quarter into words…….

French Quarter
French Quarter

History at it’s Finest

New Orleans
bridges, bridges, and more bridges

After traveling 1220 miles in a day and a half, about 21 hours on the road, Logan and I are ready to stop driving.  We pull up to the front of the hotel, pop the trunk to retrieve our luggage, and are suddenly and unexpectedly startled by a stow away jumping quickly to his freedom.  A Texas cricket moves to New Orleans!

We get settled into our hotel room, leaving Jiminy Cricket to find his own quarters.  We are very pleased with the accommodations and the location of our hotel.  I booked us via the internet at the Blake Hotel New Orleans, located at 500 St. Charles Ave, New Orleans.

New Orleans
A corner room on the sixth floor overlooking Lafayette Square

Prior to our departure, I spend well over an hour on the internet doing research for a place to stay in New Orleans.  I pick The Blake Hotel.  First, it was close to the seminar held at the Inter Continental Hotel; the whole reason behind this trip.  Second, the price was right at $85 a night.  Third, it’s a member of the Choice Hotel family, allowing me to acquire choice privilege points.  Parking cost another $25 a day, but hey this is a major city after all.New Orleans

At the front desk we obtain a free map of the local area.  Still using those paper maps even though son and I both have smart phones. First stop must be the St. Louis Cathedral.  Regardless of ones religion, this is a must see on any visit to New Orleans.

St. Louis Cathedral
The St. Louis Cathedral

The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest active Catholic Cathedral in the United States. The history of this church dates back to the 1700’s.

St. Louis Cathedral
Cathedral ceiling

St. Louis CathedralCathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France was founded in 1718 and established as a Parish in 1720.  It was designated a Basilica in 1964.  Logan and I are in awe from the stained glass, to the statues, and the hand painted walls and ceilings.  We’re moved by the history, spirit, and faith invoked by this incredible structure.  It boggles the mind to know this current structure has stood here since 1794.  Boy, I don’t feel so old after all.

We explore the exterior grounds.  The garden is lush, green, and meticulously maintained.

Logan is a bit of a history buff (like father, like son) and is totally enthralled with the history surrounding us.  We cross Decatur Street and find ourselves along the shores of the Mississippi River.  It appears the river is low despite Hurricane Issac.  There is no boat or barge activity.  So we assume the river is still closed to shipping due to the drought up north.

Mississippi River
Mississippi River

It’s time to head to Bourbon street and find some yummy Cajun food…..

Are We There Yet?

New Orleans
lush, green Louisiana

Son and I wake early and rested.  We slept great and are ready to get to our destination.  New Orleans here we come!  We grab some coffee and bananas ‘to go’ from the breakfast bar; included with our room.  We’re anxious to hit the road.

We’re heading south from Shreveport, Louisiana, on Interstate 49.  Son is intrigued with the lush, green landscape, and the flatness.  There’s little to no traffic and we enjoy the drive taking in the environment.  After about an hour into the drive, we stop at McDonald’s for more coffee and a couple of McMuffins……one of my travel vices.

The McDonald’s is busy.  Folks are jovial, engaged in conversations, and extremely polite.  Once again, son and I question what country we’re in.  We focus really hard to understand this interesting form of English and even then we’re not sure what was said, but everyone is helpful and happy.  A smile, nod, and a thank you on our part seems to work, even though we’re not sure what we’re responding to.  Did I already mention how polite everyone is?

I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans

We continue south on I-49 to the city of Lafayette at which point, we head east on Interstate 10.  It was after Baton Rouge where the drive got interesting.  We experienced driving via a Causeway over swamp land…..water, water and more water.  No drought around here, that’s for sure.  This Causeway, a long series of bridges, and the swamp water all around was definitely unique.  I drive so son can look around.  He’s excited and in awe as he takes in the environment.

New Orleans
getting closer to New Orleans

New OrleansWe agree, we wouldn’t want to break down around here.  The vegetation is thick.  The bugs are big (as evidenced by the yuck on the windshield).  There’s water everywhere….some clear, some green, some scummy.  The land is flat and the air is thick.  Louisiana and Colorado couldn’t be more different.

As we approach New Orleans, we witness more water.  We pass Lake Pontchartrain and then the famous Super Dome.  We’re here, we’re finally here.  I’m driving and I’m not sure what exit we should take to get to the hotel.

Our plan was to switch drivers before New Orleans, but there just never seamed to be a good place to do this.  Also son was so fascinated with the surroundings, I wanted him to have the opportunity to look around without having to focus on traffic.

French QuarterI’m old school and don’t use a GPS.  I use paper maps.  However this will be changing with the addition of my new smart phone.  Back to the maps….I have son grab the atlas and all my print outs from google maps for him to navigate.  We pass our exit and get off at the next one.  I’m pretty good with directions (I don’t get lost, just turned around) and between the two of us we find our hotel.  Fortunately for us, during our “turned around” drive circling some blocks, we saw parts of the French Quarter and drove by the famous St. Louis Cathedral – on my must see list.  This gave us a great prospective as to walking distances for our explorations.

We check into our Hotel, valet the car, and head out on foot for a yummy Cajun meal….

French Quarter
somewhere in Louisiana