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Monthly Archives: December 2011

My last post about New Orleans got me thinking.  Louisiana has so much to offer!  The Big Easy is probably the most popular tourist destination in the state, but there are other areas to explore that offer visitors a glimpse into a distinct regional culture.  A few summers ago, a friend and I took a weekend road trip off the beaten path through Cajun Country to check out the southern central part of the state.  It’s a fun little weekend getaway and pretty easy to cover in a couple of days, especially if you live in a bordering state.

On a Friday night we left from Dallas and spent the night in Shreveport.  If you live in the Southern part of the country and are passing through, it’s a fun little town to stop and place some bets, but I don’t recommend it as a destination.  Go to Vegas.  Just do it.

After winning a little and loosing more, we got up early the next morning and set out for our primary attraction of the weekend: the Tabasco bottling plant on Avery Island.  In my opinion, it was a scenic four hour drive almost due south from Shreveport, so if you enjoy swamps, bayous, and cute little historic towns, you’ll agree!

On our way we stopped for lunch at Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf in Henderson, which has been serving Cajun cuisine since 1948.  It’s still operated and owned by the Huval family and is a popular stop in the Atchafalaya Basin.  We sat on the screened-in patio on a bayou and enjoyed some cold beer and crawfish!  Yum!

After lunch we continued on to Avery Island.  The further south we drove, the more our surroundings started to look surprisingly tropical.  There’s a wide variety of flora in this part of the country.  Everything from pine trees to palm trees grows well in the fertile soil and humid air.

We took a tour of the Tabasco bottling plant and learned that most of their peppers are grown in Central America and the Caribbean, but all Tabasco is bottled here and shipped to nearly every country in the world.  After the tour we cooled off in the Country Store and tried some jalapeno ice cream!  Avery Island has 170 acres of jungle gardens that we toured next.

Watch out for gators!  There are signs that recommend not picnicking near the water.  Avery Island is   lush and very well maintained.  It’s the perfect spot to relax and take in the swampy beauty of south Louisiana.

The next day we set out to explore the historic town of New Iberia, also known as The City of Live Oaks for the huge, mossy live oak trees that line its streets.  We toured a couple of plantation homes there, and then drove to Jefferson Island to see the Rip Van Winkle gardens.

One of my friends should get married down here!  😉  Or just throw party!

If you’re ever in the area, Avery Island is worth a visit!  Or make it a destination!  Happy road tripping!

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Summer trip no. 1…  New Orleans.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The first trip my guy and I took together was to New Orleans in the summer of 2010.  I had been a handful of times but he was a Big Easy virgin (haha).  One of my favorite things to do is play “tour guide,” and I loved showing him some of my favorite places in the city.  We had such a great time we decided to make it an (at least) annual trip.

When we landed in New Orleans in July for annual trip no. 2, we grabbed a taxi and headed to our hotel in the Vieux Carre.  (Insider tip: This taxi ride is usually about $60 each way, so if you go for a day trip as I’ve done a couple of times, you’ll come out ahead if you rent a car.  If you’re staying in the French Quarter for a night or two, you can easily walk to where you want to go or take a streetcar for $1.25 per ride.  Plus, parking at a hotel might cost you $20 per night, so I think a taxi makes things easier.)

Front gate at the Cornstalk Hotel

We spent two nights in the Crescent City at the Cornstalk Hotel, which was formerly a mansion and is supposedly haunted.  (At night you can sit outside on front the balcony and watch ghost tours stop in front of the building!)  Our concierge was extremely welcoming and helpful with recommendations, and the location was perfect- not too close to the commotion of the French Quarter, but only a quick walk away.

Jazz band at The Three Muses

Once we checked in, we ventured to Frenchman Street.  It was Friday night and the neighborhood was filled with hoodlums, punky kids, musicians, and regular folks looking for some good music.  It’s a little off the beaten path, so there didn’t appear to be many tourists.  We stumbled upon an intimate jazz gastropub called The Three Muses and went in for dinner, drinks, and entertainment. 

Enjoying some vino at The Three Muses

It was a true New Orleans experience and the perfect place for anyone who appreciates live music.  The jazz combo kept our fingers snappin’ and our toes tappin’!  The best part of the night was when an elderly man carrying a battered trumpet case walked in and sat down at a table in front of the stage.  He nonchalantly took out his trumpet and played along with the band.  Our waitress told us he pops in from time to time to jam.  It was so natural and organic, like art coming to life. 

Breaux Bridge Benedict at Stanley

On Saturday morning we started with a big breakfast at Stanley Restaurant, located in Jackson Square.  There is always a wait here, but it’s worth it!  The food is heavy, but who comes to New Orleans to worry about their diet?  This city is all about indulging!  After breakfast we walked around Jackson Square and admired the work of the street artists who line the parimeter of the square’s iron fence and paint. 

Image from neworleanscitybusiness.com

We strolled through the open air French Market, then caught a streetcar to the garden district.  I enjoy this neighborhood for its history and architecture.  I’d love to go on a home tour here someday!  From the residential area, we emerged onto Magazine Street and wandered through some of the boutiques.  When my man couldn’t take the shops any more, we decided it was time for a siesta and headed back to the Cornstalk.

Neon outside of Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House

Oysters at Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House

After a nice nap, we headed to the French Quarter for dinner.  Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House was recommended to us by our concierge.  There was a wait, but we grabbed a spot at the bar and enjoy some fresh oysters until our table was ready.  The food and the waitstaff were excellent.  I can’t wait to go back!

Fancy hat purchased at Goorin Bros hat shop!

Post dinner, we hit up Bourbon Street for some entertainment!  People watching here is priceless, and there is such a variety! Young and old, fancy and casual, everyone is here to let go and go wild!  We walked the streets of the French Quarter and enjoyed a few drinks until it was time to get some sleep so we could catch an early morning flight home.

Bourbon Street litterred with Mardi Gras beads

New Orleans is the perfect combination of history, culture, and indulgence and my absolute favorite city in the South.  See you soon mon amie!

Wow, 2011 flew by, and brought a lot of changes with it.

I went from couch-surfing to putting down roots in a lovely little apartment.

Shortly after I got a promotion (yay!) and traded my cube for a home office.

I love my new job but the first six months were incredibly BUSY!

I have a handle on things now, which means I also have a reasonable amount of free time again for this blog!  🙂 

There are lots of stories to be told about my last six months of travel. 

Like I said, I’ve been B-U-S-Y, and yeah, that is my alibi!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting on the following trips:

New Orleans

Chicago

Austin

San Antonio

Denver

International Falls, MN (basically Canada)

London

Paris

Cincinnati

Keystone/Vail

OKC (my heart!)

I hope this year will bring as much excitement and adventure as the last! 

Here’s a picture of my hand-made Christmas gift from my very talented brother:

Check out his blog and online portfolio here:  http://thetoltec.wordpress.com/

See the little colored pushpins?  I have so much more of the world to cover!  I get the travel bug just looking at this!

 Where are you going in 2012?