Friday, February 10, 2012

N'awlins - day two

Started the morning by watching a movie that the RV park offers to guests - Hurricane on the Bayou.  It's about the disappearing wetlands in this area and the effect that has on the area when a hurricane comes in.  It was really very well done and worth the watch.  I believe you can find it on YouTube?

We then went into the French Quarter with fellow RVers.  We joined another couple, who we met yesterday  on the shuttle, for breakfast of croissants and cafe au lait in a place they knew.   The croissant were good, but they still do not compare to either Pamplemousse in Redwood City, Ca or Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle, Wa.
Bill and Jill are retired high school teachers, he taught history and she taught science in Rockford, Illinois.  They turned out to often go to France because her sister married a French man and they live in Versailles.  Small world!

After breakfast we all went to visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.  It was established in 1823 and was fun by Louis Dufilho jr, America's first licensed pharmacist. This was well worth going to just to see the exhibits of various pieces of equipment, elixirs and voodoo stuff used during that time.  It is a very complete museum if you are interested in this element of life in the 1800s, which the two of us are, so a good place to spend some time.  Just to walk around in another typical French Quarter house makes it worth the visit.

After that visit we all went our separate ways for the day. Unfortunately, by the time we came out of that museum, it had started to rain...oh well, we had our rain gear on today.  So we walked over to visit the Ursuline Convent that we had seen from the outside yesterday.  This is the oldest building in the Mississippi valley, built in 1752-53 by French Colonial Engineers. There were some really bizarre statues in the church.  Religious female statue carrying a skull, another statue with oyster shell and eyes sitting on it and a religious male with what looked like a little gold bird on his head??? Nothing identified, so we have no clue as to who or what this was all about.  It was kinda interesting, but would not necessarily put this at the top of my list of things to do if you come here.  We chatted a bit with the woman selling  us our tickets and she talked about having thought about moving to Seattle a few years ago.  But she changed her mind because we had had big rains and things were flooded in the area.  Decided it just wasn't for odd a thought considering she is living in a city that is below the water level and subject to hurricanes!!!

By now, it was pouring rain and we had still not had lunch.  So we headed to the French Market area and had a late lunch/early dinner at the Market Cafe. Had some really good catfish and Fred has some really good red beans/rice.   We then took a stroll thru the Market, which was covered so a good place to be considering the weather.  As we strolled thru we saw masks, t-shirts, food items of all kinds to eat or take with you, musicians playing and lots of folks just having a good time.  We ended up talking with a man who wrote inspirational poetry.  He recited a poem for us which was very nice.  He has them written on laminated bookmarks that he autographs, in case he is famous later.  Turns out he has been in the Seattle area also and talked about watching someone fishing by Snoqualmie.  He was amazed to see the catch was a large Steelhead, which absolutely amazed him and he remembers vividly to this day.
It is always interesting to hear the stories these folks tell us when we say we are from Seattle!

Mardi Gras beads and masks
yes, they are little gator heads!

Meet the shuttle and back to our RV for the evening.  Tomorrow we have reservations at the New Orleans School of Cooking for a 2 hour cooking/eating demonstration.  They will be making craw fish etouffe, which is a really yummy dish that I have already eaten a few times.  Will let you know how it goes.

Have met our RV neighbors on both sides of us.  One couple is from Portland and the other is from North Carolina.  We will be trying to get together with the North Carolina folks if we can.  He wants to try to do a campfire and have coffee before we leave here.  She is also Michelle and has family in France.  

Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

N' awlns -day one

N'awlns - or New Orleans to the rest of us

Arrived in RV park about 3:30 yesterday.  Sunny, but with a cool breeze.  Decided to have a pizza at the bar that is located on site.  Got to talking with the locals and hearing horror stories about surviving Katrina.  Then got to talking with another tourist who turned out to be from Gig Harbor.  It is really a small world.

The RV park offers a shuttle into town for $5 a person, which is a lot cheaper than trying to park in the city.  After three times, there is no charge for the trip, what a deal!  So, we spent the day in the French Quarter.

Started off with cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde.  We had a front row table at the outdoor cafe, so got to listen to some great jazz being played by two guys right in front of our table.  A bit of conversation during playing and the one guy told me he had been stationed in Seattle 40 years ago.  It is such a small world.

view of street activity from our table

After that, we took a buggy ride to get a feel for the area.  Had been suggested by some folks we met from Calgary.  It was a 40 minute ride with lots of history and restaurant information.  Was quite fun!

Then visited an 1850 house right in town.  Was one of the typical houses for this area, quite narrow but with long, high ceiling rooms, three stories high.  Narrow winding stairs inside, so furniture used to be hoisted up from outside and taken in thru windows that were as big as doors.  This seems to have been quite the style in the French Quarter.  The link below is a bit weird, but will give you some idea about what we saw.

Had seafood gumbo for lunch in a restaurant named Napoleon.  It was a house originally built and offered to Napoleon as a sanctuary.  He never came here but for some reason the name stayed with the residence.  Was quite funky, but had a great feel of history to it....
you can see this history in the pipes behind Fred

lunch in the courtyard of the Napoleon House

Did lots and lots of walking around the area, including the wonderful walkway that is right along the water.  You can really see that the city is built below the water level.  What an idea to build here!!! There is so much to see and do here and it has a nice feel.  We both liked this area more than we expected, probably because it does have a bit of old Europe feel to it.  We were, however, strongly warned about some areas to avoid by the buggy driver. Seems to be part of the city's efforts to keep tourists safe.

We could still see some of the destruction from hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Some houses are still abandoned and some are just starting to get fixed.  It is an odd feeling to still see this so many years later.  Hard to imagine what it must have been like for the residents of this area.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore New Orleans and the area around here.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Monday, February 6, 2012

last days in Texas - for now

Well we are ending our time in Texas just east of Houston.  When we got here last week, it was very warm and very humid.  But, we had a great RV site on the San Jacinto river with a hot tub, so who was complaining....not us.

chairs setup in front of hot tub with view of San Jacinto river

 First full day here we took a ferry, free, to visit the USS Texas battleship.  The ferry is the oldest continually run ferry dating back to 1822.  This ship was commissioned for WWI and ended up being used in WWII as part of the D-Day naval support.  It is a self guided tour that takes you up high, down to the engine area and all around the ship.  Since the weather was not great, not many folks were visiting, which meant that we pretty much had the run of the ship almost to ourselves.  It was really quite interesting to visit.

Fred going down into the engine area

We headed of to Port Archer and Beaumont to see what they were all about. These two towns are located along the Gulf, just before you get to Louisiana.  Went to a wonderful museum in Port Archer, Museum of the Gulf Coast, which included not only the history of the origins of the area, but a who's who of people who came from here..... Janis Joplin for one.  This is an area that has fallen on really hard times and is very poor.  Most of the town is boarded up and looks to have been for many, many years, so it was a wonder to find such a great museum.  Definitely worth the visit if you are in this area.

Beaumont is another town that is just holding on during these tough times.  Not much to see or do there, though Lamar University is here, so it does bring in some activity to the area.  This is where Texmati rice is grown and we could see large fields of rice starting to grow and others being prepared for planting.

Well the weather got worse as a storm came barreling in bringing 5 inches of rain in 12 hours on Saturday and then another inch Sunday early.  Believe me, that's a lot of water pouring down and there was some flooding in the areas around the many bayous here.
So what does Fred decide to do on Saturday, fix a water problem we are having in the Roulotte.  The drain to clean out the holding tanks seems plugged lately.  Turns out it was sooooo old that it was needing to be replaced.  So, we head back towards Houston on the freeway in the downpour, with zero visibility and everyone doing about 50-55mph.
We have our Samsung tablet map to follow to what turns out to be a great alternative to Camping World (which is over 50 miles one way from us). This place had all sorts of things that we needed but could find no where and had given up on ever finding them, outside shower head, mounting kit for our new microwave, cords for the window curtains and more.  But, they did not have the one part that we went looking for.  So, instead we had to buy a whole kit, to get out of it, the part we needed.  A quick stop at Lowe's to get better screws to hold this new part in place and back to the Roulotte we go.  Yes, this is just like fixing your house, Lowe's and Home Depot are often part of the stops to get parts for our repairs.
Back on the wet, wet, wet freeway to the Roulotte.  Repairs then ensue with rain running right into Fred's left eye as he looks up and under where this repair is taking place.  Well of course as this is all taking place, another downpour is starting....he is drenched....I am now trying to hold an umbrella over him and a towel soaking up the drip as he works to get it all together.  Once the part is installed it turns out the hose threads are screwed up and it all has to be removed, repaired and reinstalled.  I was dreading the idea of getting back on the freeway to get more parts. After much struggle, it is done and all now seems to be fine.  Fred says he feels as though he is rebuilding the Roulotte piece by piece!
Just another day in the life and times of the Roulotte!

Sunday, we decided it was a good enough day to go back into Houston and see some sights.  Traffic in the city was very light, probably due to it being SuperBowl Sunday.  Our first stop was in the historic district to visit the Byzantine Chapel.  Was very interesting to see these works repositioned in a modern setting.  It really was very well done and enhances the works we thought.

Next we went to the museum district and drove around that area some before heading into the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  There is so much to see here that it is two buildings!  It was really very, very nice and they have had some incredible donations of great works.  An amazing place, a must see.  We only saw a bit and will try to get back at the end of the year.

Last day of sightseeing in this area found us headed up into what is known as the "Piney Woods" area of Texas.  It really was beautiful and reminded us of areas in Washington.  This is the only area of Texas that we did not find oil or gas being the mainstay.  This has been a logging area and it is still to a lesser extent, just like Washington.  There are still some old growth areas that are protected. This is a beautiful area and so very different than any other part of Texas that we have seen.    We went all the way up to Nagadoches, the oldest town in Texas.,_Texas

Tomorrow we do some grocery shopping and laundry.  We are going to move the Roulotte to another site in the RV park so that we can hook up the car in the afternoon.  We will be leaving early Wednesday morning for New Orleans.  We will be there the week before Mardi Gras, but it should be fun anyway.

We have truly enjoyed all of our time in Texas.  It is a very big state, with a lot of variety, but what we have found everywhere are that Texans are very friendly people. They love a good joke and are the first to joke about their state " not being like any where else" and they are right.  This is not a state like any other.  They are always amazed when we say we are from Seattle.  The usual response is something like " from Seattle Washington, all the way up there!" with a sound like we have come from half way 'round the earth.  We will be back and once again plan to be "winter Texans" in the San Antonio area.  Maybe we can convince some of you to come visit us down here.  C'mon down y'all, y'll like it here!

Till then,
Fred and Michelle
Traveling the country so you don't have to!