A Cajun Christmas In New Orleans

NOLA Panorama

NOLA Panorama

We’ve been wanting to spend time time in New Orleans ever since we hit the road. This year (2016) we finally got here. Another sticker for the RV map. That only leaves 3 states in the lower 48 we haven’t camped in West VA, Ohio and Connecticut). We chose Bayou Segnette SP on what is referred to as the westbank area. Good choice as it has large sites, free wifi, free laundry and is only a 10 minute drive to the Algiers Point ferry to downtown New Orleans. The parking for all day was $5 and senior rate on the ferry is $1 each way. If you are lucky you might even get serenaded by the calliope from the Steamboat Natchez.

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

We spent the first day with friend and fellow volunteer from Red Rock Lakes, Marilyn, touring two of the six sites that are part of Jean Lafitte NHP. The first was Chalmette Battlefield (site of the 1814 Battle of New Orleans) and the other in Thibodaux, LA at the Acadian Culture Center. We arrived in Thibodaux just in time for a Ranger led walking tour of town covering history and architecture of the area. If you enjoy discovering the small towns and hidden gems of our country, don’t miss this walk. We saw original Acadian homes, Victorian homes, Art & Craft homes, Beau Arts buildings and even one of only two Second French Empire homes in Louisiana. We also learned about the Louisiana seal which depicts a pelican with 3 chicks ripping her own flesh to feed them. This was created based upon what the first governor thinks he saw. Truth, per the Ranger, is that pelicans never have more than two chicks and usually only one survives, no bird would rip itself to feed young and that until the late 20th century the seal also showed blood droplets. The Center hosts free events such as a Cajun music night and a local dialect of French discussion group to preserve the language. At one time it was illegal to speak the Acadian language. We ended the day with a meal at Fremin’s, once a pharmacy cum restaurant. Oh, those smoked oysters and gumbo!

Seal Of Louisiana

Seal Of Louisiana

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Malus-Beauregard House

Malus-Beauregard House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victorian Home In Thibodeaux

Victorian Home In Thibodaux

Second Empire French Home

Second Empire French Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thibodeaux Cemetery

Thibodaux Cemetery

Day two was a walking marathon through the French Quarter. We started at the Old Mint, the only mint to have coined currency for both the US and the Confederacy. Currently it is also being used as the Visitor Center for the New Orleans Jazz NHP. Then we walked and photographed ourselves silly on the fabulous architecture and seasonal decorations. We returned to the Jazz park for a Ranger led walk on music and cuisine. If America is the melting pot of the world then surely New Orleans is the epicenter. We knew about the Spanish, the French, the Acadians, the Caribbean influence but Canary Island Islenos … we had no idea. We were still able to catch half of the free jazz concert by the NPS Arrowhead band too. Starving we stopped for a muffuletta and jambalaya.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

The French Market

The French Market

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

The Cornstalk Hotel

The Cornstalk Hotel

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

muffuleta-sign

Landmark Eatery

OMG! The Food!

OMG! The Food!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans Architecture

French Quarter Scene

French Quarter Scene

All That Jazz!

All That Jazz!

 

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

Being in a vibrant city at holiday time is special. We loved the decorations, the lights at The Oaks and most of all the Cajun custom of guiding Papa Noel with bonfires along the levees. Steve has put together a video of these events and our visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

 

 

 

 

Our Wonderful Time As Volunteers At Petrified Forest National Park

Well here it is our last day of work as volunteers at Petrified Forest National Park. It is with mixed emotions that we will pack up and set off on new adventures in a few days. We’d planned on doing several posts while here at the park. But you know how things can keep sliding from today to tomorrow to next week. So instead of a lot of details about how all of the trees turned to stone 225 million years ago we offer a half hour slide show instead. The show also includes a few pictures from Canyon de Chelly, Route 66, Winslow and Christmas 2014.

When you see the petrified wood there are two types. The colorful pieces are agatized (fully petrified) and the pieces that still look like wood are per mineralized (petrification process was interrupted). A cubic foot of fully petrified wood weighs about 200 lbs. so you can just imagine how heavy some of these trees are.

To view the video full screen, click on the center arrow to play then click on the diagonal arrow in the lower right corner.

We hope you will get to visit and enjoy this interesting and beautiful place for yourselves some day. Until then, sit back, put your feet up and enjoy!

Christmas At La Posada

Winslow, Arizona, La Posada

Celebrating Christmas At La Posada

When we began our RV lifestyle we decided that gifts for special occasions would be experiences rather than “stuff”. Continuing on with this trend for our third Christmas on the road we celebrated by having dinner at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, http://www.laposada.org. It was, for us, a very big splurge. Was it worth it? You bet. The hotel and the Turquoise Room restaurant are beautiful any time of the year but no better time than when decked out in holiday finery. Joining us were fellow RV volunteers, Carolyn and Ed.

Steve and I have become very interested in the story about the Harvey House Hotels, the Harvey girls and Mary Jane Colter through our studies at Petrified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark, was managed by the Fred Harvey Company following WWII. During the renovation, Colter, their lead architect brightened the interior, put in picture windows and had Fred Kabotie paint several murals. Very few of the Harvey House buildings remain today. You can read the Fred Harvey Story in “Appetite For America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West- One Meal At A Time” by Stephen Fried. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a Fredhead too!

Fred Harvey, Harvey Houses

Fred Harvey

La Posada like so many historical properties went from riches to rags and was restored to its former glory. Briefly, here is the story. When Fred Harvey (1835-1901) left Liverpool, England at age 15 little could he imagine that people would still be talking about him more than one hundred years after his death. He started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher. He spent every minute learning from chefs, owners and workers. He wanted to create fine hotels and restaurants in the American West. Working with the Santa Fe Railroad he built a chain of hotels and restaurants in towns along the tracks. Known for excellent food, top drawer service and beautiful decor Harvey Houses became destinations themselves. He was one of the first employers to use women as trained servers. The Harvey Girls had to be single, have an eighth grade education, be of good moral character and commit to at least a year contract. They could not marry while employed, were known for their crisp black and white uniforms and lived in company housing with curfews. Like the hotels, being a Harvey Girl became a desired career. After Fred Harvey’s death the company was run by his sons. They expanded into working with the National Parks.

Mary Jane Colter At Work In The Grand Canyon

Mary Jane Colter At Work In The Grand Canyon

It was during this period that they employed Mary Jane Colter (1869-1958), first as an interior designer then as architect. Some of her best known work is at the Grand Canyon National Park. She designed La Posada as if it were the grand hacienda of a wealthy family of Spanish heritage. It was the jewel in the Harvey House crown. Following WWII Americans turned away from railroads as a means of travel in favor of improved roads and airplanes. La Posada closed as a hotel in 1957. The furnishings and decor items were auctioned off. The building was repurposed as office space for the railroad and a medical clinic. Fast forward to 1997 when two new owners with a vision purchased the building and sixteen acres of land. Gradually they have restored this grand hotel into a destination once again. If you find yourself traveling along I-40 be sure and stop. Watch the documentary about the restoration. Eat in the restaurant. Stay the night. Rooms are very competitively priced. Traveling with a dog? No problem. Lots of dogs bring their owners here.

Until you can enjoy this gem for yourself here are a few pictures from our visit. It was too late by the time we finished eating to go “Stand on the Corner” but yes, this is the same Winslow memorialized in the Eagles song.

Turquoise Room, restaurant

The Turquoise Room

Gift Shop

Gift Shop

Famous American Women

Famous American Women

Light, Action, Camera

Light, Action, Camera

Eat Dessert First

Eat Dessert First

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native American Rug

Native American Rug

Spanish galleon

Spanish Galleon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Cheers From Us and Happy New Year

 

 

 

 

Peace And Quiet In Disney’s Backyard

state park, citrus, Orlando

Citrus Gone Wild

Sorry for the disappearing act over the last month. Between being busy, computer problems, RV problems and poor or no internet connection we had to put the blog on hold. So much for our New Year’s Resolution to catch up and stay caught up. Now that we will have a few days of waiting for some RV repairs and free wifi be prepared for a flood of posts.

From Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast we drove to the Orlando area and stayed at Lake Louisa State Park about 25 miles west of the city. Just what part of “busiest week of the year”, “all kids out of school” and/or “everyone goes to Disney at Christmas” did I not grasp when I scheduled us to be in the area the week between Christmas and New Years? OK, now on to Plan B. We knew we didn’t want to tackle any of the parks and battle the crowds. So what to do? 

Lake Louisa is one of Florida’s newest state parks and situated in an old citrus orchard. Having made reservations as early as we could secured a full hookup site that was very private. We had room to put up our screen tent and took a few days to just relax. What a concept? We need to take more time like this but normally every time we say we’ll relax we find something to do and off we go. The old citrus grove still has fruit bearing trees. We found a few grapefruit still within reach and loads of tangerines or lemons free for the picking. We had so many we even made “care” packages to send north to family who were in the freezing temperature of a severe winter. The lemons were bigger than Chari’s fist and very bumpy. At first we thought maybe they were reverting to a wild strain but then learned it was a variety called a Ponderosa lemon. We made chicken piccata and lemon and orange meringue pies from scratch.

state park, Florida

Kayaking At Lake Louisa SP

kayaking

Along The Canal Between The Lakes

We took time to ride our bikes around the park for about ten miles on two different days. Other times we kayaked on one of the lakes. Our favorite was a wooded canal that ran between Lake Louisa and Lake Minnehaha. While paddling there we met a couple from the Cape Canaveral area and visited with them later that night around a campfire. The old citrus groves had several good trails for walking Opal each morning.

Christmas, Florida

Christmas At Leu Gardens

garden, holiday decorations

On Tour At Leu Gardens

We did take in two sights in the area, Leu Gardens and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum. At Leu Gardens we joined the garden and this membership gave us  reciprocal free entry for a year to gardens that are participating members of the American Horticultural Society. The original home on the Leu Garden grounds was open for a guided tour. We caught it at the tail end of the Christmas season so it was still decorated. Each year interior design students from a local junior college decorate the rooms based on a theme chosen by the park. This year it was Christmas songs. A very creative group of young designers. Our favorite were the “swans a-swimming” in the bathtub.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

The day we visited was a cool and windy day but seeing the texture in the bare trees along with tropical looking plants blooming in mid-winter was a treat.

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Fothergilla Blossom

Fothergilla Blossom

flowers

Spider Lily

A Study In Texture

A Study In Texture

garden

Orb From Coleus

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Canna Blooming In January

Canna Blooming In January

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

rose

This Is Called A Green Rose

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Rose "Calico"

Rose “Calico”

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is a not to be missed attraction in Winter Haven, Florida. The museum was begun to display the art work and Tiffany works owned by its namesake. Later his granddaughter and her husband increased the Tiffany collection. When the former Louis C. Tiffany estate on Long Island burned in the 1950s his priceless works were simply lying scattered. Through personal connections the museum rescued them and now houses the world’s largest collection of Tiffany artwork including the chapel designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I am seldom speechless but this collection defies description. Be sure to put it on your “must see” list. there is a strict NO PHOTOS policy. The pictures used in this blog are copied from the museum’s website. The colors, the delicate way light is transmitted and the craftsmanship are amazing.

tiffany lamp

Dragonfly Lamp

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

Autumn From The Seasons

Autumn From The Seasons

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

One Of The Windows From A Church

One Of The Windows From A Church

Window Titled 'Feeding The Flamingos'

Window Titled ‘Feeding The Flamingos’

Another Tiffany Lamp

Another Tiffany Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

The Tiffany Chapel

The Tiffany Chapel

This Place Bugs Me!

Christmas, Kennedy Space Center

Christmas 2013 at KSC

We are not finished with some great things from St. Augustine but you’ll see why there’s an interruption in a moment. For our second stop in Florida we moved about three hours south to Sebastian Inlet SP near Vero Beach. It had still been “cold” in St. Augustine so we welcomed the warmer temperatures or at least I did!. We’d be here for Christmas so Steve put up our tree again. This time he hung it from a tree branch with a bungee and spread the base further. It looked very good.

However we quickly discovered a problem. No-see-ums were everywhere! Chari reacts quite strongly to any insect bite with huge welts that last a week. Steve usually doesn’t react very much and 10 minutes later you wouldn’t know he’d been bitten. Not so here. Even Steve was showing welts. Within a day or so my legs and to a lesser extent my arms and torso were covered with bites. I was forever scratching. My legs looked like I’d walked through poison ivy. I was going to take a picture but then thought it was too gross looking. Now other people seemed to tolerate them. Bug spray and repellent didn’t work. Steve seemed to become immune after a few days. Not Chari. She was miserable the whole time. So instead of doing a lot of outside activities we stayed inside. With regret as it is a nice park we put this on the DO NOT RETURN list.

Adding insult to injury Chari’s computer took a bath. I was sitting under our awning which was only halfway extended due to some tree branches. All of a sudden condensation from having had the A/C on at night came rolling down. All over me! All over my open laptop. Quickly mopping up the computer everything seemed to work so I thought I’d dodged a bullet. About an hour later the keyboard stopped working. To make a long story short my computer has been in the repair shop for about a week. Working on the iPad for photo editing and posting to the blog leaves a lot to be desired. Steve’s working on a book on our May – December 2012 travels. So even batting my lovely hazel eyes at him and a “if you really loved me you’d let me use your computer” look goes unnoticed.

I notice it but I don’t acknowledge it!

We got to see the METLIFE blimp fly over just before New Years. We guessed it was down here for the Orange Bowl. Cute Snoopy character on the front but you might not be able to see it as all we had available was the iPhone.

blimp

Snoopy In The Skies

We did check out another park, a county park called Long Point, when we kayaked there. We didn’t notice any bugs so if we return to the area we’ll stay there. While kayaking we watched two osprey hunting. They’d dive and grab a fish but often they came up empty. We could have watched them for hours.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

Without the computer I’m falling behind on the blog. So if you see things posted later that seem out of order hopefully you’ll remember why. We did go to Ft. Pierce to the Farmers Market on Saturday where we bought some great cheese, bread and citrus. We also bought an organic bug spray advertised for no-see-ums.. That didn’t work either. Also in Ft. Pierce is the UDT (underwater demolition team) and SEAL Museum. Steve has “volunteered” to do that entry.

Our Christmas present to each other was a trip to the Kennedy Space Center with a behind the scenes tour of the VAB (vehicle assembly building) and launch pad. There is so much to see we were glad the tickets were good for a week. We made a second trip up to see the IMAX movie Hubble 3D, take the Shuttle Launch Experience and to finish the exhibits. We attended a lecture by a retired shuttle astronaut, Sam Gemar, and had a photo op with him. When a little girl asked him what his favorite food was in space, he answered “shrimp cocktail”. The reason for this is that the taste buds loose sensitivity in space so spicy foods taste better. Between weightlessness and no taste buds maybe I could finally loose weight! On the way home from our second visit we stopped at the Astronaut Hall of Fame as our KSC tickets covered admission here as well. Both at the Space Center and at the Hall of Fame we became aware that only a few other folks were probably alive when all of this was happening. Once again we find ourselves seeing our lives in a museum. Was it really that long ago? Anyway, consider this a coming attraction notice for a video.

Kennedy Space Center, Christmas, Florida, space exploration.

Coming Attraction For Our Video

blog, Homeless and Loving It, NASA, astronaut, space shuttle

Chari and Steve With Space Shuttle Astronaut

You all know we call our RV the DreamChaser. So when we saw that one of the next generation shuttles by Sierra Nevada Corporation was being given the same name we wondered, is this what RVs will look like in space? In the early years NASA did all of its own engineering. Now that will be in the private sector and NASA will rent vehicles as needed for missions. This model is a 1/3 scale model.

Dream Chaser In Space

Dream Chaser In Space

Within 48 hours away from Sebastian Inlet SP, at our next park, Lake Louisa SP, I finally stopped itching (and yes you could also put a B in front of that). Oh, you have no idea how good that feels!

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

After ten days my computer with what they called a new top case is back and working great. When we drove over from Orlando to Vero Beach to pick it up, we stopped at the Citrus Museum. It’s a small but very interesting place and the docent gave us a free tour. Here’s a piece of trivia for you… did you know that 75% of the grapefruit grown in the Indian River Valley are shipped to Japan! Don’t order it over there though unless you are ready to pay $15-20 each! After the tour we know why our favorite oranges, Honeybells, are so expensive. If they tried to use mechanical pickers or even pluck them the skin breaks off from the stem leaving fruit exposed. So they must be hand cut from the tree. Oh, but they are so sweet and juicy! The docent gave us directions to Poinsettia Growers processing plant where they have a small store. Crab from the factory in Cape Breton to fresh Honeybells from the grower in Florida. Can you believe this life?

St. Augustine Lights Up For The Holidays

St. Augustine, Christmas

St. Augustine City Hall and Fountain

After having a jump start on holiday decorations with our visit to McAdenville, NC we were looking forward to seeing what St. Augustine might do for the season. Our hopes were met and exceeded by the whole historic district dressing in stands of white lights, restaurants sporting seasonal decor and homes and B&Bs looking so very inviting. The pre-holiday weeks are a great time to visit although we doubt that there is ever a bad time. The old historic section of St. Augustine is very walkable.   The night we chose to stroll and see the lights was mild and the streets were crowded. Holiday trolleys with passengers singing and yelling “Merry Christmas” were rolling the streets. As for parking we were able to find a lot at the Villa Zorayda that let us stay after we finished the tour.

Villa Zorayda, architecture

Villa Zorayda Exterior

The Villa Zorayda is open all year for self guided tours with an audio guide. Several nights a week in the weeks before Christmas the curator and his wife lead candlelight tours of the once elegant home cum museum. Villa Zorayda stands out from surrounding buildings due to its Moorish architecture and bright colors. It was built by Franklin Smith, a Boston millionaire, in 1883, as a 1/10 scale model of one section of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It was the first building to reintroduce Spanish revival architecture to Florida. Franklin Smith was an innovator in the use of poured concrete. His home was built mixing local coquina stone and cement in blocks made of wooden forms. Another feature of the house was the interior plaster work was made overseas using the same wooden molds used to build the Alhambra. Can you imagine a museum today loaning a valuable artifact like that for use in construction? Smith was a collector of Spanish and Middle Eastern art and antiques. After he died the home was used as a private club, speakeasy and movie set. The second owner was Edward Mussallem, a Lebanese immigrant and well  respected oriental rug dealer and antiquities expert. The Villa gained fame for the private collection and was opened as a museum in the 1950s. The property has remained in the Mussallem family and the curator’s wife is Edward Mussallem’s granddaughter. In 2000 the museum was closed for renovation and artifact restoration. Reopening in 2008 just in time to celebrate its 125th anniversary, Villa Zorayda is enchanting. Whether it is the gold leaf ceiling murals, the oldest known rug ( estimated to be 3400 yrs. old) or the history, your tour will be money well spent. Normally photography is not allowed. However during the candlelight tour photos of the main plaza called the Court of Lions, after a room in the Alhambra, are permitted.

Tour, Christmas, St. Augustine.

Inside The Court Of Lions

After the tour we took our tripods and headed out to practice nighttime photography. So come stroll with us and enjoy St. Augustine in her holiday finery.

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM CHARI AND STEVE!

City Hall At Night

City Hall At Night

Christmas Lights

Old Town Lights

Old Town Plaza

Old Town Plaza

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

St. Augustine City Tree

St. Augustine City Tree

Entrance To The Lightner Museum

Entrance To The Lightner Museum

St. Augustine Street Scene

St. Augustine Street Scene

Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer