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!

 

 

 

 

The Silver Lining To Being Trapped In South Florida

Everglades, observation tower

Observation Tower At Shark Valley in Everglades NP

Before we begin if you haven’t read WHY WE DISAPPEARED go back and look at this post. Things will make a lot more sense to you. As we found ourselves cycling back and forth to the Ft. Myers/Naples area for repairs we had to cancel reservations. Finding new places was a challenge because this was peak season. All of the state parks and COE campgrounds were booked. Finally we were able to get a site at Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve for 10 days, exactly the length of time we needed until our last repair. As it turned out this stop would become one of our favorite places. To think we almost had passed it by.  A silver lining to an otherwise terrible time.

Midway Campground is located on the Tamiami Trail, US 41, between Miami and  Naples. The sites are set overlooking a small pond and are electric with tank water. The odd thing about it is while there are public restrooms there are no showers. To make our water last we used portable jugs for everyday supply, restrooms except at night and “Navy” showers. It worked just fine. The weather in early March was great. Spring was coming and over the period we were there the Cardinal bromeliads hanging on the trees burst into bloom. Big Cypress became a national park site when concerned citizens fought plans to build the world’s largest jet port here in the 1960s. It sits on the western edge of the Everglades.

birds, heron

Handsome Blue Heron

Big Cypress, bromeliad

Cardinal Bromeliad In Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wild orchid, wildflowers

Cow Horn Orchid Closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

alligator, swamp, photography

Aluminum Alligator

If we thought we saw birds at Flamingo CG, that was only a prelude to Big Cypress and two other Everglades areas; Shark Valley and Ten Thousand Islands. Birds, bromeliads, orchids, alligators, manatees, flying fish and cypress swamps made this a photographers dream. The two parks have joined together to promote the “Get Outdoors” program. They have the Tamiami Triathalon. This is not a race but a series of three activities you do at your own schedule. To get credit for each segment you check in at the appropriate Visitor Center before and after and get them to sign off on your participation form. The Tamiami Triathalon consists of a 15 mile bike ride at Shark Valley, a 6 mile kayak paddle at Ten Thousand Islands and a 5 mile hike on the Florida Trail from Big Cypress. We did it! Not bad for two mid-sixties folks, huh?

egret, swamp

Looks Like A Painting

Shark Valley, biking

Steve On The Shark Valley Trail

limpkin, snail, birds, nature

Limpkin With Apple Snail

We took the tram tour at Shark Valley first and learned a lot. A few days later we biked the trail while decked out with cameras, camel backs and tripods tied to our bike frames. We saw a Limpkin eating an Apple Snail, Roseate Spoonbills, egrets, anhingas, many types of heron and baby gators.

Everglades, Shark Valley, tram,

Shark Valley Tram Tour

birds, Florida Birding Trail

Roseate Spoonbill And Woodstork

birds, photography

Little Blue Heron

anhinga, shorebirds

Anhinga Chicks Almost Ready To Fledge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

baby alligators

Naptime

The next day we took a Ranger led swamp walk at Big Cypress and were treated to a gorgeous wild, Cow Horn orchid in bloom. This was a very special treat as these orchids only bloom this profusely every three or so years. They have become increasingly rare due to poaching. The water came to Steve’s knees but it was thigh high on Chari. Our whole group was well over 55. No rocking chairs for these Baby Boomers.

hiking, swamp, Big Cypress

NPS Ranger Leading A Swamp Walk

Big Cypress, swamp, hike

Sloshing Through The Swamp

 

Steve On Swamp Hike

Steve On Swamp Hike

We did more than the required paddle trip by going on a Ranger led paddle trip from Ten Thousand Islands. Just beautiful! You felt as if you were on a Caribbean vacation. Combine that with stopping to buy fresh from the boat seafood and you have a perfect day.

One evening we located the roosting spot for several thousand birds. Most of them were ibis with a few egrets and vultures. They flew in by groups of 30-50 for almost an hour. At first the squawking was deafening. As evening settled into night, the noise began to lessen. By nightfall it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. If you think this was some secret place, you’re wrong. It was right along the main highway. Cars rushing by not knowing what they were missing. A real National Geographic moment.

ibis, bird roost, Big Cypress

Flying Home For The Night

Closeup of Ibis Roost

Closeup of Ibis Roost

It was just the stop to chase our worries away… until…

While we were in Naples getting the truck repaired a storm developed with high winds. When we got back our screen house was damaged beyond repair. The awning had withstood the wind. The next day shortly after breakfast Steve was outside dismantling the screen house when I heard “Come here and help” in an I need you NOW tone. Wind had come up again and this time forced the arm of the awning out of the track! With difficulty we got it back in place. However we were afraid it might pop loose while traveling so we secured it with a rope.

The planned repair was done in Ft. Myers. Rather than wait for yet more parts we made the decision to go to Plan B and head “home” to North Carolina for the awning repair.

So long, Florida!! We’ll be back but not for quite a while.