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Biloxi MS- Still Rebuilding from Katrina

Feb 23-26

On Monday morning we left New Orleans and Louisiana behind and after a short 85 mile drive we arrived in Biloxi Mississippi.  Monday afternoon and evening were “quiet time” after a very busy weekend in the Big Easy.

Most will recall the devastating hurricane that hit the Gulf coast back in August 2005 – Katrina. From our recollections, it seemed like New Orleans received all the press but Katrina had a very wide and destructive swath that covered 100’s of miles of coast from east Texas to Florida.

The weather had cooled considerably since NO, but we had already decided that Tuesday weather was to be the best (low 50’s with sun) so we headed out in our bikes to explore the coastline that belongs to Biloxi. We dropped into the new and very large visitors center for an hour in the morning which provided us with a good sense of the destruction that had occurred when Katrina hit. This stretch is still rebuilding after 9 years. Lots of real estate signs on ocean vacant land that once had homes and business’. As we would soon discover, most of the places we visited had only reopened in the past year or so. We went to a “re-opened seafood restaurant for lunch. It is now built on massive cement and iron stilts, I’m guessing 20-25′ in the air. They even put in an elevator as it’s that high up. Good food, good view. We then headed further down Beach Boulevard to a Marine and Seafood Industry Museum and spent a couple of hours there until their closing at 4:30. This area of the Gulf (The Emerald Coast) is called the Seafood Capital of the World. I can’t say if that’s true, but the roots of this area are all seafood and they also had/have a long history in boating and ships. Two notable items were the Nydia – a restored sailing racer from the late 1800’s and the invention of the automatic shrimp peeling machine. It replaced the work of 75-100 people. (see pics below)

Wednesday was a wet and cold day, so it was just one to laze around the “house” for the day.

Thursday morning we were on the move again, but before we left Biloxi we intended to tour Beauvoir – a National historic site about 1 1/2 miles west. Beauvoir means “beautiful view” in french. It was built back in 1848. It’s 3rd and most significant owner was Jefferson Davis(JD) – the only President of Confederate States of America. I will keep the history lesson short! Through the mid 1840’s to around 1860, JD was in the US House of Representatives and also a Senator for Mississippi. The year 1861 was when the American Civil war began(the south started it). Prior to this, several southern states (?) seceded from the Union. It was JD’s decision to return to Mississippi where he would become the Confederates 1st and only President. After 4 years of war, the confederates (the South) lost and surrendered. I’m not sure they have accepted this yet. JD was imprisoned for two years and all but one of the confederate soldiers where allowed to rejoin the Union and get their citizenship back – JD was the exception.  His citizen would finally be restored almost 115 years later by Jimmy Carter in 1978.

He bought Beauvoir in 1879.

After his death(1889) and that of his wife and children, Beauvoir was turned into a retirement home(estate) for veterans of the Confederate. Over a span of 40+ years, over 1,800 would retire here and some died here – a cemetery on the 80 acre property has almost 800 gravesites. During this time several additional housing buildings were constructed. The property in the back also has a large animal range for sheep, goats, miniature horses, peacocks and a Zebu. (you can look it up)-Pic below. The main house was severely damaged by Katrina and was just restored again in 2014.

After our tour and walk around, we headed off to Alabama – about 110 miles today.

For those in the frigid north – I hope you are out looking for that darn groundhog right now!!! Stay warm, Spring is only 22 days away….

Who new....a Canadian was sent to start the colonization of the Mississippi Coast in 1699
Who new….a Canadian was sent to start the colonization of the Mississippi Coast in 1699
A restored Sailing racing legend - the Nydia - built in 1896
A restored Sailing racing legend – the Nydia – built in 1896
The Nydia
The Nydia
An automatic shrimp peeling machine-designed in the mid 1940's from a high school students idea - his father said to him " you will be rich if you find a machine that peels shrimp"
An automatic shrimp peeling machine-designed in the mid 1940’s from a high school students idea – his father said to him ” you will be rich if you find a machine that peels shrimp”
Many carvings from Oak trees that didn't survive Hurricane Katrina in 2005
Many carvings from Oak trees that didn’t survive Hurricane Katrina in 2005

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More Oak carvings
More Oak carvings
Katrina memorial - over 50 lives lost
Katrina memorial – over 50 lives lost
Many large casinos in Biloxi
Many large casinos in Biloxi
A Biloxi sunset
A Biloxi sunset
Biloxi's "iconic" lighthouse signifying it's resilience from many storms over the past 160+ years- built in 1848 using a cast iron shell lined with brick
Biloxi’s “iconic” lighthouse signifying it’s resilience from many storms over the past 160+ years- built in 1848 using a cast iron shell lined with brick
"Beauvoir" - means beautiful view in French. Home of Jefferson Davis- only President of the Confederate States of America
“Beauvoir” – means beautiful view in French. Home of Jefferson Davis- only President of the Confederate States of America
Beauvoir-A view from the porch out to the Gulf of Mexico-think of Katrina's 21' storm surge
Beauvoir-A view from the porch out to the Gulf of Mexico-think of Katrina’s 21′ storm surge
painted ceilings look like real moldings
painted ceilings look like real moldings
Sitting rooms
Sitting rooms
Portrait of Jefferson  Davis(JD)
Portrait of Jefferson Davis(JD)
Bedroom of JD's daughter in main house
Bedroom of JD’s daughter in main house
An original patchwork quilt of JD's circa 1880
An original patchwork quilt of JD’s circa 1880
A Zebu
A Zebu

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A reconstructed arch-the original one in the front was lost to Katrina- this one is the entrance to the cemetery on the property
A reconstructed arch-the original one in the front was lost to Katrina- this one is the entrance to the cemetery on the property
Grave of the Unknown Confederate soldier
Grave of the Unknown Confederate soldier

 

 

 

 

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N’Awlins – Lots of Sights AND Sounds

Feb 20-23

Friday morning we packed up at our last stop in Cajun country with a 135 mile trip ahead for the day that would put us in New Orleans(NO). Our friends John and Wendy were leaving the frigid temperatures of Toronto with a scheduled landing in NO around 8. The park we were staying in was fairly new (around 2008) and it also had a marina. It was north of the French Qtr.(downtown) by about 15 minutes by park shuttle. So it was very convenient. It was also gated with security which is a good thing in NO.

When we left, the day was overcast in the mid 50’s. The drive would turn out to be a tiring one for Kathy as she was driving and encountered high winds and rain, not to mention many bridges (some quite tall and long) and causeways. Weather improved and cleared as we neared NO. As it was a short drive, it provided us lots of time to clean and prepare the quarters for our guests. The flight was slightly delayed and we greeted them at our front gate shortly after 9:30pm. We spent a couple of hours catching up on news, family’s, etc..

They were staying in NO until Thursday, and with us for the first 3 nights so we would be spending quite a bit of time in NO on Saturday and Sunday. We have been to NO before, but they had not so we sort of acted like tour guides. For those that have never been to NO, it has a lot of history, character and as the title said, sights and sounds. It’s quite easy to sit and observe the people and music coming out of numerous venues or just walk the French Qtr. area and along the banks of the Mississippi River. Over the two days we did a fair bit of both.

Saturday morning, after a large breakfast we met the shuttle for a 9:45 departure from the park, with temps allowing for short sleeve shirts. The shuttle was basically 10am, 4 pm and 8pm. If you stayed in past 8 pm, you would have to cab it back. Due to needing to care for Jazz during the day, we had already planned to go into the French Qtr. twice on Saturday. When we arrived shortly after 10am, the Qtr was quite busy already especially at the famous Café Du Monde – with two lineups 50-75 people deep to taste their beignets. We didn’t join the line, as our guests could try these during the week when the lines would be much less. We did however take a look at how they are made peering in a back window with the bakers inches from the window. For lunch we managed to find a place that wasn’t too busy. A couple of nearby Oyster bars both had significant lines ups outside. In my opinion, I don’t think oysters are worth that kind of a wait! The balance of the after noon was just walking the various streets and taking in the sights and sounds. We were back to our pickup area for 3:45 and shortly before the shuttle arrived, along came a wedding parade right in front of us. There were 6-7 musicians leading it with the Newlyweds and approximately 75 guests following waving napkins. ( memories of Kathy’s 50th in Key West – not sure who’s idea this napkin thing is??)

We arrived back to the RV for a few hours of respite as we were going to take the 8 pm shuttle back in for dinner and check out the night life and music on Frenchmen Street into the wee hours. This area is slightly out of the French Qtr. and is noted for good bands and 2nd lines. After leaving the shuttle, we no sooner got onto Frenchmen Street and there was a 2nd line playing on the street. A 2nd line is usually a group of high school aged kids, maybe a little older playing a variety of instruments to the crowd for tips. The last time we were in NO, we actually witnessed two 2nd lines “dueling” with their music! We finally were able to find a dining option that worked as there were not many in this area. Following that we spent a few hours listening to bands in Café Negril and then at the Apple Barrel. Lots of fun was had by all arriving back home by cab early Sunday morning!

Sunday morning we were up and a little tired but soldiered on to make the 10 am shuttle again. The weather was excellent that morning allowing us to wear shorts. We had some of Kathy’s banana muffins before leaving, so the first order of business was to find a place for breakfast, which we did right down by the Natchez steamship. We did some walking then found a crowed area that is used by buskers(street  entertainers) and took in a good gymnastic type show put on by 5 guys who have been doing this for 25 years.

After this we wondered over to Bourbon Street and managing to find a great corner spot on a second floor balcony that provided sunshine, food, drinks, along with many sights and sounds from the street below. Oh ya,   they had a TV where I could keep tabs on the Daytona 500 race. All was good.

We picked up the shuttle for the 4 o’clock return to the park and enjoyed the next couple of hours outside in the sun! John was coming down with a cold and it was getting the better of him so some bed time was in order. The girls went for a hot tub and I just sat and enjoyed the weather and had a chat with a neighbor beside us that was from Orillia. I BBQ’d that night and we had a good time chatting that evening.

Overnight rain would set in and the warm temps would disappear with Monday’s high predicted to be around 50 deg. We bid farewell to our friends as they took the 10 am shuttle down to the French Qtr. to spend 3 nights in a hotel and do some of their own sightseeing.

By 12 noon were had packed up and were on our way for about 85 miles to Biloxi Mississippi.

From the perch, that’s it for now.

 

Wedding parade
Wedding parade
We were lucky to witness a Wedding Parade on Toulouse Street - we assume heading to the reception - supposedly these are common
We were lucky to witness a Wedding Parade on Toulouse Street – we assume heading to the reception – supposedly these are common
Wedding parade
Wedding parade-guests waving napkins
Iconic downtown French Quarter Catholic Church
Iconic downtown French Quarter Catholic Church
OK, which bar to next?
OK, which bar to next?
Bourbon Street Balcony for a libation enjoying the warm 75 deg sunny temps
Bourbon Street Balcony for a libations enjoying the warm 75 deg sunny temps
he is walking his dog; she is showing a tourist her snake
he is walking his dog; she is showing a tourist her snake
Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street
The aftermath from Mardi Gras
The aftermath from Mardi Gras
Someone found some new parrot earrings
Someone found some new parrot earrings
Balcony party
Balcony party
A local "trolling" the streets
A local “trolling” the streets
3 very thirst boys
3 very thirsty boys
Most corners were like this
Most corners were like this

 

Enjoying time with our friends John and Wendy in NOLA
Enjoying time with our friends John and Wendy in NOLA
Sunday morning-out for breakfast - yes, we ate too!!
Sunday morning-out for breakfast – yes, we ate too!!
A "2nd line" - a common sight on Frenchman Street later in the evenings - usually high school kids playing for tip money
A “2nd line” – a common sight on Frenchman Street later in the evenings – usually high school kids playing for tip money
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Down on the Bayou

Feb 16-19

Monday morning we woke to warm weather (65 deg) which was the same as we went to bed the night before. This was soon to change as Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday was around the corner. We left Cajun Palms  around 11 not having too far to go and took a lesser travelled route south through St. Martinsville and New Iberia ending up in Abbeville for the next couple of nights. We arrived around 1 and the weather was still sunny in the high 60’s with a warm breeze. By dinner time the temp had dropped to the low 40’s and went into the mid 30’s over night.

We had a reasonable internet connection, so that allowed us to catch up on a few things. Without cable, Breaking Bad episodes for that night and the next was our evening “TV” entertainment. The aerial did pickup a couple of channels, but none of the shows we were interested in.

Tuesday we awoke and stayed in for the morning until around 12:30 waiting for the temperatures to rise. Fat Tuesday is basically a state holiday which we found out once we had walked 1.5 miles into town. As Tuesday tourists, we were pretty alone in town as most had gone to other nearby towns and cities to watch the many parades occurring. We walked around the downtown area for an hour or so, saw some of the tourist sites and fortunately the one restaurant we wanted to go to was open – Shucks! (that’s the name of the restaurant as they are known for their oysters). This was to be our big meal for the day and it was. Oysters “shuck-e-fella”, gumbo (Kathy’s seafood, mine smoked duck and andouille sausage), pan fried shrimp and crab cakes. Yep this filled us for the night. Back home by 4ish for a few games of Rummikub.

Wednesday, we woke early as we had a couple of planned sites to visit nearby. We would relocate to a new park for 2 nights in New Iberia – about 15 miles away. After picking up some supplies at Winn Dixie, we headed to Jefferson Island. This is not precisely an island but it’s one five salt domes in the immediate area. This one is several thousand feet deep and rises above sea level by about 75’, unlike the rest of Louisiana. I will try to keep the following history short. Joseph Jefferson in the mid-1800’s was well known for portraying the character Rip Van Winkle. He was a playwright and actor using Washington Irving’s short story. For 40 years he toured the US, UK, Europe and Australia with his play. He bought property and built the 10,000 sq ft house in the picture in 1870. After his death in 1905, the next owner purchased the property and soon after realized the salt dome could be mined. Jefferson Island Salt mine was opened shortly after and remained until 1980. Shortly before that time, the owner of the day had constructed a new lakeside home beside Lake Peigneur very close by to the Jefferson Estate. In November 1980, Texaco Oil was in the immediate area drilling for oil or gas(??). Drilling deep, they found and open vein of the salt mine and shortly after the small lake began to sink with a brand new 150’ waterfall occurring. This was the last day for the mine as the water soon left the lake taking down barges and 65 acres of surrounding property including the owner’s new home. Water from a neaby lake filled the new lake up to soon have a much larger lake,  see the chimney that remains sticking out of the water with the house below. Fortunately there were no losses as miners were in the mine at the time. Something to google if interested. We had a great tour of the grounds and a private tour of the mansion as no one else was there – just us and the guide. The property was really nice with flowering camellia bushes all around the property. Lunch in the RV at Jefferson parking lot before the P.M. tour.

Heading back towards New Iberia, we now were enroute to Avery Island. If you have a bottle of Tabasco nearby, take a look at the front label. This is where they come from.  Tabasco has a fascinating history. First of all, Avery Island is another one of the salt domes mentioned above and was the first salt mine in the United States and continues to operate today. This is the one and only Tabasco plant in the world. They supply over 100 countries from here producing 700,000 bottles per day, four days a week – so the math – 130 to 140 million bottles per year!

Edmund Mcllhenny invented it here in 1868 and the company continues to be owned and run by direct descendants to this day. How do they make it and keep up with those volumes? (I’ll keep it short). It started with Edmund using peppers he grew on the surrounding property. Now they only grow around 30 acres of peppers here strictly for seeds. They have many farmers in Central and South America that they send seeds to and Avery Island salt (part of the recipe and process) that supply 99 % of the peppers needed. The farmers are supplied and the pickers us a Le petite Baton Rouge – a little red stick which is painted the red that the pickers match to the peppers to insure they are picked at the exact right colour. There strict process is to grind the peppers into a mash on the same day they were picked with Avery Island salt. The mash is shipped to Avery Island from the south and put into used wooden barrels obtained from Jack Daniels and other whisky makers where it is aged for 3 years! After this it is blended with vinegar (and ??) for a 28 day mixing period. They are then bottled and ready to shipped around the world. They now have many types of pepper sauces, steak sauce, chili sauce, etc.. We even sampled some Jalapeño ice cream and another one was a chipotle flavor – interesting….

Thursday morning was cool again with sunny weather in the mid 50’s expected by noon, which it did. Today we got the bikes out and biked into town (less than 4 miles one way). First off was a visit to the Konriko Rice Company, which is the oldest rice mill in the US still operating as it did when it began in 1912. The same process’s, techniques and equipment (most of it) remains unchanged. One change is they now us electricity which they didn’t have in the beginning when they used steam power. They have rice growers within a 40 mile area from the facility that supply enough rice during season so they produce about 40,000 per day during high season.  During the tour we learned that these farmers actually have two crops on their land – rice and crawfish…..whaaaaa?!!?! Yep, they seed their fields in  April/May using a crop duster airplane. Shortly after, they flood their fields with more than a foot of water. The rice crop takes about 4 months to grow, when they drain the fields and allow the rice plants to dry and brown (like wheat) then it is taken off by combine. I’m not sure of the timing of the next crop – crawfish, but the season peaks with the largest crawfish in April/May. The crawfish live deep in the wet soil under the rice crop and then the farmer uses baited traps to harvest the crawfish. Very interesting. Now we know what all these coloured tops throughout flooded fields where when we entered Louisiana last week! We continued on to the Historic downtown area looking at all the old and larger homes.  For those that read mystery novels, James Lee Burke with his Dave Robicheaux mystery series uses this area as inspiration for his books. He spent summers here with his cousins who lived on Main St., fishing in the Bayou Teche.

Now that’s something to Squawk about, eh!

Off to New Orleans tomorrow to meet up with our long time friends, John and Wendy flying in from Toronto for some Jazz, Blues, Cajun food and good times! (not to mention some warm weather)

Oh, by the way, once we are in New Orleans we have to pronounce it as “ N’Awlins”.

Jefferson Island - name after actor and artist Joseph Jefferson
Jefferson Island – name after actor and artist Joseph Jefferson
The Jefferson Mansion - sorry no indoor pictures allowed
The Jefferson Mansion – sorry no indoor pictures allowed
300 + years old Oak trees with Spanish moss
300 + years old Oak trees with Spanish moss
Lake Peigneur-much large since 1980
Lake Peigneur-much large since 1980
Cameillia Bushes
Cameillia Bushes
Flower with honey bee
Flower with honey bee
The remains of one of the owners home - chimney showing above water
The remains of one of the owners home – chimney showing above water
Entrance area in front of house that sank in the lake
Entrance area in front of house that sank in the lake
Tabasco tour
Tabasco tour
Tabasco plant - the one and only
Tabasco plant – the one and only
Hot, hot, hot....
Hot, hot, hot….
700,000 per day/ 4 days a week
700,000 per day/ 4 days a week
Pepper mash mixing
Pepper mash mixing

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Gardens at Jefferson Island
Gardens at Jefferson Island
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It’s Mardi Gras time Ya’ll!!

 

Feb 13-16, 2015

Immediately upon our arrival at Cajun Palms RV Resort just outside of Henderson, LA on Friday it became clearly evident that we were outnumbered with anyone that wasn’t from the State of Louisiana. About 95% of the people camping there that weekend were locals and they all came very prepared for a Mardi Gras party weekend. And the majority of the locals had their own Golf Cart with them which they planned to decorate for the Mardi Gras parade the RV Resort was having on Saturday. Many of the Golf carts were high end with chrome wheels, great stereo systems blasting away as they gravel ran around the park with their coolers of beer, custom colours etc. Everyone was sporting flags, banners etc from LSU (Louisiana State University). They are all huge supporters of the Universities football and baseball team. We saw Purple and Yellow everywhere!

Where we are is in the heart of Cajun country. Southern Louisiana is made up of Cajun and Creole sects of people. There are significant differences between the two. The Creole world is traced back to the Spanish word Criollo which means local or native. It is said that Creole people have urban origins whereas Cajuns have rural origins. Cajuns are known to be more religious, clannish and live private lives compared to the Creoles. Cajuns are of Acadian descent. Acadians were French people who settled in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when they originally came to North America. The English threw the Acadians out of Canada in 1755 and they moved to Louisiana where they mixed with other cultures which led to the new ethnic group “Cajuns”. The state of Louisiana is broken up by Parishes as opposed to Counties like in other states. This is because most of the state is predominantly made up of Catholics.

The weather all weekend was hot and sunny so it was great for all the outdoor celebrations planned. Friday night there were many campfires going and big groups of people around them. Rob did his best to try to get invited to someone’s campfire but it didn’t happen.

Saturday was parade day to celebrate Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in English and the term refers to Carnival celebrations beginning on or after the Epiphany and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday. It reflects the practice of the last night of eating rich fatty food before the ritual of the Lenten season.

The first Mardi Gras parade we attended was the RV Resort’s Golf Cart parade at 2 pm (see pics). There was over 40 decorated golf carts in the parade and everyone riding on the carts threw beads, candy and toys in typical Mardi Gras fashion. All of us including Jazz gathered lots of beads (see pics) and had a great time.

Once that parade was over it was time to move on to another parade. Rob and I grabbed a cab and went into the city of Lafayette which was about 17 miles west of our RV park. We wandered around the downtown for a bit and then parked ourselves at a bar right on the parade route named Artmosphere where we had dinner and libations until the parade came by at 7:30 pm. Then it was time to go out to the street to collect yet more beads of course and be part of the festivities. I had made up a sign to hold up at all the floats as they went by (see pics) and my sign brought us more attention than we would have received just standing in the crowd. We caught so many beads at that parade that we had to put most of them in a bag as there were far too many to wear around our necks. The parade lasted for about 45 minutes and had many colourful and festive floats as well as several local marching bands.

The Parades at Mardi Gras are always put on by a Krewe which is a group of people who belong to a service group in the area. They use their own money to decorate the floats, buy the beads, candy etc to throw at the crowd. The parade we saw on Saturday night was put on by the Krewe of Bonaparte. (see pics) As in many other cities and towns in Southern Louisiana, Lafayette actually has several different parades each hosted by a different Krewe throughout the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras.

After the parade ended we walked around a little but more and then returned to the RV Park.

Sunday was yet another parade day, this time in Henderson Louisiana which was just a 2 mile bike ride from our park. It started at 12:30 pm so Rob and I biked into town just before noon. It seemed that the whole town and all their cousins showed up to line the main street to watch the parade. The town itself had a population of approximately 1500 people and looked very red neckish to say the least. The parade lasted half an hour at best and yes, we collected still more beads! After the parade I actually met the Mayor of the town who welcomed me and gave me some more beads and a “get out of jail card free” in case I needed it for later. Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it! Lol

Sunday night for dinner we walked over to Crawfish Town USA which was a huge restaurant just in front of our RV resort. There we dined on a Louisiana Crawfish Festival Platter which included Fried Crawfish Tails, Crawfish Boulettes, Crawfish Etoufee, Boiled Crawfish, Seafood Gumbo, Salad, French Fries and Bread pudding for dessert. (see pic) Everything was delicious. As we had never eaten Crawfish before we asked our waitress for a lesson as to how to eat the boiled crawfish. She showed us what to do and we gave it a try. We were obviously struggling with how to do it and were noticed by a local couple who greeted us warmly and gave us further instruction. We had a very nice evening and dinner and we were very stuffed when we left.

Monday morning we packed up and headed further south to the city of Abbeville where we are staying until Wednesday. We will then go the city of New Iberia which is all in the same general area of Acadiana and we will be there until Friday. Lots of exploring to do over the next few days so better get going.

Squawk at you later in the week!! Happy Mardi Gras!!

 

 

 

This is the delicious dinner we had at Crawfish Town USA
This is the delicious dinner we had at Crawfish Town USA
Valentines Day at our RV site. It was VERY hot and sunny. Just waiting for parade time.
Valentines Day at our RV site. It was VERY hot and sunny. Just waiting for parade time.
Getting ready for the Golf Cart Parade at Cajun Palms RV Resort
Getting ready for the Golf Cart Parade at Cajun Palms RV Resort
Another Golf Cart float
Another Golf Cart float
Jazz waiting for the Golf cart parade to begin
Jazz waiting for the Golf cart parade to begin
Here comes the parade. Time to catch beads!!
Here comes the parade. Time to catch beads!!
Look at all the beads I caught!!
Look at all the beads I caught!!
Jazz caught lots of beads too!!
Jazz caught lots of beads too!!
Krewe of Bonaparte Mardi Gras Parade in Lafayette on Valentine's Day evening
Krewe of Bonaparte Mardi Gras Parade in Lafayette on Valentine’s Day evening
Another float in Lafayette parade
Another float in Lafayette parade
My sign worked very well! Lots more beads (too many to wear so we had to put most of them in a bag!)
My sign worked very well!
Lots more beads (too many to wear so we had to put most of them in a bag!)
Us with a Mardi Gras Mascot at The Blue Moon Bar after the parade
Us with a Mardi Gras Mascot at The Blue Moon Bar after the parade
A float in Mardi Gras Parade in Henderson LA on Sunday afternoon
A float in Mardi Gras Parade in Henderson LA on Sunday afternoon
Another Henderson parade float
Another Henderson parade float
More floats and of course, more beads!! lol
More floats and of course, more beads!! lol
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Beaches and Oil

Feb 7-13

Saturday, we left the Horses on the Beach just after 11 am on Padre Island, Tx. Our next destination was Jamaica Beach on Galveston Island. We soon where heading northeast and a causeway away we were on Mustang Island, where Port Aransas is located which is another tourist/summer resort. Due to the nature of the land in this area, causeways and ferries are a necessity. The ferries all run 24 hours a day and are free as they are part of their road system. Port Aransas was the first – only about 1/3 of a mile across an inlet.

We arrived around 5 pm (after 240 miles) at Jamaica Beach RV Resort and happened to miss a shuttle bus taking people to the Galveston Mardi Gras parade that evening. We would make up for that later – stay tuned!  It’s located about 12 miles from the city of Galveston and is about 80 miles south west of Houston. Once we hit the beach, it didn’t take long to realize this is one destination for some of the oil industry workers and executives to spend their weekends and summer. There were lots of beautiful and many large home on the beach. All homes in the area are built on stilts for hurricanes and potential flooding.

After a long day driving, time for a cold beer and some relaxation. Flank steak on the Q for dinner and a soak in their brand new spa. They actually had an infinity spa that was 12’ x 30’ – biggest “hottub” we have ever been in – all by ourselves! (see pic)

Sunday morning Jazz and I explored the park then headed over to the beach for a walk (and a run) – shorts and flip flops with lots of sun and mid 70’s. A perfect morning walk. After returning to the RV Kathy and I got the bikes out and headed back to the beach for a bike ride along the beach admiring all the beautiful and unique homes – again, on stilts. (see pics) For lunch we ended up at a small local diner for a cup of Gumbo each and split a Shrimp PoBoy.

Monday morning with warm sun and nice temps. , it was time for a long two hour walk on the beach returning home around 1 for lunch. Once again, being a Monday tourist is great as there are few people around. After lunch we packed up our beach chairs and books and headed back to the beach for some rays for a couple of hours.

Tuesday plan was to bike over to the bayside of Galveston Island called the West Bayou. It was only about 1.5 miles away. Once again, evidence of oil money over here with more nice homes and some inland “water streets” for their back yards. (See pics.) The beach side was breezy that day, so after the tour we decided to spend the afternoon sunning at the RV.

Wednesday, we left this area heading to Beaumont Tx. At the end of Galveston Island is the City of Galveston and their harbor. Another ferry ride was required to take us over to Port Bolivar. Today’s total drive was much shorter at around 80 miles. This area was primarily a stopover point and it’s nightly rate was 50% with our club membership. We weren’t too close to many things, but we were able on Thursday for lunch to bike about a mile or so to a Pappadeau Seafood Kitchen. This is primarily a Texas chain geared towards Cajun cooking. For lunch the place was big and it was packed. Kathy had some Blacked catfish and Shrimp etouffee. I went for the frogs legs – half deep fried, half sautéed as suggested by the waiter. Everything was real good. The manager found out this was our first time at their restaurant, so some King cake (mixed with cheese cake) was offered up complimentary. Yum, yum (see pic)

The Beaumont/Port Arthur area didn’t have much that we were interested in, so Friday morning we bid farewell to the State of Texas and headed east into Louisiana. As is normal practice, we didn’t take the direct, fast route to our next destination. We decided to take the Creole Nature Trail through the bayou’s and swamp lands. Most of the way, there wasn’t a lot to see but there was virtually no traffic either. Beyond the nature trail, the oil and gas industry was prevalent throughout the area. Oh and there was another short ferry ride required at Cameron La. Our lunch stop was in Lake Charles for some BBQ. We tried our first brisket with unlimited sides as we were newbies. (Dirty rice, corn on the cob, mac and cheese, baked beans) and toast. We split one “plate” at a cost of $10.50 and were full.

We got onto the freeway for the final leg of the day and it was noticeably busy with Mardi Gras traffic. (more on Mardi Gras in the next blog). With the congestion on the freeway, it was bound to happen and about 20 miles from our destination, traffic backed up and stopped with an obvious accident ahead. We decided to get off and take some back roads which turned out to be a good idea as we heard a few hours later that there were still problems in that area. We arrived at our site around 3pm – Cajun Palms RV Resort between Henderson and Breaux Bridge, LA. Of all the places we have stayed, this place is the closest to being a “resort” by definition. Over 300 sites, a couple of fishing ponds, two large pools a large waterpark, mini golf, cabin rentals, on and on….

Anyway, that’s all the squawking I have for today!

 

Galveston Harbour
Galveston Harbour
Our complimentary King Cake at Pappadeau Seafood
Our complimentary King Cake at Pappadeau Seafood
Jimmy Buffett is everywhere
Jimmy Buffett is everywhere
Flappin and beakin
Flappin and beakin
The infinity spa at Jamaica Beach park
The infinity spa at Jamaica Beach park
Nice to have one of these backyards!-no grass to cut
Nice to have one of these backyards!-no grass to cut

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Bayside home on inland waterway
Bayside home on inland waterway
Yep another sunset
Yep another sunset
Grandeur on stilts!
Grandeur on stilts!

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Another one
Another one
Jamaica Beach
Jamaica Beach
One of many large beach houses
One of many large beach houses
Another RV park on the beach-all with sun/observation decks
Another RV park on the beach-all with sun/observation decks
Oil and Gas country
Oil and Gas country

 

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Quiet time…

Feb 4-7

Ingredients = Dry camping, salt air and nature at the Padre Island National Seashore

Thursday morning we were up early to drive over to Padre Island to spend a couple of nights by the beach. It was only about 15 miles from Corpus Christi. The campground is called Malaquite and it is within the Padre Island National Seashore – a national park. You cannot reserve a site, so it’s on a first come basis. I won’t bore you on this aspect, but they could use some changes and enforcement.

Facts on Padre Island (from their brochure)

  • The park of 203 square miles protects the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world
  • 4 nations have owned it – Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas and United States
  • Some of the oldest shipwrecks in the US dating back to 1554 have been found here
  • Cattle ranching occurred on Padre Island from 1804 to 1970
  • The Laguna Madre (water mass between the island and the mainland) is one of 6 hypersaline lagoons in the world (salt content is 1.5 to 3 times higher than the Gulf of Mexico)

After stocking up on groceries, we arrived and where finally settled at our site by around 11.The weather was supposed to be improving, but it remained overcast for the day with temps around 60 deg. We went out for a short walk on the beach after lunch but it was breezy. It gave Jazz a chance to run and stretch her legs which she enjoyed. We had to keep her out of the dune grass as it was full of small very prickly burrs that I think hurt us more taking them out than it did her. With so few campers, no trains, highways, etc., it was very quiet out there with the exception of the birds and the sound of the surf which was nice.

We were able to sit out a bit, but eventually retreated in doors for a few games of Scrabble. As we were dry camping, we didn’t have a constant power supply, wi-fi or cell service so our entertainment at night was watching some Breaking Bad episodes on the laptop.

Friday morning’s weather was a bit more promising, but still not what they had forecast. This didn’t hold us back though for a long walk on the beach layered up with our windshells. We were out for 2 hours walking south and found a few “beach” campers along the way. We saw lots of seashore birds, my favourite being a Great Blue Heron on the way back. (see pic)

Arriving back to the camp and with the weekend weather warming up, more people had started to arrive and continued through the afternoon and evening. The afternoon was still cool and damp so we were back in the RV playing some games. Chicken and vegetable stir fry for dinner with more Breaking Bad episodes after dinner. Another early evening!

Saturday morning we were up by 7 and the sunrise was working hard to warm us. Jazz and I (with coffee) went down to beach and just sat watching the gentle waves and enjoying the morning weather which was definitely warming prior to us leaving. A Great Blue Heron flew behind me and above by about 25’ so I watched it’s graceful flight. Back to watching the surf, suddenly I spotted a lone dolphin (fin to the right) in shallow water only about 75’ out. I watched it for another 10 minutes as it went back and forth almost right in front of me. I could have stayed there for the day! Time was ticking as we had a 10 am appointment with some 4 legged animals on the beach down the road as we leave the island.

At 9:30am we stopped at Horses on the Beach for an hour of the same at 10. The ranch had about 30 horses but that morning there was only 5 of us plus two guides. It was a nice 1 hour walk on the beach, no galloping! Shortly after 11 we were back in the RV changing into T-shirts and shorts for our 220 mile drive east towards Galveston.

We hear there is more white stuff expected at home today, so stay warm.

From the perch…….

 

Jazz relaxing in the RV - she like to contort her neck
Jazz relaxing in the RV – she likes to contort her neck
A view of the seashore from the RV
A view of the seashore from the RV
Just beachin...
Just beachin…
Wide open vacant beach-south
Wide open vacant beach-south
same beach-north
same beach-north
Cool day at the beach
Cool day at the beach

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A jelly fish-about 1 foot round
A jelly fish-about 1 foot round
Not ours-and there was a walker with wheels at the side door
Not ours-and there was a walker with wheels at the side door-really???

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Beaking off at me
Beaking off at me
A Great Blue Heron - let me get about 25' away
A Great Blue Heron – let me get about 25′ away
Malaquite National Park - only 48 sites
Malaquite National Park – only 48 sites
Horsing around
Horsing around- a one hour ride on the beach
A nice warm morning walk on the beach-really it was warm
A nice warm morning walk on the beach-really it was warm
Kathy and Neptune
Kathy and Neptune
A short ferry ride at Port Aransas, TX - free 24 hour service
A short ferry ride at Port Aransas, TX – free 24 hour service
A cropped enlarged caption of the Great Blue HEron
A cropped enlarged caption of the Great Blue Heron

 

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A Parrotly the best thing in Corpus Christi is ?

Jan 28 – Feb 4/15

We arrived in Colonia Del Ray RV  Park in Flour (yes this is the correct spelling) Bluff which is a subdivision  of Corpus Christi located on Laguna Madre last Thursday  and have been here all this week. We soon discovered that Corpus Christi is more a summer time city and at this time of year there is very little to do. The weather however when we arrived was really nice – mid to high 70’s and beautiful sunshine . This lasted right through the weekend until Monday so we are very happy about that as we were able to be outside for those 4 days.

On Friday we took off on our bikes to tour the area we were in. We biked along Laguna Madre which we thought would be beautiful but it was anything but. On the other side of Laguna Madre is Padre Island which we are going to tomorrow for a couple of days so in our next blog we can tell you if the other side of Laguna is nicer than the Corpus side. We hope so. Anyway, at least we got our exercise that day but didn’t really see anything interesting.

On Saturday we boarded the local public bus and took it downtown and to the Waterfront. I will say that the Waterfront is a very nice area with a large Marina and seawall to stroll or bike along for 1.5 miles. It also had a few Seafood restaurants one of which we really enjoyed for lunch that day. They had a Prix Fix deal for $20 a couple which included one appetizer to share, 2 Entree’s and one dessert to share. Our appetizer was calamari which was delicious and I can honestly say that the Key Lime pie which we shared after our entrée was one of the best I have ever had. The restaurant was called Harrison’s Landing in case you are ever in the area.

In the summer, I am sure the waterfront is a very popular place and I understand they hold a lot of festivals down there during that time.

The downtown itself which is just behind the waterfront area we found to be quite desolate. Mind you it was Saturday but even during the week I cannot imagine there is much of anything going on down there. The bus ride we took to and from the waterfront was about 1 1/2 hours each way because of the many many stops the bus made and we saw some VERY interesting people get on and off the bus. There isn’t much more to say about that.

Sunday was our BEST day here in Corpus Christi. Just 10 miles from our RV Park is the South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Centre. It was too far to bike to so we packed up the RV and off we went to it on Sunday morning. As many of you know, we are members of Royal Botanical Gardens at home in Burlington. RBG has a reciprocal agreement that allows members free admittance at other Botanical Gardens in North America as long as you have your Membership card which we did. This South Texas Garden is also part of the agreement so we were able to get in free.

As botanical gardens go, this one is not the norm. It has a wide variety of modern, stylistic floral exhibits and gardens, nestled near native habitat. It has winding trails and lakes, forests and natural wetlands. It had a lovely Orchid House and rose garden and pavilion. Unfortunately at this time of year there were very few flowers in bloom but the ones that were were very pretty. It also had a Butterfly house, a Hummingbird garden, and arid garden, reptiles AND LOTS OF PARROTS!!!!!!!   (See pics)

Can you guess which part I enjoyed the most? I have only attached a few parrot pics. Trust me, we have lots more but I didn’t want to bore you as I know not everyone is as excited about Parrots as I am!!

Anyway, it was a great visit to the Gardens. We returned back to the park by early afternoon and spent a wonderful relaxing afternoon sitting out in the sun . We met our neighbours who were from Northern Texas and had a good visit with them as we enjoyed the sunshine and a couple of cocktails at Happy Hour.

As it was Superbowl Sunday, the RV Park was hosting a free Superbowl party in their Rec Hall which included a full dinner of fried chicken, potato salad, homemade brown beans, rolls and spice cake for dessert. We arrived there at 5:30 pm and brought an appetizer which disappeared quickly. There were approximately 60-70 people there and they had 3 large TV’s set up to watch the game. As we really aren’t Football fans, we stayed til Half time and then came home. But we did enjoy participating in the get together and we did watch the rest of the game on our own TV.

Monday and Tuesday brought cool weather and lots of rain so we spent both days on the computer researching RV parks to go to for the remainder of February and all of March. You cannot imagine how much time it takes to do this. But we are happy to say that we are now fully booked in parks til the end of March which is a really good feeling.

Today we walked and went out for lunch and had our first “Whataburger”. This is a popular Texas wide (and beyond)  burger chain that was founded in Corpus Christi in 1950. It was delicious! (Bryn – it was better than In and Out)  Then we went over to a local Beall’s store where Rob went on a shopping spree and got some fantastic deals on summer clothes. I think he is now all set for shorts and tops for the next several years!!

I had my shopping spree back in San Diego with Melissa in January so it was Rob’s turn this time.

As we are dry camping on Padre Island starting tomorrow for a couple of days (and the weather is going to be hot and sunny – yippee) we will not have hydro, water, or Internet so we won’t be able to share any more droppings likely til the first of next week when we will be in Galveston area for a few days.

Have a great weekend and will squawk to you then.

This is Charlie. He is a beautiful salmon coloured Cockatoo. He whispered his words.
This is Charlie. He is a beautiful salmon coloured Cockatoo. He whispered his words.

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Rob and Zazu
Rob and Zazu

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Kathy and Zazu. What a great day!!
Kathy and Zazu. What a great day!!
Kathy with Zazu perched on her arm
Kathy with Zazu perched on her arm
Beautiful rose
Beautiful rose
Arid (Cactus) Garden
Arid (Cactus) Garden
Butterfly Kathy
Butterfly Kathy
This looks like Squawkers (from the cottage) twin!
This looks like Squawkers (from the cottage) twin!
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