Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The North Shore & New Orleans LA

While we were in Hot Springs Mark was told of a state park in Mandeville LA on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain.  Normally we don't make reservations unless we know exact dates or if we know it is a busy time or popular location.  This time we didn't but we got in early enough on Friday afternoon to score a site for 2 weeks.  The check-in lady was super nice and we asked for a site that we could get satellite reception as it had been a problem in the past.  Well we think we got the best site in the park, it was a huge corner site with plenty of room for all our stuff with no extra cost for $22 a night.  We had electric and water so we were careful with the grey/black water only using the blue boy once and it was fine.  Fontaineblue State Park is a very popular campground filling up quickly on the weekends.

The park embraces over 2,809 acres with a fishing pier, beach, nature trails, beautiful old huge live oaks, ruins of a plantation brick yard and sugar mill and all the biking and walking anyone could want. 
When we drove into the campground we were taken back by the gorgeous oak trees and the picture in our minds of want Louisiana would look like was fulfilled.

 The Tammany Trace runs through the park.  This is Louisiana's only rails-to-trails conversion, the 31 mile paved trace runs from Covington to Abita Springs.  We rode it often going downtown for lunch or a brisk pedal in the morning after a walk. 

The day we drove in we passed this little drinking establishment that didn't look like much but the parking lot was packed.  So the next day we stopped in to see what it was all about.  Well this nice older lady who was all dressed up in Mardi Gras fashion greeted us at the door "Welcome to Ruby's Roadhouse, come on in and join us".  She told us that is was a surprise birthday party for her daughter,  we told her we didn't know her daughter and just arrived in town yesterday.  Well then welcome to Louisiana and join us, the beer is free and famous Lucky Dogs are out back.  So we did just that and had a great time!  Wow we haven't even been in town for 24 hours already love Louisiana.  More on Lucky Dogs later.

A couple days after we arrived we took a drive to New Orleans to scope out our next campground and make reservations at the West KOA ten miles from downtown New Orleans.  This is the best location when staying in New Orleans that won't cost you a arm and leg.  The campground that is located in the French Quarter isn't in a good location to walk home from.  The KOA has a shuttle bus that leaves for downtown at 9:00am and again at 5:00pm and its free.  A taxi ride home will cost you $30 and is well worth it.   Once reservations were made we made contact with friends John and Jenni to meet that evening which left us the afternoon to do some exploring.  

Downtown water front

Bourbon Street during the day is totally different than at night.

Next we visited St. Louis Cathedral, located in the French Quarter, it is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States and absolutely beautiful.

The famous Lucky Dog carts!

Lucky Dogs are an iconic brand of hot dogs sold by New Orleans street vendors out of 7 foot long steel push carts.  They are the only street cart operators allowed to sell in the French Quarter.  A all-beef wiener topped with chili, mustard and onions, delicious!

It was great to see John and Jenni that evening and catch up on whats been happening in their lives.  They live right in New Orleans and are only a couple of blocks from Finn McCool's Irish Pub so we all headed there for dinner and beer.  John introduced us to Abita beer and we are now fans.  Their brewery is in Abita Springs on the North shore so we will be checking it out!  Can't believe I didn't get a picture of them, shame on me but I did get a picture of these fabulous purses that Jenni makes for the Krewe of NYX that she is a member of. 



The next trip we took was on the motorcycle down to Pierre Part where Troy and Jacob Landry from the show "Swamp People" live.  

We passed sugar cane fields like you pass corn in Iowa.  Louisiana is second in production to Florida.  80% of sugar comes from sugar cane and the rest from sugar beets.

First stop was 

Troy owns the gas station and named it after his dad. 

D&M Seafood is behind the station and that's where they bring in the big gators.

Next was his restaurant where we enjoyed some good food.  It's nothing fancy just good cooking.

There was a map on the wall and I was looking for some roads that would take us along bayous as we really hadn't seen any on the ride down.  A patron told us to check out a swamp driftwood museum in town and it would take us along a bayou, bingo were on it.  I tell you Louisiana folks are friendly.

This fellow collects the wood and makes fabulous things, recycle and repurpose, I love it! 

The homes along the bayou weren't much more than shelter but everyone we passed seemed very happy as they waved and smiled at us.

Most of the homes were floating homes.

Onto the Rainbow Inn where Troy and his sons enjoy a beer and talk about the days fishing. 

Unfortunately it wasn't open :(

On the way home we took a different route that carried us along the Mississippi River through towns and past sugar plantations.  You can't see the river because of the levee so we stopped, walked up and just watched as it is one busy river.  Ships, tugs and barges carrying their loads up and down 24/7.

It was amazing the amount of industry along the river.


Remember that Abita beer John introduced us to?  Well off to the brewery we go.  It is located in Abita Springs about 20 minutes from us.  The tour is free as well as the tasting.  You arrive at bar, get in line and wait your turn to serve yourself to whatever brew you want to taste.  The bar is open for about 45 minutes so you can drink as much as you want!  Then the tour starts up lasting about 15 minutes, then its back to the open bar for more beer for another 30-45 minutes.  Hey this is my kind of brewery.  My favorite was Purple Haze and Mark liked the Restoration Ale.  

Wow after all that beer we needed some food so we headed over to the Abita Brew Pub in town.  It is a full service restaurant and its where they use to brew the beer until 1994 when they moved.  
Good food and good beer, what more could you want.

On the way home we stopped at the local brewery in Mandeville called Old Rail Brewing Company.  The beer was good but we had to pay for it, no free samples, dang.  Anyway, it was time to head home, two breweries in one day makes for a good day.  By the way you can take the Tammany Trace from the campground and be at Old Rail in about 15 minutes.


Our next adventure took us in the swamp.  A couple of miles from the campground is a good location for kayaking. 

 I have to admit I was abit nervous at first as we were told there definitely was wildlife but everything was fine.  Stay away from them and they stay away from you.  

In total we saw 4 gators, several turtles and a few heroines.


Our next adventure lead us to the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens known as The Sugar Palace the Crown Jewel of Louisiana's River Road.  You first enter the opulent gardens winding your way to the completely restored Greek revival mansion that contains period antiques, artwork, china and artifacts.  The present owner resides in the mansion.

Check out the lily? pads.  Never seen such a thing.

This tree is a Burnside Oak over 400 years old.

Once through the grande doors entering the foyer is this beautiful hand painted mural.  The land barons would have their animals painted in them and the murals were a sign of status.

The map that she is pointing to is over 125 years old.  It was found under the floor boards wrapped in cypress shavings which preserved it. 

This beautiful staircase is totally self supported and in 1963 Bette Davis was filmed on it in the movie "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte".

This wooden pin is how they joined the floor boards in those days.

What a beautiful place. There are alot of plantations to visit but if you only have time for one I totally suggest the Houmas House.  It also has a 5 star restaurant and rents out for weddings and events. 


After two weeks at Fontaineblue we moved to the KOA in River Ridge.

A nice patio site with lots of room.  This was a well maintained campground and very busy so you if plan to stay here I suggest you make reservations.  We moved on Friday and then met our old neighbors Mario and Jeff on Bourbon Street.  Haven't seen them in six years and it was like we were never parted.  Let the good times roll.

Well by 4am we called it quits.  OMG we haven't been up partying that late since we were neighbors back in Castle Hayne!
It took us 2 days to recover, dang we getting older.

John is a runner and was so kind to take me to City Park and walk with me showing off the sights this beautiful park has to offer.  It is one of the oldest urban parks in the country.  This 1,300 acre park has something for everyone with botanical gardens, flower gardens, carousel amusement park, bike/jogging/walking paths, 800 year old oak trees, tennis, golf and sculpture gardens.  In the 1930's the Roosevelt Administration invested $12 million in developing the park as part of the W.P.A. to put folks back to work.  Hurricane Katrina left 95% of the park sitting in flood waters for weeks causing $43 million in damages.  This park is a must see when in the area and once you are done strolling around stop by the Morning Call for some Community coffee and beignets.

Our next outing took us to the National WWII Museum.

The museum tells the story of the American Experience in "the war that changed the world"-why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today-so that all generations will understand the price of freedom.
On trip advisor the museum is currently ranked #1 New Orleans attraction, #4 in the United States and #11 worldwide.  Even if you are not a war buff you will find yourself amazed at the exhibits and appreciate every life that was lost for our freedom today. 
The 4D movie "Beyond All Boundaries" which is narrated by executive producer Tom Hanks is a must see.


Can't go to New Orleans without visiting the cemeteries.

New Orleans' graves were kept above ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults and because of the water table.  The vaults look like small homes some complete with iron fencing in neat rows, thus called the cities of the dead.  Some vaults have several people in them and when you realize this fact you ask yourself "How can this be?"  Well, as long as the previously deceased family member has been dead for at least two years, the remains of that person can be moved to a specially made burial bag and placed at the side or back of the vault.  The coffin is then destroyed and ready for the next family member.  If a member dies before the two year period the cemeteries are equipped with temporary holding vaults.


On one of our last nights we met up again with John to go downtown to eat and listen to some music.  Walking from their house 4 blocks we hopped on the trolley taking us down to Decatur street.  Along the way we passed the Saenger Theater and look who was going to be there!!!

Love me some Theresa Caputo.

Once off the trolley we walked 8 blocks to Coop's Place restaurant for a true taste of New Orleans at affordable prices.   It came highly recommended by the campground staff and John hadn't eaten there before so that was a bonus for him.  I'm telling you it was a party in my mouth, just the kind of food we were looking for.  This establishment is nothing fancy but they have some good eats.

After dinner we walked down to Frenchmen Street, being the total opposite of Bourbon, it is a compact musical enclave where the "locals" hang out.  A 2 block long entertainment district where any night of the week you can hear live sounds and a wide variety of music as only New Orleans musicians can perform. 

First stop was the Blue Nile.

One of longest-standing music clubs on the Frenchmen strip, originally it was the Dream Palace and the first bar on the block to feature live bands, the Blue Nile offers an eclectic listening menu.
We listened to some good music and enjoyed an Abita beer and as the bar started to fill up we gave up our seats to someone else and wandered on.

I enjoyed the colorful art work on the buildings and there is a wonderful open market on the weekends that would have been great to attend, it's on my list for the next time we visit.

Wandering on Mark liked the sounds coming out of the Balcony Music Club (BMC) so we went in and listened to Ed Willis & Blues 4 Sale. 


This guy could really play and he was also very entertaining.  
What a great night we had, Thank you John for a wonderful evening.


While in Louisiana we discovered great spices, coffee, food and beer that we can't get elsewhere so we stocked up purchasing several of each.

It has been a busy 3 weeks in the wonderful state of Louisiana and we will definitely be back.

As always thank you for following our travels.


Shop early for my custom made jewelry at Wandering Designs on Etsy