Saturday, March 15, 2014

Apalachicola – Love the name and town

The magazine article said Apalachicola is one of the last cities that has retained much of its old Florida atmosphere.  No high rise hotels, no casinos, just small home town shops and restaurants.  Since we were late getting into town, we stopped at the first restaurant we came to.  It turned out to be a good choice.  Dan’s oysters were done to perfection.  We asked our waitress if there is a place we could park for the night.  Sure, she said.  So off we went to what they call the Battery. 

This morning I woke just in time to mosey out on the pier for a few sunrise pictures.  I took a bunch, but this is my favorite.

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This gull must have thought there was sure to be something good come out of the Trekker.  And there was, Dan found some bread.

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We explored Apalachicola finding beautiful homes and cottages.  We toured the Maritime Museum finding it well done and informative.  We learned around the turn of the century, the oyster beds were decimated by overharvesting.  Since, they have  harvested the same as was done for the past century and the beds are flourishing.

Since it is Saturday, no boats were going out, but this is how they lookIMG_0892   This is their tool for bringing the oysters up from the bottom.  It works like a scissor. 

IMG_0890 The rich water coming down the Apalachicola River mixes with the brine of the ocean to make a perfect breeding ground for the oysters.

We then crossed a four mile bridge to St Joseph Island.  It too is a beautiful laid back place—no high rise hotels.  I fixed the vegetables we picked up from the Farmers Market.  Then, finally, we spent a couple hours sitting on the beach.  Just enjoying the wind and waves.  I also got to fly my new kite—a butterfly.  Dan is holding on while I snap a picture. 

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Love this kite.

IMG_0912Sadly, we turned the van toward the west today.  First, we are heading  north to Alabama to visit Dan’s nieces first.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Here is some Love for our National and State Parks

There is a reason the powers that be choose certain locations for national parks.  The same is true of state parks as well. It is a beautiful location that should be preserved for all people. For that reason, if we aren’t boondocking in some obscure location, we’re in a national or state park. 

The Gulf Shores National Park is one of those places.  The personnel were friendly and helpful.  They allowed us to find a open spot even though the computer said they were full.  The showers were clean.  And, the people camped there were friendly.  We almost stayed there today and just sat out on the sand.  The sand on the vast, vacant beaches was white and the gulf was a beautiful blue green. 

It was eerie because to get to the campground we drove through a narrow strip of land where the water was very close on each side.  I’m not sure I made it clear that this is an island connected to the mainland by bridge.

IMG_5252 I’m still not sure we made the right decision but here we are in Apalachicola Florida.  I’ll have more on this little village tomorrow.  I will say we have had enough of the crowds converging on the Gulf for the weekend.  It could even be a few spring break young people as well. 

Before I check out and into bed, I want to show another picture.  The name of this is “Big Bang”  Actually it is the battery Langdon.  It was a part of the Gulf Shores National Park.

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This was built in 1923.  There is a gun in there that will shoot 17 miles out to sea.  The concussion when it was shot  back in the day would make those present bleed from the mouth and ears. During WWII, the top was covered with sand.   We drove past this last night nearly nightfall.  Dan and I wondered if this was a place we wanted to stay—pretty ominous.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gulf Coast – Mississippi, Alabama on to Florida

When we left Davis Bayou campground in Mississippi this morning, we had an exciting plan involving taking a ferry between Gulf Islands. 

First, though, we visited Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island on the southwest side of Mobile Bay. Construction of Ft. Gaines was completed in 1861 but the island, because of its strategic location, has been an important to those to occupied the area since 1815.  An important Civil War battle was fought there in 1864.  For only a $6 admission, we followed a self guided tour that told us about the battle and the daily life in the fort.  This is the fort from the outside.

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Looking out over the water

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It is meaningful to walk in the same paths and look out the same places as those before us who shaped our nation.  We learned so much more than I will write here. 

Before we visited the fort, we stopped by a little bakery in Dauphin.  Yep, another fish sandwich.  This time a shrimp salad.

Then on to the ferry.  Except that it was broke down.  So, back north and up and around Mobile Bay and back down to the Gulf Shores.  There are two State Parks on the Gulf Shores so after driving around a bit, we decided to park for the night—but both parks were full.

We were surprised at how many huge high rise hotels with beautiful beaches are positioned right along the Gulf Shores.  They will be hopping next week when college spring breaks begin.

Earlier in the day I had called the National Park on the Gulf Island south of Pensacola Florida.  They told me it was full.  However, we decided to bank on a cancellation and at 4:00 took off for an hour drive to the Fort Pickens National Park.  So glad we did because here we are sitting on this beautiful island to explore tomorrow.  In the end, it all worked out for the best.

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Biloxi Gulf Coast Area

Twelve southern states have four years of their own personal history,  the years they were the Confederate States.   Jefferson Davis was the president of those seceded states.  We passed his home yesterday and decided to travel back eleven miles to visit Beauvier today. 

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And, the library

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The complex of home and library are owned and operated by the Mississippi Division of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.  The home has a beautiful view of the Gulf.  After Davis died, his widow had the opportunity to sell the beautiful home for a nice sum, but instead she sold it for a small sum to a trust with the stipulation it would be used as a home for confederate veterans.  Now it is open to the public and is as well cared for as any presidential library.  The South takes a lot of pride in its past.

Biloxi has a lighthouse.  It is on many of their publications. 

IMG_5150 During the Civil war they removed the reflector and planted it black. 

We continued our seafood diet today.  Never underestimate the benefits of asking a local where to eat.  That is how we found a little cafe named Rosetti’s inside a seafood market in old Biloxi. Delicious.  And enough for our evening meal as well.

We are staying at the Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou Campground again tonight.  The price is right $11—half price for anyone with a Senior Pass.  Anyone over age 62 should have one. 

Other than the clean, well run campground, this area has been set aside to keep this part of the gulf shore natural.  The nature trail turned out to be a beautiful place to watch the sun set this evening.  Here is my favorite.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Andrew, Dan & Linda in the French Quarter

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In my hair’s defense, it rained nearly the entire time we were with Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter today.  We saved the main reason most come to New Orleans for the last day.  Even with the rain, we were surprised and even impressed with this famous area. 

We were able to squeeze the Trekker into a regular parking space only a few blocks from the Quarter and headed straight for this historical landmark:

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Rather than wait in a long line for a table, we walked right up to the takeout and ate under our umbrella in Jackson Square.  The beignets were warm and oh so tasty.

Here is the classic photo of Jackson Square.  It is beautiful, but then probably everyone but us has already seen it.  This was taken from the River Walk so Andrew Jackson is pretty small there in the middle.P3100025

There is a Jean Lafitte National Park presence in the French Quarter which means a Ranger with information.  She suggested we might like the museum next to the cathedral where there are Katrina and Mardi Gras exhibits.  It took over an hour to move through the Katrina exhibit.  We had no idea of the extent of the devastation and how many Parishes were impacted.  There were computer graphics showing how the water moved when the various levis were compromised.   They had numerous first person interviews of how it was to be a part of it. 

The Mardi Gras exhibit was happier.  There is a huge amount of tradition involved in this celebration.  The area is home to a mix of nationalities and they all take the celebration very seriously.  There are even a costumed group who ride their horses into the city for the parade.

Spring 2010 trip 018 After the museum we walked around the familiar streets.  Despite the almost steady rain, people were out, doing what they do on Bourbon Street.  People our age are in the minority.  Probably because most our age don’t want to get a huge, sweet alcoholic drink and carry it up and down the streets.

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So, the debate became, where to eat.  Everyone says there is no bad place to eat in the Quarter.   Still, I wanted to find the Grocery Store that sells the original Muffuletta.

Spring 2010 trip 020 This picture does not do this sandwich justice.  It is absolutely huge.  It is dressed with chopped olives and other unknown delicious things.  Dan and I purchased one and ate it for lunch and supper.  There is a small little counter to eat at in the back of the store. 

So at 3:30 pm we said goodbye to New Orleans and started moving east along the Gulf coast, unfortunately, still in the rain.  What beautiful white sand beaches!  In Mississippi, Hwy 90 runs right along the edge of the beaches for miles.  Right now we are in the Gulf Islands National Seashore  Park near Pascagoula MS.  Tomorrow we may go back toward Biloxi to visit a lighthouse and the Jefferson Davis home. 

Oak Alley Plantation

Thanks to recommendations from several who have visited plantations here in the New Orleans area before, we decided to visit Oak Alley Plantation.  Laura Plantation was the other we considered. 

We were slow getting around this morning and the plantation was about 45 minutes from our campground so before we started the tour, we had lunch of left over shrimp from last night with fruit and chips under one of the gorgeous Oak trees on the plantation.  IMG_5113

The entrance fee was affordable, $18 for seniors.  It was definitely worth the cost. 

First we toured the slave quarters.  There were information stations which explained the work required of the slaves, how health problems were treated and punishment.  However, the buildings were new, reproductions I suppose.  I’m not sure they were a real example of how the slaves lived.  One of the most touching displays was a list by name of all the slaves who worked on this plantation as a tribute to their contributions.

Another interesting exhibit was this map.  It shows the southern states and numbers of slaves by shading.  The darkest shade indicates a population of 80% slaves. Notice how dark along the Mississippi River.

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We were lead through the main house by a costumed docent.  She did a wonderful job describing not only the history of the house but of the family who built it.  The Roman family ended up loosing the plantation shortly after the Civil War mostly due to poor management.   Thanks to the last owners, the Stewart family, the house and grounds were put into a trust so all can be made available to visitors.

The alley of oaks is the most striking visual of the plantation.  They were planted in the early 1700’s by an unknown settler which makes them 300 years old.  Even with the beautiful house and grounds, we were most impressed with these trees.  My camera could not capture how massive they were.  Picture from the upstairs porch.

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Picture from the road looking in

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It happened there was a Civil War enactor on the grounds today.  Of course he was a Confederate officer which is a different perspective than what we generally hear.  He told us about battles won by the south and how they fought.  He had a wonderful New Orleans accent and we ended up spending almost 45 minutes listening and asking questions. 

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The picture I took of the trees and house above was from the dike of the Mississippi.  It was a great place to watch the traffic on the river. It is definitely a working river—lots of barges and ships.  It was the first time we have spent any time around the river since we arrived.  It is so flat and there are dikes everywhere, the actual river is hard to see.

One more night here at the Bayou Segnette State Park.  We cooked our evening meal again.  We might have to try again, but as of now, crayfish are not our favorite.  

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Day Two New Orleans Who was at the Zoo?

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We visited two zoos on our honeymoon and haven’t passed one since.  We always take every opportunity to ask locals what we should see in their city and  all we asked here in New Orleans confirmed our decision to spend a day at the zoo.

It happens today was also the 11th annual Soul Fest at the zoo.  The news just said there were 20,000 visitors to hear the seven soul bands.  We arrived early and enjoyed the first couple bands while eating selections from local restaurants and caterers.  I had Seafood Gumbo from Pearl’s Catering and Dan had Crawfish Boudin Balls and fries from Down Home Creole Cooking.  The music drifted throughout the zoo the remainder of our visit.

This is a well designed zoo.  There was a great swamp exhibit as we expected.  Of course it is  always fun to watch these…

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and these

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But, the most astounding moment at the zoo was when we, literally, bumped in to our neighbors!  They are in New Orleans visiting their grandson along with their son and daughter-in-law.  Their younger son and his girlfriend had also flown in from New York City.  We had no idea they were all going be in NO.  I can still hardly believe we saw them, especially on a day when there were so many people there.  Small world.

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We left the zoo around 3:30.  With a little time left for something new, we decided to cook fresh seafood ourselves.  There is a “strip” of businesses selling fresh seafood about 1/4 mile from the State Park where we are staying.  We arrived home with four pounds of shrimp and twelve bottles of beer.  Thank goodness for the beers  because it took about 1 1/2 hours to clean and devein the shrimp.  Our own creation of Scrimp Scampi was definitely worth it. 

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