New Orleans with Sisters

Meet my sister-in-laws, Sarah and Lynda, in New Orleans on November 11, 2018. Upon arrival, we caught a taxi and went to the Embassy Suites which was our home for the next five nights. After settling in, we attended the evening reception at the hotel which was not near as good as previous ones at other Embassy Suites; definitely will not depend upon it for our evening meals.

Relaxing in Room

On Monday, we had an early pick up scheduled for a New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina tour but we did time for the breakfast buffet offered to all guests of the hotel. The tour company picked us up and we were off on an adventure. Our guide described the various districts of New Orleans as we drove along; we went through the French Quarter, the historic park of Jackson Square, and by the Cabildo where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. We arrived at St. Louis Cemetery with is one of the oldest in the city; we walked among some of the tombstones with the guide providing an overview along the way. Next we headed for the City Park and the Besthoff Sculpture Gardens with a stop at the Morning Call restaurant for a brief rest stop and our purchase of beignets. The last area we visited was the Lower 9th Ward where Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and swept away people/homes; there is still areas in which rebuilding is still occurring.

St. Lewis Cemetery
Family Vault

Olympic Sculpture
Levee
House in 9th Ward

We were deposited at our hotel at the conclusion of the tour; after stopping in our room, we decided to walk to Riverside Mall where we picked our late lunch from the various vendors in the food court. After eating, we walked around the river front and then back to the hotel where we attended the evening reception; the food offerings did not improve from the evening before.

On Tuesday, the 13th, we did not have any activities prearranged so, after breakfast, we took off in the rain for Rouse’s Market which is the leading grocer in the New Orleans area. It was fun to explore the market and compare to back home; we did purchase gifts for people back home. After depositing our purchases at the hotel, we took a walk through the Riverside Mall, walked into the French Quarter where we passed Jackson Square, explored Bourbon Street on our way to Pat O’Brien’s bar for a Hurricane, a well known strong drink of New Orleans. After our drink, we proceeded to Market Street where we came upon a store called Papier Plume. What an excellent discovery! I found an ideal birthday gift for Steev. By this time, we decided on a late lunch at the Royal House Oyster Bar where we hoped to get some fresh seafood; however, we were disappointed in what was served. We continued to walk back to our hotel.

Walking in the Rain
Beads Hanging from Balcony
Having a Hurricane
Typical Street in New Orleans

Wednesday we had arranged for an all day plantation tour with an airboat ride into the swamp. It was a very cold, rainy day but that did not stop the airboat ride from happening. Even with the bad weather, it was good trip through the swamps; however, there was no way we were going to see any alligators in the rainy, cold weather.

Our swamp boat
The swamp
Sisters having fun

After the boat ride, we proceeded to Oak Alley Plantation where we were served a very tasty Cajun buffet lunch. After lunch, the three of us took a tour of the plantation house and surrounding grounds. This plantation is quite well known for its oak trees that lined the road from the house to the edge of the property.

Oak Alley Plantation House

Oak Trees from House to Road
Grounds of Oak Alley

Next we went to Laura Plantation where we were given a tour inside and outside. Even though it was smaller than Oak Alley, it was an enjoyable tour. Both of the plantations were very well maintained.

Laura Plantation House
Garden at Laura’s Plantation
Back of plantation house with slave quarters showing

We headed to New Orleans and our lodging. It was early evening by the time we returned so we ordered pizza to be delivered from Magazine Pizza; it was good.

Thursday, the 15th, was our last day in New Orleans; we decided to return to the Garden District so we rode the oldest trolley in New Orleans and were deposited on the edge of the district. Our first stop was a book store where we made a few purchases including a book for a self-guided tour. Then, following the book, we explored the neighborhood which was lined with beautiful homes, schools, and churches. Next we walked to Magazine Street, known for its shops and restaurants, within the district. After asking some local shop owners where to eat lunch, we went to Red Dog Diner which has a farmhouse decor with indoor and outdoor areas; good food and great atmosphere. After lunch, we decided to return to Market Street in the French Quarter so Sarah called for Uber to take us instead of our walking. The driver dropped us off at Market Street where we continued shopping at the point we had stopped on Tuesday. All of us made some purchases; we stopped at a coffee shop because I needed some caffeine in my system. Onward toward the hotel with a detour through the Riverside Mall for a wine shop where I hoped to purchase local wine; however, it tasted awful and what did taste good was made in California so there was no point in making any purchase. When we got back to our hotel, we proceeded to pack for our departure the next day. Sarah called Uber and ordered through them for a pizza to be delivered to our hotel; it worked quite well.

The Trolley
Colonel Short’s Villa built 1859
Louise McGehee School built 1872
Anne Rice House built 1857
Lunch at Red Dog Diner
Jazz playing on Market Street

Friday, the 16th, we departed for our respective homes. It was a great week of catching up with my sister-in-laws lives and making more wonderful memories with them but, like all trips, it was good to get home.

Arkansas in November

From November 13th until the 16th, I decided to visit my friends, Joyce and George, in Bella Vista, Arkansas for three nights.  Since they have an apartment in a retirement community, I reserved a room at The Inn which is located within an mile of their place.  The Inn had a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere; 14 acres surrounded by trees and the Ozarks.  After checking in, I drove to my friends for an evening of BBQ Pork sandwiches and friendship.  Before retiring for the evening, it was decided the next day would be for Joyce and I with George staying home.  

The next morning, before having breakfast, I made a cup of coffee and ventured out for a walk about the woods and grounds. It was a crisp feeling morning so the coffee was welcomed. After taking a shower, I ventured down to the kitchen for a breakfast prepared by my host. The food tasted wonderful and conversation was lively. Around 10:00, I drove to the Sheldons. Joyce was ready so we drove to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art where we walked the trails. There are more than 3.5 miles of trails winding through the museum’s 120-acre site so we had access to some beautiful landscape. After our walk, we went into the reception area of the museum where we signed up for the tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s structure known as Bachman-Wilson House. This house was originally built in 1956 along the Millstone River in New Jersey; it was purchased by an architect/designer team in 1988. However, the house was threatened by repeated flooding so the owners determined that, in order to preserve it, they should sell it to an institution willing to relocate it. Crystal Bridges was selected and it acquired the house in 2013. The entire structure was taken apart and each component was labeled, packed, and moved to the Museum where it was reconstructed in 2015. Next available tour was at 1:15 so we ate lunch in the museum cafe; very good food. And then we walked to the house where we went on a self guided tour which lasted about 15 minutes. Very, very interesting! Back to the museum where we went into the gift shop; I was looking for potential Christmas gifts for Savanna. Did not find anything so next stop was the Amazeum; this is a hands-on museum for children and families and Joyce thought I might find something in their gift shop. However, I did not so onward to downtown Bentonville where we explored the 21c Museum Hotel. This hotel is relatively new to the neighborhood and Joyce had heard so much about the contemporary art museum, which is part of the hotel, that she wanted to see for herself. And the art displayed certainly could be classified as “unusual”. The day was drawing to a close so we drove back to the Sheldons.

George had mentioned that he would like to find either a birthday or Christmas present for Joyce; since he is blind, it makes it difficult for him to get to where he wants to go. So I drove him to the local Lowe’s store where he made the purchase he wanted. When we returned to the retirement complex, we stopped at the office where the administrator took the package and promised to wrap it for him. For dinner we went to El Pueblito Mexican Restaurant in Bella Vista; very good food and wonderful conversation. Once we returned to their apartment, we talked about what to do the next day and then I headed to the B&B where I checked my email and read.

On Tuesday, I got up but did not take a walk since Joyce and I planned on walking later in the morning. Had a couple cups of coffee in my room and then ventured downstairs for breakfast which was prepared by my hostess. Her helper joined me for a breakfast of french toast stuffed with blueberries and fresh fruit; very delicious. Since I wanted to leave early the next morning, I settled up my bill. And then I drove to the Sheldons where it was decided Joyce & I would take our walk, come back to the apartment for George and lunch at the cafeteria, and then take a drive to War Eagle Mill. Joyce and I drove to Tanyard Creek Nature Trail which has beautiful landscape with the trail leading to a waterfall. It was perfect weather for walking which we really enjoyed. Then back to their apartment where we walked to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch, we got into the car and drove to War Eagle Mill which is approximately 10 miles east of the city of Rogers; it took us over an hour to get there. It is a working gristmill and has been located on the site since 1832 but was destroyed three times with the last rebuilt occurring in 1973. It currently operates as an undershot gristmill, and houses a store and restaurant. We did walk the grounds and shopped the store where I purchased Hillbilly Bean Soup mix. We went back to Bella Vista where I dropped Joyce & George off at their place; I drove to WalMart where I filled the car up with gas and purchased a cheese pizza. Joyce “doctored” the pizza with all kinds of vegetables, baked it, and that was our evening meal; again, it was very good. We sat around and talked for awhile but it was finally time to say good night. The next morning I was leaving so I said my “good byes” because I did not want the Sheldons to have to get up as early as I was hoping to leave.

Back at the B&B, I organized my suitcase and prepared for an early departure. Got up in the morning, went downstairs for coffee, took a shower, did my final packing, loaded the car, and went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee to go along with having my water container filled with ice. Grabbed a banana and said good bye to my host. I was on the road shortly after 7:00; made three stops on the way home, including lunch at the Amish travel center by Lamoni, IA. Not the best food but it was a good break. Arrived home around 3:30 still glowing from my visit with my friends and the wonderful hospitality put out by the owners of the B&B; I am hoping to return this coming spring when the flowers are starting to bloom and everything is turning to green.

An Overnight in Hannibal, Missouri

On October 26th, Mary and I left for an overnight in Hannibal, MO; we were celebrating my birthday on the 27th. We made one stop on the way down at a HyVee where we went to the restroom and purchased some wine. Upon arrival at Hannibal, we checked into the Best Western on the River hotel. Both of us were ready for lunch so we ate at Mark Twain Dinette and Family Restaurant; the food was not very good…oh well, it was only one meal! After lunch, we walked down to the main street and shopped. From our last trip to Hannibal two years previous, we remembered one place that had excellent gelato; however, they were out of the flavors each of us wanted but said salesperson said the flavors would be available the next morning. Upon returning to the hotel, we decided to walk to a used bookstore on Mark Twain Avenue; the store was a little further than we remembered but, after sitting all morning in the car, the walk did us good. And it was worthwhile with both of us purchasing some books.

With a recommendation of the hotel staff, we ventured to LaBinnah Bistro for dinner. What a wonderful place! Very small with about 15 tables and they do not take reservations. We had no problem getting a table and thoroughly enjoyed the whole dining experience. Menu leans toward French and Mediterranean dishes; both of us were quite pleased with our respective entrees of chicken and fish. It was back to the hotel after dinner with each of us going to our respective rooms after agreeing to meet the next morning at 7:30 for breakfast.

After breakfast, we decided to take a walk to the river. It was a cool morning but the walk was enjoyable. We stopped for coffee at Java Jive, a really neat place; we wished we would have had yesterday’s lunch at this place. Chocolaterie Stam, the place where gelato is made, opened at 10:00 and we ventured there for gelato; they had made the favors promised the day before for us. Mary wanted to go to an antique mall which was close to downtown; it was a very delightful experience for Mary and she wished we would have had more time there. But we were meeting our friend, Doris and her daughter, at Fiddlestiks Food & Spirits Co. for lunch so we had to cut our shopping at the mall short. Doris’s daughter, Renee, lives outside of St. Louis; they met us for lunch so Doris could ride back home with us. We had a wonderful lunch; good food, great conversation, many laughs. And, of course, the staff had to sing “Happy Birthday” while presenting me with a cupcake with a light candle.  All of us said good bye to Renee; we headed back to Iowa with my getting home around 3:30 in the afternoon.

What a fun, delightful way to spend my birthday; good friends, great shopping, fantastic adventure…life is indeed good!