I did not mean to take nearly a week off, but after last weekend’s whirlwind trip to Washington DC and getting back to work, it just threw me off. Now that I have had some time to decompress and think about my trip, I have all sorts of thoughts. The one thing that I wanted to do was to see the National Archives. I wanted to see the Decvlaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Ok, so I wanted to pretend that I was in the middle of National Treasure…lol). I got off the flight, shuttled to the Gaylord National, checked in and was in an Uber about 20 minutes after I made it to my room. I had the nicest Uber driver and we talked all the way to the Archives. I only had about four hours to do any sightseeing that I wanted to so I knew that I would barely scratch the surface. No photos were allowed at all, so this is the only one I was able to get!
What can I saw, I wanted to cry. All of my life, I have been a history junkie. I have taught Civics and I have taught my students that the way to change history and to change what they don’t like about laws is to learn about the Constitution. Standing there in front of these documents that people have fought and died for was almost overwhelming. It was also pretty powerful to stand there during this time of turmoil in our country when it feels like our rights and ideals are being eroded by the very people that swore on oath to defend them. I think every single one of our elected officials, and ESPECIALLY the current occupant of the White House needs to take a trip down to the Archives and stand in front of them and ask themselves are they in our government to protect and defend the Constitution or are they there for their own selfish reasons? IF they aren’t there for the right reasons then they need to leave. (Steps off soapbox)
After the Archives, I started walking towards Capitol Hill. Can’t be that far right? I’m not sure how far it was, maybe a mile? It was farther away than it looked, but the weather was beautiful with a nice breeze so it was a nice walk.
Random thought. I thought the Rotunda would be bigger. LOL. I don’t if it was the perspective, or what, but I always pictured this building to be somehow ‘bigger’ than what it is. Isn’t that a crazy thought? Maybe I’ve been watching too must West Wing and Designated Survivor (that might not be the best example as in the first episode, the Capitol was blown up).
After that walk, I turned around and walked down the hill, then up a hill…in the wind…towards the mall and the Smithsonian Castle. By now it was after 2 and an I hadn’t anything to eat or drink since some coffee and half a croissant at the Tampa airport. I was very surprised that there was no restaurants anywhere near where I was. Maybe they were a few streets over, but I think I would have killed for a Starbucks! Instead I found a cafe inside the Hirshhorn Modern Art Museum and managed to not die. After twenty minutes debating whether I should just call and Uber and go back to the hotel, I decided “nah, I’m in DC, you can walk some more.” So….off I went to the Smithsonian Castle. I new that I didn’t have any time to really visit, so I took a few photos and headed over to the Natural History Museum where I felt like I should be in Night at the Museum. (This is sad, all my reference points are from movies). I’m going to leave you for now with a few of those photos. You can click on them for the larger images. Part two tomorrow.
Last week, my inlaws came into town from Atlanta and not wanting to sit around and stare at each other all day, we took a short, 25 minute trip over the Skyway into downtown St. Petersburg to the recently opened Chihuly Collection on Central Avenue.
I have loved the work of Chihuly for years and it is such a joy to be able to see some of his pieces up close. The original Chihuly Collection was located a little farther south on Beach Drive, but October saw a new, dedicated building open. The space is open and airy, and the rooms where the sculptures are located are kept dim with specialized lighting illuminating each piece.
This one is probably my two favorite shots of the day. (All of these photos were taken with my iPhone 7plus…I didn’t want to take my Canon 6d..fear of banging it into something…lol)
Joel said this one reminded him of a balloon animal!
After our trip through the Collection, we walked across the street to the Morean Arts Center Glass Studio and Hot Shop. Your ticket to the Chihuly Collection also includes the glass blowing demonstration at the Hot Shop. You MUST go. This is a wonderful 30 minutes demonstration where a piece of art glass is made from start to finish. The two gentlemen who gave the demonstration were so entertaining and spent time afterwards answering all of our questions. My husband enjoyed it so much that he wants to go and take one of the glassblowing classes. I took a ton of photos, so I put them in a couple of collages plus two of my favorites.
Paulie clearly loves what he does.
After the twirling, he ended up with this:
Tools of the trade.
And finally, after all that, we had lunch then headed back home, but first we had to stop at our favorite dessert bar, Swah-rey. Hands down, Swah-rey has the best cake, minis, tea, coffee and best of all…Pupcakes for the pooches. We almost always make a stop on our way out of St. Pete, and as you can see, Swah-rey minis make Amanda a happy girl.
If you are in the St. Pete area, give these places a visit. Click the links for more info.
If you’d like to see more of my day to day photos, please follow me on Social Media. I’m fairly active on Instagram! You can click on the icons at the top of the page.
(Not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share things that I love.)
Several months ago, my friend Chip at Oceans and Lands Custom Travel Planners let me know that he was headed to my neck of the woods to explore the Village of the Arts in the middle of Bradenton. Since it had been years since I’ve explored that area and a west vancouver realtor recommend us this was an area with great value, my husband and I decided to join him and Chris for the afternoon. The VOTA website describes the area like this: “The Village is an eclectic mix of early 20th century residential bungalows, Florida Cracker homes, and later additions. The neighborhood features a legal commercial overlay, which enables a rare live/work/play mix. Village boundaries stretch from 9th Ave West to 17th Ave West between 9th St West and 14th St West. Over 275 individual properties are within the Village. McKechnie Field, voted Florida’s best minor league ballpark is a block away, and downtown Bradenton and the Riverwalk, are within easy walking distance?.”
As the VOTA covers a large area, take a tip from my husband and snap a photo on your phone for easier reference. Thank goodness we did, because you can get turned around if you are too busy chatting with your friend. (cough…me….cough).
First things first, we were there for lunch and Chip had done some research and wanted to eat at Ortygia, a Sicilian restaurant owned by Chef Gaetano.
We were a little on the late side for lunch, it was nearly two, so we were a little concerned when no one was inside. Chef Gaetano popped his head of of the kitchen and welcomed us with open arms. Everything looked so good that we had a hard time deciding, so the chef sat down at our table (he also personally took our order and served us) and suggested options to each of us. He was so fun to talk to and we all said that we would go back. From what I have heard, his tiny restaurant can be difficult to get into on the weekends, especially during snowbird season.
Don’t let the tiny yellow house deceive you. Chef Gaetano served up some of the best Sicilian food that I have ever had. He even managed to please my super picky husband, who lived in Sicily and is very particular about food that claims to be true Italian.
Everything was so delicious that Scout, a guide dog puppy in training, wanted to see what Chris was eating. If you have a puppy I recommend getting the best bedding for outdoor dog house there is.
As we were leaving, we ‘lost’ Chip. We wandered on down the street before we realized that he wasn’t with it. Turns out, he snuck in the kitchen to talk to the chef who was prepping for dinner.
If I remember correctly, this was a lamb dish. It smelled heavenly. (We also had dessert, but we all forgot to take a photo.)
Afterwards, in an effort to walk off lunch, we took a stroll through the village to check out the sites. As you can see, there are lots of colorful galleries and yard art. Sadly, lots of the galleries had closed for the day, but we all agreed that we would like to come back when it was cooler and participate in one of the many Art Walks that they stage. I think we managed to wear Chris and Scout out. I would highly recommend having lunch or dinner at Ortygia, it is worth the drive. Check out the Village of the Arts website for a calendar of upcoming events.
Thirteen years ago, my husbnad took a job in Florida and uprooted me from everything that I had known for the first thirty years of my life. For those thirty years, I had grown up in, lived, worked, got married and had my daughter in Louisiana. I didn’t know anything different. I worked with family and I could guarentee that if I went anywhere ‘in town’, then I would run into someone that knew me or knew my parents. I fully expected to live there the rest of my life.
As things go when you make those plans, plans unexpectedly changed. We moved. To Florida. Fifteen hours away from everything I had ever known. Let’s just say that I didn’t take it too well. It wasn’t like we had a choice. My husband needed a job and there was none to be found there. I had always thought that we would move, but maybe to another city within the state. I didn’t expect FLORIDA. The only parts of Florida that I was really familiar with was part of the Panhandle as this is where we would go for vacation. I had been to Disney World once, but seriously, that is just a bubble within Florida, so that didn’t really count.
After the move, Joel started work, Amanda started school and I, well I, got depressed. I missed everything. I missed my family, I missed the food, I missed FRIENDLY people. What people don’t tell you is that when you move to this area of Florida, you might technically be in a southen state, but you live surrounded by people from New Jersey. The Monday after our move, Joel handed me the keys, a map, said, “Everything is in a grid pattern, you can’t really get lost. If you get to the Gulf, turn around.” Uh, ok, thanks, that is real helpful.
Eventually,we settled in, I got my Real Estate license so that I would actually get out of the house, started knitting, met some Linda and Kathleen though a knitting internet group, and started making friends within Keller Williams where I worked. While I began to like living here, I still missed Louisiana, and I still do. I watched in horror when Katrina hit New Orleans, stared in disbelief when Rita took out southwest Louisiana a few weeks later, and more recently, teared up when a gunman changed Lafayette forever.
I often think about what it is about Louisiana that makes me long to go home. Everyone says that once you visit New Orleans, you never forget it and that she calls to you. Well, that may be true, but for me, it is the rest of the state. There’s just something about it.
It’s the friendly people, the work ethic, the willingness to help out a neighbor, or a stranger and expect nothing in return.
It’s the food. You haven’t had lived until you’ve sat outside in the late spring at a table covered in newspaper and a pile of crawfish, corn and potatoes in front of you.
It’s gumbo and LSU football on Saturday and Saints football on Sunday.
It’s the swamps of the Atchafalya, the Christmas Festival at Natchitoches, the hunting in the Kisatchie Forest, the fishing at Toledo Bend, duck hunting in Monroe and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
It’s zydeco music in Lafayette, gospel music in central Louisiana, and jazz in New Orleans.
We decided that our swamp tour would be the last thing on our scheduled trip through South Louisiana and after looking a brochures and looking at Yelp and TripAdvisor, we settled on Champagne’s Swamp Tours in Breaux Bridge. Breaux Bridge is a quick twenty-minute drive from Lafayette. My mom wasn’t into the airboat type tours, so this one, using flat bottom boats was perfect. Champagne’s has been name a TripAdvisor 2015 Award of Excellence winner. After taking the tour, I can see why. The people there are super friendly and the guides are wonderful. This is the only swamp tour in Breaux Bridge that has its own bathroom facilities and the ability to purchase water and cold drinks. The $20.00 per person ticket price was well worth it. I was so impressed that I wrote a TripAdvisor and Yelp review, and I never do that. We arrived for our 10am tour and was glad to see that it was overcast as summer in Louisiana can be a HOT! Our tour was on Lake St. Martin and it was so peaceful and beautiful. Our guide, Andy, was a great storyteller and was very knowledgable about the area and the lake. I highly recommend this and will go back.
After our tour, we drove up to Arnaudville and had lunch at The Little Big Cup and then headed on towards Grand Coteau on our way to I-49. This little town is home to a convent and a boarding school. The town has done a great job making it an antique lovers destination with cute shops and cafes. We only explored a tiny bit of the town, but it is one place that I’d like to go back and spend more than the hour that we did this trip.
After our quick stop in Grand Coteau, we headed back to Dry Prong. We were tired, and too full from all the good food that we had eaten, but we had such a wonderful time and I’m so glad that we did this. I can’t wait for us to do it again. Sunday was my dad’s birthday and Father’s Day, so that was so nice to be able to be there to celebrate. I had Monday to myself, so I cooked dinner for them, packed and flew back to Florida on Tuesday. It was the longest time that I had spent at home in years. I plan on going back for a few days in the fall and then for at least a week next summer.
We headed out of New Orleans on Friday, but before we left, I snapped this guy jamming out and DJing his own concert. He was having a great time!
Headed out of the city, you can see the Super Dome peeping out from behind the building.
After we left New Orleans, we headed toward Lafayette via Hwy 90. Going via Hwy 90 did two things. 1) We stayed south of I-10 and didn’t thereby avoiding Baton Rouge traffic and 2) it’s a prettier drive.
Approach to the Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge as we were leaving I-10 and headed toward Hwy 90.
We headed toward Houma where we stopped at the cutest little Tourist Center. The ladies there were so nice and helpful. If Houma sounds familiar it’s probably because you’ve seen at least one episode of Swamp People. We didn’t see Troy, but you can just see how proud this area is of their ‘boys.’ I would love to do a ride along and photograph one of those gator hunting trips. (Yes, I’m crazy.)
Our first destination was to Avery Island , home of TABASCO. This island, while home to the bottling plant, is also home Jungle Gardens. The gardens were beautiful and very peaceful. Lots of places to have a picnic or just to sit out on a quilt and read. We were there in the summer, so past peak bloomng season, but in the spring, this place is a riot of color with tons of flowering plants and trees. There is a $1.00 toll to get on the island, and to tour the gardens, there is a small admission fee.
This is a driving tour. Of course, the adventerous are welcome to walk it, but summer in Louisiana, I’m staying in the comfort of the air conditioned car. After our tour of the gardens, it was time to head over to the TABASCO bottling plant. The plant runs four days a week, and wouldn’t you know it, the day we were there, they weren’t running. You can still go in, get a tour and see the machines and visit the country store. They give you miniature bottle of TABASCO as part of your tour and anything TABASCO that you would want can be found at the country store. I bought some wood chips that were made from the barrels that they age the TABASCO in for my brothers when they use the smoker.
We left Avery Island and headed toward our hotel in Lafayette. Our plan was to finish up our road trip with a swamp tour on Saturday, then head back to Dry Prong that afternoon.
Sugar cane fields.
Before we go into Lafayette, we made a stop in St. Martinville, home of the Evangeline Oak and Acadian Memorial. In this location you can find the story of the Acadiens (Cajuns) and their journey from exile in Canada to the swamp of Louisiana. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is know for his poem Evangeline, a bittersweet love story about two lovers who were seperated when Canada exiled the Acadiens. The memorial to this poem is also found here. You must stop in the museum and plan to spend a good amount of time as the volunteers are very friendly and will tell you the amazing history of the Cajun people.
After our tour through St. Martinville, we drove the short thirty minutes to our hotel in Lafayette where we grabbed some dinner at Cheddars and shopped some at World Market. I love World Market, but as the nearest one to me in Florida is over two hours away, I take advantage of when I can shop! The drive from New Orleans to Lafayette is approximently two hours, which is nice, because if you aren’t in a hurry, you can do what we did and stop and sightsee along the way. Next trip, I think I would like to go down and the Houma area and spend a little more time, maybe do a swamp tour in that area. In my next post, we’ll wrap up the road trip with a swamp tour on Lake St. Martin and a stop in Grand Coteau.
One of the things that New Orleans is known for is music. Music can be found at any time of the day around the city. If you want to listen to great music, just walk around the French Quarter and will not be disappointed. As we were walking through Jackson Square, we came across this wonderful band playing their hearts out in the ridiculous June heat. They were so good and had gathered quite the crowd. They didn’t have a sign to indicate their name, but I wish they would have. Everyone in the crowd had a smile on their faces and a group of children were having the best time listening and dancing along. On my next trip, I am planning on going to some of the music clubs along Frenchmen St.
Play for that money! (they had gathered quite a bit already)
This little boy was really moved by the music, he danced and tumbled to to the music.
Hot and humid in New Orleans, but still they played on.
They didn’t mind me taking photos.
This wraps up the New Orleans posts. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the rest of our trip through South Louisiana.