Monday, September 17, 2012

California Dreaming

September 2012 found us wandering toward the West Coast for a brief stop in our hometowns. Andrew had his 10 year high school reunion on September 15th so we decided to use that time to visit family and celebrate the impending arrival of our daughter, due on December 20th.

Our families combined forces to throw us a large, co-ed baby shower. While we ladies dined on different fondues and played silly baby shower games, the men took turns whacking each other with sticks in the backyard. My husband ended up with a pretty nasty gash on his forehead, the scar from which is still present today.

Since my brother's fiancee was visiting from Missouri, my grandmother and I took her to Hollywood and Santa Monica to visit from of the more touristy spots. We hit up the Hollywood stars, the pier, and the end of Route 66.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New Orleans

After Memphis, we drove to New Orleans and checked into the French Market Inn in the French Quarter. We arrived late at night, but Cafe du Monde is open 24/7, so I was able to indulge in beignets and a cafe au lait: the real reason I had come to New Orleans.

We spent most of our nights wandering down Bourbon St., party central in Nola. Obviously, I couldn't indulge in the debauchery in my delicate condition, but it was fun watching the tourists get really drunk every night. Every bar along Bourbon St. had live music, and while there was no cover charge to enter, there was usually a drink purchase minimum, so we never went inside. We did visit a little dive outside the French Quarter one night so Andrew could listen to this band he had read about, but we weren't that interested in the music they played, so we didn't stay long. One highlight of our nightly excursions was that Andrew learned that absinthe was finally legal in the U.S. again, and we found a bar that sold it to him for $22 a shot. Apparently it was worth it for him to see them light the sugar cube on fire.

Cafe Beignet
Our days were spent wandering around the French Quarter and the waterfront, dodging the torrential rains. I loved the architecture!

Creepy Nola cemetery

French Quarter charm
Alligator sausage sandwich and jambalaya
Anne Rice's house in the Garden District

The highlight of our time in Nola was going on a bayou tour and seeing lots of cool animals. From the second we stepped on the boat, we were followed by alligators. Every once and a while the boatman would stop and feed them raw meat on a hook. All along the bayou we were stalked by these nasty black vultures who liked to perch on the trees above us and drop branches onto the boat. It was a little freaky. At the end of the  trip, the food that was leftover was fed to those creepy birds. We also saw turtles, baby alligators, giant spiders, pink snails, and raccoons, which we fed powdered donuts. Overall, it was an amazing tour.

After the tour, we headed over to Oak Alley Plantation, where several movies have been filmed, including "Interview with the Vampire." It's a beautiful old home, but the real highlight is the alley of oak trees which lead up to the house.

Upon leaving there, we decided to follow radio announcements to a nearby town to see "Boogie on the Bayou," which we had hoped would be a good chance to hear some local music, especially since the main attraction was a band called "Snapper and the Fishsticks." Unfortunately, Snapper was a rock cover band, so we didn't stay too long.

Snapper & The Fishsticks

After three days in New Orleans, it was time to head back home. We made our way back north, stopping to stay in Atlanta and Richmond before stopping in Washington, D.C. to visit the Mette-Bory family.

For fun, we tried to take pictures of all the state signs we passed along our 3,200 mile trip.

Down South

Andrew and I just returned from a twelve-day trip through the south. We decided to rent a car and drive instead of fly, since we wanted to hit a lot of spots and have more flexibility (and it was actually cheaper). Our first big stop was Memphis, Tennessee, but along the way we stopped in Pittsburgh and Nashville to visit with friends and break up the long trip.

Our reason for visiting Memphis was really for a family reunion of sorts. Most years my grandmother attends Elvis Week with her cohort of impersonators, and I have always wanted to go and see the insanity. My mother, stepfather, brother, sister, nieces, nephew, and great-aunt and great-uncle all decided to converge in Memphis at the same time, mostly to visit with my grandmother, but also because Elvis Week is fun!

Weird hallway in Graceland
Pool Room

Andrew graffiti's the walls of Graceland
Elvis' gravesite

Ribs on Beale St.

We stayed the first two nights at the RV park with my family before moving to a hotel after they had left. We got to tour Graceland, walk Beale Street, eat BBQ, and visit this weird place called The Pink Palace, a never-inhabited mansion built by the owner of Piggly Wiggly which was eventually turned into a very weird museum after he went bankrupt.
The Pink Palace

Cold Spring

Living in New York City has been an amazing experience for us, but being surrounded by concrete and asphalt definitely takes its toll, even with our generous outdoor space. Andrew had a week off between the end of the regular school year and the beginning of summer school, so we took the opportunity to get out of town and see some greenery. It was also a chance to celebrate some wonderful personal news: we're expecting a baby in December!

Originally we wanted to visit Connecticut or Vermont, but the prospect of renting a car convinced us to stay a little closer to home. The amazing thing about living in this city is that just thirty minutes north of the Bronx the scenery becomes instantly beautiful. We decided on Beacon, where Andrew's cousin Catherine lives, so we could visit her and also borrow her car for daily excursions. Once we stepped off the Metro North at Beacon, we took a ferry across the Hudson River for a tour of Bannerman Castle. This little island is the site of a crumbling old munitions factory and a luxurious house.

 We had a nice tour around the island before heading back to Beacon and checking into our romantic bed n' breakfast, The Swann Inn. We were the only guests that weekend, so we were upgraded to the nicest suite in the house, which included a game table, a couch, a piano, and the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in. Each morning we were treated to a huge, homemade breakfast, including orange cinnamon French toast and plum and cabernet sorbet.

Our second day we spent just downriver at the cute little town of Cold Spring, where our friend Krisy met us for some kayaking. It was a slightly drizzly day, but we made the most of it and were able to visit a marsh and see a family of racoons eating mulberries.