Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week 16, 4-10-2016, Part 1

Last week I told you that I needed a vacation, so this week is all about Travel and Tasting, and yes, I gained two pounds.

Brother Bill and I left on Sunday, April 3 and returned on Saturday, April 6.  We spent the first night in Tunica, MS; nights 2, 3, and 4 in New Orleans, LA; night 5 in Biloxi, MS; and night 6 in West Memphis, TN.

This map shows our route.

Bill has always wanted to go to Beale Street to hear blues music, so I told him that we'd go by and take a look, but he can go alone when he wants to spend some time there.

Getting there was delayed as there are only two bridges across the Mississippi River into Memphis, and police blocked both because some guy had climbed up the bridge and was threatening to jump.  We finally decided to stop for gas and lunch and wait it out.  There was a truck stop with an Iron Skillet Restaurant, and by the time we finished, the police had talked the guy down.  It's a wonder he didn't end up in the river by accident - those bridges are tall and someone said that he was near the top.

I'd never been to Beale Street, but it's basically two blocks long restricted to foot traffic only. Both sides of the street are lined with bars, shops, and restaurants. The music is very loud, and overlapping.

You can take a tour.

Or a carriage ride.

 You can shop.

For a price, you can have your photo taken with this cute little girl.

Around the corner is the FedEx Forum surrounded by game balls.

Or take a tour to see how they make Gibson guitars.

Many are on display in their windows.

Time to leave Beale Street and head to the Tunica casinos for the night.  They're way out in the hinterlands on a two-lane highway.  I thought they were all together, but some are actually blocks away from the others.  We were tired, so we just stayed in the grouping of the MGM Gold Strike (our destination for the night), the Horseshoe and the Tunica Roadhouse.  There's no way to get a photo of all three at once.  Bill's phone did a better job than my camera.  The first photo is the Roadhouse.

I love the look of the Tunica Roadhouse because it reminds me of Europe, but the inside is sort of Western and very dark and rustic.

The Horseshoe puts on a good face, but there are definite signs of wear in other places. I did like the way they found a way to relieve the starkness of the hotel tower, however.

The Gold Strike is really spread out in an arc.  We had trouble even figuring out how to get into the hotel lobby, which is huge with lots of wasted space.

Tunica is a very good place to go for a nice room at a reasonable price, especially if you're on a diet.  We were looking for food very late and the only thing open was the snack bar at the Gold Strike.  There was a long line and only one person on duty (maybe another in the back we didn't see).  The same person wrote down your order, took your payment, cooked your order, and delivered it to you.  Then she would move on to the next customer in line.  It was very windy and a little nippy to walk to the Horseshoe or Roadhouse, and parking places were few, so we just went to my room, hauled out the snacks, and ate apples, dried apricots, almonds, and tortilla chips.  We actually felt pretty good the next day without a big meal before bed.

End of Day One.

Day Two

They continued our diet at breakfast the next day.  Same story at the Gold Strike with the one person doing all the work one person at a time.  We walked over to Tunica Roadhouse. They didn't have any food at all.  We went to the Horseshoe where we went into the cafe, sat down and were ignored long enough that we got up and left.  Besides, the room was really hot.

When we left home, we made a pledge not to eat in chain or fast food restaurants.  We found that to be a difficult task in this day and age.  We drove a long time before we stopped for gas and inside the gas station was The Huddle House.  We later discovered that it's part of a chain - but it's not a chain in our area.  They brought us plenty of food. This is breakfast for one.  Notice the little HH for Huddle House in the middle of the waffle.

Then it was a long drive to New Orleans over swamps, rivers, and lakes; long, long bridges and high up in the air.  And can you believe it?  A red pickup pulled in front of me and threw up a big rock - bang! right at the bottom of my three-day old windshield.  Two cracks started moving up, but they were very considerate cracks and stayed in the middle of the windshield as they made their way up, so our view wasn't hampered too badly.

Late afternoon we saw a sign for The Boston Restaurant in Amite City, LA, pronounced long A-mite.  Cute little town with a police station in what used to be the train station.

Though we had that huge breakfast, we were hungry again.  We both ordered rib eye steaks and baked potatoes.  Their menu is very different.  A combination of Asian dishes, sushi, and steak house items.  The salad was great and the meal more than I could eat.

The decor is as varied as the menu, and I loved the story of Choo-Choo and also this sign.

Guess they have large parties outside at times.

On to New Orleans, where we checked into the Prince Conti Hotel.  I love this hotel.  It was originally a mansion (or two) and they have some inside rooms.  They're my favorite, because they're quiet (and the least expensive as a bonus).  The first time I stayed here, my room had a narrow hall with rooms on the other side, so my window looked normal from inside with curtains and drapes, etc., but if you tried to look out into the hall, there was a picture of a scene pasted to the outside.  This time I had a long, narrow window with draw drapes which was beside the door.  If you opened the drapes, you looked into a wide hall with rooms on the other side.  It's a block from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.  I was told to only venture out after dark if I stayed on Canal and Bourbon Streets. They're well lighted, well traveled, and have a constant police presence.   We didn't use the car the three days we were here.  Hotel is reasonable, but parking is $34 per day.

We walked around the French Quarter until dark, when things were getting noisy and I was wilting fast. 
Here's the Prince Conti Hotel

End of Day Two.

Day Three

We started with breakfast at the hotel in the cute little Cafe Conti.  Bill had a spinach and ham crepe with an egg, my crepes were bacon, apricots and scallions.  Bill loved his; mine were too sweet.

First stop - Graveyard Tour.  The above ground cemeteries were open to the public with a caretaker in the past.  The story is that people were abusing the tombs, so now you buy a ticket and are accompanied by a guide.  The tickets are sold in the Basin Street Station, formerly a train station.  We enjoyed our time waiting for the next tour, as there is a nice gift shop, a movie, and lots of exhibits relating to New Orleans and railways. Good photo stop.

This is also where you get tourist info and buy tickets for the red double-decker hop on-hop off buses.  If you buy the tickets on-line in advance, they're cheaper.  They're good for three days and include three walking tours plus a discount on the cemetery tour.  The buses run every thirty minutes all around New Orleans, they circle the French Quarter, and they have a live narrator on board.  Besides, they're cute.

The cemetery is St. Louis Cemetery 1.

This tomb belongs to Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen

And according to the guide, Nicolas Cage paid $2 million for his tomb (not used yet).

She also told us that he had two homes in New Orleans, but then came tax trouble from the IRS, and he no longer owns them.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the French Quarter.  The architecture is fascinating.

Unfortunately, they closed Jackson Square to the public because they were putting up barriers to protect the landscaping during the food fest starting the day after we were leaving.  We got some photos from the platform leading to the river.

And the river scenes opposite Jackson Square.  

The Segway tour went by.  Wish I had the nerve to do that.

And everyone has to visit Cafe Du Monde, with its signature green and white stripes.

We went inside where it was quieter and air conditioned.

We had the obligatory cafe au lait and beignets.

And we went around back to peer through the window to see how they're made.  They have a machine now to cut the squares.

The Presbytere was closed due to smoke caused by the air conditioner (they said at the visitor center).  My guess is that they wanted to avoid the crowds due in for the food fest. 

This is the museum which has exhibits of Katrina and Mardi Gras.  Big disappointment for Bill that he didn't get to visit.

The St. Louis Cathedral was open and so beautiful.  

We checked out some shops.

We went to the Visitor Center in the French Quarter, where we learned how to say, "Let the Good Times Roll" in French.

Then time for an early dinner at Acme Oyster House.  Is it any wonder that I gained weight?

I told Bill that I was going to collapse and read.  He wanted to go out and hear music.  Okay by me, just call when you come in so I know you're back.  He doesn't drink, so I knew he would stay out of trouble.  He's my baby brother, so I have a difficult time remembering that he's no longer a kid.

End of Day Three.  Continued on Part Two.

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