New Orleans vacation

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I have a rather large travel bucket list. I have some favorites, but most are in no particular order, we’ll get there when we get there. When we made the announcement in March of 2016 that we were moving to Houston because Derek got accepted into UH, I immediately knew that New Orleans would be our next trip because it is a five and a half hours drive from Houston.

We went the week after New Years and my Aunt Susie came along. All in all we had an amazing time. We did everything we wanted to do, plus some extras that we were not expecting. The only thing that I could have dealt without was the cold. A cold front came through and temperatures were in the lower 40s, when it is usually lower 60s. We bundled up in may layers though and we ended up being fine.

We stayed at the JW Marriot on Canal Street, which was one block away from the French Quarter. There were a ton of shops and restaurants along Canal Street, including the street car line, so it was a great hub of activity.

We had three main attractions planned out: A river cruise on the Creole Queen, a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and a swamp boat tour through Cajun pride.

The Creole Queen was great. The guide was very informative and pointed out interesting things along the way. We had a short shore excursion at the Chalmette National Battlefield, which was the last battle of the War of 1812. It was windy up on the open deck, but there was a lower inside deck that was kept warm, with a optional lunch buffet.

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The New Orleans School of Cooking was probably my favorite thing we did on the trip, because it was so different. We watched Pat cook gumbo, jumbalaya, bread pudding and pralines. We got to eat everything, which was great because it served as our lunch, and got the recipes to take home. We also learned a lot of cuisine history. I love gumbo and jumbalaya but was always too nervous to try to attempt it myself. Seeing how it all goes together, it is fairly easy.

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The swamp tour was also informative. We learned a lot about the Cajun lifestyle, and all about the different types of animals and plants that call the swamps home. Unfortunately, because it was too cold, we didn’t not see any alligators, but the scenery made up for it. It helped that our tour guide pulled out a surprise baby alligator for everyone to hold!

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When we arrived in New Orleans, we quickly found out that Mardi Gras season was starting soon, on the night of Epiphany. We had no idea, and we did not plan it that way. The events started with a Joan of Arc parade, for her 606th birthday. Joan of Arc was known as the Maid of Orleans (France.)

We got good spots for the parade right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, where we watched the blessing of Joan’s sword. The parade ended at the other end of Jackson Square, where everyone took part in eating the first King Cake of Mardi Gras. We of course had to join in on the revelry. Later that night, we saw fireworks on the river front.

We also found out that New Orleans was founded in 1718, so the city was celebrating their tricentennial. Good timing, right?

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Other highlights consisted of wandering around the French Quarter daily, the Louisiana History museum, and the aquarium. We listened to jazz music almost every night, and of course we stopped for beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We also checked out the garden district and walked around Lafayette Cemetery.

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On our way home, we visited Oak Alley Plantation. It is about an hour west of New Orleans. It was a good way to break up the drive home. Unfortunately, the big house exhibit was closed when we went, but they lowered the admission price which was good of them, and there was still so much to see. (We did peek through the windows and took some photos that way.)

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Winter Storm Inga

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Winter Storm Inga barreled through Texas, and much of the south, a few days ago. It could have very well been rain, but it was timed (not so) perfectly with an arctic front coming through the area. The day started off above freezing, but the temperatures quickly dropped, and with it came the most dangerous form of precipitation – ice.

Schools started announcing closures on Monday evening, including the University of Houston. This was kind of interesting, because this is twice now that school has closed at the beginning of a semester, before for Hurricane Harvey.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I looked outside and saw that there was already a coating of ice everywhere. I emailed my boss, and he said to work from home. Thank goodness I was in a position to do that.

There is usually always a bit of uncertainty when it comes to a weather forecast, but Inga lived up to the hype. Roads quickly became ice skating rinks, and that was mixed with periods of snow too.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in a two day period, Houston police responded to nearly 1,000 accidents. Also, weather.com noted that, because of Inga’s contribution to snow in the south, all lower 48 states now have snow cover. Pretty cool!

Thankfully I was off on Wednesday to begin with, and UH closed down for Wednesday too, because the day started off so cold that the ice did not begin to melt until noon. In the middle of the night, Houston was 19 degrees. The last time the temperature was in the teens was 1996!

Also, according to local news channel abc13.com, “It has snowed three times in the winter of 2017-2018, marking the second time in Houston it has snowed three times in one winter. In the winter of 1973, it snowed three times.” (I would personally say, at least for our area, it only snowed twice. The other time was more like a short period of sleet.)

In a few days, it will be 68 degrees. I guess the saying does ring true in some places. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day!

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Christmas eve in Galveston

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I was off on Christmas eve, and the weather called for a beautiful day – sunny and 68 degrees. Hmm. What could we do? Last year we went out to the park, so I didn’t want to do the same thing. Then I thought, what about Galveston? A winter’s day is the best time to convince (drag) Derek to the beach with me, since he has less of a chance to get burnt. Derek and the strong sun on a beach do not mix.

We did everything on a whim, and we ended up getting lucky a few times. For instance, we arrived about a half hour before the shops on the Strand opened, so I suggested walking to the pier. There, we saw a pod of dolphins!

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After that, we moseyed on back to the Strand, and made our way through the shops. At about 10:25, I suggested to go to LaKing’s Confectionery for coffees. When we got there, we saw a sign that said the next taffy pull demonstration would be at 10:30!

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We enjoyed the Christmas decorations, and took some Christmas type photos of our own with props that we brought with us.

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The last lucky thing of the day was happening upon a sandman!

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We both had a great day. Perhaps we can make this a new Christmas tradition?