Back on Track in New Orleans

It’s been quite a while since we’ve written up any of our travels. We’ve been traveling quite a bit lately but we’ve been time-challenged to put all our experiences in “print.” But, I’ve been verbally regaling my friends with some of our old and new travel stories and most have said they should be written up, so we are going to try to get back on track with this.

We kick off this year’s stories with our most recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. This is not our first trip (I think it’s our 5th) and it was instigated by my having to attend and present at a conference located not far from the Superdome. Art got the chance to visit some museums while I was working and we got together in the evening to eat dinner and exchange our stories for the day. We reserved two weekend days to go places together and by the end we realized that we pretty much ate our way through New Orleans (something we always do).

The good news is that we ate at some new places instead of our “favorites.” That’s mainly because we couldn’t get a reservation at Mr. B’s Bistro, where I salivate over the BBQ Shrimp. BBQ Shrimp in New Orleans is not like shrimp on the grill. It’s swimming in butter, spices and Worcestershire sauce. Messy but gooooood! So I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to sit down to, what I consider, a dream meal. We instead were treated to some new dreams.

St Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square

St Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square

Our first dinner was complements of an industry association that I belong to and was reserved for the Fellows of the association. We were celebrating 50 years of “Fellowdom” at Emeril’s Delmonico restaurant in the Warehouse District of town. Art and I are Emeril fans so we were stoked for a great meal and got it. Starters just kept being presented at our table before we ever made a commitment to ordering anything off the 4-course limited but inspired menu for the event. Jerk Chicken, Spicy Shrimp, Crab Balls, and more were constantly being replaced along with the wine. Spicy but not so spicy that your eyes would water. I picked the Delmonico Chicken Clemenceau entrée and it was deliciously accented with ham. I topped it off with a small creme brulee – not really remarkable but nice to end with. Overall, a wonderful dining experience and the chance to see old friends.

The next night Art ate at the hotel restaurant, Lüke. And even though he had a hamburger, I know he had a better meal than I did. I went to a conference event at Mardi Gras World. This place offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Mardi Gras floats when they are not on parade. The floats were beautiful and the place was huge but the food was less than stellar. Not bad but on par with what you can get at the Convention Center. However, Art’s hamburger was a thing of beauty and he was thoroughly satisfied with his meal.

NOMA Sculpture Garden Tableau

The final day of the conference we dined at GW Fins. The conference finally over, we made our plans for the weekend with a friend of mine who was also attending the event. We had heard good things about this restaurant and weren’t disappointed. This was not a cheap place and on par price wise with Emeril’s, but well worth it. Art, of course, ordered the most dramatically presented appetizer, Smoked Oysters. You can smell them as they are being brought to the table and smoke wafts throughout the dining room for at least 3 minutes. He loved them. I had the Wood-Grilled Gulf Shrimp. Less dramatic but just as tasty. We all had some form of snapper for dinner. Art had the Jolt Snapper, which was an evening special, while I had the Red Snapper with Shrimp Etoufee and Jasmine Rice. The Jasmine rice was a little too sticky for my taste but the rest of the dish was excellent. Of course, we had dessert – even though we really didn’t need it. I decided to go with the Coconut Sorbet – refreshing and creamy and Art went for something called the Salty Malty. The Salty Malty was a pie with a pretzel crust and malt-flavored cream filling. A sweet salty taste treat.

Reading this you would think that all we did was eat during this trip. Eating in New Orleans is definitely a memorable experience but we had a great time walking along Royal Street in the French Quarter and checking out the antiques stores. One standout was M.S. Rau Antiques. We were definitely just window shopping at this place. It’s like walking through a decorative arts museum except that all the items are for sale. Definitely worth stopping for.

On Saturday we did more walking and riding and less eating. We picked up a $3 unlimited-ride day-pass for the streetcars and buses at Walgreen and were set for the day. The three of us headed to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and Sculpture Garden via the Canal Street Streetcar. The Sculpture Garden is free to the public so we checked that out first. Serenity is the key word here with some visually striking art along the way.

This particular weekend the NOMA was not only filled with its regular artifacts and exhibits but beautiful flower arrangements were displayed in each of the exhibit areas and added liveliness to the place that enhanced the objects on display. (Bring your AAA card to save $2 off the adult admission or look for a coupon on one of the local tourist maps.) The rest of the afternoon was spent riding the different streetcars and buses through the Garden District, with its magnificent houses and parks. This area is a beautiful counterpoint to the rowdy French Quarter (especially on Bourbon Street). The parks are quiet and the atmosphere is far less frenzied. We ended our day at the Superior Seafood Restaurant where I was able to dine on some BBQ Shrimp – on par with Mr. B’s Bistro and costing about $5 less. Even though it’s not in the heart of the tourist district this place was still very busy (and a little loud) and had a great menu for seafood lovers. And, being located on St Charles Street, within an easy walk to a Streetcar stop, this place turned out to be very convenient. Our hotel was located on the same streetcar line and it was an easy trip back. A full day of traveling all over New Orleans for $3 a person – we were literally back on track (streetcar track – that is) to enjoying New Orleans just like in days gone by.

Priscilla, one half of the Travel2some

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China Trip Day Three – The Forbidden City

My knee was still smarting from the previous night’s fall (in fact it continued to hurt for several weeks after) but we were here to explore China so as long as we had Advil and I could still stand up we got up early to seek out the Forbidden City.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site (the third we would visit in two days) was within walking distance and since it was a beautiful, clear sunny day we had plenty of company.  The sidewalks were wide yet quite crowded. This was also a Saturday so the area was filled with both foreign and Chinese tourists.

On our walk we were “joined” by a young man professing to be an art student who could take us to an art studio where we could buy original art.  We had heard about this scam so we politely said, “No thanks.”  He persisted at which point we just ignored him and kept walking and he moved on.

We could see Tiananmen Square across the street from the entrance to the Forbidden City but we decided to forego visiting the Square. The line to pay our entrance fee was long and it took us about a half hour to get our tickets.  There were lots of tour groups representing many nationalities queued up to enter the gateway to the City.

We were impressed with this walled city within a city and there seemed to be an unending series of gates to palaces and rooms.

One of the many views within the Forbidden City

  Getting the opportunity to see the inside of these buildings could be a challenge. Chinese don’t queue – they crowd. You have to push your way to the front of the crowd to get a glimpse of thrones and opulent seating areas – a pickpocket’s dream location from what I could see.

We purchased a map to navigate the site and even with that in hand it was sometimes confusing to figure out exactly where we were located.  This was a huge complex with beautiful artifacts that once housed the emperor and his wives, concubines and children.  The complex also housed gifts that were given to the Emperor by foreign kings and political powers, obviously to gain favor with the Emperor.  Some of these were housed in separate exhibits.  One of the exhibits is the Clock and Watch exhibit.  A separate admission is charged for this area but it was well worth the price which was relatively cheap.  The huge and ornate clocks were impressive even if the way they are presented is less so.  Lots of fingerprints on glass cases that don’t look like they have been cleaned in quite a while.  Dimly lit displays are explainable because the artifacts may be sensitive to light but the overall rooms are drab and dark.

Hall of Clocks

You can eat a small lunch within the Forbidden City where there are snacks shops and a small cafe.  We shared an outside table with a British  couple who now live in France.  They were touring on their own as well and had started their journey from the other side of the City making their way to the area we had just covered.  It was nice to share our experiences with other people and rest our feet (and my knee) at the same time.  The Beef Noodle dish I ate was formidable and very tasty.  Lots of cilantro – one of my favorite herbs. 

Pagoda in Jingshan Park

 
We continued on and paid for a few more special exhibits and ended our tour of about 6 hours with a beautiful view of a pagoda from Jingshan Park.  The sight was impressive.  Of course, once outside the walls of the Forbidden City we were besieged by crowds of merchants and beggars.  We had to laugh when one pair of panhandlers tried to have us take pity on what was supposed to be one of the pair’s handicapped leg.  We walked faster and picked up the pace and it got to the point where they were literally running faster than we could walk.  I was in worse shape than they were.  It is obvious these kinds of people gravitate to the entrances and exits of tourist areas because the rest of our walk back to the hotel on the back streets of the area was much quieter. 
 
We passed interesting shops and local restaurants and watched a lot of less than safe road traffic whiz by us.  Children standing up while riding in front of mothers on motor scooters.  Bicycles with LOTS of merchandise strapped to the back.   We really enjoyed the walk back to our hotel on this warm and pleasant day.
 
But the day was not over and we were going to do a lot more walking as the evening ended.  But that’s a subject for the next post.
 
Priscilla
 
 

Orange County Regional History Museum – well worth the trip.

Ted Bundy's Name carved into Defendant's Table

The Orange County Regional History Center is a fascinating museum right in the heart of downtown Orlando.  A trip up the elevator to the 4th floor brings one back to the very early days of Florida. Tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells the Timucuan Indians were the first the Europeans  came in contact with.  Today one can find Floridians who are tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells. Sometimes it seems as much as things change they stay the same. 

 The 4th floor has interesting exhibits on the First Peoples, the European First Contact, Florida Seminoles, Pioneers, and Citrus and Cattle industries.  I learned some interesting facts. That no spot in Florida is more than 60 miles from the Gulf of  Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. That many of Florida’s 7,800 lakes are water filled sinkholes such as Lake Eola, Lake Apopka and Lake Conway. And to reduce the mosquito population, hang a dry hallowed gourd to attract mosquito eating Purple Martin birds. Who knew that late 19th century Kissimmee had the Country’s first “Ride-Up” drive through saloon where thirsty cowmen didn’t even have to dismount their horses to buy a drink.

The third floor includes Orange County’s old courtroom (the museum is housed in what was the old court-house).  It was educational to see the old style courthouse and see Ted Bundy’s name scratched into the defense table.  On this floor there is a transportation section with old train and steamboat exhibits, tourism before Disney, Central Florida through the wars, then Aviation and finally Disney: The Day We Changed. 

The second floor had a Road To Modern Orlando Timeline, an extensive African-American Heritage section, and houses the special exhibits gallery and changing exhibits gallery. There were “old school” video games. Pinball machines, Pac -Man and others that were enjoyed by all.  Exhibits on Jack Kerouac the famous writer and poet, Orlando Magic, Military, Disney and Tourism.

The museum is easy to reach, right off the I-4 highway, and parking is available in a public parking garage a block away and across the street from the Orlando Public Library. The museum is open Monday – Saturday, 10am -5 pm. and Sunday, noon to 5pm. Admission is $9.00 , seniors (60+), AAA, military and students $7.00, $6.00 for ages 5-12, and free ages 4 and under.  It is well worth the trip and all ages will enjoy it.

Art (one half of Travel2some)

Museum of Seminole County History

Lunch time at jury duty found me visiting the  Seminole County Museum that was close by to the Seminole County Courthouse.  I entered with low expectations and was pleased to see that the museum was very interesting. Packed in this small museum are  historical photos, artifacts, maps, documents and exhibits of early Central Florida. The St John’s River was the gateway to Central Florida from the Atlantic Ocean.  Included were exhibits on Native American artifacts, railroads, steamships, early settlements, agriculture and other industries and decorative arts.
 
The museum is at 300 Bush Blvd Sanford FL ( US 17-92 ) and is open   Tuesday – Friday  from 1pm-5pm  and Saturday  from 9am – 1pm.
Admission is only $3.00 and $1.00 for children 4-18 and students.
Art ( one half of  Travel2some)