Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Orleans Wedding to Remember

Hi all, Dianne here.  We had a fantastic time in New Orleans attending the wedding of one of our daughter's long-time friends.   Jennifer recently graduated from law school.   She was one of the Tulane students who had to leave for a semester after Hurricane Katrina, but she went back as soon as she was allowed to.  She loves New Orleans, and wanted her wedding to be as authentic a New Orleans experience for her guests as possible.  I must say she certainly succeeded in that!   I'll let Roger fill in the wedding details below.

First, though, we spent our time in New Orleans at the French Quarter RV Resort.  This is a much fancier campground (oops, sorry, "resort") than we are used to.  Normally our motor home falls somewhere in the middle-to-upper range of those where we are parked.  At the French Quarter RV Resort we were parked between some "mighty fine" neighbors-- Fancy enough that we wondered who some of them might be (somebody famous??)

  We don't usually splurge on private RV resorts such as this, because we actually prefer to be out in nature.  Once in a while it's a fun change of pace, though.

  This resort was actually close enough for us to walk to and from the French Quarter (daytime only;  at night, the two blocks in between are unsafe, so we took a cab).   The resort itself is gated and patrolled; very safe once you're inside the fence.  

It had brick-paved sites with coach lanterns at each. 

 There was a terrific tiled salt-water pool and hot tub, which we took full advantage of! 

  We had it to ourselves each time we used it, and it was fun to float in the salt water pool without needing a 


We picked our daughter, Amanda, up at the airport on Thursday and showed her around the city on Friday.  Of course, we made the obligatory stop at 

Cafe du Monde for some coffee and beignets!  

We had a delicious lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in town, Crescent City Brewery.  We then walked down by the river and took some shots of

 St. Louis Cathedral,

 where the wedding was to take place the next day.  Note the cloudy skies in these photos.  The weather forecasters had dire predictions for the weekend, with up to 4 - 5 inches of rain!  Contrast that with the next photo showing how beautiful and blue the sky actually was

 for the wedding on Saturday.  

Roger here...  Normally, the male of the family is not the one to report on a wedding, but since I was the bride's principal in both elementary and middle school, and because many of the wedding guests were also my students, it will be fun to relive the three days of festivities.  Before I begin, I must tell you that Dianne and I feel very close to Jennifer.  She spent a great deal of time with Amanda at our house as she grew up in suburban Indianapolis.  

On Thursday, after we picked up our daughter, Amanda, at the airport, the three of us met Jennifer, her fiance, her family and friends at Cooter Brown's - an establishment located at the end of the street car line near St. Charles Street.  It was great to see Jennifer and to catch up with old friends.  The food was pretty good, too.  We all had po-boys.  Mine was shrimp with the obligatory Louisiana hot sauce.  Amanda's was alligator sausage!

The wedding and reception was on Saturday.  We walked, in the humid heat, about ten blocks to the St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square.  
Thankfully, it was air conditioned, because by the time we got there we were all pretty warm and sweaty (me, at least).  The cathedral itself is magnificent.

  It is the oldest continuously-operating cathedral in the country.  We took a few pictures inside, including one


Dianne and Amanda.

After the ceremony, the wedding party and guests waited outside for what would truly be a unique experience.  During the wait, we were able to talk with one of my former teachers, Natalie, and her husband,

 Larry.  Natalie was, and still is, an outstanding math teacher.  She worked with me for many years.  She was very close to Jennifer and Amanda during their middle school years.  I also enjoyed talking with several of my former students, including the bride's brother, Matt 

(now a Captain in the army), and one of his best friends, David.  David is the son of another one of my former teachers, Claudia.  I had not seen him since his junior high days.  It is so much fun to see people that I knew when they were 14 and who are now impressive young adults.  Jennifer's matron of honor, Kelli, and her parents were also there.  Unfortunately, somehow we did not get their picture.  Kelli was also a very close friend of our daughter.  The entire experience was an uplifting trip down memory lane.

Now for the FUN!  A brass band arrived in front of the cathedral, followed by a police escort.  The bride and groom lined up behind the band,

 followed by the wedding party, followed by the guests.  The band played New Orleans jazz as the entire procession danced (some better than others - I was ridiculed for my lack of rhythm) down the streets to the reception.  The streets were closed as we glided by. 

 People on the sidewalks took pictures of us.  Following tradition, the groom, Mike, waved a gaudy (orange and black) umbrella while Jennifer danced with a white lace parasol.  Everyone else waved white handkerchiefs 

in the air as we strutted down the streets.  Sooo much fun!  (Short note from Dianne -- if you recall from our Key West blog, we saw a similar wedding parade in Mallory Square.  We never dreamed we would actually participate in one!!)  

We have included a short video that Natalie took on her Blackberry to give you an idea of what the parade was like.   The narration on the video is Natalie.

Eventually, we arrived at the reception hall on Bourbon Street, the Bourbon Vieux.  

The room was on the second floor with a huge balcony overlooking the street below.  You can see several of us on that balcony in one of the photos.  

The food was all New Orleans style, including catfish, blackened chicken, crawfish sauce over rice, and more of that alligator sausage (which was really pretty good).  The open bar included those famous New Orleans hurricanes.   One of the highlights was throwing bead necklaces from the balcony to the people walking down the street below.  Note the photo of our beautiful daughter, hurricane in hand, 

getting ready to toss some beads. 

 A New Orleans band played during the time between the traditional wedding toasts. (Kelli's toast was excellent as she passed out buttons with Jennifer's elementary school picture, heavily braced (with head gear) teeth, to the guests.  The words "I'm taken" were the title on the button).  The word "festive" does not come close to describing the setting.

You would think that everything would end after the reception, but the festivities continued to the next day.  Friends of Jennifer hosted a traditional New Orleans

 Crawfish Boil for everyone at their house just off St. Charles Street.  A long, narrow, courtyard was the setting.

  People enjoyed the boiled crawfish and shrimp while yet another band played in the background.  The vocalist entertained everyone with what might be described as suggestive lyrics and flirting (with Natalie, and others).  Great fun.  We got a picture of David holding one of the crawfish that escaped the pot, just before he hid it in the shrubbery. 

 David always was a nice kid.

Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of Jennifer's parents, Sherry and Kim, whom we have known for decades, but I did get a great picture of Sherry's heavily bandaged foot, next to Dianne's.  Too much walking in uncomfortable shoes!

Next stop, beautiful Enid Lake, in northwestern Mississippi.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quickie House Update

Dianne here -- just a quick link to the very nice newspaper article reporter Emma Meyer wrote about our house for sale in Pendleton.  It came out in today's Anderson Herald Bulletin Sunday edition.  (Under the "Community" link).  

I know a few of you (probably a VERY few) are following our house-selling adventure.  We are hoping this will give us some good foot traffic through the house.  All it will take is ONE person to fall in love with the place!

As soon as time permits, we will update our normal blog with the wonderful wedding we attended at the cathedral in Jackson Square in New Orleans yesterday!   Today we attend a post-wedding crawfish boil, so we will wait until after that to do our authentic Nawlins' wedding blog, complete with a short video (thanks to friend Nat)  showing the wedding parade down Bourbon Street!   

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Natchez, MS + Vidalia, LA on the Mississippi River

Hi all - Dianne here.   Let's see....mockingbirds, magnolias, spanish moss, live oak trees -- no, you haven't gone back six months to our early blogs.  Within the last six months we've seen Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and now we are back in the Deep South, this time in Natchez, Mississipi.

 I'll let Roger describe our day touring Natchez for you, as well as our great camp site in Vidalia, Louisiana.  

Roger here...  For those of you who follow our blogs, we actually posted two today.  If you are reading this one, you might want to go back to the previous blog that Dianne posted, which covers our second day of travel on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

We arrived last night at the River View RV Resort in Vidalia, Louisiana, where we will be staying tonight as well.  It is directly across the Mississippi River from Natchez, Mississippi - a scenic, mansion-filled wonderland.  

Right now, the

 dogs and I

 are sitting under the awning of the motor home, where we have a full view of the Mississippi river.  We have watched several barges work their way upstream. 

  I just took a picture of the most recent one. 

Earlier today, the "boys" and I took a two mile walk/run along the river in front of the campground (excellent concrete walking path).  As we walked along, Sam Cook's, I was born by the river....   rattled around in my brain.   I also imagined a little private concert with the Doobie Brothers singing Black Water.   The reverie ended when  we got back to the motor home to plan our day in Natchez.

Dianne and I put the dogs in their crate, turned on the air conditioning, and drove across the river to Natchez.  We stopped at the excellent information center at the foot of the bridge and then took a walking tour of the city.  We walked for five miles looking at the antebellum mansions that are the pride of the city.  I have always had an interest in architecture.  The various designs of the houses and their various states of restoration made a great morning for me.   At one point we wandered through the grounds of the magnificent

 St. Mary's Cathedral. 

 There was a restful fountain in the back, as well as a memorial

 to the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.  The statue of the Conferate soldier

 on the monument rested on top of a 25 foot pillar - really cool AND VERY southern.  We loved it.

Dianne enjoyed smelling the fragrant flowers

 along the sidewalks and photographing the Magnolia trees that were prominent throughout the city.

At the end of the morning,  I suggested to Dianne that we wander down the street to a historic area located below the bluff where the city sits.   There were a few old buildings, a river boat casino and a restaurant at the bottom.   It was a pleasant walk down (note Dianne's smile

at the bottom).  Her smile, however, quickly faded as we trudged back up the hill.   I can't be sure, but I think that the words I heard behind me during the grueling trip up the hill were, "I don't think that was worth it." 

  My bad.

It was lunch time, and we had both had our share of exercise for the day, so we were hungry.  We made a planned stop at 


 on the way back to the visitor center.  The food was great and I had fun joking with the nice southern lady who took our order.  (I told her that we would eat here every day if we lived here.  She promised me my own parking space if we decided to move here).  We both had Gringo Pies (tamales covered with chili, onions, and jalapeno peppers).  I had a frozen margarita (guaranteed to "knock you naked" according to the menu) to quench my thirst - you know, from all the exercise and all.   Dianne had a pecan praline for dessert.

  While we ate we talked with a couple from Texas who are staying at the same campground and headed north on the Natchez Trace Parkway tomorrow.  

Tomorrow we leave for New Orleans.  It will be one of our more stressful days, as we need to get set up in a one-night campground near the airport, and then pick up our daughter at the airport before 3:00 p.m.  At least Dianne and I are not the ones who are flying.  Amanda, our daughter, will be joining us in the motor home for a few days so that we can all attend the wedding of one of her best friends from elementary, MS, HS - Jennifer.  It should be a great time - after the airport, that is   :)

Natchez Trace - Day Two

Hi all - Dianne here. On Tuesday we continued down the Natchez Trace Parkway from Tupelo all the way to its end in Natchez, Mississippi.

I'm going to make this a quick entry so that Roger can elaborate on our day in Natchez. We decided to separate this into two separate blogs, due to the large number of photos we took in Natchez.

Day Two on the Trace was another peaceful, quiet drive. We saw lots of wildlife on the way - several deer (running across the road in front of us, as well as on the side of the road). We also saw lots of wild turkeys, both female and Tom. I had never seen a turkey fly before, but they actually do. In fact, one almost hit the windshield of our motorhome as it flew past! (I think I remember reading somewhere that they aren't very intelligent....) We also drove past a snake and turtles along the road. I would say we saw a couple of armadillos, but the ones we saw were both road kill, so I guess that doesn't really count.

The most beautiful sight (and site) of the day was the Bald Cypress Swamp turn-out along the Trace. We took the short hike around and through the swamp, and it felt almost surreal. The photos can describe it better than my words. Another beautiful day and beautiful drive.

There were a lot of downed trees along the Trace, especially as we traveled its southern portion. The man in the motorhome parked next to us at Trace State Park had just come north on the Natchez Trace, and told us about all the downed trees. He spoke with a park ranger who explained that they had had a terrible storm and the Trace had actually had to be closed for a couple of weeks due to numerous trees across the road. They are working hard to remove them, but they are still piled along the sides of the road, for miles and miles and miles. I believe this to be the same storm that eventually came east to Georgia and hit hard the day before we arrived at Lake Lanier several weeks ago. (We had delayed our trip north from Florida by a day due to the weather forecast). That must have been one heck of a storm here in Mississippi.

We crossed the bridge in Natchez to Vidalia, Louisiana, and set up camp at River View RV Park right on the Mississippi River. Roger will take over from here in the next blog.