Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring Break: New Orleans and Seaside, Florida

Right now, I'm recovering.

Recovering from a jam-packed spring break that left us with loads of good memories (and lots of dirty laundry).

A week ago, we embarked on a spring break tour of the south.  My running pal Gwen and her crew agreed to join the fun.

At the crack of dawn on Friday, we jetted south.  Our first stop was an impromptu lunch at Lambert's Cafe in Missouri.

Lambert's was an experience.  The waiters tossed warm yeast rolls at hungry, eager patrons.  Servers mingled among the tables clutching vats of southern staples (fried okra, black eyed peas, etc.) and dished it out onto already full plates.  The atmosphere screamed honky-tonk, and at that moment we realized our car had landed south of the Maison-Dixen Line (if only in spirit).  

Our first evening was in Memphis.  We hit the Memphis hot-spots: Graceland (just through the car window), barbecue, and the Peabody Hotel.

At the Peabody, we spotted the world-renowned ducks.  As an added bonus, we crossed paths with Randy Travis in an elevator ride.  (To which my kids asked, "Who is Randy Travis?"  I believe Taylor Swift would have earned a bit more familiarity and excitement.)

The next morning, my friend Gwen and I ran the Twiggs Half Marathon in Olive Branch, Mississippi.  Of the 106 participants, we were happy to earn 2nd and 3rd overall female awards.  For our efforts, I walked away with a sweet coffee mug, and Gwen earned a decorated tile.

State #20 in the books on my (lifetime) quest to run a race in all 50 states.

With a race done and empty bellies, we headed to New Orleans. We vowed to eat our way through town which was a goal easily accomplished.

The French Quarter was a feast for the senses.  Jazz music and the sweet aroma of beignets drifted into the streets.  Historic buildings with French flair decorated the city blocks.

Bourbon Street, however, did not rank high on our list.  Aromas were strong on Bourbon Street too, but the sort that makes you want to hold your breath and plug your nose.  

Jackson Square was charming.

If only my little town offered this sort of daily entertainment!

If I had to select a last meal, it would be at this place: The Court of Two Sisters.  It was worth every single calorie I consumed to enjoy the morsels of deliciousness at this place.

A few boys named the street performers as their favorite experience.

We took a short trip across the Mississippi.

The boys got into spirit and reenacted the scene from the Titanic movie:) Fortunately, we didn't experience the same ending.

Caleb was determined to get a snowball in New Orleans.  In one of his beloved books, he read that snowballs were a New Orleans staple.  His sweet treat did not disappoint.

Mardi Gras masks were a common tourist shop offering.

My favorite part of New Orleans is the Garden District and the Audubon Park.  The houses oozed Southern charm and sophistication.  The park was a little slice of tranquility in the heart of a busy city.

The turtles and ducks seemed to outnumber the humans at this park.

The low hanging Cyprus tree branches captivated the males in the crew.

Best way to get around New Orleans is by trolley.  Cooper acted as the backseat driver.

Fortunately, we didn't get this close to an alligator at the Cajun Pride swamp tour.

The boys heeded the signs and didn't swing their arms or legs around the alligators.

The boat captain promised we'd see an alligator.

He kept his word.

All sorts of scaly friends circled our boat.

Our guide got a little too close for my comfort.

He did reveal that an alligator once bit off his finger.  (Yet, he continues to do this!)

Although this alligator was more my speed, I still was too chicken to hold "Bruce."

Not my boys.  They loved to pass him around.

Even Chris treated him like a domestic pet.

What's a trip to New Orleans without a stop a Cafe du Monde?

The beignets were divine.

Perhaps it wasn't the day for Cooper to wear all black!

Last stop in New Orleans was Mardi Gras world.

We all received (family-friendly) information on the making of Mardi Gras floats and the activities that happen during that festive time in New Orleans.

We were blown away with the grand production of the floats!

Cooper looks ready for the festivities!

Final stop: Seaside, Florida.

This small Florida town offered big time charm.

From experience, let me tell you that beach sand is as adhesive and stubborn as velcro.  I felt gritty for days!

When my boys were young, I dreamed about being the mom that read a book on the side while her kids happily played in the pool.  I've finally arrived at that stage, and it's glorious!

The beach has a calming influence on the soul that can't be replicated in too many other environments.

This one was a true beach baby.  He could spend hours making sand castles, riding the waves, and playing football on the beach.

A beach vacation must be accompanied with ice cream.  I believe that's the law in Seaside:)

Because Seaside was in full-out spring break mode (and finding a parking spot was about as easy as winning the lottery), bikes were the easiest and most fun way to travel.

View from the condo.

After a week of sun and fun, we returned to Indiana.  Fortunately, the snow and chill that drifted into our state last week made an exit before our return.

We were not greeted by beaches or beautiful sunrises, but by the familiarity of home.

Grateful to be back.

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