Family · food · lists · travel · vacation

New Orleans…Day Two…Eating on the Bayou

The French Quarter is a world in itself. It is colorful and musical and wonderfully unlike anything in my desert oasis home of Phoenix. Waking up in the Big Easy in The Prince Conti Hotel, mere steps from Bourbon Street was surprisingly relaxing. I could have stayed at a newer hotel but I wanted a place that had history and was locally owned. This hotel, although older, has a charm that appeals to my writing soul. If I didn’t have a day of adventure planned, I could easily relax here and let words flow. If you are going to visit this wonderful city, stay in a place like Prince Conti and feel part of the history. This was my second time in this city and my second time at this hotel. The decor always takes my mind to corsets, ball gowns, pegnoirs, and beignets. The stuff in all the historical romances I have loved to read for decades. The staff is friendly, thoughtful and helpful with directions and suggestions on what to do.

My bestie and I enjoyed the late morning and early afternoon. We wandered Bourbon Street stopping in to listen to live music here and there taking advantage of great bar service along the way.

I loved every minute she and I spent. I had a thing about this place because of the fire and water fountain. I had to take a picture.

I had to eat too. And finding gluten free in the French Quarter is not so easy.

My true mission the second day in the city was finding my way to The French Market. And by late afternoon I was hungry. When I asked the best walking path to the market, Prince Conti staff were quick to point me in the right direction and suggested I try crab cakes at Meals From The Heart. Little did they know. I already had that place on my list from my research. I was also in search of The Crepe Cart . I dragged a couple of friends with me.

What a treat! My friends and I walked just over a mile toward the river past Jackson Square.

Until we found the place for crepes.

The folks at the cart matched the personality of the deliciousness they crafted. I couldn’t decide between savory or sweet so I asked for a suggestion and I went with it: Goat Cheese, Nutella, Bacon, and Ref Pepper Flakes on a gluten free crepe….amazing combination of flavors. This was totally off menu. You don’t have to be as daring as me. But you really should visit the market for this great stop.

And crab cakes? I did save room for one.

Melt in your mouth moist and perfectly flaky crab cakes. This is literally the best crab cake I have ever had. Their secret to gluten free is no secret. They simply do not put in bread crumbs as a filler. Pure crab and spices. And gluten free. The owner was friendly. He shared stories of how his mother as the master chef makes it her mission to devise vegan and gluten free foods with authentic Creole and Cajun recipes. I didn’t have enough tummy space but I really wanted to try their gumbo too. There was nothing fancy about eating at these places but they were definitely hidden gems in the French Market. I know that each and every opportunity I get to return to New Orleans a day of tummy pleasing grazing will be planned in the heart of The French Market.

And I will wash it down with a nice cup of New Orleans Coffee at Cafe du Monde nearby.

If only someone somewhere in The Big Easy would master a gluten free beignet! My foodie heart would be complete.

Now that I am home all I can think about is beignets and I keep looking at internet recipes and thinking about making them at home. If I do, I am inviting all my friends over to help me eat them and tell me how close they might be to the real thing. What if I mastered them, moved to New Orleans, and opened The Beignet Basket in The French Market myself?

lists · Planning · Reflection · travel · vacation

New Orleans-Day 1 Reflections

Are you ready to travel along with me and hear about my 2-week adventure? You helped me pack and plan. Now I am ready to explore.

I didn’t even sleep a wink like I suspected. I don’t know about you, even at 47 years old I still anticipate the trip and stay awake the night before my vacation. I tend to watch movies and triple check the packing list because the last things to pack are important: hygiene, health, and beauty items.

So with no sleep I headed to the airport with my bestie Trish. And on each flight our giddy inner-selves emerged. And we met fellow Rock Boaters along the way and made sure everyone in social media circles knew we were coming.

We skipped fruit juice with breakfast and opted for the adult version in-flight. Why not? And even better, they were free.

Southwest last minute repairs had us departing late and worried about our connections. Juggling passenger flight changes while we waited so lots of people, including my bestie, ended up on different flight which coincidentally was my connecting flight. We met up with our other friends in NOLA baggage claim and headed to the hotel together.

The first day was packed full of fun. We stopped in at Famous Door and listened to music.

We waited with anticipation for our first parade.

I will write a separate post about the parade. I promise. That experience was amazing.

We ended up visiting bars on Bourbon. We loved Ticklers the most. We spent about 8 hours there with the dueling piano guys. And ran into friend after friend who would be joining us on the cruise. Sing alongs and drinks and merriment make for a great day. We made our way to famous Pat O’Brien’s because you have to have a Hurricane from that place. You just have to! And ran into more friends. Such fun.

I found out the next morning I did a few shots and we are a late night breakfast close to the hotel. Ummm. I would say day One was amazing fun. Wouldn’t you?

Have you imbibed in New Orleans on Bourbon Street? What was your experience like?

More tomorrow…I am sipping coffee now.

lists · packing · Planning · travel · vacation

Seriously…What to pack?

Saturday and Sunday I started packing, I organized myself and got down to brass tacks. I am sipping coffee and reviewing my lists. Because, well, do any of you live in New Orleans? Southern Florida, Cozumel?

I think I may need to adjust my plan. I see lots of rain and plain old chilliness on some days in the next two weeks.

I did the laundry, got the suitcase out of the closet and checked the weather forecasts. Then I put only definite items in the case and set it aside. Because I decided today was the day to look at the forecast one more time and make final adjustments.

Is packing such a process for you? I am still trying to avoid cranky. Cold and wet cranky is like a wet blanket. I think I need a couple of sweatshirts and sweaters in the mix. And a beanie and gloves to layer with my jackets.

I saw this post from a friend on social media saying that the day we sail out of NO LA will be chilly. To this Phoenician that high in the mid-50s will feel icy. I might look like I am heading to Alaska as we sail away but I assure you I am hoping that our captain puts the pedal to the metal. (What is the ship speed equivalent? Anyone know? Full Speed Ahead? Or is my Trekkie-ness showing with that one?)

Anyway. I never really worried about forgetting any thing because my lists have been ready and I will follow them. The dilemma is making adjustments. A reader suggested some capsule bloggers who are masters at packing and wardrobe optimisation. I may watch a few tonight. If anything resonates for me to recommend I will share before I set sail and let you know how it worked. For now, I have some coffee to sip.

Any last minute tips? Any suggestions to add to my “while in NOLA” list?

Family · lists · Planning

Blockbuster is so not Netflix-Not To Me

While standing at a register buying a cup of coffee in a local Circle K a couple of weeks ago, my cashier said to a nearby employee, “It isn’t like going to Blockbuster anymore.”

How long has it been since I had even heard any reference to that storefront? Yep, you guessed it. I eavesdropped. Even better, I jumped right into the conversation and realized I missed that place. Or the experience of the place. This past weekend when my family and I were browsing all things streaming through our Amazon Firestick, we couldn’t seem to pick anything to agree on. Frankly, I got annoyed by the browsing along with the respectively bored faces . We kept saying no. Browsing by topics we vetoed one after another. Nothing seemed new. At first I thought it was my desire to grab the remote and manage the search process. We through one title after another when everything seemed like the same old same old. Then Blockbuster came to mind again. I asked my son who is 22 years old if he remembered going to Blockbuster. He recalled a vague memory and it made me a bit sad. Especially when I realized my daughter, a mere teenager definitely seemed clueless. Game Stop is probably the closest comparison and she loves that place.

Blockbuster, and the experience it offered, seems so lost on the next generations tuned into the more common addiction to satellite tv, cable, On Demand, binge watching the seemingly limitless streaming services.

Think I am Crazy?

Maybe. I miss going to Blockbuster. I miss walking the aisles of New Releases and other movie sections looking to see something I might have missed seeing or an old favorite to see again. I miss the conversations my friends and family and I would have about movies we loved or hated. We reminisced about who we experienced movies with, some of the crazy covers, the actors, the soundtracks all while we picked cases up and held them in our hands. Date nights were fun because you learned each other’s likes and dislikes. And sometimes you talked to strangers who offered recommendations or chimed in on conversations. How about times when you would browse alone and pick something and meet your co-conspirator in another aisle with a suggestion or two in hand? Wasn’t that fun, like a scavenger hunt?

I loved picking out 2 or 3 movies, debating to a point where some were mutual selections and others were compromises. It was energetic, frustrating, fun, disappointing, and great quality time together.

I loved the chance to pick up used DVDs on the cheap to add to my personal collection. I miss the overpriced snacks, drinks, toys and collectibles that were perfectly placed like a concession stand as you waited in line to buy or rent the movies. Oh and the games too!

Why did we let this part of “date night, family night, friend night…whatever night” fade to black like the end of so many great movies we wished would keep on going?

Netflix? Yeah. We picked something to watch together. But I don’t think we all wanted to watch it. Some of us fell asleep. There was no build up for what was next. We never spend 30 minutes browsing titles saving and queuing two or three movies and devising a game plan on what to watch first. We aren’t dividing and conquering in the virtual aisles either. We did search for snacks in the house. But the selection wasn’t as great. They were free.

Streaming Better Options

Sipping the last of this cup, I miss the Blockbuster experience and for the life of me, I just cannot think of a plan to bring that to life with the unlimited streaming options I have available with those around me. Is it because we aren’t engaged physically? Is the search and browse method limiting? I remember walking through Blockbuster many Fridays in a row and feeling like there was nothing to get. I also remember going in expecting to get our hands on a New Release only to find all the copies were claimed. I kept going back though. Redbox and Netflix became the newer things. Redbox can simulate the debates and the sale tion is much smaller at the kiosks. But still full of experience gaps.

Is it the process? Vould it be the lack of options in Streaming? Is it how we are blindly looking at only what we can see? I really think Netflix suggestions were better ten years ago.

Does anyone have a method that takes us through the process that ties it back to the relationship and the experience? Are we just lazy and expect our technology to know what we want when we don’t know ourselves?

Do you miss it? What else do you miss? Do you have streaming struggles too? Why?

lists · packing · Planning · travel · vacation

Another Travel Dilemma…Eating Gluten Free

My excitement is building and I cannot wait to be on vacation. This past week has been a worrisome work week and my annual reset trip is just what I need to escape and come back on the other side with a renewed sense of strength and dignity to face the challenges ahead.

Traveling comes with worries because I have to avoid gluten. It makes me sick. Celiac Disease is not something that everyone understands and this post is not aimed to explain or complain about the challenges I face every day to maintain health. It is simply to share ways to plan options for healthy dining and ensure my traveling companions aren’t worried for me either.

Step One-while I count down days

Before I leave town I am making sure that I am taking care of myself all week. This includes:

  • Clean eating at home
  • Sleeping at least 7 hours each night
  • Taking supplements like probiitics, multivitamins, and immunity boosters like vitamin C
  • Diffusing essential oils at home. Thieves blend is in my diffuser while I sip coffee
  • Relaxation via detox and destress baths, reading, and quiet time whenever possible

Step 2-Know when not to worry

Once I am on the cruise it is easy. Norwegian, like most cruise lines these days ask for dietary restrictions and truly make an effort to provide safe eating options while on board. And for that I am very grateful. I feel quite special when the chefs and dining staff go out of their way to guide me on food selections and specially prepare foods for me when needed…even in the main buffet lines. As long as I seek the help offered I will successfully avoid gluten and fully enjoy my holiday focusing on friends, fun, and non-stop live music. One guideline I follow, no eating in ports. So eat a good solid breakfast and take a prepackaged snack from my go bag.

Step 3-Make a List

New Orleans is a whole different dilemma. Where do I find safe, inexpensive options so that my three days in an amazing city allows me to enjoy the sights and sounds? Research. Lists. Have a plan.

I relied on my friend, Google, and review sites like Yelp, Four Square, and Find Me Gluten Free. And will continue to research. Honestly, I am not the only person in my motley crew of rock boat family who are looking for healthy options. Well, they should be. So I will make sure we have options for vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and diabetic diets. And Coffee! I want to enjoy gumbo, crab cakes and king cakes and anything else that is part of the experience. I cannot eat beignets but my research uncovered a gluten free recipe so if I felt like I missed out, when I get home I will make some.

My list is ready and on paper and in my phone. Why both places? A phone battery can die. A phone can get lost or stolen just like the paper. I am that person who plans for all kinds of outcomes. Crazy? Maybe. But my friends and family, the motley crew, are used to it and sometimes glad because I tend to be the go to person on what to do and where to eat. It is a burden and a blessing. I love them and cannot wait to be spending vacation in a city that is alive with music and festivals.

Step 4-Pack options

As I finish packing, I also bring along in my suitcase and carryon safe snacks like LARA bars, cashews, pecans, Dang chips, and dried fruit. These items are small and can easily slip into my Vera Bradley hipster for times when I need something and in a time crunch, my friends can grab something from a place not gluten friendly and not worry about me. I can always drink coffee and chicory or some famous New Orleans drink and good company. I have a plan for everything.

Any recommendations on where we should eat? What we should see? I have 3 days and I am sure we can squeeze in more options into the plan. Comment below.