Tuesday, April 30, 2013


We came to New Orleans for the Jazz Fest, but we love this fun filled city and took a tour to see the sights and learn a bit more about it.  Thanks to a gift we took the City Sightseeing double decker bus tour.  The advantage of this tour is you can hop off to explore an area and a half hour later hop on the next bus.  We did that in three different areas of town.  It was also interesting to see how much the city has changed since our last extended visit in 2008 when it still showed much of the post Katerina damage.
This is the Storyville section of town, formerly the "red light" district, where jazz was born in the 1800's.
We toured St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 that was established in 1789.  The cemetery is a mix of burial sites of the famous and infamous.  Many of the older tombs are in a major state of disrepair and others are new ones that are still waiting for there occupants.  I am making a wish on the tomb of Marie Laveau, a famous Voodoo Priestess. (This is the second most visited grave site in the US after Elvis.) Nanc is checking out the tomb Nicholas Cage had built.  Right is an older, rundown tomb and the wall vaults that are known as ovens.  Bottom left is the tomb of Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in a 1896 Supreme Court case that found racial segregation to be legal.  Those laws remained legal until the 1954 Brown V. Education overturned that decision.
Here on Bourbon Street is Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo.  We did not go in.
The Mercedes Benz Superdome is in much better shape then it was in 2008.
Just a few of the many works of public art that are found throughout the city.
We hopped off the bus in the Garden District to check out a few of the fabulous homes.  Most houses here were spared Katerina flooding, but many had wind and rain damage.  There are still some buildings, including a hospital, that have not been repaired.
Another stop was Mardi Gras World were many of the parade floats are built for several krewes. Each of the over 50 Mardi Gras parades is sponsored by a different krewe.  A krewe is a private group and no commercial floats are allowed.  We have been to New Orleans twice for Mardi Gras parades and we wanted to get an up close look at how they make these beautiful floats. 
The first stop was to get you into the spirit of the event with costumes.  Look at these two jokers.
While some are built with fiberglass, most are carved out of layers of Styrofoam.  Left, an artist is carving a character for next year's parade.  There is a picture of the final float in the foreground.  Middle, since you can't paint Styrofoam, they next cover everything with paper mache.  Finally, they are painted.
Also on display were many of the costumes for the krewes.
Mardi Gras is not there only business.  Here are a few things from the recent Super Bowl and the cow they use as a model for all the Chick-Fil-A billboards.
They have thousands of old props stored in several warehouses that they often reuse.
A few of the floats.  They will be stripped of last years props and redecorated for the theme of next year's parade.  Each krewe picks its own theme.  All the work for next year's parades is well on its way.
Of course you can't think of New Orleans without thinking about the mighty Mississippi.  The river is 200 feet deep here.  Ocean going ships can navigate the river as far north as Baton Rouge. 
Washington Artillery Park and Jackson Square.  The square is surrounded with shops and artists.
You have to love the old style architecture of the city. 
And entertainment is everywhere.  The bands were in a couple of bars where we stopped to listen and the street performers run the gamut from this acrobat to the truly bazaar that would be inappropriate to show.
And here are the crowds on Bourbon Street.  This was 7:30 on a Thursday evening.  The weekends are more crowded and of course crazier.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good- Bye Betty and Friends

Our time at Betty's has drawn to a close with one more week of food, friends and music.  Our departure was delayed a few hours because of storm and tornado warnings.  This gave us a chance to have some of those wonderful Abbeville oysters when we went out to lunch with Betty and Marvin. I forgot the camera.  We love our stays at Betty's because she is a great hostess who has become a great friend.  We also love it here because of all the people we have met here who have become friends.  Over 150 RVers have passed through during our two month stay.  Some are old friends we have met on the road and others are the Betty's regulars whom we look forward to seeing on each visit, while others are new friends whom we are already planning on seeing down the road.  We have many RV friends, but by far most of them are people we have met here because of the great happy hours and other activities Betty puts together.  Music is another reason we love it here.  There are the weekly jam sessions at Touchet's and the Museum Cafe, jam session and visits from Dave and Judy Bailey at Betty's and the music on the square events.  And of course there is the food; gumbo, oysters, crawfish, alligator, and many other Cajun favorites and Betty's famous potlucks.  All of this will be greatly missed.
On Saturday we did one last jam session at the Museum Cafe.  The jammers have become good friends who we will miss until our next visit.  Here are Gerald on bass,  Kristi on the squeeze box and Joe on the guitar.  We are already looking forward to seeing them all again.
This week at the Museum Cafe another Living Legend was inducted.  Inductee, Clercy Prejean, was honored for the contribution of music.  Even though he did not have his accordion with him he could still belt out a tune at 90.  These Cajun people know how to live.
I told you they know how to live.  Nanc is having a great time dancing with Daly. 
One last potluck.  Maybe it is just me, but I think the standard for food is higher here than at many other parks we visit.  I'm sure it is Betty's influence, as she is not only a great hostess, but also a wonderful cook who raises the bar.
A last happy hour.  Dickie, Doris and Vic enjoying the swing.
Nanc, Gisela, Bill and first-timer Frank.
Marvin holding court with Jim and Donnalyn.
In the foreground are Pam, Jean and Quebecois Silve.  It is great meeting so many foreign travelers here.
Betty's aunt Irene in conversation (French) with Andre, another Quebecois, while Birdie sits there wondering what they are saying:)  I usually know a bit more French by the time we leave here.
That said I am not very good with names and I did not write down these two ladies' names.  They were friends of Raymond and Claudette who were here earlier and told them this was a must do.
The "crowd" to see us off was real small.  I think it was small because there were so few people here, not because of people not liking me.  Here are Donnalyn, Jim, Tony, Betty and Nanc.
One last hug from Betty.  While we aren't planning to return for a while, we did make a reservation for late 2014.  That said, the good news is we hope to see Betty in PA this summer when she is on vacation.  We will get to show her a bit of PA hospitality.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cafe Des Amis, Friends, Food & Music

Well it has been another great week of the usual things here at Betty's.  More friends, food and music.  Most of those who have been here all winter are gone only to be replaced by others who are here for shorter stays.  Some are old friends and others are new ones.
On Saturday morning it was up and out of bed at 5AM so we could be first in line for the Zydeco breakfast at the Cafe Des Amis in Breaux Bridge.  We always do this at least once while we are here and love to take new people.  Here are Nanc, Barb, Sue, Rick, Randy, Renita and Mark waiting to get through the door at 7:30.  There was a line down the street by the time they opened and if you arrive much after that you will not get a table before 10.
Barb made her washboard debut two weeks earlier at Touchet's and was looking forward to purchasing her very own washboard tie.  She got to play with the band here and at the Cajun jam session in the afternoon.  She can scratch that off her bucket list.
Nanc & I and Renita & Mark even hit the dance floor for a couple of tunes.  Here is a link to a short video to give you a real feel of the Cafe Des Amis experience.  If you are on I-10 near Breaux Bridge on Saturday morning this is not to be missed.
After a nap it was off to Touchet's for the Cajun French Jam Session.  We did this on our first visit five years ago and never miss it.  Here are Calvin,& Donna Touchet, who are planning to hit the road in their RV next year, and their son, Derek
Barb swinging that washboard at the jam session.
On Sunday we had a great brunch with Rick, Barb, Mark, Renita, Nanc and I.  The food was wonderful and the stories were even better.
You never know who you will meet at Betty's.  Three Aussies, Matt and Bridget with Nanc and Lynn with Betty and Amanda dropped in for a few days.  Bridget and Amanda meet in the 90's when they were part of Up With People and have gotten together several times since then.
If you read this blog you know Betty is famous for her "Folk Art".  This year she is really into water fountains.  This is a new creation she made with a piece of cypress she got from Gerald the Wood Man.  Remember it is folk art and if you don't like it, folk you:-)
Departing brings such sweet sorrow.  This week four couples pulled out with the usual crowd of well wishers gathered to see them off.  The crowds got smaller and smaller as there are fewer people here.  Top are Paul & Peggy and Mark & Renita and bottom are Russ & Lori and Rick & Barb all about to hit the road.  Remember if you don't leave you can't come back.  Safe travels to all.
Departures do open spaces for new people.  Here are MaryBeth & Tony, whom we have met up with in Michigan and Bill & Giesla, whom we have met here several times.
Betty took advantage of the open spaces and had two cypress trees removed.  The cypress knees where threatening her concrete slab so they had to go.  Here are before, during and after pictures.  The whole thing took less than two hours.
Friday's happy hour(s) included music by local Dave (right) and Cape Bretoner, Eric.  While there are fewer of us here we had a grand time.
We even did one last crawfish dinner.  Here we are all enjoying the music before
the huge mudbugs arrived.  And the good times continue to roll! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pierre Part, Friends, Food and Music

We have been to Betty's every year we have been on the road and have done many things in the area.  That said we always try to do something new on each visit.  There are so many happenings here that that is really pretty easy.  This week was another big turnover week with old friends departing and new friends coming in.  Mark & Renita and Tony & MaryBeth, whom we have crossed paths with several times, arrived.  It is always great seeing old friends as well as making new ones.  This was the first time we have seen Mark & Renita since their Alaska trip and they wet our appetite for this adventure with their stories and pictures. Our new adventure this week was a day trip with a stop at the casino and then on to Pierre Part.
Last Sunday Jackie and Kaz (middle) departed.  Here we are with them and Dwayne and Janet, their neighbors at the SKP park in Congress, AZ who did not know they would be here. 
The trip to Pierre Part was to visit Adam Morales' Atchafalaya Swamp Treasures.  Adam goes into the swamp and collects pieces of cypress drift wood and turns them into works of art.  Some, like the heart in this log, occur naturally.
This is Adam's yard.  It is totally covered with wood.
His back yard is literally in the swamp.  Here is a swamp monster coming out of the trees.  Adam has a trap in the water to catch mudbugs and turtles.. That is living off the land.
Nanc with Betty, who bought a couple of hollow cypress knees to use as planters.  As we walked around Adam was pointing out what he saw in the different logs.
Here are a few of his creations.Top left are moss covered monsters.  Adam collects Spanish moss in the swamp to sell to florists.  Here is a link to a video from Swamp People about Adam collecting moss.  Center are three cobras and right is a dinosaur.  Bottom is the Landry family, the stars of Swamp People who live in Pierre Part.
Left are the Twin Towers, center I am standing by Troy Landry and right the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial.  Adam's father was on Iwo during the battle.  Another one of those we are connected moments, my Uncle Art was also there and saw the famous flag raising.
Well guess what, we did not just have to see Troy as a work of art, we got to personally meet him.  We stopped at his parents' store, Duffy's, and he was working on a crawfish catch.  He signed a picture and loved getting his picture taken with these two beautiful ladies.
This week's Sounds on the Square Band was Willie Tee and Cypress with Warren Storm.  An extra special performance was given by 13 year old Bubba Hebert, an award winning accordionist who stepped in for a couple of song.  Bottom are a few people from Betty's who went to the square.
On Friday we did another road trip with Mark and Renita to Avery Island and the Tabasco factory.  This Louisiana pepper sauce has been made and bottled here since 1868.  This is the factory where we saw them bottling sauce to be sent to Germany, one of 165 nations where it is available.  Right is a picker using le petite baton rouge, the small red stick, to pick the peppers when they are at their ripest.  The sauce now comes in seven different tangy flavors.   
The peppers are crushed, mixed with salt and vinegar, the only three ingredients, then placed in old bourbon barrels.  Nanc is checking out the aroma of the sauce that is left to ferment in barrels for up to three years.  The barrels are topped with salt from the local mine to keep impurities out.  Bottom is Mark checking out a historical display.
On the way back from Avery Island we stopped at Jefferson Island to check out this big rookery.  It was loaded with spoonbills and a few egrets and herons.
Friday evening was another feast.  Top are Randy & Sue, who just started fulltiming in January and a Betty's regular, Marvin.  Bottom are Peggy & Paul and Priscilla & Dave.  By Tuesday Marvin, Priscilla and Dave will be the only people who have been here for our entire stay.
Top are Barb & Rick and Renita & Mark.  Barb has been here for a month while Rick was on a work trip to Morocco, Jordon and the West Bank.  It was great hearing the tales of that trip.  Bottom Nanc and I are enjoying these huge mudbugs.  Hope we get them at least one more time before we depart on the 24th.
Mark & Renita and Donnalyn do lapidary and wire wrapping to make jewelery and after dinner, to my dismay, they displayed some of their work.  Since Nanc is now a member of the check of the month club I had no influence over her buying:)  Their work really is beautiful and even I now understand why they carry so many rocks in their rigs.  Here Mark and Donnalyn (pointing) show their wares while Renita helps Barb with a necklace.  The jewelers' rigs will be lighter when they leave.  Another great week at Betty's!