McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Page 2 of 27

48 hours in Cincinnati,Ohio

This short trip was a two hour drive to Cincinnati to see what kind of fun we could find. We have been to Cincinnati many times before…Kegan’s dad and stepmother even live on the north side so this wasn’t unknown territory. We have been to King’s Island (a very good amusement park) a few times. (Planning to take Norah for the first time in April) and we have been to the Cincinnati Zoo last year when a friend from Florida visited the area. But we hadn’t really spent time downtown and we were able to find plenty to see and do for the weekend.

We grabbed Norah right after school and immediately hit the road headed to the Newport Aquarium.

The aquarium was a really good one- and almost completely empty by 5:30pm when we arrived. Normally this time of year they close at 5, so I guess we got lucky that they were open until 7pm, but it seems no one else seemed to know! Ha

They had a tank with starfish and anemone you would reach in and touch. Both had a very strange texture.
A sting ray tank where you could touch.
My favorite- the penguins! They do penguin meet and greets but only midday so we just sat and watched them for a few minutes. They were getting ready for bed haha most were against the walls waiting on the lights to shut off!
I loved this cutaway because I didn’t know what turtle nests looked like under the sand… it was really eye opening
This beautiful fish kept posing for me at the glass, it was hilarious ha
They had cleaner shrimp in a tank that were extra lively. Norah really loved the “manicure” so much so that she made us backtrack through the whole aquarium at the end to do it again haha
After leaving the aquarium, we got a view of the Cincinnati skyline from across the river at Newport on the Levee

Now, it was time to go a couple miles to pick up what I will refer to as Stupid Purchase #1 (because there were multiple this weekend haha)

One of my hobbies is checking Facebook Marketplace for things I just can’t live without. Especially while traveling. Well on the drive over, I changed my area to Covington, KY just to surf and see what people had for sale over there. One of the first things that popped up was this vertical planter that a lady had listed for $40. Looking at it, it was big and it looked like a self watering hydroponic setup…definitely something I had been searching for and looking for options. But $40 was just silly low…surely not. So I messaged and asked her questions, in chatting learned she was relocating to the US Virgin Islands- I just finished a contract for the hospital in the US Virgin Islands, so we discussed the area and in the end she told me I could pick it up after the aquarium.

We arrived and it’s covered in leaves and some frozen bees and lots and lots of sloshing water. There’s a toilet leaning against it but it is exactly what I thought… so we HAVE to clean it up and get it in the SUV! Haha that itself was comical as it was 7 feet tall so we spent the whole weekend driving around with this planter above our heads! Lol

We drove to Ft Mitchell to a pizza spot but it was jammed packed with an hour wait so-backup plan: when in Cincinnati, eat Skyline Chili!

Skyline was founded in Cincinnati in 1949 by a Greek immigrant, but the story of “Cincinnati chili” goes back 100 years to a couple Macedonian/Northern Greek brothers that took the typical coney dog topping chili, mixed it with a Mediterranean stew spiced with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon but instead of limiting to hotdogs, they added it to spaghetti…and the Germans in the city couldn’t get enough of it. Gold Star, Empress, Dixie Chili, Skyline… you have plenty of options in this city. And admittedly, I do crave Cheese Coneys when I haven’t had them in a while.

Norah is a fan of the cheese ha

After skyline, we headed to The WEB- an arcade/mini golf/indoor go kart/Laser tag/VR combo spot. We only had a couple hours until they closed so it cost us a whole $10/person (plus arcade game tokens) for an unlimited band. Ha

Norah was pumped to drive her own go kart
They had a 9 3/4 black light Harry Potter themed mini-golf

We shut the place down trying to use our credits before 11pm and they shut the machines off at 10:50! Jerks 🙂 norah used her credits to pick out some little junk prizes and we headed to our hotel. Again, hotel was nothing special- a Holiday Inn downtown using points I had.

Saturday morning we got moving for a walk downtown to Wild Eggs again since Cincinnati had one, too. We’ll leave Wild Eggs to Louisville- the Cincy one wasn’t nearly as good, but it was still a good breakfast

Norah got a hot chocolate
I got a Nutty Irishman boozy coffee with a little “extra special” according to the waitress.
Strawberry pancakes
I got the Steak Benny- a New York strip on eggs Benedict
Kegan got the same Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict. He said the corn cakes were too good to pass up

After breakfast we explored some more blocks downtown and headed towards the waterfront

We walked past the international headquarters of Proctor and Gamble- a company started in and still based in Cincinnati.
Passed the Great American Ballpark- home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball – caught this photo looking into “the gap” – I didn’t get any photos but there are also 2 tall smokestacks that emit fire when the pitcher strikes out a runner and fireworks after a home run or win.
Pete Rose statue in front of the Spirit of Baseball Indiana limestone relief. For anyone that follows baseball at all, Pete Rose needs no introduction- nicknamed “Charlie Hustle”, he’s the all time leading MLB hitter, at-bats, games played, singles, and outs and played for the Reds from 1963-1978. Although he’s actually most famous for the fact that he isn’t in the baseball hall of fame due to his betting on games while he was a player and manager.
The John A Roebling Suspension bridge, was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was built- until Roebling finished his next bridge project: The Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling died before the Brooklyn bridge was ever built, after crushing his toes between a dock and a ferry led to amputation and then tetanus. His son took over that project but in the end, it is believed his wife actually managed the project to completion.

Down at the waterfront, there is a great monument to the Black Brigade of Cincinnati- the first black military unit in the civil war. When the Confederacy was closing in on Cincinnati, a group of black men offered to volunteer to help fortify the city against attack. They were ignored…but then the mayor decided they should go round up all the black men and forcibly make them work. When the top general learned this, he ordered all of the black men (around 400) be allowed to return home…but that if they chose to volunteer, to come back to report the next day. Over 750 black men showed up to volunteer. Eventually they were paid and even led by black officers. The cleared hundreds of acres of forest, rifle pits, forts and are credited with completing the fortifications that saved the city in an 1862 attack.

The black brigade presented an engraved sword to one of the top officers
Norah, being Norah at the Marion Spencer statue. She was a civil rights activist who led desegregation efforts in Cincinnati schools, and she was a cofounder of the national Underground Railroad center
We found a great photo op at the Sing the Queen City sign. Cincinnati has had the nickname of The Queen City since the 1800s when residents referred to it as the Queen of the West, as it was last civilized stop on the way west.

Lots of great deco architecture everywhere downtown

About this time I remembered that I booked our next item for an exact time. Whoops. We had 20 minutes to drive out to the Cincinnati Museum Complex, park and get inside to the OMNIMAX theater. We made it, 1 minute late, but before they started the show!

Union Terminal is an AMAZING art deco train station that opened in 1933 and was planned to hold 17,000 passengers a day and over 200 trains daily. It is the largest half-dome in the western hemisphere and just an awesome building.

106 ft tall rotunda
A 218 million dollar renovation in 2018 brought back so much original luster. Walking through made you feel like you were headed to a train in 1940.
The rotunda has giant mosaic murals of industrial subjects by German immigrant artist Winold Reiss

Our OMNIMAX film was called Dinosaurs of Antarctica and it was super interesting to learn about how Antarctica was once a lush jungle setting housing tons of early dinosaur species prior to the T Rex Jurassic age.

The first museum we visited was Natural History Museum
The biggest trilobite we have ever seen! Found in Ohio!
I loved this fossil. The detail you could see in this full crinoid was just amazing.
In the back of the lab we could see a triceratops skull they are just starting to remove from its field jacket
They have a whole wing of the museum dedicated to space and exploration
An interactive computer console where you could remotely control a Mars rover
An interactive exhibit trying to explain the curvature of space time.

Next we visited the City History Museum- which was a bit disappointing. There were a few stations talking about the history of the city but mostly it was just a wing dedicated to housing this giant train set that was a replica of the city from the 1920s

Next up was the Holocaust Museum which just opened in 2019. It was a really good museum but I didn’t take any pictures, I guess. Although not really the subject matter to photograph. I highly recommend it.

They had an “ask a survivor” interactive exhibit. You could literally ask any question and the recorded person would answer. Norah said it felt very awkward to be asking personal questions like “what happened to your family?” Because it felt like a real person.

Next we visited the Rookwood Ice Cream Parlor. A shop completely covered in Rookwood pottery serving Graeter’s ice cream- a Cincinnati original since 1870, even declared by Oprah as the best ice cream she had ever tasted.

After chilling with some ice cream, we were offered a tour of the building by a guy who saw us just standing around staring at all of the details- he said it went to some areas not open to the public and lasted about an hour… but we only had two hours until closing and Norah hadn’t been to the Children’s museum yet… so she voted to skip the tour and we reluctantly agreed because we knew she really wanted to go play. Parenting requires sacrifices ha

Overall it was a small museum, mostly a big playground with some other interactive stations and crafts.

Norah enjoyed the big play restaurant kitchen and serving me breakfast.
In the craft area, we were too late to build a big cardboard house but the lady told Norah she could help them disassemble it for recycling and she was thrilled to take tape off the rods haha
They announced overhead that they would be starting a dance party on the stage… so naturally, Norah wanted in on that. She spent a good 30 minutes in her kid rave ha It’s fun to see her still enjoy little kid stuff because she’s right on that line where everything is too young. She even said “oh, this is like a little kid museum” haha yep, you’re just aging out of it ha

After all of those museums we needed a bit of a break. We headed back to the hotel for an hour and had a rest- I took a nap, Kegan listened to an audiobook and Norah surfed YouTube.

We took an Uber downtown since it was pretty cold to our reservations at Taste of Belgium- another Cincinnati local chain specializing in “taking American staples and Belgianizing them” . It’s Norah’s favorite because they have waffles ha

Pretzels with beer cheese
Steamed mussels
Loaded fries
Chicken and Waffles
Ham and cheese galette in a buckwheat crepe. None of us liked this at all.
Norah got a breakfast chicken biscuit with gravy and eggs
Norah and I shared a banana Nutella crepe for dessert
The Cortado coffee that led to Stupid Purchase #2. Ha

Kegan said, “you should try this coffee, it’s really good” so I did. And wow… it was like the best coffee I had ever had haha so I asked our waitress what brand of coffee they brew… she didn’t know. So on our way out I stopped at the bar area and asked the people there what they brewed. They pointed to a House Blend black bag with a Taste of Belgium label and told me that they did sell it. But when I asked if that’s what they use in the espresso machine- no that’s this Espresso Roast… also in a big 5 lb bag with a Taste of Belgium label. I asked if they sold that and they said they’d have to go ask the manager. Manager came out and was like …I mean, I can sell you that bag… but it will be expensive and it’s like 5 lbs… yeah. That’s fine, I’ll take it haha

So…. That’s how I ended up carrying a 5lb bag of coffee beans around for the evening 🤣

Our last item for Saturday night was at The Escape Game right next door. This was the last room we had never done that they had… Gold Rush. It was a fun one! Fairly easy on the difficulty level I think because we escaped in about 35 minutes

Sunday we checked out of our hotel and headed right back down to the waterfront to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center- a fantastic museum and cultural center dedicated to telling the story of slavery and the long road to freedom many slaves endured.

They have an actual “slave pen” recovered from a farm in Kentucky where slaves were held in shackles to keep them from running away.
Many exhibits and videos that are well worth a visit and watch. It was a very well done museum.

After we finished there, we headed to the northern suburbs to Blue Ash for our favorite midwestern Dim Sum at Grand Oriental Buffett where we met Kegan’s dad and stepmom for lunch.

It wasn’t their best showing of dim sum options but definitely a solid lunch and something I had been craving for quite a while.

After lunch, we headed over to the American Sign Museum- a quirky little museum dedicated to preserving nostalgic old signage from years passed.

Overall, it’s small but totally worth a stop! Tons of really cool vintage signs, with a history of each type of sign that had popularity over the years

We found ourselves with 2 hours until the Cincinnati Museum of Art closed, so we decided to trek on back downtown and see what we could squeeze in. We definitely did a speed tour and would love to spend more time there in the future.

They had a special exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe photographs, but none of her famous works that I recognized. Overall we were underwhelmed with the special exhibit but maybe we just didn’t “get it”. That’s always a real possibility.
This was my favorite piece in the museum for a few reasons. This was painted in the 1940s- the height of American patriotism (and rightfully as we needed that to endure World War II and America was sacrificing at home to support the effort abroad) but this artist painted these “smug” daughters of the revolution members standing in front of Washington Crossing the Delaware (a painting painted in Germany by a German) , drinking tea in Chinese teacups, dressed in British fashion, claiming that America is the best. The irony and snark shows through vividly and this being from the 1940s just really seemed beyond it’s time. I thought about this painting and smiled a few times after leaving so I have declared it my favorite because it’s the one that stuck with me.

We were surprised by the volume of works by famous artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Diego Rivera, and even a couple Paul Cézanne paintings- which was cool because I did a research paper on early Cubism in college and I know that he didn’t paint a lot of paintings… he was sort of the bridge between Impressionism and Cubist modern art.

A Picasso I hadn’t seen before- not quite the abstract style we usually think of from Picasso.
I loved this one! Very Ireland. I would have hung this one in my living room. I promise, I’ll take good care of it!

After art museum adventures, it was time for stupid purchases #3 with a trip to Jungle Jim’s for some groceries and fun international items before heading home. Jungle Jim’s is like a theme park for food. Usually, if you are looking for anything, you can find it there.

And even things you weren’t looking for- like an $80 blue ostrich egg from New Mexico lol

We usually look for a French cider that is very similar to one we loved in Normandy, fancy cheeses I’ve never had, some Irish staples like rashers and puddings and Swedish caviar spread for toast, along with more exotic produce like jackfruit, longan berries, trumpet mushrooms, and bok choy. This trip we had to keep it under control on fresh items because we only had three days until we are headed to Disney World! It’s a busy Spring ha.

Overall, a great weekend trip that we all enjoyed! Next trip will likely be Falls of the Ohio, Mammoth Cave and Big Bone Lick (because I have heard they have giant ground sloth fossils! Ha)

48 Hours in Louisville,Kentucky

Hello! It has been a minute since I could write a post about travels! A bit over a year…. too long… but we have been traveling- just to the same destination all year- New Orleans! After last Christmas’s trip… we decided to entertain the idea of moving down there… and after a few months, we bought a house! So, since May 2022, we have been spending every week Norah isn’t in school down in Louisiana working on that house with the goal of a full move in May 2023 after Norah finishes 5th grade in Indiana. 

So, this upcoming move prompted me to think about what all we could see while we were still close in Indiana that we hadn’t made a priority in the last few years. So I started putting together some short weekend trips we could work in before May… we shall see if I can get them all blogged!

First up, a quick trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the weekend. We picked up Norah after school and headed straight across the bridge- an hour and twenty minutes from us to see what touristy things we could find.

Our hotel was nothing exciting- a Holiday Inn Express- but I’m still finishing up my points from traveling for work pre-Covid… so free won out here for hotel choice. 

We headed out from the hotel to our first destination of the evening- The Old Spaghetti Factory. 

Nothing fancy, definitely a chain, but we could be dressed casually and they have a brown butter mizithra cheese spaghetti and spumoni ice cream (chocolate, cherry and pistachio) that is REALLY good.

Norah got a Cotton Candy drink and a grilled cheese (because she doesn’t like pasta…who’s child is this??)…so life was good. 

After a dinner that took entirely too long (like… 1.5 hours and that was only because we told our waitress to just bring ice cream and check and get it moving as they brought our dinner because we had to go)… we walked south through downtown through 4th street live, a pedestrian area full of bars and restaurants-mostly 21 and up… 

We walked past The Seelbach Hotel, a famous historic hotel built by two German immigrants in 1905. It was so fancy, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s inspiration for the wedding in the The Great Gatby (I believe he called it the Maybach hotel…) Many presidents have stayed here over the years including FDR and JKF and most recently, George W Bush in 2002. Many celebrities have slept a night here, too… one of the more interesting characters to frequent the Seelbach was Al Capone… he used to play poker here on his bootleg runs from Chicago to moonshine country in Kentucky. Rumor has it there was a button in the floor that the staff could step on when police arrived looking for him and it would shut the poker room doors, alerting Capone to escape through hidden passages. There is an underground room in the Seelbach that I REALLY wanted to go see, but the doors were locked by the time we could go in… guess I should I stayed as a guest here instead of using my free points at the Holiday Inn Express! ha 

The Rathskeller room in the basement is constructed of Rookwood Pottery- designs were hand drawn on clay, then fired, then glazed and fired again… A portion of the ceiling is made of leather with intricate designs like zodiac signs in it…. there is a giant art deco clock on one wall… so- even though I didn’t get to see it this trip, I still had to talk about it here and include a photo from the internet- because maybe someone who reads this will get to go see it!

Lots of other fun sights along the way… 

We were headed to The Louisville Palace Theater to see a showing of the 1986 film Labyrinth starring David Bowie as the Goblin King. Norah dressed appropriately. 

The Louisville Palace is a really uniquely decorated theater that has been open since 1928. Very European or old Spanish style… ornate carvings and cobalt blue… very over the top and super fun. 

The vaulted ceiling has carved faces in each of the circles. 
The theater itself has 2 levels. We were under the balcony because the seating was open- I hate sitting side by side with strangers in a theater…and I figured the quality of the video from 1986 probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference 🙂 

None of us had ever seen the movie surprisingly…. and we loved it! Norah especially. I loved that the whole theater erupted in cheers with David Bowie appeared on screen for the first time. I loved all of the puppets (it was done by Jim Henson) and some of the same voices and maybe even the same puppets were used in Fraggle Rock- one of my all time favorite shows. It was an especially good movie for the time…. very quippy and fun.

Cute spot to photograph this growing child outside the theater after the film. 

After the movie, we booked an escape room next door at Locked In: Louisville. It was called The Warehouse and the goal was to find the alien artifact our coworker hid and escape before the government finds out we know their secrets!

We escaped…. but barely… and only by having to call the gamemaster 3 different times. It was probably my least favorite escape room experience we’ve done… there was one poor guy having to juggle all of the rooms so he wasn’t watching our play… and when our lock didn’t work- we spent 15-20 minutes of our room time trying to figure out what we did wrong…until finally we decided to call for help and ruin our chance to be on the leaderboard -only to find out we had the code right the whole time… that happened twice…just overall not impressed with how they run it, but the puzzle was decent. Wouldn’t book anything else there though sadly. 

Norah and Kegan were still hungry after the movie and escape room, so Kegan ran inside Pizza Bar at 4th street Live and got the last 3 slices of pizza available. ha Late night walking snacks make a mile walk seem better. 

It was back to the hotel to sleep for the night. 

Saturday morning we woke up early and took an Uber across downtown to Wild Eggs, a fantastic breakfast/brunch local chain. We went to the original a couple times when we lived in Louisville in another lifetime (2009-2011) and their Everything Muffins are just heavenly. We think about them from time to time to this day. I tried to recreated them once and got close… but just not perfect. So, what better place to have breakfast. Kegan had the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict with corn cakes topped with chorizo and poached eggs, Norah got pancakes and bacon, and I had the Country Fried Steak and Eggs 

Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict
Country Fried Steak and Eggs
Pancakes and Bacon
The amazing Everything Muffin

We had interesting breakfast drama… while we were waiting on our food a fight erupted in the kitchen and I could hear a lady yelling and carrying on. I thought she was maybe the head chef back there or something, yelling at someone that worked for her… the wait staff started mumbling asking if she was “for-real going off” or joking… they decided it was for real… and then she burst out of the kitchen double doors out into the actual restaurant yelling and cussing “I dont know who the F you think you’re talking to…your damn kids or something… ” and then continued a solid 30 seconds of more profane ranting before the actual head kitchen guy was like “YOU HAVE GOT TO GO” and tried to drag her back through the kitchen to exit the back… but she was not having that. She’s swatting and yelling and cursing and she leaves out the front. ha I have never seen anything like that. Other people’s drama? Big fan. haha Norah was a little stunned… and looking at me like “is this real life??” haha but she handled it well. The kitchen manager guy even came to our table later with extra everything muffins that were “on the house” for having to witness that. We just laughed it off with him… told him he handled it the best he could. People. be. crazy. I don’t know what someone could have said at 8:30 in the morning to cause all that… haha 

With full bellies and our drama meters fulfilled, we headed off along the waterfront walking the mile back towards the hotel 

Norah outside the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. We didn’t take a tour, but we did peak in through the windows to the factory and could see a lot of the process.

We started our day at the Frazier History Museum. 

It was a really cool few hours- learned a LOT about Kentucky history and items/people who originated in Kentucky. I didn’t want to include a LOT of things here because I don’t want to ruin someone else’s trip and discovery… but a few highlights to maybe pique your interest to visit yourself:

The gift shop had Ale 8 cold in an old vending machine so Norah got a history lesson and a soda!
Kegan brought home a TShirt. ha He does love his Ale 8.

Next stop was the Kentucky Science and Discovery Center

Norah guessed 4/5 furs correctly, missed the 5th one by guessing Beaver instead of Muskrat… pretty darn good!
An actual Egyptian mummy.. seemed out of place as one of the only artifacts in the place.. where- but ok… I love Egyptian stuff!

We spent a good 3 hours in the science center. Saw an IMAX 3D movie on Pandas and how they are breeding them in China using some bear techniques we’ve used in the USA…. it was slow but good. I learned a lot about pandas. 

Now it was time to get in the car and leave downtown for the evening. We headed out East to Hurstborne Parkway and started at our old stomping grounds- Half Price Books. Maybe my favorite store on the planet. This used bookstore is just full of amazing finds… almost all under $10. I literally had to get a cart. and this was me keeping it under control. ha

After buying 75 lbs of books, it was time to get our exercise on at a place called ACTIVATE. 

You pay for a 75 minute pass into the gaming area and it basically has about 10 rooms with various mini-games inside. You scan a band, pick a game and a 1-10 difficulty level and wait for the door to unlock when the group in front of your finishes. Then you have about 10 seconds to get inside and the game starts!

Picking our game and difficulty, waiting for the green light to enter the room
This game had you finding the one light on all of the walls that matched a light shown. Run and hit it to get the next one… points for each one you find before time runs out. 
This room was similar, find the circle not rotating like all of the others and hit it, trying to identify as many as you can
This was the most fun- The Grid. The floor tiles changed colors and you had to run to get on squares of a certain color in under 4 seconds. 

Overall, Activate was super busy, so there was a bit of queuing up in between rooms- but that was OK- we still had a blast and would totally go back. I could see this being such a good teen activity…but what do I know. I’m too old to be cool anymore. 

We ended the evening at The Melting Pot- another chain… but I had never been. It was always a restaurant I longed to go to back when I was young and poor… and we never did. Now, I knew I’d be disappointed, but I still thought Norah would love it and I could check it off the “want to do” list. Overall… if I did it again, I would just do a cheese course and a dessert course, I think instead of the 4 course dinner. The meat was pretty plain, small portions, nothing special.. but the Alpine cheese and the Smores Chocolate fondue were pretty darn good!

It was back downtown to our hotel around 11:30pm for a decent night’s sleep. 

We woke up to start our Sunday and stepped outside to…SNOW! 

We were glad we got all of our walking out of the way Saturday! I finally found a coat last year that is SO WARM and so NICE …I was literally getting hot and sweating walking in freezing weather and wind. I had to have Kegan photograph the amazing coat! I finally understand after owning this coat why they say “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” ha 

Turns out I need to wash the sleeves! I didn’t realize until this picture how dirty they are! hahaha

We went a couple blocks to the 21C Museum hotel for a breakfast brunch at Proof on Main. 

The food was good…don’t get me wrong… but I maybe expected more? The menu was limited – because its a slow time… (i think there were maybe 2 other tables) and my fried chicken sandwich was so burnt I didnt eat it… BUT, a couple items were great. 

Grilled octopus. This was great
A pimento cheese skillet with a sweet and spicy pepper jelly- delicious

After breakfast, we walked through the 21C art Museum. 

It was a fun 30 minutes with some interesting more modern art from a lot of local artists. I don’t know that I would make it a destination- but worth a stop in the area for sure. 

We hopped in our car and starting a driving tour of Old Louisville south of downtown. 

The Witches Tree- supposedly leaving trinkets in the tree will bring good luck- the higher you throw it, the better your luck will be… 
The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum – which you can actually tour inside and see the woodwork and parquet floors and stained glass windows. 
Just blocks and blocks of amazing old houses just waiting for some McKinney Magic. haha I made Kegan snap a photo of at least a couple for me. 

After driving around on all the side streets and picking out all of the not-for-sale houses I wanted to buy or restore… we needed to kill some time before the art museum opened at noon, so we headed to Bardstown Road to a couple of vinyl record shops. First stop-Electric Ladyland, basically a smoke shop with a couple bins of records… didn’t find much there, but I did educate Norah on what a “bong” is. haha 

Our next stop was much more our style- The Great Escape- walls and walls of comics, Star Wars, Star Trek, vinyl, collectables… I could have bought the store. ha 

Norah picked out a vintage used Ouija board, I found two working, in the box, original Star Trek toys and some vinyl I’d never seen anywhere else. Kegan hit the motherload of Jerry Jeff Walker vinyl so he was thrilled. 

Now, it was noon-and the Speed Art Museum was open, so we made our way there. It was a madhouse. Turns out this was the last four hour window to see the special exhibit of art nouveau items that had been hugely popular. We got the last spot in the garage on the roof and it wasn’t even a spot haha but I parked there anyway. 

Again, not wanting to highlight too many things to spoil a trip- but to pique interest… a few items from various wings of the museum:

A fabulous round cookie tin
Self portrait of Mucha
A fabulous teapot. I love it. 
My very own fair lady 🙂 

A fun museum… I think I’d wait for a special exhibit to be in town you’d like to see. Then its worth a visit, for sure. I was impressed with the volume of old European art and paintings they had there… it was a nice museum. 

We ending our evening by meeting up with some friends at The Dragon King’s Daughter- a restaurant on Bardstown road very near the vinyl shops we shopped earlier in the day. 

It was great to catch up with Gretchen and Charles and hear about how amazing their daughters are doing as they finish college and high school this year. Gretchen is a fantastic artist and sells jewelry and other art at a shop in Louisville- has her own feature show coming up- excited to see that! Charles is a geologist Kegan used to work with (how we met them) and he’s coaching two sports- being dad, running like crazy- both just being the best parents they could be. Great people that I loved catching up with. 

Overall, the food was great! Would recommend and would go back.

Luckily, Louisville is just a bit over an hour from us, so we headed home around 6:30 and were home and unpacked by 8 or so… it was a jam packed weekend, but it was great to actually be a tourist close to home and give a local city the same planning and treatment that I would give a destination city. 

Next up- Cincinnati in a couple weeks. Stay tuned!

Day 9 and 10-Zoo, New Year’s Eve and Wrap Up

Today was an easy day planned because a lot of places were closing early or were closed completely… I wasn’t able to make reservations anywhere I tried over a month ago… so we just decided to play it by ear…and maybe not even do much today but hang out in the hotel room.

We got tickets to the Audubon Zoo out past the Garden District in Audobon Park- famous for its 300 year old Live Oak trees.

They had a lot of REALLY cool animals. I think we are a bit spoiled with the Indy Zoo and Cincy Zoos… and even the Louisville Zoo…. this one was good- and you could tell it has major history and has been here a long time… but some of it felt a little run down. I just hope the animals are healthy and as happy as they can be in a zoo.

Some of the cool animals we saw:

The Roman Chewing Candy cart was open inside the Zoo. Its been an institution for over 100 years at the New Orleans Zoo. The guy running it said that today was the LAST day ever for $1.00 a stick candy. I said, wow- that paint on the cart has been there a long time, when was the last time you raised prices? He said 1986. ha Went from .50/stick to $1.00/stick. January 1, it goes to $1.50 a stick. Pretty cool if Norah ever goes back when she’s old- she can tell her grandkids that she still remembered getting this candy for $1!! ha
and she has the photographic evidence to prove it!

I had made lunch reservations at a place called Superior Seafood on St Charles on the recommendation of a coworker. It wasn’t totally bad… but it wasn’t great either. I know better than to blindly listen to people about my food. ha

We had 1:30 reservations- they immediately sat us outside on the patio instead of asking which we’d prefer… strike one- I hate eating outside lol Maybe its a bit Karen of me…but you ask your reservations what their preference is…you seat your walk-ins where you have space left. Anyway, whatever, not that big of a deal… but now its 1:50 and we still haven’t placed drink orders. Then its 2:10 and we still haven’t placed food orders. Now its 3:15 and we still haven’t got our food yet. lol Yeah..it was the meal that never ends. In the end, an almost 2.5 hour lunch… and Kegan’s meal came so far ahead of mine that he was done almost before mine arrived. And I want to add that his main course- at a seafood restaurant, the Shrimp and Grits, had 5 shrimp on it. ha Ok- thats all 🙂

We got one dozen Charbroiled oysters and I got a dozen raw oysters. When in Rome.
Crawfish Cornbread. Kegan and Norah devoured this. It was very tasty.
Kegan’s shrimp and grits

I messaged my friend Tim to see if he was still around and he was… so we Uber’d straight to his hotel and met him outside. We ended up walking around downtown and looking for a Starbucks to hang out in for a while- the one we found-limited hours- closing at 2pm all week due to short staffing or covid. So..on we walked- found a gelato and espresso shop and popped in there. I got a good strong coffee to hopefully keep me up past midnight.

It was so good to catch up with Tim… but I totally forgot to get a picture of us all! Oh well.

We talked to him until it was time for us to head to our very last Escape Room- Inventor’s Attic at Escape My Room.

It was-hands down-the hardest room we’ve done. I did not have a good time. ha I have no idea how we managed to actually pull it off in the end with 2 minutes to spare. I’m not certain we actually did. ha They may have just been being nice… but they said we made it. They have a super cool machine that vibrates at certain frequencies and displays patterns- but the sand that vibrates into the patterns- there wasn’t enough on the plate to make out the patterns…and adding more sand didn’t actually work- so we probably messed with that for 15 minutes… even asking if anything was wrong with the machine and letting our guide know we couldn’t see the patterns and in the end she did help us ensure we were on the right track… but after the game she says “yeah… we’ve been having tons of trouble with that all week”. and we spend another 5-10 on another piece that “the timing is a little hard sometimes” lol In the end- the room was super hard, very cerebral, the theme was fantastic…. I hate to complain. All the other rooms there were the best anywhere… and the staff are phenomenal. I think I just had a bad and angry day lol I don’t like feeling stupid from equipment malfunction ha Kegan and I both were not on our A game tonight… he missed some basic math stuff, we missed instructions right in front of us… we missed an item literally on a ledge in front of our faces. lol Truth be told, the machine probably wasn’t our only barrier!

We got back to the room, feeling like we failed even though we escaped. ha They said there is only like a 20% success rate on that room. So we just hung out for a while and ordered some pizza and wings from DoorDash so we didn’t have to go out into the craziness that was really picking up downtown.

We stayed in the room, Norah did a Google Meet with an old classmate from her online classes and decided she didn’t want to go down to the ball drop… we were thinking cool! ha

Then about 11pm, she changed her mind. ha So…off we go into the craziness.

It really wasn’t as bad as I expected. Police had traffic blocked off for blocks around Jackson Square…and most people were up on the Moonwalk on the riverfront waiting on the fireworks. We stood on the railroad tracks in between so we could see the Fleur De Lis drop from the Jax brewery roof – the New Orleans equivalent of the Times Square ball drop. The fireworks over the river were very nice and we rang in the New Year with 25,000 of our closest friends.

Norah had this grand idea that she was going to ask all the drunk people around us to yell HAPPY POTATO at midnight. haha I told her if anyone could get it done, it would be her. But I didn’t let her actually ask anyone. lol

So, HAPPY POTATO from the New Orleans McKinney clan. LOL

The sea of people leaving the Jackson Square area was CRAZY. lol Literally filled every street as far as you could see.
But these people had it figured out! They had a guy peddling them around on a lounger! haha

Finally, got Norah wound down and asleep about 1:45am… and told her she was not going to be happy at 8am when I woke her up… but I told her all she had to do was get her butt to the car and she could go back to sleep.

Fast forward to Day 10 and packing up to head out- she cried over brushing her teeth this morning. ha so, its safe to say that she didn’t get enough sleep! ha

Our only plan today was to drive around some neighborhoods in New Orleans in case we decide to get serious about a move somewhere, we’d at least have seen some suburb areas in person… and to make some stops at an area grocery store chain that sells my La Croix Cola flavored sparkling water. ha I cant find it around Indiana anymore- every once in a while at a Big Lots, but that’s it… so when we went to Florida, I looked up where I could buy and we stopped at 3-4 grocery stores there on our way home, too.

So we combined neighborhood viewing with Rouse’s Market LaCroix hunting! Stopped at 7 different locations all around the area. Found about 15 8-packs! That should do me for a bit 🙂

It was interesting to look around and how different the items in the store there where compared to everywhere else. It really is like a whole different country down here.

This was just one section of the freezer case:

If we did move here, I can tell you Kegan would be shopping at Rouses Market! ha He was like “jaw-dropped-open” when he saw this case of dry aged beef lol
They even had Wagyu, tomahawks and other uncommon cuts
I have never had pickled pork, but now I’m intrigued!
Norah saw this cereal and asked if she could have some. Sure…why not? haha Not sure what “spoke” to her about this… but sure thing, kid. It’s yours. Come to find out, this is a new cereal from the rapper Master P- who is from New Orleans- and is quite the entrepreneur…but he decided to sell cereal, because he said that everyone eats cereal…and nobody was making cereal that was the equivalent of the Wheaties box for inner city kids…so, he put his own face on the “Wheaties” box…. and marketed it, with a portion of the profits going back to inner city communities and elderly. He said “no cereal company out there was giving back to people who need it, so I created one that did”. So, after reading that…I’m like, RIGHT ON. ha Turns out, they are only selling Master P cereal in New Orleans at Rouses Market. So, right place, right time. ha

I had planned to go to a new Vietnames restaurant called Kim Ahn’s Noodle House, but when we arrived it was closed. So we decided we’d wait until we got to Hattiesburg and hit that Landshark food truck with the cajun crab boils boxes… but they, too, were closed today according to their Facebook… So… we went with something we knew we loved- we went back to the Dong Phuong Restaurant and Bakery that we hit on our way into the city on Day 1. Such a good decision.

Kegan said he wasn’t in the mood for soup- so he got the short ribs and rice plate. It was outstanding. It was like meat candy. Glazed and charred… i could eat that every day.
I got an iced Vietnamese coffee to hopefully make the 12 hour drive after less than 6 hours of sleep. ha I forgot to photograph the rest, but I got the special Pho with meatball, beef, etc… it was very good.

The highlight though was after our meal, I went next door to the bakery since we had a cooler and ice (Kegan had picked up Andouille sausage at Rouses Market and had it on ice already) and I just asked to get some assorted meat pies and steam buns. The lady was super nice and helped me get an assortment of pies and I saw signs up for their King Cakes. You can only get king cakes in Jan/Feb leading up to Mardi Gras… and the ones from here are super famous for being one of the best.

I asked her “I assume you have to order the king cakes ahead of time?” fully figuring you did… she said Yes, that the shipping had already sold out for the year on Day 1… but if I hurry, she thought there was a few spots left for pickup that would likely sell out soon, too. I told her, that’s OK…we were headed back to Indiana today- maybe next year.

Then…she surprised me. She said “you’re so sweet…” (which- HA. just like Kegan is a pleasure in the mornings) She said “we have a few “rejects” in the back that she didn’t think were good enough to sell…. if you’d want one of those, I can ring you up and meet you outside and give it to you. I can’t give it to you in here because I can’t have any of the other people see it”

So…. that is the story of how I got a back alley reject cream cheese King Cake from Dong Phuong Bakery!!

This thing weighed like 5 lbs. Its sort of a flaky, laminated brioche cinnamon dough with a silky light cream cheese frosting. It was AMAZING! I have no idea what a king cake is supposed to taste like, but I can tell you I see why theirs is famous. That’s for sure.
Assorted meat pies. I cant tell you what they are…but I do know 1 is a crawfish pie
Assorted steam buns- I know the 2 in front are pork, egg and onion….no clue on the others. It will a surprise for breakfast or lunch tomorrow 🙂

We drove straight home with only 2 stops for fuel. Left New Orleans around noon- rolled in about 1am Eastern time- so a 12 hour drive. We crossed Louisville around midnight with the bridge all lit up, thought that looked cool

Have to give credit to Kegan’s mom and step-dad for keeping our dog so we could go on this trip… and to my dad and step-mom for watching our house, the chickens, the cats, the plants, the mail… EVERYTHING else!

THANK YOU!!

Overall takeaway- we loved the city. Had a really great time. Met some cool people, ate some amazing food, experienced a very deep rooted culture and learned way more about New Orleans that I knew before. The weather was fantastic. We only had rain one evening… and it was 80 every day all day. 70 all night. I could definitely get used to that weather, I miss the heat since leaving south Florida.

No future vacations booked right now. Norah has 2 weeks off in March- I may book something last minute, but our plan was to go to Spain… but now with Omicron spreading like wildfire, I’m not sure we want to deal with overseas travel at the moment. Europe takes Covid way more seriously than the US does. Who knows what would be closed, what kind of testing and quarantine rules will be in place… likely better to wait a few more months before heading across the pond on a deadline to return.

This summer we’ll likely do another road trip in June/July… likely this time to New England since Kegan hasn’t ever been up that way. Gotta see if any of those states or cities have relocation potential 🙂

When I have a plan or tickets booked, You’ll get updates here! Until then, thanks for following along with our gypsy caravan!

Day 8-Chalmette Battlefield and Art

We slept in today, got some coffee downstairs and then caught an Uber out a few miles east of New Orleans proper to see the Chalmette Battlefield- the site of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

Initially, my plan was to Uber out there, then walk back to New Orleans through the lower ninth ward to see that area- as it was the hardest hit and absolutely devastated by the levee breaches during Katrina. There have been tons of focus on rebuilding houses in these neighborhoods and getting people from the ninth ward back in their homes instead of developers and landlords taking over. Brad Pitt even had a charity called the Make It Right Foundation that brought in famous architects to build avante garde modern homes, then offered them at greatly reduced costs to former residents. But…no good deed goes unpunished. The lumber, which was supposed to last for decades started rotting within 2 years. Ventilation issues and mold became an issue, the foundation was sued for selling faulty construction homes, the foundation sued the program manager and the architects for not using sound products and following code. It became a mess from what should have been the success story of the century. They’ve already had to bulldoze 2 of the homes that were built and there are other ongoing lawsuits.

We didn’t drive right by those particular houses… but we did get a pretty good tour of the lower ninth from the Uber. He recommended we didn’t walk. He didn’t say it wasn’t safe… he said “he didn’t know what we would see if we did- just empty lots and houses” and then told me it was too hot to walk that far anyway… we got the impression he was saying it might not be a great idea. So… I can listen sometimes 🙂 Also, it was like 4-5 miles… further than I initially thought from the map. ha We didn’t miss much, just a couple houses, like Fats Domino’s old house… and a small house turned into a “living” museum dedicated to the people and the history of the lower ninth, that I wasn’t even sure if it was open anyway.

We arrived at the Battlefield- but the visitor center was closed.. very limited hours of 1p-4p. I’m guessing due to staffing and Covid issues like everything else.

“In 1814 we took a little trip,

Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.

We took a little bacon and we took a little beans

and we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans”

I can’t say “Battle of New Orleans” without that darn Johnny Horton song popping into my head! ha

The Battle of New Orleans was the final battle of the War of 1812 between a superior British force against a ragtag band of pirates, free people of color, Kentucky Riflemen, Tennessee Volunteers and one really pissed off British-hating Colonel Andrew Jackson. They say his intense hatred of the British started at age 13 during the American Revolution when he was ordered to clean a British Officer’s boots. He refused and was slashed with a sword across his face and hands… and thus started a vendetta against all things British, along with losing both of his brothers in the Revolution.

After the Revolution- once the British finally settled their little war with Napoleon in 1814, they felt they could finally put focus on reclaiming their stake on some North American territory and stop the US westward expansion. They felt that any land deals made with Napoleon (ahem.. the entire Louisiana Purchase) were null and void and shouldn’t have been able to be made. They felt like if they could recapture the territory, they could argue the US’s claim to the land was void.

They first targeted Washington DC, burning the White House (Dolly Madison, Washington’s portrait and all that). They next tried to capture Baltimore…but couldn’t quite win there…but never to be deterred, they proceeded to try to take New Orleans, thinking that if they could capture the Mississippi River, they could stop westward expansion and necessary trade routes.

Andrew Jackson was a military commander in Mobile that was warned of the British advance on New Orleans and immediately-his head exploded- and he made his way to New Orleans to ready troops to resist the British. He was suffering from dysentery at the time and is said to have not eaten in 8 days. He could barely stand when he arrived and spent the entire ordeal eating nothing but boiled rice. He had one month to ready an army… and…he didn’t have the people. He had 1,500 soldiers.. and it was estimated that the British had 12k-15k.

He was definitely backed into a corner. He was approached by legendary pirate Jean Lafitte with an offer to double-cross the British and fight for the Americans…if Jackson would free his brother Pierre from prison. (surprise, that wasn’t needed, Pierre escaped ha) Jackson was disgusted by the offer…. but, eventually, Jackson realized he didn’t have a choice. He got 2,500 Kentucky Riflemen, more militia from Tennessee, Lafitte’s pirates- who didn’t add a lot of men… but it did add a ton of weapons, cannons, and the knowledge of how to navigate the swamps- knowledge that ultimately led to victory. He also recruited free people of color and even Choctaw Indians (which is a little rich since Jackson earned his stripes fighting so successfully against the Creek Indians…) People were so willing to sign up to fight because rumors had spread about how in the Spanish wars, the British had raped and pillaged everything after their victories… the whole city was in hysterics over the possibility of British victory.

This bend of the Mississippi is where the Americans waited to fight the British as they came up the river. This area was surrounded by cypress swamp, making it impossible to flank or surround the US troops.

The British troops sorely miscalculated how rough the Americans would fight. They didn’t stand in a row and fire on command with drummers and pomp and circumstance… they hid in the swamp, fired a cannon from a sunken battleship at them.. and targeted all the officers first. Take out the head, the body dies… Once the US took out the British officers, this caused pure chaos for the troops… and quickly, the battle was won…. with fewer than 70 casualties on the US side…and over 2,000 on the British side. The battle itself lasted around 30 minutes.

The British withdrew back and continued to bomb a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi for another week or so…but eventually retreated.

The actual battlefield the fighting occurred on.
Chalmette Plantation house in between the Mississippi river bend where the British arrived and Jean Lafitte’s pirates fired at them… and the battlefield where the so many British soldiers would die.
An artsy photo I took from the battlefield site.

The crazy thing is, that when this battle was fought in January of 1815, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed over a week before- marking an end to the War… but news hadn’t reached the US yet. Once it did, Jackson was hailed a hero…and eventually would be elected President on that popularity… and the story lives on as folklore of another example of our American Exceptionalism in the face of a stronger, better opponent….and it lives on in that stupid Johnny Horton song. ha

After we walked around the battlefield, we went to the Parish diner out in Chalmette on the recommendation of our morning Uber driver. He said it was one of his three favorite places in the city. So, since we didn’t have lunch plans yet, sounded like a winner to me! They had a huge menu. Tons of breakfast, tons of platters, sandwiches and more.
We decided to share the boudin brisket egg rolls as a starter. They came with a blueberry chipotle glaze sauce. They were pretty wonderful.
I had the Cajun Po-boy- Fried shrimp and a cajun sausage patty dressed on a bun. The roll was super dry and just kind of crumbled apart… so I just ate it open face with only the bottom bun- but it was good! and the fries were stellar.
Kegan got the fried pork chops meal. He said it was fine… but nothing to come back for again.

When we finished, we called an Uber to take us back downtown to walk along Frenchman street. Man was that guy weird. He spent the whole ride coughing. He was an old retired white guy from Massachusetts. Talked nonstop about hurricane science and then got into Katrina as we drove through the Lower Ninth ward… then started in with the “those people” comments. Could not get out of the car fast enough.

We started along Frenchman St, just seeing the bars and shops along the street. Frenchman street down this way really started growing in the 1980s. It was almost a direct response to the growth and tourism of Bourbon Street. As Bourbon got more touristy and loud… Frenchman became the spot for locals to gather and it has the highest concentration of music venues in the city.

We did find some live jazz coming out of Bamboula’s and hung around a bit to listen

We walked north and came across Washington Square Park with a playground… so we let Norah play for a while. She made friends with a 6 year old named Dwight. lol he was a cutie.

Walked a mile or so around the neighborhood… found lots of cool building street art.

Went to a shop called WE BITE Rare and Unusual Plants… but I forgot to take any photos. It was in a cool old church building… but they only really had like 6-8 types of plants inside… none of which were terribly rare…or unusual lol So I didn’t buy anything. I was hoping to clean house with some cool plants- maybe even a pitcher plant or venus fly trap or something… but alas… it was not to be.

We started walking south towards Studio Be where we had 4pm reservations to an art installation.

We passed a wall mural and this historical marker designating the site where Homer Plessy was arrested for violating the Separate Train Car Act- segregating black and white passengers.

Ruby Bridges- also pictured in the mural on the site, was from New Orleans, too. The school she was escorted into is still an active elementary school in the area.

Studio Be is a 35,000 sq ft warehouse filled with art by New Orleans artist Brandon “BMike” Odems, who strives to show the relationship between art and resistance. From his website: From film to murals to installations, Odums’ work encapsulates the political fervor of a generation of Black American activists who came of age amidst the tenure of the nation’s first Black president, the resurgence of popular interest in law enforcement violence, and the emergence of the self-care movement.

We really looked for this one all around the gallery, but I think it has already been moved elsewhere or sold… Its a super inspirational painting.
A portrait honoring civil rights activist and Representative John Lewis who said “never be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
I just love the defiance of this one.
A mural dedicated to the Mardi Gras Indians in their suits

At 5pm, we had tickets to another art project called JAMNOLA. Which stands for Joy Art Music New Orleans. This was a visual art exhibit from various local artists and super cool.

Norah grabbed some props to do the 360 degree rotating glam cam…. her poor hat fell off mid-spin- but I think that might actually make the video better. lol

After JAMNOLA, we had our last escape room at The Escape Game downtown- it was called Special Ops- and we were undercover agents in a Moroccan Market trying to find a rogue bad guy’s secret bunker. We found it and then had to find the intended site of a nuclear bomb attack, and then disarm the bomb! It was a toughy! Definitely their best room. Norah saved the day- at the end Kegan and I could NOT figure out a certain section… and we worked on it for a while. Norah finally figured it out for us and it was our final task to disarm the bomb. Couldn’t have done it without her.

As we walked back to our hotel, it was a bit busier downtown than it has been… and it was the first time I saw a police presence camped out waiting for trouble.

We used the PostMates app to order sushi from a restaurant across downtown we didn’t want to walk to. ha I forgot to take photos but it wasn’t anything to write about. I forgot to order Norah’s California roll, then they missed including Kegan’s seaweed salad… but I gave Norah one of my rolls and she ate the whole thing plus an order of dumplings. She definitely got her mamma’s love for all asian food. ha

We had time before bed, so we watched the new Matrix revolutions 4th installment. I sure hope there are more planned, because that whole movie was like over an hour of back story building and like 15 minutes of movie. I was terribly disappointed. The whole thing just felt like a nostalgic throwback to all the original catchy pieces of the originals… but since I did love the originals, and all things 90s are cool again, (I saw a girl in black leather low rise pants today…. I’m going to pass on that trend this time around haha) I’m sure that’s what the creators are counting on. People like me that grew up on the Matrix throwing their money down whether it is good or bad. The ideas were fresh… but just maybe a little too big for the 1.5-2 hour format to create a cohesive roadmap. Would love to hear someone else’s thoughts on it.

As we’re headed to sleep, Kegan notices my old friend Tim Jackson has marked himself “interested” in an event in New Orleans for New Years Eve. He asks me if he’s in town. Heck, I don’t know… lol We talk every few months and see how the other is doing.. and we share an online movie streaming database haha…but I don’t keep up on his weekly whereabouts. lol He got married last year, he’s not my responsibility anymore. 🙂

I message him around midnight and sure enough he’s literally staying NEXT DOOR to the Roosevelt Hotel we were in! hahaha He’s well on his way already this evening in a bar and says “meet me downstairs now!” ha – I inform him I’m now across town in another hotel, I’m also old… and I have a 9 year old. I would not be joining him in a bar at 1am on a Thursday. ha

We agreed to check in tomorrow and meet up just to catch up for a bit. So I’m excited for that! It’s been 7 years since our paths have crossed- last time was when we still were working out in California. So it is time!

Day 7 – Jazz Museum, Voodoo Museum and lots of Covid closures

Today we headed out in search of coffee because the free coffee in the lobby is terrible and weak…and the espresso machine for the pay shop inside the hotel was broken… so along our walk back to the French Quarter we found a PJs coffee. I got a cold brew, Kegan got his normal espresso and Norah got a frozen hot chocolate which was straight syrup lol. So… she had energy for walking around to say the least ha.

We walked through the French Market.. tons of shops and vendors. Lots of food it looked like would be available around lunchtime.
Our first stop for the day was the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint
The US Mint was built in 1835. It was seized by the confederates during the Civil War and the building was used to mint confederate money. When it was recovered by federal troops in 1862, they hung the man in charge- William Mumford. It stopped being used as a mint in 1909, then it was a prison, then a Coast Guard headquarters… now… a museum.
They had a few neat artifacts from the building as a mint on display
This 1868 coin press was built in Philadelphia, used to mint circulating and proof coins in San Francisco until 1974, now on display in New Orleans. It’s travelled to all the mints except Denver lol
The other half of the first floor was dedicated to Jazz music.
They had a photo gallery from Rick Olivier of various New Orleans musicians. I like this one of Art Neville showing him as a Trekkie. Apparently he was a huge fan of Star Trek…and this one below of Mannie Fresh, a rapper from New Orleans who rapped with Hot Boys, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Big Tymers.. and also did some solo stuff.

Upstairs was an exhibit on Louis Prima, a Jazz and big band leader from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans.

I have a few more vinyl records to find in my searching
They also had these old cutouts of the Preservation Hall Band Members

Preservation Hall is a jazz institution of New Orleans. It was started in the 1960s by Allen and Sandra Jaffe- it was truly the first integrated black and white music venue in the south during segregation. Sandra Jaffe was even arrested once for violating segregation laws… They were from Philadelphia… but were on a grand adventure to find a place to settle, then went as far as Mexico City experiencing other culture and cities… but when they got to New Orleans, they fell in love with the culture and beauty and decided this was the spot for them. They rented the small space from a man who was letting some Jazz musicians play there in the evening, most of whom were elderly musicians from the Jazz era… and Allen Jaffe formalized the venue as Preservation Hall to preserve the jazz legacy and educate the next generation on the genre.

Allen Jaffe died in the 1987, but Sandra Jaffe just died Monday Dec 27th…

Their son Ben Jaffe runs the Hall now and plays Sousaphone in the jazz band. They travel and educate on New Orleans Jazz around the world and they hold shows at the Hall most days. If you want to learn more about this band and venue, I highly recommend a documentary called A Tuba to Cuba. Great film.

There was a tradition post-Katrina of a created festival called “ChazFest” in someone’s backyard… and the museum had tons of photos of present day musicians in the area taking photos in front of a wallpaper backdrop. They did this for 5 years, so there was quite the collection of candid photos in a gallery. They also had the wallpaper from one year on the wall, so you could take your own portrait. Of course, Norah was all about that.
The original cornet from the Colored Waif’s Home where Louis Armstrong learned to play music as a young boy.
This was a piano from Fats Domino’s house. His house was flooded in Katrina and the piano was completely destroyed with mold, mildew, water damage, etc. A restoration project that took apart every piece of the piano and cleaned, fixed, reassembled and even re-lacquered the piano to preserve what they could.

There was an amazing painting gallery by James Michapoulos of famous New Orleans musicians

After leaving the museum, we headed north into the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.

This tree caught all of our attention. The roots had taken over the entire square that was available. I’ve never seen anything like that.
There is a marker for the site of the slave pen that existed here prior to the end of the Civil War. If you’ve ever seen the movie 12 Years A Slave, it was based on the true story of a free black man, Solomon Northup, who was sold into slavery and spent 12 years fighting for freedom.

Now it was time for lunch. I found a Dim Sum restaurant open for lunch online… so that was our destination.

Except…they were closed today… lol

So… on we went, looking for something else that looked good and was open at 11am ish for lunch. We ended up killing some time looking through some various shops along the street.

We eventually stumbled on a restaurant that said they opened at 11:30… and it looked like from Google that they had some dim sum type appetizers.. so we decided to wait. 11:30 came and it was still dark. Darn. 11:35, still standing on the sidewalk, hoping they were just a little late to the game… I’m writing a work email and trying to find another restaurant and the lights pop on and the hostess gets dropped off out front. Just running a bit behind. Woohoo!

The food was EXCELLENT. Highly recommend. We just ordered a bunch of small plates for all 3 of us and shared.

After lunch, our walking continued, on towards the LaLaurie Mansion. If you’ve ever seen the season of American Horror Story on New Orleans and Voodoo, then you are familiar with Madame LaLaurie and her physician husband, who kept slaves in their attic and tortured them to within an inch of their lives. Some eyewitness accounts said their eyes were gouged out, skin flayed open…and other way worse things I won’t write here in case someone reading is squeamish. A true house of horrors. A fire broke out and when the firemen discovered the slaves in the attic, the rage of the town turned on the lady, and 4,000 townspeople rioted and destroyed her house, but she fled with her driver… never to be heard of again. Some say she went to Paris… the world may never know.

The Beauregard-Keyes Mansion and gardens, owned by Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard- the general who ordered the first shots fired of the Civil War at Ft. Sumpter, South Carolina in 1861.
Across the street is the oldest building in the city, built in 1734- the Old Ursuline Convent.

We had a 2pm Escape Game room booked- this time Prison Break. We started the room separated in 2 different cells, and we had to work together to unlock our cells, then escape the common area outside of the cells, then navigate the boiler room to find the secret hatch to the wardens office, then clear 3-4 puzzles to eventually escape.

We did it! With only like 13 minutes left. We really didn’t think we were going to make it. ha We got stuck for a long while on one puzzle that we had right… but it was so poorly written, in such a dark room, it took us a good 10-15 minutes to finally get it solved. Then we crawled through a tunnel to the last room and we both went…oh no… there’s more. We’re never going to make it. ha But…in the end we did. and got this fantastic picture of Norah acting afterward. ha

Next, I wanted to check out the Pharmacy Museum… thought that would be a cool museum to walk through, so we hoofed it that direction, but when we arrived….

You guessed it, Covid. lol They are closed, likely due to staffing issues related to Covid.
Next we were supposed to see a show at Preservation Hall, but they are closed for Covid as well. I assume even if not for Covid, they would have been closed for the funeral of Sandra Jaffe anyway. Next time, Preservation Hall.
With our afternoon greatly opening up, we wandered towards the Voodoo Museum. It was such a tiny little place- total tourist scam. ha but The lady was nice- gave Norah a free little travel monopoly game… but I’m fairly certain she stole $2 of our change knowingly… I’m not fighting anyone over $2. lol and I’m sure thats what people like that count on.
Lastly, the last sight marked on my map was Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop- now a very popular bar on Bourbon Street. Its one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans- built around 1770. Supposedly once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte.
Around the corner, there was a lady set up on a quiet side street with a deck of tarot. Norah had mentioned finding the gypsy lady in Jackson Square on our way back to the hotel if she was still there… so this quiet side street lady seemed like a better choice. And turns out she did palm readings which Norah was super excited about. This lady was very good… everything she said was spot on to our lives and Norah’s life. Now, of course, its all a little vague…. but this lady had me questioning my sanity a bit. ha Keeping in mind, she doesn’t have a clue who we are and we’ve not said hardly anything around her- she says Norah is incredibly smart, she will get her business acumen from her mother…she will have an inheritance to make her comfortable, she has female teachers, she lost a female family member in the past- the “matriarch” she says- which is what I always say about Kegan’s Grandma Sharon- she was the matriarch glue that held everything together. Then she said “you’ll be a baby until you die”..which is exactly what I always say to Norah. “You’ll always be my baby, even when you’re 40, you’re still my baby.” Now again, generic I’m sure… lots of parents say that…but her phrasing was just like things we often say. She also told Norah most girls wont be able to handle her spirit and to prepare for that…and she told her to always tell her parents things she dreams so we can help decipher the meanings. She rattled off a bunch of other stuff…but in the end I was like DANG, this lady is good at this. lol
Our next stop was the Caricature guy in the square. For two days, every time we pass there is a line for drawings and I always have told her “later…” but this was “later” ha it was likely the last time we’d be by here….so we waited.
Norah made friends with a 14 year old from Texas and they showed each other their cats back home. lol
His airbrush machine was broken, so he could only do black and white today…. but that’s OK. Norah was thrilled. ha

We walked back to the hotel and put on the 3rd Matrix movie- Matrix Revolutions while we waited for our 8:45pm dinner reservations at Saba. About halfway through we notice this:

Poor thing couldn’t hack it and needed a power nap for an hour before dinner. (giant arm bruise from running into the bathroom door knob on Christmas Eve. lol)

When it was time, we grabbed an Uber way out to the Garden District to the restaurant. Its just a pretty drive all the way out there with million dollar homes all along the street for miles and miles. The housing density here is so crazy. every house is 4 feet from the next one.

Norah asked the waitress if they had any mock-tails. ha Turns out they had 3. She chose the Pineapple Shrub…then proceeded to drink one drink of it because it was too herby. *eyeroll*
We ordered a Blue Crab Hummus and a roasted beet spread as starters and we were so hungry, I forgot to photograph it.
I had the short ribs on couscous
Kegan had the market fish which was a Spotted Trout on creamy grits.
Norah had a pita pizza from the kid’s menu. For dessert she chose the dark chocolate sorbet with mint. It was so rich…. so good.
Kegan had the Pecan baklava
I had a milk custard with a satsuma/rose/orchid gel on top. It was so light and fabulous. It was a perfect end to a very good meal.

Overall, we had SUCH high expectations after Shaya…. that I was fully expecting more “wow”… and everything really was great. Objectively- perfectly cooked, great flavors… but I still preferred Shaya better. Their menu was more robust, the portions a little larger, the price a bit lower… but both are great, great restaurants.

We caught an Uber back downtown and finished up our Matrix movie before bed. Now Norah is fully prepared to watch the new Matrix Resurrection film for our New Year’s Eve in-room party evening 🙂

Tomorrow, we’ll head out east of the city to Chalmette to the battlefield of the Battle of New Orleans and see the Lower 9th ward and some other east end points of interest.

« Older posts Newer posts »