Take me to the river………..San Antonio style
April 16, 2011
Got a break from the winter that wouldn’t end with a late March trip to San Antonio. Trip was business related but I had planned my flight home after the meeting to allow most of a day exploring. I love visiting San Antonio anytime, but the beautiful sunny days and 80 degree temperatures were a bonus. This is part one of a two part trip review, focused on the Riverwalk and Alamo. Part two will cover the Botanic Garden.
I began walking along the streets of downtown heading towards the Alamo. As usual bike related things caught my eye. From the sign reminding drivers bikes have rights (and the unfortunately empty bikeshare rack) to the biking police.
Upon arriving at the Alamo, I spent quite a bit of time wandering the grounds, taking in the architecture and the landscape.
Most visitors to the city are familiar with just a small area of the Riverwalk – the semi-circle restaurant and bar lined section called the Paseo del Rio.
While the Paseo del Rio may be what everyone knows, and is a great place to people watch; you’re short changing yourself if you don’t venture beyond. The riverwalk continues both north and south from this area along the main river. Leaving the Paseo del Rio provides a less crowded but still delightful place to explore.
The city has done an incredible job of providing signage all along the Riverwalk – showing both explanations and locations of points of interest, and also mileage between them. On my last trip to the city, I focused my walks south to the King Williams area, this trip I headed north towards the Art Museum, covering about 2 miles of the river.
Laissez le Bon temp rouler…a weekend in NOLA
March 3, 2011
As many times as I’ve visited, as much as I love New Orleans, I’ve never been there for Mardi Gras. I’ve always been intrigued by the Krewe parades, but worried about my reaction to the crowds. A recent visit over Valentine’s weekend confirmed that fear – New Orleans had about as big of a crowd as I can handle.
One local guide provided by the hotel defined Mardi Gras as being from Epiphany (Jan 6th) until the day before Ash Wednesday, which is Wed. Mar 9th this year. However, that seems a bit of a stretch. The weekend I visited would have been part of Carnival, but was the week before the first Mardi Gras parade. Still the city was crowded, maybe the most crowded of anytime I’ve been there. The Rock-n-Roll marathon/half marathon was on Sunday, and the streets were filled with folks obviously in town for the race.
Mardi Gras decorations seemed to be just going up. Some balconies, homes and businesses were already fully adorned in purple, green and gold. Others were in the process of being decorated. Kinda like the first week or so of December and Christmas decorations. In fact, I saw evidence that just like the companies that will hang your outdoor Christmas lights, there were professional Mardi Gras decorating companies at work.
I love New Orleans for it’s mix of the beautiful and the decadent. From the balconies of the Quarter and the mansions of the Garden District to the drunks on Bourbon Street and the wonderful food (and drinks which of course lead to the drunks on Bourbon St). Only in New Orleans would someone give directions with a perfectly straight face that included “From Lafitte’s walk west on Bourbon St, turn right at the first street past the big dildo shop”.
Of course, we indulged in quite a bit of that food and drink. I knew we’d hit old stand-bys: Camellia Grill, Cafe du Monde, K-Paul’s, but I’d reached out to one of the MKE tweeps who seems to know not only a bit about food and restaurants but also New Orleans. @Im_X1 (Christin) strongly recommended we try Green Goddess (@greengoddessFQ or http://www.greengoddessnola.com/). So glad I listened to her advice!
One of the best and most memorable meals in a long, long time. Green Goddess has an eclectic menu, not to mention staff, that blends a variety of ethnic cuisines with ingredients from all over the world; including Wisconsin’s own Nueske’s bacon. Christin even tweeted ahead for us to tell the folks at Green goddess to treat us well, and gave me a little DM’d tip which lead to a yummy fig and blue cheese amuse-bouche described on the menu as Armagnac-Soaked Mission Figs: These boozy morsels are stuffed with Strathdon Blue Cheese,wrapped in Serrano Ham, quick-roasted, and finished with Leonardi Balsamico aged 20 years in Cherrywood Barrels. Oh. My.
The restaurant is tiny, with maybe room for 25 diners inside, perhaps another 15 outside. We were seated along a bar/counter giving us a great view of all the action in the kitchen. Chef Chris DeBarre takes an active role in interacting with the guests, explaining courses as they are served, but it was the expediter at work directly in front of us that we found most fascinating (even if I did joke that he scared me just a bit). We ate far too much, beginning our meal with the chef’s choice cheese platter accompanied by a Pecan Nut Brown Ale from Lazy Magnolia Brewing, moving to an amazing caprese salad, followed by Shrimp in a grass skirt and Cochon de Lait/Lei pulled pork wrapped in banana leaves (you *must* try this entree). The wine list offered several options of great wines by the glass to pair with the dishes (my memory is a bit hazy on that part of the night).
But that’s not all…remember I mentioned Nueske’s bacon? We ended the meal with Vietnamese pressed chicory coffe and their “Notorious” Bacon Sundae. Praline ice cream, caramel sauce, bacon, sea salt. Sweet, salty, rich goodness. I still dream about that sundae.
Other dining highlights were a dinner at K-Pauls (where somehow I took no pictures) and Camellia Grill – both of them – breakfast at the Camellia grill in the French Quarter, and lunch another day at the original one a street car ride away down St Charles Avenue at Riverbend.
We also did a bit of drink touring. A stop at the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, Pimm’s Cups at Muriels by Jackson Square, Hurricanes at Evelyn’s. And of course, I had to have blue Moon or two along the way.
We stayed at Wyndham Vacation Resorts’ La Belle Maison, located at the corner of Magazine and Gravier, a block and a half west of Canal. Great location, one of Wyndham’s timeshare resorts (we own points, acquired on eBay, in the Wyndham system). Stayed in a 1 bedroom “Presidential” Suite. Loved the room, the location. Would give rave reviews except for the incident where the valet lost our rental car. Could not find it for over 2 hours, long story involving a cab to the airport, the car finally recovered (they forgot which garage it was parked in among 5 or 6 options), returned to the agency by the hotel valet service. Something in all my traveling for business and personal I have never heard happen to anyone before.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with the traditional photos of the accomodations:
A trip to paradise………
December 1, 2010
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away
Ok, so maybe we weren’t in Muhlenberg county, but it was a trip back to Western Kentucky, a visit to Mammoth Cave along the Green River and a stop at Paradise along the way. Not the Paradise Mine referred to in John Prine’s song, but Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, in Louisville.
Last time we were at this fun and eclectic (not to mention yummy) restaurant was to celebrate Kiddo’s 1st birthday. He’s now 11. It’s been a while. First discovered when I was working for a wine & spirit distributor in Kentucky. Occasionally had lunches there with customers, or bites with co-workers when I was in town for a meeting. When we moved to Louisville, we discovered how great a place it is for brunch. Bobby Flay did a Throwdown with Lynn. (WTF, my second Bobby Flay mention in two days, and I’m seriously not *that* big of a fan)
Don’t let these pictures fool you. The place is usually packed. This was mid-morning on a Monday. Not exactly prime time. As we were leaving the lunch crowd was beginning to arrive. Love how every inch is decorated. Even the bathrooms! Fun touches (and puzzles on the tables). Kiddo and I enjoyed a nice game of Would you rather…
The tour is marked as moderately strenuous due to about 500 steps. Pace was leisurely, but we were always going up or down steps or ramps. Kiddo was suitably impressed. Which makes me glad.I love visiting caves. Kiddo and I want to go back and do one of the longer spelunking tours – a bit of crawling and climbing and exploring.
Thanksgiving, It’s all about the food….and the family…and friends…and……
November 30, 2010
I like shiny, pretty things….or Chihuly at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens
October 29, 2010
I regularly travel to Grand Rapids, MI on business. Of the cities in my usual travel rotation, it is one of my favorites. Pedestrian friendly downtown, good restaurants, nice hotel….not to mention productive business meetings (which after all are kinda the point of my being there). My first few trips I explored the downtown area in the evening, even doing this little photo essay. On a cab ride from the airport, I’d noticed a billboard for the Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Gardens. Hmmm, told myself that some trip I’ll need to work in a visit. What finally spurred me to action was this post from Garden Faerie about a Chihuly exhibit at the Meijer Garden.
I have been a fan of Chihuly for years. Made it to several exhibits – from indoors at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and several visits to the installation at the Missouri Botanic Garden. The “someday I need to try and work in a visit”, turned to “I *must* work in a visit”. Was glad to discover they were open late on Tuesday evenings, and could take advantage of the long sunlight hours in June for my first visit. Took hundreds of pictures, added that trip to my mental list of future blog topics…but never quite got around to putting up a post.
But it was the Chihuly sculptures I had come to see. His traditional glass, the neon he’s been doing the last few years, and the newer polyvitro forms:
Seeing not only the Chihuly but the entire gardens in two seasons was a treat. Often an entirely different look to the art because of the surrounding, the change in light. And in nearly every case, found the fall colors, fall foliage enhanced the art.
Visiting a botanic garden across the seasons is a lesson I learned while living in St. Louis. A very wise horticulturist suggested visiting Mobot (Missouri Botanic Garden….or as I wrote it up “The Garden”) monthly to help the home garden develop a full season, year round landscape. I made a point of doing this then. And suggest if you live near a public garden to do the same….break out of the habit of only visiting in the mid-summer flower power glory. See what you can see in the other seasons. It may surprise you!