How I Spent My Summer Vacation Part II

The second week of our vacation we took the boys to New Orleans.  As you’ve probably already read my blogs on NOLA, let me recap briefly.  It was Gary’s birthday so we celebrated by eating our way through NOLA.  You can check out his blog for the details: www.dixiedining.wordpress.com.

My enjoyment came from the trolley rides, Southern Food Museum (which the boys also loved), the crazy sites (always crazy sites in NOLA) esp the men in red dresses.  See my previous blog for that story.  I loved seeing the Mardi Gras beads in the trees.  I noticed them first in Mobile, the birthplace of Mardi Gras, when I recently visited to take the boys to the Museum of Mobile.  Of course, as in New Orleans, the oak trees drape the streets and its probably near impossible to not get beads in the trees during Mardi Gras parades. The floats are rather high so the beads would easily get fixed in the trees on the way down to the crowd.  The last parades we went to were back in Mobile and Fairhope in 1995 and 1996.  We also took a whole day in 1995 to travel the Mississippi coast and attend a few parades…I don’t recall many trees along those parade routes.  And again in Galveston 2 years ago, but there were no trees along that route, either.  New Orleans, from the trolley car was beautiful with the beads hanging from the trees.  It really looked liked there were efforts made to place them where they were.  In fact, one house had beads stuck on its roof.  Wish I had a picture to show you.  I guess you could google “beads on trees in New Orleans.”

We went to 5 Rivers with our neighbors.  The kids, as well as us moms, enjoyed the indoor museum of regional creatures.  We told the children to read all they could and be able to tell us 3 new things they learned.  That challenged them and added a lot of fun the visit.  What did I learn?  Beavers can stay underwater for up to 8 minutes and can breathe while down there, too.  We have bobcats in the area.  Buffalo used to roam Alabama, not just the western plains.  We spotted an alligator in the river behind the museum and examined the banana spiders in their webs around the outside of the building.  The day got too hot to hike the trail so we’ll return another day.

One the way home we stopped at the overlook on the north side of I-10 on North 98.  It was the site of a Revolutionary War battle.  The whole area is so historic.  It was a Spanish Fort (hence the name of the area), and played a role in both the Revolution and the Civil War.  We hung out in the Visitor’s Center and the lady that works their was most hospitable and informative.  Travis was really interested in any ghost stories and hauntings in the battle fields.  All she said was that at Blakely Park, a little further north where the last battle of the Civil War was fought, you can feel a presence.  Now, she couldn’t elaborate except that as you walk around you can feel life around you that you notice.  Hummmmm.  We’ll check it out.   Several years ago we took the boys to Pittsburg Landing in Tennessee where the Battle of Shiloh was fought.  There was definitely something in the air on that property.  I’ll bet it’s the same feeling at Blakely.  I’ll let you know.

The boys practiced for tennis team and Austin decided once and for all that it’s not his bag, baby!  So I withdrew him from the team this fall.  Travis wants to continue.  He’ll be on the youth team which won’t compete.  I’m ok with this.  Austin said he wants to take computer classes instead so I’m looking into it for him.  He’ll still have to get his exercise so we’ll just add a PE class to homeschool this year.  I’ve got a cool curriculum we’ve done each year in parts. 

We did the turtle thing on Friday, and shopped the outlets in Foley.  Saturday we had lunch at Panini Pete’s in Fairhope.  Oh the food was great.  I had the seared tuna panini with cucumbers, field greens and key lime aioli…yum!  Gary has become friends with Pete so we spent time chatting with him when he had time.  Panini Pete’s was on Diners Drive-Inns and Dives on the Food Network.  Sunday we went to the Daphne water front for some sea urchin food…sea grasses.  There wasn’t much but I think I have enough for them for a few days.  I also brought home some snails.  I’ll have to look up what kind they are. 

Well, that’s week 2 in a nutshell.

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Our Trip to Apalachicola

We took a long weekend and headed toward the Florida Panhandle.  We’ve been there many times.  Back in 1995 Mobile, Alabama was home and we took day trips for some good seafood and white beaches.  But we never got as far east as Apalachicola.  This time, from where we live, we went west.

We stayed at the Coombs Inn, a quaint Bed and Breakfast in town with rooms in the main building and two cottages behind the house.  A few blocks toward the waterfront was another location with still more rooms.  Our stay was nice, the beds were cozy and breakfast was really nicely done.  I’m not a breakfast person (food allergies to eggs and milk keep me away from a lot of breakfast foods), but my family helped themselves to the hot breakfasts of quiche one morning and a secret recipe egg and meat dish the next.  I had my morning coffee.  They also had a buffet table of cereals, fruit, yogurt and juices.

Across the street was a cemetery, said to be haunted, so for fun we walked through.  I had the kids look for the oldest tombstone thinking we could do a rubbing.  We discovered most were so old and worn that they were unreadable.  The ones we could read planted a bit of history in our heads: yellow fever had struck this town hard. 

We headed toward the waterfront and was pleasantly surprised by some cool shops.  I especially liked the Sponge Exchange.  The building was originally built to house the sponge harvest that was plentiful (past and present) in the area.  It is now a shop selling sponges and a few other items.  I couldn’t resist to make a purchase.  Check out their website: https://apalachspongecompany.com/ 

The Gibson Inn is famous in that town so we stopped in.  We decided to sit in the bar area and watch some football, with drinks and an appetizer.  The kids were happy, especially when we found out the place has a history of ghosts.  The boys inquired at the front desk and the ladies joined us at our table to tell us all the tales.  My youngest took notes and wrote about it on his blog: www.siestakid.wordpress.com.

We spent time on St George Island.  Since no one was around this time of year we found ample parking near some homes and took a beach walk.  The night before saw a storm pass through.  The first beach area we stopped was strewn with sea stars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, oysters, sea squirts, and shells galore.  I also found an interesting and unidentifiable something.  So I gathered several samples.  It looked like a turtle egg.  Most had a hole in them and inside looked like, what could have been the remains of a dead, baby turtle: a center part (I guessed a carapace) with 5 things sticking out (maybe four legs and a head).  I’ll have to find out what it is.

We headed up the road a bit and once again got out.  The beach, at this spot, was being refurbished and buildings were being repaired from recent hurricanes, I suppose.  The sand was as white as the sand on Siesta Key and the beach was wide.  The kids ran around on sand.  Along the surf my husband and I collected shells: tons of lettered olives (I’ve never seen so many) and an assortment of other shells.  I noticed quickly that most of the shells that I had white samples of, were completely or mostly black.  Hummm.  I’ll look into this.

We ended up at the St George Island State Park and made a few stops.  The road along the beach was mostly covered in sand, so driving was a challenge.  I did fine, though, having years of experience driving in snow.  At each location we observed a multitude of ghost crabs.  Back on the road I had to watch out for them scurrying from one side to the other.  There’s a joke here somewhere…why did the ghost crab cross the road?  Who knows.  I did notice something about the shells on this beach (another puzzle).  Where the shells earlier that day were black, these shells looked like they were rusted.  They were mostly or all orange when they should have been white.  Ok, what’s going on?

Our last stop was at another state park.  First, we found a beach strewn with horseshoe crabs (dead) and so we took a few (as you would shells).  Two of different sizes had legs and tail attached.  All others were just the outer part.  Thankfully I had ziplock bags in my car and was able to seal in the smell of some of these dead critters until we got home.   A man and lady, who was also walking that beach, stopped us as they were going to their car and told us they had just seen a large bear.  We left, too, and headed further into the park, to the end of the road.  The beach there was just as beautiful.  Not much in terms of nature to collect but we enjoyed it. 

Aside from the R and R aspect of the trip, we were travelling to find some food spots for my husband to write about.  He owns, eats and writes for Dixiedining.com.  Please check out his website and blog: www.dixiedining.com .  He was in search of oysters and I think he ate his fill that weekend.  We also ate other things, but mostly seafood.  At one oyster store and processing location, we got a tour of the operation and the kind man showed us how the oysters are shucked (at a long table against a wall with a cutting machine), where the shells get disposed (through a hole in the wall where the shells fall to the ground and pile up), what they do with them (haul them out to the oyster beds for the bed’s foundation) and anything else you can think of regarding the oyster business.   Pretty cool.

We had a nice time.  I’d recommend the trip, and the B&B.  Apalachicola is really a remote area so if you are looking for serious R&R you’ll find it.  Just bring a good book and if your a nature freak, binoculars and lots of buckets for your nature samples.  Fishing rods would work, too.

Now I have to do some research on my shells.  Stay tuned.