Monday, March 3, 2014

February Cruise Trip

It's been awhile since I blogged anything.  Not much has been going on other than snow, recovery from my foot surgery, and snow and snow and more snow....and cold.  Did I mention snow?

We had enough snow and cold so decided it was time to head south for a little relief!  Our first stop was in
Memphis staying at a hotel near Beale Street.  Early in the afternoon we visited Sun Studios where many great old time rockers got their start.  Visiting this place is like stepping back in time!

Next up was Beale Street...about four blocks that are filled with live-music venues and restaurants.  And there are blues musicians on almost every corner playing for tips and trying to get discovered.  This is blues heaven!  Our two primary locations for the evening were Rum Boogie and B B Kings.  At Rum Boogie's we filled up on BBQ and red beans and rice.  Then caught an absolutely great band called the Jeff Jensen Band.  They came to our table to talk about some of the great blues places in STL...they love that city for its blues. This is a great blues band and the lead guitarist is one of the best we've ever seen.  B B Kings is a great venue for the blues and we had great seats.  The band wasn't the best, but it was still a good time!

New Orleans was our next stop.  Our hotel was two blocks from the French Quarter making it a perfect starting point for our first foray into the New Orleans Mardi Gras.  We started our visit with Oyster Po Boys....just exactly what we've been craving for so long!  Then came the required trek up and down Bourbon Street....gawking at the amazing, laughing at the silly, and quietly moving along at the awkward.  There is no place like Bourbon Street at night.  Not sure if that's good or bad, but it's fact!

With Latasha
Our focus was live music and it's everywhere on Bourbon Street.  You just walk along until you hear a sound you like.  We heard Zydeco coming out of the Krazy Korner and grabbed a couple of seats.  The lead guitarist and lead washboarder were wearing white shrimp boat boots and were incredible!  This was Danny T and the Blue Crawfish!  However, the star of the show was the washboarder, Latasha.  She was incredible!  Who would have thought a washboard could add so much to the music!

Next up was The Beach!  Yet another great band, The Wild Wild Band, was playing.  Reminded us of Smash Band from STL.  The Beach has a great dance floor and we'd highly recommend it!

Afterwards, it was time for more oysters....a perfect way to end our first day in New Orleans!

We started our next morning with another New Orleans tradition, at least it's a tradition for tourists.  We bought beignets and coffee and headed to the Mississippi Levee to dine and watch all the boats.  Nice and sunny up there!

With our beignet sugar high we were ready to tackle our first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. Wandering through the French Quarter we ran into members of the parade getting assembled and starting their parties.  No wonder the paraders are all so happy...they get started at nine AM!  But, no judging here, this is New Orleans!

We wandered for a bit, window shopping and taking in the sights...all the Mardi Gras decorations and all the Mardi Gras revelers.  Finally, we wandered back to Bourbon Street stopping here and there to listen to live music, until finally settling back in at Krazy Korner for more Danny T and Latasha on the washboard.  It was nearly parade time and the crowds got bigger and crazier as parade time approached.

At last, it was here...our first New Orleans Mardi Gras parade.  This was nothing like the St. Louis Mardi Gras floats here.  This parade had about a thousand costumed people walking, laughing, singing, playing instruments and throwing beads.  It was a riot!  This parade was by Krewe of Kork so the theme was wine...and there was plenty of wine flowing!  What a great way to have a parade!!!
All kinds of people like Mardi Gras!

Mona has required at least 4 meals a day during this trip...what else is new?!?!?  That fits perfect with New Orleans because there is so much great food! Oysters about any way want them, gumbo, shrimp in every form .....on and on and on!  Much of that we've tried before, but after the parade we discovered Boo Fries...a plate of French fries, topped with grated cheese and then smothered in rich brown gravy.  O.M.G!  This recipe is coming home with us!!!

Finally, it was time to board our ship, the Carnival Elation.  The port parking lot in New Orleans is adjacent to the dock.  You literally get off the garage elevator and walk into the boarding facility.  Very easy!

This cruise is a five night cruise with two full days at sea, one day in Cozumel and another day in Progreso, Mexico.  We spent our time doing what everyone does on a cruise: eating, dancing, going to shows, eating, playing games, eating, ....and then doing it all over again.  There were people from 56 nations on this ship and it was fun meeting many of them. We talked to people from Siberia, the Philippines, Ukraine, Croatia, and England...just to name a few.  Of course, we also met lots of new friends from here in the US.

In Cozumel we did a little geocaching and walked around San Miguel, soaking up the sun.  We ended up at Wet Wendy's and had another great meal there.  In Progreso we found our way to the local beach.  It's lined with restaurants and clubs which all have thatch-covered huts on the beach.  We choose Tommy's and claimed a couple of chairs under a hut.  We spent the entire day there...enjoying the sunshine, talking to vendors and walking the beach.  It was Mona's birthday and our waiter helped Mona celebrate by continually bringing her free shots of tequila.  We had a blast!
Thatched huts in Progreso

All too soon we were back at the dock in New Orleans.  We had no definite plans and ended up driving to Baton Rouge and then down to the coast of Louisiana. We saw only one alligator, roadkill, but saw lots of other animals including a couple of dolphins.  We wound up in Port Arthur, Texas, and spent the night there.

Next up was Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We wanted to see the National Park and then go to the horse track. However, the forecast of up to one inch of ice and extended power outages changed our plans and we hit the road to home.

It was a great trip...we got to meet lots of new people and the warm weather was wonderful!  We even heard people complaining about the February!  That definitely was not the case with us...we loved every degree of every day!

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