Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Shed, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

It’s nearly three in the afternoon when we reach exit 57 into Gautier, Mississippi, but the odor of fresh-cooked beignets is driving us crazy, and making us hungry, so we stop at The Shed. The website says The Shed is in Ocean Springs, but I always think of it as Gautier because it is just off I-10, that major drug running and human trafficking route running across our southernmost United States.

We’ve stopped before at The Shed, with the grandchildren, but it was always so crowded and backed up that we found someplace else. This time, we are in luck.

As we order, we see on the menu that Seniors can order kids meals. We are not big hungry, and we know we have a dinner party in just a few hours, so we order kids portions. Good thing.

The ceiling inside The Shed:

The interior, and where I believe live music often plays:

My “child’s portion” of ribs:

AdventureMan’s “child portion” pulled pork sandwich:

So delighted we could get these “smaller portions.” I hate to imagine what an adult portion would look like!

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June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

World War II Museum Re-Visit

Ah! What a difference a day makes! We do not have the museum all to ourselves, but we have room to breathe. The lines are short, there is no huge din of voices in the cavernous spaces. We are so glad to be here!

There is something very special about this museum, something we are finding in our visits around the United States, and that is the vision of the volunteers. There is something so lovely and so meaningful about how these generous souls are leaving the workplace, and then working, free, because they believe in something. The World War II Museum couldn’t function without it’s cadre of volunteers, and these volunteers are treasure troves of first hand knowledge about the displays and equipment. Bravo! Brava! to all the Valiant Volunteers at the World War II Museum!

See all those people? This is nothing compared to the day before!

 

We hurried to the Nazi Propaganda display. It was terrifying. A “Strong Man” takes over using simple, strong phrases, telling the voters that only he can solve the problems, and blaming foreigners and “the other” for the nation’s problems. He wins, and chaos ensues.

Oh? Pardon me, my politics are showing.

 

 

 

 

AdventureMan has a ball. I poke around, but WWII is not my era, and I have some reading I really want to get done. I find a bench in the ship displays, and have a quiet couple of hours to read while AdventureMan pursues his bliss. Hey, it works for us.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Generational, New Orleans, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Two Chicks Restaurant, New Orleans

Google “best breakfast in New Orleans” and you will come up with some delightful possibilities, one of which is Two Chicks.

First, Two Chicks is not as easy to find as you would think. The address is 901 Convention Center Boulevard, but as it turns out, there is a sort of square OFF the boulevard, with other shops and restaurants around a kind of square, and, close to the Mexican consulate, is a small mall, in which is 2 Chicks.

Life is irrational. I love this place. I had a Cafe breakfast, like eggs and sausage, with fruit, and I didn’t eat a croissant; I wish I had.  The food was delicious, fresh and well put together. From the minute I walked in I had an immediate emotional response:  Edith Piaf was belting out “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the waitress, who knew all the words, was singing right along with her as she folded cutlery into napkins. I was beside myself with quiet joy.

The wall paper is French. The music is French, and from all eras. The coffee is really good. The food is French in that it is lovingly and thoughtfully prepared. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss France?

You have to have a key to use the restroom in the little mall, but what a surprise the ladies room is – 15 foot ceiling with marble walls, and gorgeous tiles. Who puts this kind of attention and lovely finishes in a restroom? The whole experience was irrational and lovely.

Service was attentive and efficient and we have eaten well and are out the door just in time to find a parking place at the Museum and be among the first inside.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hot drinks, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Oceana Grill, New Orleans

In our casual conversations with people who work in New Orleans, we always ask them where they eat. Sometimes we specify in the French Quarter but because we always have a car with us, we aren’t limited. One of the places most frequently recommended is the Oceana Grill.

“It’s not fancy,” one waitress told us when we asked her she she liked to eat, “but the food is reliably good and everyone I know goes there.”

That’s what we want to hear.

Our concierge recommended Deannie’s, a seafood grill just a block away, and since it is raining, we give it a try. There are like fifty people waiting, and a 45 minute wait. We walk another block to the Oceana – still a wait, but only 10 minutes, and we like the atmosphere.

We are quickly shown to a table near the grill. This was an exciting place to sit. We figured out that there is another kitchen somewhere, as food would appear from another direction, but here was where the action was happening, billows of steam flying up into a huge exhaust fan as the fillets hit the grill.

 

 

I decided to go for the New Orleans special, focusing on shrimp etoufee, beans and rice, jambalaya with andouille sausage. It was good. We have a lot of the same in Pensacola.

AdventureMan choose a Po’Boy Oyster sandwich. He said it was fine.

We couldn’t resist a creme brûlée. It was the highlight of our meal 🙂

Just as we left, it rained heavily, it poured rain, and the streets flooded, and even just two blocks back to the hotel took forever – and we didn’t mind a bit. Our clothes were soaked, our shoes were soaked, and we had a wonderful time.

We slept the sleep of The Saints. We woke up late the next morning . . . well, late for us, maybe 7:30 instead of o-dark-hundred when the cats think it’s time for me to get up and feed them. What luxury! Check out was quick and easy, and off we went to grab breakfast and be early to the World War II Museum.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, New Orleans, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

The Saint Hotel, New Orleans

What you see is the trips we take.

What you don’t see is the planning and the occasional agony of trying to find just the right place to stay, which restaurant to try. We live in an age of information, sometimes too much information, sometimes false information. You can read reviews, and you have to filter through what they like to glean nuggets pertaining to what you like.

I was looking for a hotel in New Orleans. There are a lot of hotels in New Orleans. We stay frequently at the Westin, at the foot of Canal, for one reason. It is perfect with the grandchildren – the room is spacious, there is parking close by, the kids LOVE the elevator on the outside of the hotel, we can walk to restaurants in the French Quarter, it is close to Magazine street, and a short drive to the Zoo, and it is right next to the Aquarium. (It is also right next to the Algiers Point Ferry I just told you about.)

We have another hotel, the French Market Inn, which we love, but it is noisy, and the rooms we love are actually the noisiest. Others are dark, and smaller.

I found a special offer on a new hotel in the Marriott chain, which is a chain I love because of their customer service training. It looked . . . intriguing. Not like any place we have stayed before. So I booked at The Saint. I liked the location; I liked the novelty.

 

And, as it turned out, I totally loved the hotel.

The entry to the hotel is at least two floors high, with long flowing panels breaking up the space. The lines are clean, the colors soothing – and bold.

For some reason, I think of the room as cobalt blue, when in reality, as I see the photo, the walls were white, with just a small portion of cobalt, and the rug was cobalt. There where long flowing white sheers, and the combination of the cobalt and the white was serene.

The receptionist was welcoming, and efficient, and gave us a couple good ideas for dinner. Meanwhile, it had started raining, and we loved the room so much we took a nap. Even overlooking Canal Street, the room was quiet and . . . serene. The bed was lovely, the bathroom was spacious and sparkling clean with a clear bowl sink – we just loved the room.

 

This was the door to our room – every door was different:

The hallway had blue lights.

It was pouring rain when we went out to eat, and it didn’t matter. We were near so many good restaurants, and we had this lovely room to come back to.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Customer Service, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Creole Creamery: Re-Visit

One time we were in New Orleans with a friend and we had really wanted to eat Ethiopian food; there are two Ethiopian restaurants on Magazine Street, we have had great meals at each of them, and we were eager for some great food. They were both closed.

We looked for something else, and it was closed, too, but found a really good Thai restaurant nearby, on Prytania. The food was marvelous, and as we walked back to the car, we passed an ice-cream place. Well, no, not exactly, we didn’t pass it. We stopped for ice cream.

The ice-cream was a revelation. It is the best ice-cream I have ever eaten. I had a blueberry ice cream that I remember to this day. There were so many delicious flavors I wanted to try!

That was in February, a cold month to be eating ice-cream. Now it is almost June, 93 degrees F. and a perfect day for ice cream. We go back to Creole Creamery and this time, I find a perfect choice – a four mini-ball sampler. I had Myers Lemon Sorbet, Key Lime sorbet, a Mexican chocolate (had cinnamon in it) and some other chocolate, which was rich but not so memorable as the previous three. The balls were maybe a quarter cup each, so I didn’t even have to feel bad; they were so tiny, and so packed with flavor.

The Creole Creamery was packed. It’s been well discovered. Or maybe it just attracts more people on a hot humid day in late May than a cold day in February. Can’t wait for our next visit 🙂

Here’s what I love. You can spend a lot of money, and end up with food and wine someone else has chosen and isn’t something you care about. And then every now and then, you can find a place like the Creole Creamery that does one thing, and does it really, really well. It’s like finding a treasure, when you find a place like this.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts | , | Leave a comment

The Algiers Point Ferry

I have a friend that is in and out of New Orleans frequently, and knows we also go. He said we really needed to take the ferry at the end of canal street. ‘It’s a short ride,” he said, “and you can see New Orleans from the water and it’s free.”

Well friend, it is not free. It now costs $2. unless you are over 60, and then it is $1. each way. You must get off the ferry. You must have the exact amount you will need, each way, because if you give the money-taker a $5 bill, you don’t get any change back.

The ferry is small, but it takes a large number of people over to Point Algiers. We had lots of shoppers with their bags from the Riverfront Outlet Malls, and lots of people with bikes. Maybe a few others were like us, just curious, but we had the impression that most of the people were local.

The ride takes like two minutes. You think I am exaggerating, but I am not. You wait longer in line and you wait longer to get off than the ride takes. The terminals are filthy. Oh well. None of that matters, it’s New Orleans. And it is a great, if brief, getaway.

It is really fun seeing New Orleans from the river, and there is a wonderful breeze, important on these summer days when New Orleans both sizzles and drips with humidity. We stood in the bow of the ferry and just relished the breeze. We also discovered that while the upper level of the ferry is open, the lower area has some air-conditioning. There is no bathroom, not on the ferry, not in the New Orleans terminal, not in the Point Algiers terminal. No bathroom, none.

 

At the Point Algiers side, you must get off. You can go look around, which we did, and then we ended up going back on the very same ferry. Here is a large statue of Louis Armstrong on the Algiers side.

Did you ever watch Treme, the HBO series on the survival of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the corruption, the collapse of the police force, the invasion of the developers pushing out the poor of New Orleans? John Goodman, who was YouTubing journalistic broadcasts as a Tulane professor/New Orleans resident commits suicide by jumping off a ferry, and I imagine it must have been this one.

 

You can see the water level is high; these trees are drowning!

 

What is also not free is the parking, which is really expensive. We paid almost as much for parking for one day as we spent on our hotel room. When we got back from our ferry trip, the car temperature gauge told us how hot we were. Hot and humid!

Time to hit the Creole Creamery.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Entertainment, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | 3 Comments

World War II Museum: Big Mistake

From a truly lovely lunch, we headed to the World War II Museum. Big hint – you can buy your admission ahead of time at the National World War II Museum Website and save yourself a lot of time and energy. AdventureMan did so, and did a really smart thing, he bought two day tickets. Once we had parked, we went straight to the will-call counter for our tickets and wrist-bands and day-pins, piece of cake.

But here is the Big Mistake. It never occurred to us (DUH!) that the number one attraction in New Orleans, the World War II Museum, would be mobbed, packed, full of people, on Memorial Day. As soon as we were in the door, we looked at each other in horror. What were we thinking?? No, worse, what was I thinking? I am the one who chose the dates for the trip and did the hotel bookings. What was I thinking???

Crowds were everywhere. We started with the Nazi Propaganda exhibit, and we were shuffling through with hoards of people. It was hot, it was stuffy and it was very crowded. I quit. I couldn’t see what I wanted to see. I had my New Yorker magazine and I told AdventureMan where he could find me, and I went off on my own.

 

 

As I read my magazine, a group of women in full WWII era dress and make-up sang some 1940’s era songs. They really sounded and looked authentic.

 

 

I had thought the ice-ream shop might be a refuge, but no, it was also packed.

Did I mention how SMART AdventureMan is? It wasn’t an hour later he found me and said “Let’s go. We can come back tomorrow.” Even he, big WWII buff that he is, was daunted by the mass of humanity visiting this fabulous museum.

“Yes!” I agreed. “Let’s go take the ferry!”

And we did.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

Herbsaint

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment