We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.
We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.
We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.
We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.
Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.
The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside
We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.
The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.
3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.
We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm
HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm
All Major Credit Cards Accepted
I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.
AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.
Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.
I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.
And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.
I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.
I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.
We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.
We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂
Life isn’t fair. Ferry lines are just one of those things. First there are not necessarily first boarded or first unloaded, or first through the lengthy customs lines coming back into the United States. We have a saying “Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” This ferry ride was our turn. It wasn’t bad, it’s just after all the thrills of this vacation, this was an unwelcome hit of reality. We had a special vacation, but that doesn’t mean we are special, LOL.
The weather has changed. It is heavy overcast. We don’t see any whales, not a single sea otter. It is a great morning for catching up on our reading.
We arrive in Anacortes and the customs line crawls.
We need to stop at the Marina motel and pick up the skirt and shirt and scarf I left hanging in the closet which they have bagged and tagged “customer will pick up”. I had packed lightly, and it didn’t take me long to figure out where I left my clothes; we had been in a hurry to be on time for the ferry to Sidney. But this is a great stop, next door is Bob’s Chowder House and Salmon BBQ and we are starving.
Bob’s Salmon Chowder is out of this world. SO good.
Bob’s BBQ Salmon burger is also fabulous. AdventureMan ate every bite and said the salmon was perfect. It had a lemon sauce that was a surprise and a delight.
My halibut tacos were the special dish of the day. My bad; I like lettuce in my tacos, not cabbage. I only ate the halibut, but I had also had the chowder, so I was OK. Oh, yes, they also have great big home baked chocolate chip cookies, maybe that is also why I was filled up 🙂 but I split it with AdventureMan.
AdventureMan spotted this sign, and took this photo. Whoda thunk that we would find a sign to Pensacola in the parking lot?
This is the rest of the vacation. Really the “vacation” part is over, and this is all business. Driving through Seattle on I-5, thank God it’s Sunday, no big trucks but heavy traffic. It’s always heavy, unless maybe it’s 0430. Checking in to our hotel where there are a huge bunch of people about to debark on a cruise. Dropping our bags and heading to the Car Rental place to return our car. Taking the shuttle to the airport, calling the hotel shuttle to come pick us up. Back at the hotel, packing our bags in a hurry so we will be able to watch Game of Thrones. Actually, to our surprise, a good night’s sleep. Up way too early to catch the shuttle to the airport, a surprisingly easy time through security, and the long flight to Atlanta and the shorter flight to Pensacola. The taxi home. Sigh. The unpacking. The laundry. Every day demands. . . .
But God is good. My first night back a good friend greeted me and said “are you depressed?” I was so taken by surprise that I said “Yes!” and she said she always is too, coming home after a great vacation. It just felt good, my guilt at feeling depressed was taken away.
Our grandson has a cold and has been with us the last two days, to our total delight. His mother and sister came by last night to visit and to celebrate another stoke of good fortune which has struck our family. God is good. Thanks be to God.
We try to limit what we attempt, when we travel. If we try to do too much, we sometimes fail, or we get so busy trying to accomplish that we don’t really get to enjoy what we are doing. Or worse, we get cross with each other, crabby! On our vacation! So we make choices, AdventureMan wanted the Victoria Butterfly Gardens; I wanted GOOD Chinese food.
Our son knows us. When we decided to settle in Pensacola, to be near him and the coming grandchild/ grandchildren, he sat us down and told us things we needed to know about Pensacola. The first thing he told us was that there was no really GOOD Chinese food. Honestly, for me . . . well, I don’t want to say I thought twice, but no good Chinese food? Chinese food is my comfort food!
We asked the concierge at the Grand Pacific for a recommendation for GOOD Chinese food, and she, with great delight, directed us to the Fan Tan Cafe in China Town, just a short walk down Government Street. It was an easy walk, past the grand historic Empress Hotel (we didn’t stay there because the views, in my opinion, are not as good), and down one of the most fun shopping streets in the world to China Town.
We know we are getting close 🙂
The entrance to China Town on Fisgard Street
Fan Tan Cafe – it’s small, and crowded. You are bottom to bottom with the chair behind you and you are almost sitting next to the next table. It’s fun. You get to see what everyone else is eating. We were hungry, we were early and that was a good thing because we got a table. There are maybe 16 – 18 tables at the Fan Tan Cafe, and some of those are for two people. They do take reservations.
This was the absolute best. AdventureMan chose the Spicy Shrimp appetizer, and it was delicious, top to bottom. Even the bedding vegetables were delicious. This was the highlight of the meal.
We didn’t intend to order deep-fried pork. It was good, very General Tso kind of taste.
The scallops and shrimp in black bean sauce was too delicate for us. We decided everything about it was beautiful, and the problem is probably more our palate, which likes more intensity.
All in all, it was a very tasty meal. If we were to go back, which we will the next time we are in Victoria, I would try the Cantonese Chow Mein, or one of the noodle dishes for which they are famous. We saw them all around us, glistening and gorgeous, and they looked divine. Cannot wait to go back 🙂
I still miss the Taiwan Tourismo, in Jordan, where we had authentic, amazingly tasty Chinese food and never even knew how extraordinary it was. I miss the China Queen, later the Great Wall of China, in Mahboula, Kuwait, a little hole in the wall where the Chinese workers ate and I could point and say “I want that, please!” Real Chinese is different from North American Restaurant Chinese.
I will admit it, I was a little depressed leaving Ucluelet. If you are a frequent reader, you will know I am a believer, and sometimes my heart is just so full of gratitude to our enormously generous and open handed God that I can’t even think of the words to adequately give thanks. I take comfort in knowing he knows my heart. Ucluelet and Tofino were everything we hoped they would be. I could imagine myself living there happily. And leaving . . . it was painful.
We had a nice drive to Victoria, stopping in Chemanus for lunch at a small cafe which surprised us and knocked our socks off. It looked like something from the forties. Owls were everywhere. Most of the menu was breakfast offerings, nice, but breakfast. We ordered the spinach salad and the Scallop and Crab Cakes – have you ever heard of Scallop and Crab Cakes? We hadn’t either.
We split both the salad and the Scallop and Crab Cakes. They were both taste treats!
The Scallop and Crab Cakes were made the way my good friend who is Chinese makes Crab cakes – good, tasty ingredients and no distracting filler. These cakes were meaty, full of whole small scallops, crab meat, some green onion, pimento and some minimal binder. They were truly extraordinary. They were accompanied by an apple slaw, tart and tasty. It was a great combination.
We made a stop at the Butterfly Gardens near Buchart Gardens so AdventureMan could take some photos of rare butterflies, or at least butterflies we don’t get to see in Florida. They had some awesome specimens.
Then on, on, into Victoria. Highway 17 empties right into downtown Victoria, and ends almost right at the Grand Pacific Hotel, where we are staying. While we were checking in, the concierge told us it would be another 10 minutes, but that we had been upgraded. I hoped it was an OK room; I had chosen our room on the basis of a view of Victoria Harbor. With trepidation, we headed for our room.
This is the Grand Pacific from Victoria Harbor
Our office/sitting room
Our view of Victoria Harbor (and Empress Hotel)
Night time view. Sigh. Isn’t it lovely?
Sunset peeking through the overhanging clouds.
I think He Tin Kis is Native American for short hike, uphill both ways. We did it early in the morning, before all the people and their dogs, before the early morning walkers, before those obnoxious people who can RUN the trail, well, not enough before, they were there at the end. I thought I was staying in pretty good shape, but these young runners who can maintain a steady pace running up the hills make me feel very humbly unathletic.
It is a beautiful hike, and while yes, much of it is uphill to the lighthouse, you can do it. It isn’t that hard. There are beautiful stops all along the way to appreciate how gorgeous this place is.
You can see how well made this trail is, wide, smooth, beautifully maintained.
We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.
I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂
In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.
The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.
And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂
Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.
Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)
He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.
Seeing an eagle; good luck!
It took me months to narrow down where we would stay on Vancouver Island’s west side. There are all kinds of accommodations, high end with a spa and well known restaurant, camping, and everything in between.
What matters to us? We like having enough space, and we really like natural wood finishes. Most of all, for me, I want a view of the water.
I booked the Terrace Beach Resort not knowing if it was as good as it promised. When we arrived, it didn’t look like much from the road, it looks like an old fashioned fishing village. We signed in, and were taken to our cabin, #9 Sea Star. It has three stories, bedrooms on the top floor and the bottom floor, and living room and kitchen and main bathroom on the entry level. Oh, and a huge deck with a hot tup and grill. And leather furniture. And oh wow. The view. It is also next to a hiking trail we wanted to hike.
Here is the view 🙂
Living room area
Upstairs hot tub with that view 🙂
Attention to detail – candles for those unexpected power outages
And 🙂 the sunset!
They have a wide variety of cabin types, each one different. There is a beach, perfect for sending the kids down; you can watch them from the balcony. There is a modern TV, and a modern kind of fake fireplace, there are books and CDs you can rent. Or you can hike the Lighthouse Trail 🙂
I think I may have mentioned that occasionally I am a little OCD. In our family, I am the trip planner. I get an idea, I run things by AdventureMan, he gets a veto even if I make a strong recommendation. He also does research, and asks to have things added in. That’s how we ended up doing two separate trips to Alaska; we realized with all our good idea, we couldn’t do them all in one trip.
This time, our trip was centered on two things, Mother’s Day in Seattle and three days at Ucluelet, during which we would whale watch and bear watch. We booked our reservations, months in advance. The night we left Qualicum Beach, we got a nice e-mail from our guide, with devastating news – he had a severe injury and would not be able to take us on either tour.
AdventureMan and I looked at each other in horror. “What are you going to do??” AdventureMan asked, and we are in a bad position because our phones don’t work reliably. “He recommended another agency,” I said, “I will e-mail them now and see if we can get on with them.” It’s still early in the season. There is hope. I e-mail them telling them what we wanted, and that we are flexible as to which one we do first, and as to morning or afternoon.
Before we left to drive across the mountains, I checked my e-mail. No response. The drive was quicker that I thought, and we arrived too early to check in, so we decided to drive to Tofino, about 30 minutes away, and see if anything is possible.
I took some mountain photos for you on our drive from Qualicum Beach to Tofino.
We go straight to Meare’s Landing, where Remote Passages organizes and sends out expeditions to see whale, to see bear, to kayak, to see remote hot springs.
We are in luck! They have already tentatively booked us on our desired trips, we just need to pay and be read in on the safety instructions. We ask them their favorite places to eat, and they say “Sea Shanty in Tofino.” Then we ask if they have been to Ucluelet, and their eyes go all big and shiny and they say “Go to Zoe’s! We love Zoe’s!”
So we walked to the Sea Shanty, where an amazing waitress, Brianna, took care of us. You may think that I exaggerate when I say she is amazing, but Brianna was really good at making customers happy AND she boats to work from the island where she lives. We were so impressed, because while we have had wonderful weather, we know wonderful is not how weather always is, and in a boat you are exposed to weather, and to weather related sea changes. She didn’t seem in the least bit proud, she just took her bravery as something normal. Wow.
This is the view of the Sea Shanty from the sea.
This is an interior wall at the Sea Shanty.
This is the fabulous Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse Brianna brought us, divided into two bowls. It had Alaska crab, local clams and mussels, local salmon and fish. It was lacedd with saffron threads, the way a truly good Bouillabaisse should be. It was purely awesome, and accompanied by a Shanty salad, also huge, also divided for two. Even divided, we waddled out of the Sea Shanty, convinced it is one of the best meals we have had on our trip.
We did save a little room, though, for Zoe’s, a bakery in Ucluelet. We had INTENDED to buy croissants for breakfast the next morning, but there were none. We ended up buying cookies and pie. The next day we ended up buying more cookies and more pie. The third day, we went in early for breakfast before a hike. Zoe’s has magic. The crusts are really light and flaky. The berry pie was full of berries; I don’t know what they were held together with, but the pie was almost entirely berries. The gingerbread cookie was chewy, and gingery. AdventureMan’s chocolate-caramel-something else bar (twice) was so rich that you had to nibble at it through the evening, it was too rich to eat all at once. Oh my. Go to Zoe’s.