Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The French Market Restaurant, New Orleans

Have you ever eaten Ethiopian food? That injera is so delicious, but hours later, it has swollen in your tummy, and even after a long long walk, and several hours, even though it is dinner time, you are still not very hungry.

We didn’t want to go to a restaurant with courses and sauces. We weren’t that hungry. We had passed the French Market Restaurant as we strolled through the old French Market, and we liked that they had a good selection of boiled, steamed and healthy foods on their menu. It was just a few blocks from our hotel, an easy walk, so we decided to go there for dinner – or anyplace else that struck our fancy, but this was our destination if we didn’t find any place else.

We passed a lot of restaurants with lines, but not the foods we wanted.

When we got to the French Market Restaurant, we were so glad we had waited. The greeting was warm, the wait staff looked happy and like they knew what they were all about, and we had a nice table. The place was about half full when we got there, and within the next fifteen minutes, was packed. The tables are close together, so you get to see what everyone is eating, and hear about everyone’s lives, but it’s just that kind of place; cozy, comfortable, and the food is divine.

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I stuck with my plan – I ordered the shrimp and crab salad. It was perfect. AdventureMan ordered the oyster poor boy, of which he could only eat about half, and just the oysters. Oysters are rich! Battered oysters are richer! We started with the onion rings, which were fabulous, real onions dipped in a peppery batter, big pieces of pepper. This was unusual, the batter was light and tasty, and the dipping sauce piquant.

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We split a dessert. Hey, it’s New Orleans. I’m not a big sweet eater, but we ordered a piece of the Bourbon Pecan Pie which arrived cut in half with about a cup of whipped cream. It was SOO good. They were kind, my piece was the smaller “half” but still, if it weren’t so good, I wouldn’t have eaten my whole half. It’s all their fault, making such a delicious pie. AdventureMan is intrigued, and thinks he will try incorporating bourbon into his famous pecan pies now, too. (Wooooo Hooooooooo!)

 

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January 3, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The French Market Inn, French Quarter, New Orleans

I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a room that could be anywhere, Seattle, Pensacola, Missoula, El Paso. I wanted it to feel like New Orleans, and I wanted tall ceilings and I didn’t want it to cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I looked and looked, and then I found it, The French Market Inn, on Decatur, in the middle of everything.

Some reviews said it could be a little noisy, but hey, it’s after Christmas, low season, not yet Mardi Gras. There was a great online special. We took a chance.

Immediately, there is one negative; there is no parking. You can pay extra for valet parking, which we did. There may be some places where you don’t pay extra to park in New Orleans, but I don’t know them.

We loved it the minute we walked in. We had talked with the receptionist earlier, and she remembered us. Check in was a breeze. We had to walk through a winding courtyard to get to our room, then up an elevator, but oh WOW.

I kept telling AdventureMan “I love this room! I love this room!” It is not often a room exceeds my expectations, but this room delighted my heart:

 

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Up those two stairs and out the door, we have this huge terrace which we share with the room next door. We each have our own table and chairs, and a view of the river and Decatur street in each direction. We also look directly over some kind of party central, where the New Year’s Eve Parade will pass, and the big pre-Sugar Bowl party will be held. They are setting up now; bands are practicing, it is ear-splitting, but we are assured all the noise will stop at eight p.m.

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As dusk fall, the Steamboat Natchez gives us a calliope concert. We sit out on our deck and listen, and watch the crews for the bands setting up and playing with the sound and light displays:

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Promptly at eight, the bands all stop. Our room is quiet . . .most of the time. About once an hour, a very very loud car comes by with its booming bass beat and some wanna-be rapper going on down the road. A couple times during the night, emergency vehicles come by. At 3:30 I see odd lights on our wall, and as I peer out the curtains, I see the crews still at work on the stage lights, and they are pulsing colors and bright lights. We have great black out curtains, I close them tightly and snooze away 🙂

The room is gorgeous. The hotel has a fabulous location, close to everywhere. It wasn’t very noisy, but next time, same hotel, and a courtyard room. We had a lot of fun with our balcony, but once was enough and next time we will opt for one of the interior rooms, hoping it is a little more quiet.

 

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January 2, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Music, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Nile: Ethiopian Food in New Orleans

It’s just not fair. There are NO Ethiopian restaurants in Pensacola, but there are two, on the same street, Magazine,  in New Orleans, and not far from one another. We ate at one in late October, when we were in New Orleans for the day getting a new passport, Cafe Abyssinia. We would have gone back, but they were closed for the holidays, and we decided to try the Nile, just up the street.

Oh. We are so glad we did!

 

From the outside:

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The menu; short, sweet, everything you need.

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The interior is light and bright, even on a cloudy day. I loved the high ceilings and the spacious feeling.

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But best of all is the food. We ordered the vegetarian assortment (on the left) and the Doro Wat, a mildly spicy chicken dish, sometimes called the National Dish. I first heard about Doro Wat in Vargese’s Cutting for Stone, and have been ordering it whenever I could. This time, it was just spicy enough (we like spicy). I like the sauce so much, I don’t even care about the chicken, or the hard boiled egg. Just the sauce is so delicious. It is messy, you eat it with the spongy bread, injera, and even if you are very delicate, you usually have a mess. I use a lot of napkins, and even when you wash your hands, hours later you will still smell the spices on your hand (in a good way).

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There is a whole basket of the rolled injera in the upper left corner, as well as more underneath the vegetarian selections and the Doro Wat.

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Christmas Getaway to New Orleans

A long time ago, AdventureMan was talking with my father, and my father told him that they were no longer in the acquisition stage of their marriage, that he and my mother really had everything they needed and didn’t buy much, other than food and replacing something when it needed replacing like a car. Since we were deeply into our acquisition phase, this was a stunning revelation to us.

We totally understand now what he was getting at. When you are young, and setting up a household, and when children come along, it’s like you are always needing something . . . it can be as basic as pots and pans or as specialized as a car seat. It’s all about trying to set priorities, with great needs, a whole list of wants, and a need to set priorities because resources are limited.

And it is one of life’s ironies, it seems to me, that when you begin to have the money to buy what you need, you need so much less, LOL. We learned a lot living in the Middle East, and from our Mormon friends, and from families we got to know – we learned the joy of giving to your children while they need it and can enjoy it.

Meanwhile, Christmas has been perplexing. Neither of us really needs anything. When we need – or want – something, we tend to pick it out and get it, so there is no great need at Christmas for big gifts. We have a lot of fun with stocking stuffers, but we’ve learned to tell each other very exactly what we like, so we get what we like.

AdventureMan asked what I might like for Christmas, and I told him my beautiful pots and pans from Damascus have lost their tinning, and I can’t use them until we have them re-tinned, and I can’t find anyplace to have them retinned. “Leave it to me!” he pronounced! I will find how we can get this done.

He found some places in Colorado, in Pittsburgh, other places, and I said “isn’t there anyplace nearer? What about New Orleans?” so he checked New Orleans, and sure enough, there is a wonderful metal finishing shop. He talked to the owner and made a date we could bring in our pots. Meanwhile, I visited the website and discovered they could also fix broken metal things. I have another beautiful pot that the handle had broken off in the last move, so I asked if that could also be included in our Christmas present to ourselves 🙂

Early in the morning, shortly after Christmas, we loaded up the car for the drive to New Orleans, arriving at Zito’s exactly at ten.

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Zito’s is in Mid-Town, a part of New Orleans we have never explored. It isn’t hard, it was just out of our comfort zone. Inside Zito’s is a big friendly rescue dog and some fine craftsmen metal workers. We know our pots are in good hands. I loved the way he handled the pots, and we loved looking at some of his recent repairs and polishings. You can see some of the work they have done, including for church vessels, by clicking here:

Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works

4421 Banks Street

New Orleans, Louisiana 70119

Opening Hours:

MONDAY – THURSDAY:

6:00 AM – 6:00 PM

​FRIDAY:

6:00 AM – NOON​

Across the street is the Wakin’ Bakin’ Cafe, and down the street is one of New Orleans cemeteries with little houses above ground, above the water level:

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We are in luck. I don’t know if you’ve been following the weather down here, but we are as rainy as the Pacific Northwest. We normally have winter; Christmas was 79 degrees. Today is cool, and while the skies are not cloudless, the sun is breaking through, and even better, no rain. We are having a wonderful day.

 

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Christmas, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Money Management, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Vic’s Touchdown Cafe Near RaceTrack, LA

We’re headed home again, but the day has dawned shrouded in a thick Halloween-y fog drifting up off the bayous and covering the low lying roads. We get on a fast road, and decide to have breakfast, hoping the fog will break.

We exit almost as soon as we got on the road, headed South on a road heading toward the Gulf, looking for something that is not fast food. And there it is, on the left, we just passed it, so we circle back for breakfast at Vic’s, Breakfast Lunch Dinner.

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As it turns out, I believe the real name is Vic’s Touchdown Cafe. The interior is full of sports trophies, banners, team memorabilia, and stuffed deer heads. There are other customers, eating breakfast, chatting with a man whom I believe is probably Vic. We ordered breakfast off the plastic menu table mats, and settled back to listen and learn.

People in Louisiana are hospitable, and kind. They asked us questions, shared some local lore and when I asked Vic if he had any milk, he opened a little bottle of milk just for me and put it on the table so I could have milk in my coffee. I was impressed, but I get the impression he thought it was just good manners. My kind of place.

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I didn’t take photos of the food; it might have spoiled the mood. It was traditional breakfast; eggs, bacon, biscuit and AdventureMan had hash browns. It was all good, even the coffee, and even better because it was not fast good. This was a great stop.

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By the time we had finished, the fog had lifted and we had clear sailing all the way back to Pensacola 🙂

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Character, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Swamp Tour With Annie Miller’s Son

Annie Miller was a woman ahead of her time, out trapping, hunting and doing whatever she needed to do to keep her children fed and clothed and going to school. When oil went bottoms up, the town of Houma approached Annie Miller and asked her to start up some tours of the swamp, to attract business to the area. She did, and was so knowledgeable that people came from everywhere to take her tours.

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Now her son does the tours, and we liked his approach. We call it “Under promise and over deliver” which we think is a great slogan for contractors everywhere. At one time AdventureMan worked for a giant company whose contracts were called “The Gold Standard.” His company cost a little more, but they delivered on every promise and were good at figuring out problems that cropped up mid-contract and working with the government to support the mission.

As this tour departed from the gathering spot at Bayou Delights restaurant, the guide told us that with the colder weather, he couldn’t guarantee that we would see any alligators at all, but that there were other things he would show us. I love that approach. It prevents excessive expectations.

As it turned out, we saw all kinds of wonderful things, both inside and outside of the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge.

This is a revolving bridge over the Bayou Black. You can see the round base on which it can swing sideways to allow really tall boats up the Bayou. The guide saws he has never seen it work in his lifetime.

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Almost immediately, we spy an alligator sunning on the side of the bayou.
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Entering Mandalay Wildlife Refuge:

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Shooting digital is a crap-shoot. You have that tiny delay, but a tiny delay makes shooting wildlife less predictable. I didn’t even know I had this shot until I uploaded my photos to my computer. It was absolutely glorious to see.
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I have never seen anyone call an alligator before. “C’mon Ruby! C’mon b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-by! C’mon Ruby!” And Ruby came!

So did Little Latin Loopy Lou! She jumps for the pieces of chicken that he puts on the end of the stick:
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This is more exciting to me than alligators. These birds are gorgeous.

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These two eagles would swoop at the same time for chicken skins; unfortunately, against the dark bayou, you couldn’t see them as they swooped, but I loved catching two of them together as they chowed down on their meal.

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Back at the lovely Marriott Courtyard in Houma, I love having a balcony, especially in this weather. Gorgeous sunset, gorgeous weather.
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November 1, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Character, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 1 Comment

From Lake Charles to Houma, Louisiana And Bon Creole

Another wonderful day to travel Southern Louisiana and the lowlands. We stop at one of our favorite places, Saint Martin’s Lake.

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Near the factory burning cane, I see an old abandoned house. There are a lot of old abandoned houses on the backroads of Louisiana; rich pickings for series like HBO’s True Detectives.

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The air was so clear you could see every atom of smoke as this factory burned off chaff grinding cane into cane sugar syrup:

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Just in time for lunch, we hit New Iberia, where my friend Dave Robicheaux hangs out. Last time we were here, we went to a wonderful Place, Bon Creole, but we remembered it was hard to find. Even with my smart phone, we drive right past it, and have to go around the block and look again. This is not a place that makes itself KNOWN; you have to know where it is, and you have to really want to find it, LOL!

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The interior is a hunter’s dream.

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At the table near us, a group of local women are sitting and one is holding court, saying “You never know about so-and-so; she is so SECRETIVE!” and I am thinking that she would call me secretive, too, that I would be very careful about telling anything about myself that she could be spreading to all her friends – and everyone else in the Bon Creole who cared to listen.

Thank God, our food is ready, and I start with my gumbo, thick with shimp. Oops, I forgot, the gumbo comes with potato salad.

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And more grilled shrimp – this time on my green salad. So many shrimp I couldn’t eat them all!
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Poor AdventureMan! “Why didn’t I just order a 6″ Overstuffed Oyster Po’Boy???” These oysters were the old fashioned kind, fresh, dipped in corn meal and deep fried, just the way he likes them, but no, no, he couldn’t eat them all. I had one, and there were still many left, so many fabulous oysters!

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As we were leaving, we stopped two residents who were leaving and asked them if we could get to Highway 90 by continuing down the road we were on, and they offered to let us follow them to Franklin. Franklin is like 25 miles down the road, imagine. They were willing to be so gracious to perfect strangers. We gratefully declined, and used their instructions and our smart phone to get us over to 90, en route to Morgan City and Houma.

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October 31, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Cooking, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holly Beach and Hackberry, Louisiana

AdventureMan knows how to thrill my heart, and just down the road, we find Holly Beach.

“Do you want to walk on the beach?” he asks slyly. He knows the answer to that question will always be “YES!!”

Holly Beach is not Pensacola Beach. I don’t see a single restaurant, not a single hotel. I don’t see sugar white sand. The sand here is golden grey, and the beach is littered – with SEASHELLS! So many wonderful seashells! I could stay here for a long time!

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LOL, it’s also an Alaska kind of beach!

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On our way into Lake Charles, we make a stop at Brown’s Market, in Hackberry, Louisiana, for a list of items, and they had every item on our list. It is a great little stop, and has clean restrooms, too 🙂

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October 30, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Beauty, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gigi’s in Cameron, Louisiana

Our friend at the Wildlife Center, Sarah, highly recommended Gigi’s, and we were really really hungry when we got there, so it should have been a really good experience, and besides, Cameron is small and I didn’t see any other options.

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Interior:
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View out towards Gulf:
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Have I mentioned, only a thousand times, how fabulous the weather is? It’s seventy-something and like zero humidity. It doesn’t even matter that we are eating outdoors; the weather is perfect.

We order.

Honestly, when did I become a squeamish woman? Certainly not my early years in Tunis, and Amman, when we had to strain the weevils out of our flour and pasta. But as I watched a fly try to get into the ketchup through the tip of the dispenser, I sort of lost my appetite. The other problem is that AdventureMan and I really try to eat sensibly; we’re not extreme, every now and then we have something fried, but the food in Louisiana is rich, we haven’t seen a lot of vegetables, and when our food arrived – so much food – I couldn’t begin to eat it all. I ate about half my shrimp and an onion ring. The shrimp was really fresh.

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AdventureMan had fried shrimp and catfish. He said it was really good. He also couldn’t eat it all.

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Cameron isn’t very big.

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But this is really fun. A $1. ferry!
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And guess which parking space we got? And when we got into the space, there were dolphins, lots and lots of dolphins, no, porpoises, and oh, they were having such a good time in the sunlight.

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Dolphins are not that easy to photograph . . . .
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We keep seeing these wonderful signs to tell us we are still on the right trail 🙂 This ferry ride was a Louisiana Lagniappe (a little something extra!)

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October 30, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

Coffee Call in Baton Rouge

We are going to grab a bite of breakfast before we check out of our Baton Rouge hotel, when we catch sight of the line, the very very long line, and people are carrying plates of rolls and cups of coffee back to their room; there is no place to sit and eat because the conference room is all set up for the final meeting of the conference.

LOL, no, we are not going to stand in line for breakfast. I know just the place to go; I found it earlier on TripAdvisor, but with breakfast included in our room, I hadn’t a hope of getting there. But it is nearby, and just what we need! We check out, and head for Coffee Call.

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The minute we walk in, we love this place. There are businessmen reading the paper, sipping their coffees, there are families with children who have put several tables together, there are all kinds of people just kicking back and enjoying this place.

We figure out that we have to go up to the front to order our coffee, tea and beignets 🙂 but because we are about to hit the road, we also order sausage biscuits for a little protein.

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The beignets are loaded with powder sugar. As we get ready to go, I go into the ladies room to wash hands and find another grandmother, trying to get powdered sugar off her two grandchildren, LOL.

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The Coffee Call gave our day a great start and sent us on our way with smiles on our faces 🙂

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | Leave a comment