Steamboat Natchez

We got on the steamboat for their lunch tour. It lasts 2.5 hours, with the first thirty minutes sitting at dock and loading people. We were one of the first in line and by the time they disembarked, we had mostly finished our lunch. You can buy the ticket to include a meal or not. There are two seatings of lunch. We chose the first because we figured we could eat before the tour really got started and then be present for the tour. There is a gift shop, and two bars located on the boat. And they have a deal that for $20 you can have unlimited drinks (they had three to choose from, and the one with rum was yummy).

Food was decent.  It’s typical southern food, red beans and rice, Bread pudding, etc.  It wasn’t the best southern food I’ve ever had, but it was pretty good.

They allow you to go into the engine room (well, part of it, Gabe explained that there’s a lot going on downstairs which we could peak in at but not go). There are some nice signs explaining how the steam engine works. Tristan had tons of questions, some of which Gabe could explain, but as he doesn’t work on steam engines, we had to defer to the engineer on duty. He was sitting and looking at something on his phone and at first, he was acting a bit put out that we were asking questions. After about ten minutes, he started to get really animated and actually did a fantastic job of explaining it all to Tristan who listened with rapt attention through the whole thing. While we were down there, the boat needed to turn back so we got to see the engines stop and reverse. Which was AWESOME (according to one little boy who is definitely gonna be an engineer someday), and then of course, we had to go outside to see the wheel turning the other way.

New Orleans Aquarium and Zoo

While in NOLA this October, we decided to try and see some things that we hadn’t in the last few trips. One was the aquarium and zoo. Family membership was at $160, and with 6 of us, it would’ve cost $140 to enter either one by themselves. So we opted for the membership and went to both at a discount.

The aquarium is mostly indoors, and was done pretty well. The majority was focused on local wetland wildlife, with a few of the favorites also added in, such as sharks and upside down jellyfish. If I had had to pay full price for this alone, I would’ve skipped. Good aquarium, but worth over a hundred for us to enter? No. Not really.

We then walked around the corner to the insectarium. Note: it is, for some reason, inside a Federal building. So if you happen to have a sailor in your group who happens to carry a Spiderco knife with him at all times, you will not be allowed to go in. No, they don’t have a bag check where you can leave it up at the front with the police man. No, they don’t enjoy you asking if you can check it with him. And yes, he thinks we should outlaw ALL blades. I almost commented that he looked as though he enjoyed food, and that preparation of said food would be impossible without knives, but I held my tongue as I’m sure he was viewing us as scoundrels who are dragging their poor children into the gutter…..imagine, someone carrying a knife! GASP! (I’m just glad Gabe no longer carries a wrench around….although it WAS handy quite a few times.)

The zoo was larger than I thought it would be. I guess they remodeled it (well, they are remodeling it), and tried to emulate the San Diego zoo. Wide variety of animals. And a lot of them were pretty active. We got to see the spider monkeys go ape (hehehe) over fruit during feeding time. There were lots of teenagers there who volunteered and tried to answer our questions about the different animals. To their credit, they DID know some stuff. But we’ve learned a lot about animals in general, and we’ve been to a lot of zoos, so our questions aren’t typically the 101 variety. Luckily, there were also quite a few full time employees who were very gracious about answering questions and elaborating. Finally, they have a dinosaur exhibit. It costs members an additional $2/each to go through. But they have mechanical models that are staged in different “landscapes” as you walk through. They move. They make noise. Some spit. Fun!

IMG_7562 IMG_7569 IMG_7572 IMG_7573 IMG_7578 IMG_7581 IMG_7582 IMG_7584 IMG_7585 IMG_7586

The Falls on the Brazos State Park

Marlin is a tiny town just south of Waco. There’s really not much to it. But there is a state park that is just south of town on the Brazos river. It has 15 campsites that are not big rig friendly. Anything over 30’ will probably not be able to pull it off, and that’s for the single premium site. Also, while there is electricity, there’s only 30 amp available. This park had been run down and new managers are updating it. Last we were there, the city had lent out some generators because not every site had electric. This was for a grand reopening.

The campground is set up in a loop with one half campsites and the other bordered by the river. The premium site is the only one on the water. Inside the loop is a playground and a few covered pavilions with some BBQ pits. When entering the park, there is also a small store/café. The new managers offer simple lunch items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. They also have chips, pies, and drinks.

The rate is at $25 for all sites, except the premium site which is $30.

The Falls themselves are pretty. Lots of locals come to fish. You can walk out into the river which is really shallow for quite some distance. Obviously, very slippery as algae has grown over the rock bed. So don’t wear your glasses. Ask me how I know.

The park is free to hang out in. Nice spot during the hot summer to cook out and go for a quick dip in the water.

IMG_7250 IMG_7252 IMG_7254 IMG_7262

Adventures in Traveling with kids

With eight hours worth of driving between NOLA and Houston, we decided to turn it into two shorter days of driving.  The kids and I had gone to Avery Island (Tabasco factory and Jungle Gardens) a few years back, and I had been wanting to take Gabe since then.  Ironically, even though we pass within ten minutes of it every 4 weeks, we just never made it there with him.  Since we decided to take two shorter days, we figured it’d be perfect timing to stop by when we had half a day without much else to do.

It rained off and on, which is par for the course in the south in summer.  But the Jungle gardens were swarming with mosquitos and we ended up with several very large welts.  So instead of a leisurely few hours spent walking under the huge oaks, we drove through at a fast pace, getting out only twice to look at things, before finally giving up and staying in the car for the rest of the tour.

By the time we left we were starving and decided to stop and get some diner food at Mel’s diner on HWY 90 between New iberia and Lafayette.  Actually really big portions for cheap prices.  My type of place when the kids are going through their growth spurts!

While we were inside, though, it rained.  Hard.  We brought the most expensive things into the cab of the truck, but most had to stay in the back.  We hoped all would be well.

Fast forward to bringing things into our hotel room. I opened the homeschooling suitcase to find half of the books with some sort of water damage.  SIGH.  They are now draped over the various tables in our hotel room, with me not holding my breath that they’ll dry by morning.

My daughter has very long, thick, curly hair.  We’ve been swimming all week.  And yes, it was tonight that the rat’s nest was brought to my attention.  The good thing was that I watched a semi-horror flick (October is the month for “scary” movies with us) that was entertaining while I brushed through her hair, taking breaks frequently because she got her mama’s tender head.

As a cap to a perfect day, I asked a certain son of mine to put the bag of left over Italian sausage and marinara in the mini fridge (I’d left the cooler in the truck because we are only here for one night and just brought in dinner).  He managed to not understand how gravity works and that the bag is called a ZIPLOC because you’re supposed to ZIP it shut.  Needless to say, I ended up scrubbing marinara off the room floor, under the mini fridge while my husband tilted it back.  SIGH. At least the carpet is already sort of brownish reddish.

On a good note, Cutthroat Kitchen is hysterical!  Love it.

Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar

739 Iberville St, New Orleans

First night in the city we went here.  We’d gone to Acme, and a friend had told us that Felix’s was a lot better and less likely to have to wait in a long line.  He was right!

Char-grilled oysters were SOOOO good!  OMG!  Even Gabe who doesn’t like seafood in general, and oysters specifically, loved them.  And of course the raw ones were good too.  Nice and fresh!  Blackened gator tastes like chicken.  This was probably the first time we’d had it without it being in something else.  Normally, you don’t get just one bite of pure gator.  But this time, it was all gator, and it left us wondering why we were spending so much money on chicken.  lol  Hamburgers are huge!  Right about the size of a salad plate.  The étouffée was ok.  But I’m not typically a big étouffée eater anyways.  Fried catfish platter was also really big.  I think it came with 8-10 catfish filets on top of a mountain of fries.  I didn’t try it, but Gavin said it was really good.

Definitely going back next time we’re in NOLA.  Loved it!

Don Jose’s Grill

2722 Williams, Kenner, LA

We went to dinner here one of the last nights in Kenner, LA.  The interior I loved! Most Mexican places border on gaudy with their bright colors and random wall accessories.  This place has three colors total, and while it definitely looks like Mexican restaurant decor, it was done very much in line with my own personal taste.  Blacks and golds and deep reds.  Lovely.

We were all pretty excited about the items on the menu that had their influence in the islands.  Gabe and I each got something and then shared to try them both. One was a typical fajitas style grilled dish.  One was an island-esque kebab fajita style dish.  The first dish was very good, but it might have been the chorizo added.  🙂  The Island one just didn’t have much flavor in the meat, veggies, and pineapple.  All in all, decent meal.

On to the drinks.  They offer 5 different sizes for their margaritas.  Small, medium, large, pitcher, and gallon.  We ordered a pitcher for the two of us and then got a gallon to go (which is the only way they’ll let you order the gallon).  Good top shelf margarita, and far cheaper than getting one at the Crowne Plaza hotel bar (one drink for $10 VS $30 for a pitcher that was about 6 drinks).

I suppose if we ever stayed at Crowne Plaza again (which we won’t), we’d go again.  But honestly, there’s way too much really good food in New Orleans to visit again unless we just happened to be around for some other reason.

Lake Charles visitor center and Millennium park

We stopped for lunch one day in Lake Charles.  We typically aren’t in the area during a time when we are stopping for long, but this trip was a bit longer on both ends, and we left earlier than we normally do.

Millennium Park is HUGE!  It’s seriously a very large play structure with an area for littles as well as one for bigger kids. From what we were told, there are still plans to make it about twice as big.  Lots of places to sit and have lunch.

Afterwards, we went to the visitor’s center, which meant we had to loop around the freeway and it was awkward.  Google maps didn’t have it located where it actually is.  If I would’ve known, we would’ve stopped there first because then we wouldn’t have had to backtrack.  Anyways, the visitor’s center has what they all have, coffee, some brochures about the area, a sign in sheet, and a small gift shop.  Then you can walk outside and across a grassy area and see a fenced in pond with four alligators in it.  Probably not what we would’ve gotten if we had gone to an Alligator farm, but for free, not bad.  You get to see them up close.  Also a nice grassy and shaded area with nice views of the lake.  Would make a nice place to pull over for a lunch stop as well.