By January 15, 2020 Read More →

Where in the world has Brenda been?

Well hello!

2018 turned out to be a tough year for me. I suffered a fall that year, fracturing my pelvis and lower back and am still doing physical therapy to get fully back to normal. My 2018 trips to Yellowstone National Park and Dubai got cancelled, but fortunately I had purchased travel insurance so my airfare and deposits were protected.

My trips for the remainder of this year, 2019, will be family oriented. I spent the first week of June traveling to New Orleans and the Redneck Riviera with my daughter and 5 year old grandson, who has now visited over 20 countries and is a seasoned traveler. Later this fall I will visit friends and family in Kentucky, New Jersey and Florida.  Next spring  we have Walt Disney World in the works for a large extended family group and late next year I plan to visit Colombia with a travel buddy. Colombia is one of the emerging tourist countries in Latin America, known for its culture and cuisine.

So let’s talk about NEW ORLEANS ……….

This was my 6th trip to one of my favorite cities but my first one during the summer.  Walking around in the heat and humidity was a challenge, especially in my now limited capacity for long walks.  Now and then we would hop onto a pedi-cab and that was easier for me and great fun for my grandson! We stayed at an old time favorite hotel called the Dauphine Orleans, a boutique hotel within the French Quarter and within walking distance of all the attractions of the Quarter.  Over the years the hotel has aged a bit, the furniture and rugs in the lobby are not as fancy, nor is the breakfast,  but the service is still very good, the guest rooms clean and neat, the rates are still moderate,  and the location ideal.  If you have stayed there previously, mention that when calling the hotel and you get a very reasonable “former guest” rate.

Our first stop was dinner at Felix’s Oyster Bar at 739 Iberville Street, a short walk from the hotel, Restaurant prices in general have gone up substantially since my last visit to New Orleans 5 years ago but the food is still outstanding. My daughter and I got our fill of oysters and fabulous turtle soup and my grandson enjoyed a tasty plate of grilled shrimp.

The next morning our first stop was the famous and ever- expanding WWII Museum, the third most visited museum in the USA.  This is too far to walk from the hotel, but you can walk to Canal St and take one of the old- time trolleys right to the museum. Even if you are not interested in military history, this is a “must-see.”  Many of the exhibits are hands-on and many displays talk about what life was like back home during the war for moms and dads and wives and husbands of the soldiers and nurses who went to Europe and the Pacific to keep our country free.  Several exhibits show the contributions made to the war effort by minority groups, even though their efforts were rejected at first.   There are multiple buildings; you should figure at least 2 hours to cover the highlights.  Perhaps you are wondering why a museum of this type and magnitude is located in New Orleans? The man who invented and built the boats that landed on the shores of Normandy on D Day was called Higgins, a Louisiana native, and the boats were named after him.  A small museum centered on those boats was created in the Crescent City, donations poured in from WWII veterans and the museum quickly expanded.

We stopped for lunch at the Cochon Restaurant, 930 Tchoupitoulas Str, a few blocks from the museum. Prices were expensive, servings plentiful and food delicious. Another good restaurant near the museum is called Peche.  We had afternoon reservations for the Steamboat Natchez.  Board early to get good seats and try to grab one with a table so the kids can play card games in case they get a bit bored on this 2 hour ride. An alternate excursion is the aquarium adjacent to the French Quarter and near the docks.  If you want to try the world famous Café du Monde for coffee and beignets, go in the mid afternoon, rather than in the morning, far less crowds. Nearby is the French Market, a great place to stroll and buy souvenirs such as jewelry, spices, you name it!  Nearby is Kilwins, a must-do, a local ice cream shop with some of the best and creamiest ice cream I ever enjoyed.

We did take an afternoon stroll down Bourbon St, hoping to enjoy the music and avoid the drunken sprawl that takes place in the evenings but we were not so lucky. Many college students had finished their school year in early June and were celebrating early.  It was a bit disconcerting for my little grandson so we quickly headed off to a nearby park in the Quarter and were fortunate enough to enjoy a passing typical New Orleans band playing “When the Saints go Marching In.” At the end of the song, they stopped for photos and it was a treat to take pictures of their smiling faces and typical “uniforms.”

We popped into VooDoo Authentica on 612 Dumaine Street, where I picked up a small soft cuddly  travel doll, which had been blessed and was created to bring good vibes to you when you travel.  I was told by the locals that this was the most authentic voo doo shop in town. It seemed to work! Our trip went smoothly and the only times it rained was when we were inside dining or on the road in our car. That evening we had signed up for a 6pm 2 hour walking historic ghost tour.  My grandson had asked for it so off we went but after an hour we left being somewhat disappointed. Although these tours bill themselves as family- friendly they focus on the history and, as such, are more geared toward adults.

After our drive to the Redneck Riviera we returned to New Orleans for an overnight stay before flying home. That evening we dined at Commanders Palace, one of the finest restaurants in New Orleans. It is located in the American Quarter in a beautiful former mansion. We were surprised to see that the menu contained mostly fried foods and were a bit disappointed in that.  The restaurant caters mostly to couples and family groups, not too many children were present. We decided that when we return to New Orleans and want to splurge one night it will be at one our regular favorites such as Arnaud’s or Antoine’s in the French Quarter.    The next morning we had reservations for one of my all- time favorite breakfast places in New Orleans – the Court of Two Sisters.  This delightful restaurant sits in an historic building and you dine indoors or outdoors under a massive wisteria tree while listening to a jazz quartet playing softly in the background.  The buffet offers dozens and dozens of items and the prices are still extremely reasonable.  It is very family friendly and the waiters are happy to show you how to eat some of the local seafood delicacies if you are so inclined.  Make reservations in advance.


This area, lovingly called the Redneck Riviera, encompasses mainly the Florida Panhandle but also includes the coastal areas of Alabama and Mississippi.  It used to be the Deep South’s best kept secret, but no longer.  What was once sleepy little towns and cheap little seaside seafood shacks has become, particularly in the Panhandle, shiny new condos, pricy chain restaurants and a crowded seaside highway.  Our drive from New Orleans to Destin, Florida was supposed to be 4 hours but took all day as we stopped several times to enjoy local attractions.

Our first stop was the Infinity Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi, immediately across the Louisiana border.  You can’t miss seeing the big rocket from the highway as you approach the center.

This complex is a launching area for testing rockets as well as a hands- on museum for space and rocketry.  The entire area is very family friendly, bathrooms are clean and there is a café to grab snacks or lunch.  The museum is a worthwhile stop; we also took the bus tour of the launching pads. The ride to the pads was long and boring but it was interesting to see the enormous launching pads.

The coast of Mississippi is quite lovely. Uncrowded powder sand serene beaches are flanked by gracious plantation type homes, making the drive a pleasant one.  Mississippi was my 48th state. Two more to go! (Arkansas and North Dakota and yes I have plans to see those states). We stopped in Mobile, Alabama and strolled the charming historic district of town.  There are small museums, lovely homes, small little restaurants and a quaint old time ice cream and candy shop called Three George’s where we indulged in and shared a yummy ice cream sundae with lots of toppings. It was fun to people watch the locals coming in for their daily fix of a little bag of chocolates or candies.

In Destin, Florida we stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites which was moderately priced, located across the street from the beach and ideal for families.  The lobby had kids’ toys to play with and the pool had a nice shallow end for small children. Rooms were neat and clean , service good, and breakfast (included in the room) was ample.  We spent the next 2 days relaxing. The first day was on the beach. The public beaches in Destin are now cordoned off, narrow areas , surrounded by the private beaches belonging to the condos.  Since we flew from our home city, we did not have beach chairs or a beach umbrella but were able to borrow those items from the hotel. People buy them and leave them there for hotel use. Nice.   The second day my grandson decided he wanted to spend time in the pool so we relaxed in the comfortable beach chairs provided by the hotel, along with umbrellas.

We dined at several restaurants in Destin, all of which I can recommend:

Giligan’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar , 530 HWY 98 East. This was more moderately priced than other restaurants and the menu was not all fried food but rather offered many steamed items. One of my favorite events of this trip was watching my 5 year old grandson tackle and consume most of a 2 pound bowl of steamed crabs.  Crabs pieces were flying everywhere but he handled it himself and ate with great gusto proclaiming it was “One of the best meals I ever ate!”

Brotulas Restaurant, 210 D Harbor Drive. This was expensive but worth it, atmosphere was cozy, family friendly, and excellent food. Be sure to try the turtle soup. Make reservations well in advance.

Cracker Barrel – One of my favorite southern restaurants for good breakfast and lunch food at reasonable prices with good service.  My daughter and I are fond of the Goldenberg Peanut Chews bars and always stock up on a few when we go there.

On the way back to New Orleans we spent a couple of hours at a fun place for kids and adults called Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, MS.   The complex is located on 6 acres and includes a museum converted from an elementary school and lots of interactive exhibits indoors and out. Kids can play grocery store, operate a crane, visit a train dining car and climb all about a Tree House Play area.  It is a great run around break during the long drive.

Single Parent Tours will be hosting a trip to Guatemala in July of 2020.  This trip will feature some outstanding family excursions, such as kayaking, hiking, making chocolate and peanut butter from scratch with local Guatemalans and climbing over the Mayan ruins of Tikal National Park. Look for the posting and a newsletter soon!

Until then, Happy Trails!

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