Sunday, July 17, 2011

Remember the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo?  I did, when visiting San Antonio this summer on my way back to California. It was hot, over 100 degrees both days I was there, but San Antonio is such a great place to visit, I really didn’t mind the heat. I woke early and drove downtown to the area known as The San Antonio Riverwalk. It was nice to walk along the river before most folks got out of bed. The “river” is really a loop off of the San Antonio River that is lined with concrete and landscaped with trees and flowering plants. Construction on the loop began in 1939 as a bypass channel for flood protection. Today, there are boats that navigate the river giving tourists the best views of downtown San Antonio and its shops and eating places. It has become the #1 tourist attraction in the state of Texas.

As I walked beside the river, I found my destination for my noontime meal but I had some time to kill, so I made my way a couple of blocks east to the Alamo. I decided not to take the guided tour, rather, I moved through the grounds of the old fort and mission looking for photo ops and reading history written on plaques along my route.

After lunch, I decided to visit a few of the other remaining missions in the area around San Antonio. Each was as different as the last but they were all carefully maintained and in some cases restored to most of their former glory. Texas loves its history and is proud to show it off wherever it can.

There are other attractions including Sea World and amusement parks, museums and art galleries. But my time here was limited. I will definitely return to San Antonio and the lone star state and will plan to spend more time here.

Travel Tip: Each year they drain the Riverwalk and clear trash and spare change from the bottom, so check before you go. It would be a shame to miss it.

More pictures HERE.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oak Alley Plantation- Vacherie, LA

Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans, LA is a National Historic Landmark and for good reason.  As you drive along Great River Road near the banks of the Mississippi River, nothing prepares you for your first glimpse of The "Big House".  This antebellum mansion was built in 1839 as a gift from a wealthy Creole sugar planter to his young bride.  The twenty-eight live oak trees had been planted by the previous land owner as a walkway from the banks of the river.

Today, you can tour the "Big House", walk the grounds, eat in the restaurant, stop by the Ice Cream Parlor or stay at the bed and breakfast.  Whew!  Weddings and receptions can also be held at the plantation.  This location is a little off the beaten path, but...most good things are.

More photos HERE.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Orleans-Marde Gras World

When folks think of New Orleans, they usually think of Marde Gras and the bars and hotels along Bourbon Street.  I've been to the French Quarter (although not during Marde Gras) and enjoyed the french flavor and nice people that I met there.  This trip, I wanted to peek "behind the curtain" and see what it takes to put on one of the world's biggest parties year after year. 
Over 90% of the floats and costumes for Marde Gras are created by the amazing artists that work for Blaine Kern's Marde Gras World.  They build, restore, and house most of the floats used each year during Marde Gras.  The best part is that you can tour this wonderful company most of the year (not during Marde Gras for obvious reasons).  I enjoyed taking the tour and learned quite a bit.  For instance, each invited float rider spends nearly $2000.00 of his/her own money on beads and candy to throw to the crowd along the parade route.  Also, there are permanent float figures created out of fiberglass and less expensive figures made of styrofoam and covered in papier mache.  Each float can cost as much as a million dollars and no city or state funds are used for the parades with the exception of a police presence during the parades and street cleanup after Marde Gras.  I recommend a visit to Marde Gras World if not for the history, then for the awesome photo opportunies.

More photos HERE.

Friday, July 1, 2011

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine Florida is a great getaway destination with something for everyone.  For kids (and adults alike), the Pirate Museum is the place to let out your inner pirate and explore the artifacts once owned by the likes of Black Beard and others.  This is also a cool distraction during the heat of the day.
Other attractions include the historic district filled with small homes and shops demonstrating how things were done in the 17th century.  There is also an Alligator Farm (and zoo) for those that like things a little on the dangerous side.  My favorite, and the reason I went to St. Augustine, was the Castillo de San Marcos.  This spanish fort (seen above) was built in 1672 to protect Spains interest in the new world.  It is the only surviving 17th century fort in North America. 
Best of all, all of the attractions (except the Alligator Farm) are located within a 5 block radius of each other.  Makes for an easy day of exploring. 

For more photos... Click HERE.