Sher and I and family spent a very cold afternoon in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve. We enjoyed the famed river walk and were excited to take one of the Go Rio River Cruises. Fully narrated along the way, the cruise was most enjoyable. Seniors, be sure to ask for your senior discount for this must do attraction in the Alamo city!
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is celebrating its 45th Anniversary Season. Headlining the season is the beloved Indy venue’s premier of Mamma Mia! Set on a Greek Island, the musical tells the story of Sophie, who wants her father at her upcoming wedding. The rub is she doesn’t know who he is, leading to three potential dads being invited to the event. The chaos you might expect soon follows.
All of the 20 + numbers are from the famed Swedish group ABBA. You will love enjoying your favorite ABBA songs as they come to life on stage. You will delight when you hear the intro and realize that Donna, Rosie and Tanya are going to perform their version of the adored “Dancing Queen”. Especially of note is Sam and Donna’s rendition of “SOS”, and just wait for the hilarious presentation of “Take a Chance on Me” by Bill and Rosie.
The energy displayed by this performance is remarkable. Each number showcases the exquisite talent, both in voice and dance, of all of the cast. Hats off to Ron Morgan for the choreography (and the Direction). Costumes, sets, lighting and all other support aspects of the production have reached perfection. The B&B orchestra has proven without a doubt that they are one of, if not the best, live theater orchestra.
Several actors make their B&B debut during Mamma Mia! They include Amy Bodnar as Donna, mother of the bride. Also making their B&B debuts are Rachelle Rose Clark as Sophie, and Mark Epperson as Sam Carmichael, Will Leonard as Sky, and Jalynn Steele as Tanya. Several B&B regulars also star in the show.
Mamma Mia! is a production that deserves attending more than one time. This is one you have to see. The ABBA tunes will take you back in time or introduce you to a super group if you have not heard them before. Mamma Mia! runs through April 8th. Go to the Beef & Board website for show schedules, ticket pricing and any other information. But by all means go enjoy this fabulous performance.
We had never been to New Orleans before and we wanted a good campground that was reasonably close to the center of the action. We did our due diligence by looking at some RVer’s comments online, maps of the area and of course rates and availability of RV parks in the area.
We did settle on the New Orleans West KOA. This is the only KOA near New Orleans. We found the staff to be very friendly when we arrived and checked in. All of the sites are on concrete and are back in. Most are very deep, allowing for big rigs. All sites have full hook-ups including cable TV and WiFi, which worked sporadically. There is propane filling and a nice laundry room.
The campground offers a free shuttle to down town next to the French Quarter. It leaves at 9 AM and returns at 5:45 PM daily. The KOA staff will help you arrange different tours if you want their help. There are tons of tours of various New Orleans attractions, and the KOA staff can help with what’s good and what’s not so good! We did use the shuttle one day for the return trip. The driver was fun and gave us a narration all the way back. Uber and Lyft drivers were within a very few minutes of the KOA both times we ordered them.
This is a comfortable campground. The roads are a little rough and some of the concrete pads need a bit of help in the levelness category. Fortunately ours was level, no need for tire blocking. Go ahead and book your stay at New Orleans at this facility. The rates are reasonable, it is only about 20 minutes from NOLA, and the free shuttle is quite a nice a bonus. We give this park a 5 out of 5. Here is their website.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was established via a Royal Spanish Land Grant in 1789. It was originally outside the city limits, and was at least twice its current size. The Archdiocese of New Orleans now has control of this cemetery. Currently the only way you can get into the cemetery is with a licensed tour guide. Unfortunately vandalism has forced this action.
The famed above ground tombs and wall tombs are designed for use by generation after generation. Many of the tombs are owned by individual families. Some of the very large tombs are known as society tombs where several families or groups have combined resources. The laws dictate that a year and a day passes before an additional burial is permitted. As you would expect, there are many well-known, famous and infamous people whose tombs are located in the cemetery.
We decided to go on a St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Voodoo tour put on by the Gray Line. Marcia, our tour guide, was a delightful host of our small group. As mentioned above, you must be with a licensed tour guide to gain entrance into the cemetery. Shop around, but we suggest going with the Gray Line Tour Company.
We noticed a neat park on the Mississippi River levee at the town of Kenner, Louisiana. I turned into the parking lot because I saw an interesting statue. It was, in fact, a statue of a couple of men in boxing stances. I had to see what this was all about. Here is a picture and a little history.
On May 10, 1870, a trainload of about 1000 people left New Orleans for the little town of Kenner, a few miles from NOLA. The purpose of the trip was to visit an old sugar house near the banks of the Mississippi River. In that house was a makeshift boxing ring. In that ring a fellow from Beeston, Norwich, England named Jed Mace was the victor over another Englishman named Tom Allen from Birmingham. The 10 round bout was a bare knuckle affair. What made it special was that it was the first World Championship Heavyweight Prize Fight in the United States.
The park offered a great view of the river as well as access to a long trail on top of the levee. Kenner is a quaint little burg with quite a history. In addition to the boxing site, when Kenner was a Native American village it was the site of the landing of French explorer Robert Cavelier De La Salle’s landing in 1682. This was when he claimed Louisiana for France in the name of King Louis XIV.
Sher and I found a great place in New Orleans to both have a great meal and to listen to some fabulous live jazz music. We had been to the Market and another live music bar ( see that story here) and decided we wanted to get something to eat. I had seen The Maison on the web, so I recognized the sign.
We were seated right away at a table just a few feet from the stage, which was already occupied with the Baby Giants Jazz Band! Doug, our waiter, appeared right away and showed us the drink menu. Sher ordered a “Dixie Revival” made with tequila and grapefruit juice and some other good stuff. Once I took a sip of hers, I had to have one myself. What a great drink!
We then ordered our dinners. Sher ordered the Penne Primavera, pasta with seasonal vegetables sauteed in a Creole garlic and butter sauce. I opted for the Cochon de Lait Poboy, a Cajun style slow roasted pulled pork dressed with cole slaw and drizzled with Barbeque sauce, and with a side of fries. It seemed like in no time our plates were brought to us. I actually declared “Wow” out-loud when I saw my Poboy and the huge pile of fries!
The food was absolutely decadent. Sher said her vegetarian pasta was the best that she has ever had. The Poboy was my first, but I just loved the pork on that bed of coleslaw in the bun. And those fries came out almost to hot to touch, so they stayed hot and crisp throughout the meal. I don’t think either one of us could have been more pleased. Hats off to our waiter Doug who took care of us. Even when all of the tables in the room occupied he still was able to continue to serve us.
The Maison on Frenchmen Street is both a marvelous live jazz club, but also a terrific restaurant as well. The prices are very reasonable, the jazz is free with only one drink purchase per set required. When in New Orleans, make sure that you spend at least one evening at the Maison. Here is their website for your reference.
For our first trip to the New Orleans French Quarter I had picked out the Gumbo Shop restaurant as a place for Sher and I to have lunch. We had taken an Uber ride to St. Peter Street from our campground. The Gumbo Shop is located in a building of Spanish colonial style that was built around 1795. The original building on the site was destroyed in the massive fire of 1794 that wiped out New Orleans.
The doors opened at 11 AM, and we were the first patrons seated. We decided to take a table in the back area. You had to walk through an open to the sky patio area. Had it not been raining off and on we would have taken a patio table.
Sher ordered a cup of vegetarian gumbo and I tried the red beans and rice with smoked sausage. Warm bread and butter were brought to the table as soon as we ordered. Our meals came quickly. Sher commented that the vegetarian gumbo was pretty bland. I enjoyed the red beans and rice. My smoked sausage was, like Sher’s gumbo, a bit lacking in taste.
I later learned that red beans and rice is a traditional meal to eat on a Monday in NOLA. It seems that way back in history the women would do the weeks laundry on Mondays. This prevented the preparation of a large evening meal. So the ladies would toss ham bones or any other leftovers from the previous week into a big pot with red beans to cook all day. Served with rice that night, it became a Monday meal tradition that is still served today.
Perhaps we ordered the wrong items, or we just did not like the cuisine. This restaurant has received several awards and accolades. The pricing was reasonable at $4.99 for the cup of gumbo and $10.99 for my red beans, rice and sausage. Here is their website if you want further information.
New Orleans is a remarkable city with seemingly unlimited visual scenes. Here are some photos that we took during our first day in The Big Easy.
Today was our first day in New Orleans. Even though our KOA campground offers a free shuttle to the French Quarter at 9 AM, we decided to have a relaxing morning and take our time in leaving. We used Uber and went down to the Gumbo Shop restaurant for lunch. (I’ll have a review up later.)
After lunch we strolled down around the French Quarter. If was fun stopping in some of the shops along the way. In addition, we saw some street performers. Several musicians were playing some great jazz. A street “mime” was striking a pose and holding it until someone dropped money into his bucket!
We had also made reservations for a “Cemetery and Voodoo” tour. This 2 1/2 hour bus/walking tour was put on by the huge tour company Gray Line. We were fortunate in that only two other couples had tickets, thus there were only 6 of us on the tour. Our tour guide was very good, and with just three couples on board it was almost like having our own private tour. Seeing the famous St. Louis Cemetery with its above ground tombs was spectacular. More to come later about this tour!
After our tour was finished we walked to the Cafe Du Monde, famous for coffee and those unique pastries called beignets, pronounced ben-yays. The coffee was super strong and good. The beignets were simple: fried dough smothered in powdered sugar. And they were indeed very, very good. We’ll let you know what else we see and do over the upcoming days.
With good intentions we left Austin striking out for New Orleans. However, old man winter threw a monkey wrench into not only our plans, but just about the entire eastern half of the country! On our way east, we had stopped at a couple of casinos in the Lake Charles, Louisiana area. We were beginning to hear about the potential for bad weather, so we decided to make another casino stop and see what developed.
The Coushatta Casino in Kinder is north of I-10. Not only is it very large (100,000 square feet according to the casino website) but is has an excellent RV park. The sites are all concrete, level and with full hookups including cable and a strong WiFi. Yes, I said a strong, reliable WiFi service! A shuttle bus will pick you up at your site for transport to and from the casino. And for only $22 a night, it is a great value.
The day after the storm hit at night, I-10 was closed in many spots from Lake Charles to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. What a mess! There was a sheet of ice throughout the RV park, and the shuttles had to take it very slowly. The temperature dipped to about 15 degrees. I-10 is closed again tonight, so we will have to decide if we need another night here at the casino.