Corner restaurant offers “Flavors of Texas” in Austin

Our group found the Corner restaurant pretty much by accident. We had just parked our car after our trip from San Antonio, I needed a restroom and I saw the Corner sign a block north of Caesar Chavez Street. The rest of our family in the second car had parked south of the Congress Avenue Bridge and walked across to join us for supper.

The Old Fashioned Burger served with fries

The Corner is one of the newest restaurants in Austin.  It is in the J.W. Marriott hotel and offers both a sit down dining area and quite a lively bar as well. We all enjoyed a delicious and reasonably priced meal. The kid’s menu satisfied both youngsters in our family, no easy feat these days!

Roasted watermelon and tomato vegetarian plate

The staff was most helpful in assisting us with our plans to see the famous bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Timing is important when seeing the 1.5 million bats leaving their roost for the night’s bug catching. Location of viewing is of course vital, and the Corner staff helped us with that  too. Here is our bat watching adventure.

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The Congress Avenue Bridge and the 1.5 million bats of Austin

Who would think that a winged visitor from Mexico would make such a splash in downtown Austin, Texas. Such is the story of the free-tailed bat. These critters migrate to Austin in March and stay through November. The colony spends each day under the Congress Avenue Bridge and emerges en-mass at sunset. This daily event has become a famous local attraction in Austin.

View of the watercraft waiting for the bats

We planned to see the bats after a day in San Antonio. Because it was a Sunday, free street parking was available if you could find it. A ten dollar garage was well worth the cost. When we got there I needed a restroom and found one at a great restaurant a  block away. The staff at the Corner restaurant where we had supper knew exactly what time the bats would emerge. (Here is my restaurant review.) After supper we walked the two blocks to the bridge. Because it was Sunday the crowds were not large and we walked right up to the bridge rail for a great view.

The bat colony takes flight

A viewing deck was on the river bank for a look up at the bridge. A wide variety of tour boats, canoes and kayaks were in place on the water of Lady Bird Lake waiting to see the show. And what a show it was! The first bats started to fly about 10 minutes before sunset. It didn’t take long for hundreds of thousands of bats to fly out from under the bridge. The sky was filled with masses of bats! This is a fun free attraction that with a little planning requires walking only a few blocks.

Caesars Entertainment buys Indiana Grand Casino

We saw that Caesars Entertainment out of Las Vegas had just bought the Indiana Grand Racing Casino as well as the Hoosier Park casino and racetrack from Centaur Gaming. We went out to the Indiana Grand to see what differences Caesars had brought to the place.

Other than some banners and signs calling out the Caesars name, we did not see any changes at all. The slots were the same. Our old players reward cards were still working, adding points as they always did. The half price buffet is still offered on Mondays for us “Golden Gamers” (folks 50 and over).

On Saturday, July 28th Caesars has a pretty wild promotion give-away day planned. They are calling it “An evening of winning” with $60,000 in cash prizes awarded over the evening.  Enter and get a chance to spin the wheel for an instant prize of $1,000! Time will tell what changes Caesars has in store for their new Indiana properties.  Be sure to check out the Indiana Grand website and the Caesars website for more info.

San Antonio river cruise on New Years Eve

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!

Ready to board the boat for the cruise!

The San Antonio River Cruise

Glad we brought some cold weather clothing!

Pretty view of the River Walk with a pedestrian bridge

River side sculpture at the Briscoe Western Art Museum

Captain of the boat and tour narrator in one!

Mamma Mia! takes down the house at Beef and Boards

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.

The Dynamos, Donna (Amy Bodnar), center, Tanya (Jalynn Steele), left, and Rosie (Lanene Charters) sing “Super Trouper” during a party for the bride-to-be Sophie

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.

Rosie (Lanene Charters) implores Bill Austin (Jeff Stockberger) to “Take a Chance on Me”

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.

Pepper (Leonard D. Harris Jr.), center, shows off with his friends (Gideon Chickos, left, and Ike Wellhausen) demonstrate the incredible energy of this show!

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.

Reuniting after many years, the Dynamos (from left) Tanya (Jalynn Steele), Rosie (Lanene Charters), and Donna (Amy Bodnar) sing “Dancing Queen” together using hair implements as microphones

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 made our NOLA base at New Orleans West KOA

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.

Our site at the NOLA West KOA

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 office and store. Restrooms and showers are also in this building. The pool is open from April to October.

Interior roads are paved and plenty wide enough to allow backing in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

New Orleans’ famed above ground tombs in St Louis Cemetery No. 1

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.

Multiple designs for the tombs, some fancy and some plain

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 are standing in front of the tomb of Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo Queen. This is reportedly the most visited tomb in New Orleans.

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.

Plaque on the tomb of Marie Laveau, the most famous voodoo Priestess from New Orleans

Nicholas Cage had this tomb built in the cemetery. The only script on the tomb is the Latin phrase, omnia ab uno, which translates roughly to “all for one” or “everything for one.” Cage says he wants to be buried here, and the IRS cannot touch the asset of a burial plot. We were told that Cage visited the tomb a year ago with his brother.

Not all tombs are as well maintained as others.

Multiple generations of the same family interred in a wall tomb.

Two Englishmen fight it out in 1870 Louisiana

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.

Bronze statue portraying the 1870 boxing contest

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.

Memorial to La Salle’s landing on the Mississippi River bank in Louisiana

View of downtown Kenner from the top of the levee

Enjoy great food along with great music at The Maison on Frenchmen Street New Orleans

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.

Maison @508 Frenchmen

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!

Enjoying our “Dixie Revival” cocktails

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!

Check out that bowl of pasta and that huge Poboy and 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.

The Gumbo Shop restaurant in the NOLA French Quarter

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.

Open air patio seating looking towards St. Peter Street (note the propane heaters that have been required during the past cold weather)

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.

Red beans and rice with smoked sausage

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.