• Some Things to do on a Short Trip To New Orleans

    New Orleans is one of those places that everyone should experience at least once.  The city is fabulous and is so much more than just the party scene on Bourbon St and the French Quarter.

    Stephanie, my wife and I went through the website Airbnb.com.  This was the first time we have used Airbnd and the experience went off smoothly.  We found a privately owned apartment in the French Quarter.  The hostess was very accommodating and no problems occurred.  We  reserved out apartment in mid-February for a reservation in late February.  This was the off-season about a week after Mardi Gras.

    Unless you are a party animal who totally wants to abuse your body, I would avoid Mardi Gras.  I lived in New Orleans for 3 years back in the 80s and experienced 3 of them.  One was enough.  I had a fabulous time but you can’t see the real New Orleans with all the chaos going on.

    Stephanie and I spent a Thursday to Monday.  Here are a few things we recommend to have a great time and get a good flavor (pun intended) of the city.

    1.  French Quarter

    This is a no brainer but it has to be listed.  Spend at least a day and walk around the “Quarta” as the locals call it and just see the sites.  A section of Bourbon St. is the party area and starts rockin from happy hour to about 4:00 AM.

    Close to the River Front is Jackson Square and the Market.  Stephanie and I are from South Carolina.  She says that the French Quarter looks like Charleston married to Myrtle Beach.  Ouch.  Actually she said that the first day before we got out of the quarter.

    Be sure and find the street musicians.  They are all over the place.

    2.  Street Car Tour

    The New Orleans street car is the best deal in the city.  You can pay 3 bucks and get an all day pass.  This will take you along Canal St (adjacent to the French Quarter) and down to the river.  The best route is down St Charles Ave. through the Garden District and then to Uptown and the Tulane University area.  You can get on and off at any point, take photos, grab food and drinks.

    A great place to go is O’Henrys near the intersection of St. Charles and Carrolton right after the Street Car takes a hard right onto Carrolton.  The lady who owns it is a true native and has some great stories on Hurricane Katrina and the history of New Orleans.  She is also one of the most knowledgeable NFL fans I have met.

     

    3.  Rent a Car and tour the Garden District and Uptown

    I always recommend renting a car regardless of what country or city you are in.  I don’t want to miss a thing and you can cover so much more ground with an automobile.  We rented from Enterprise and it was the deal of the century.  Twenty nine bucks for a day that included picking us up and dropping us off afterwards.

    We drove through the Garden District.  The architecture is amazing and it goes on for block after block and mile after mile.

    We also cruised Magazine St. which has some great retail shops and restaurants.  It is kind of the bohemian area of New Orleans.

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  • Carnival Fantasy Cruise from Charleston, SC – Positives and Negatives

    So I finally broke down and took my first cruise.  I have always been Mr. Adventure Traveler and resisted the total tourist experience of cruising.  However, this was just too darn easy.  The cruise line docks in Charleston about 15 minutes from our house.  My wife Stephanie wanted to go.  What the heck, I can have an adventure anywhere I told myself!  Here is a breakdown of the experience.

    Carnival Fantasy Boarding Shot

    Carnival Fantasy Boarding Shot

    Positives

    1.  Since you are crammed into a relatively small space with 2000 other people, this is a people watching extravaganza.  If you are into human psychology or behavioral analysis like Stephanie, then you will have fun sitting back and watching humanity in action.  I wasn’t into the hairy chest contest, karaoke or bingo, but you have to admit that watching the rednecks and the crazies can be entertaining.

    2.  The pizza was superb and served quickly.  The food at breakfast and lunch was plentiful and was pretty darn good.

    Pizza on the Carnival Fantasy

    Pizza on the Carnival Fantasy

    3.  There is plenty of outdoor seating around the pool and other areas to soak up the rays. You could always find room  where you were not crammed in with your neighbors (or you could cram in there like sardines if you wanted to). If you like to sunbathe then you will like the setup.  There were also water slides and water park type setups for kids and adults.

    Catching Some Rays

    Catching Some Rays

    Click “Read More” to continue reading.  Don’t miss the negatives……

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  • Charleston – 2nd Sunday on King Street

    Stephanie and I live about 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, SC.  This is one of the most fabulous cities in the world.  The readers of Conde Nast magazine named Charleston the number 1 United States travel destination for the fourth year in a row in 2014.  The readers also named Charleston the number 2 city in the world behind only Florence Italy (see Charleston City paper writeup).

    Every month Charleston closes off one of their historical streets, King Street, for the Second Sunday of the Month.  King St. is a mecca for shopping, dining and entertainment.  Today Stephanie, my sister Susan, niece Kristen and her friend Alyssa hung out on King St.

    Charleston - Kings Street

    Charleston – King Street

    Charleston has attracted some of the top retailers in the world that you would routinely see in cities such as Paris London and New York.  These are mixed in with an eclectic blend of boutique shops, art galleries, bars and restaurants.

    Street bands are all over the place on 2nd Sunday.  Most of these just find a spot and start playing.

    Gospel Band

    Gospel Band

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  • Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge

    Sometimes you can travel the world and see amazing places but then realize some of the most amazing places are near your door step.  Stephanie and I are fortunate enough to live in Charleston County 15 minutes from downtown Charleston and 25 minutes to the beach.  One of the most amazing places we have visited is the Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge (Ace Basin).

    Entrance to Ace Basin Park area

    Entrance to Ace Basin Park area

    We took our two Boston Terriers out to the Refuge on a Sunday in October.  There are 3 miles of a main hiking trail and more miles off the main trail (hiking trail description)  It passes through wetlands, old rice fields within 350,000 acres of undeveloped estuaries and wetlands.  At the beginning of the trail, is a fabulous old Plantation House which serves as a National Wildlife office.  The Grand Oaks are world-class and by themselves worth the trip just to view and photograph.

    Plantation House at Ace Basin

    Plantation House at Ace Basin

    We spent some time photographing the house and the Grand Oaks.

    Grand Oaks

    Grand Oaks

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  • Recommended International Travel Bookings Site

    Money Magazine recently had a good article on “booking sites” and brought to my attention, the site Vayama.com   If you are planning an overseas trip, you should check it out.  We are looking for an eastern Africa safari type trip (assuming Ebola does not move into that area) so I used the site and was quite pleased.  I went on to try out different traveling scenarios in Europe and southeast Asia.  Vayama Logo

    Vayama will give you multiple options of airlines and give the lowest price for each.  You can filter it by number of stops and price it in the currency of your choice.  You then pick the airline and deal of your choice and drill down further.  In addition, Vayama gives direct links from other discount booking sites and allows you to transfer your proposed itinerary directly there.

    For example, I searched for a flight from Barcelona, Spain to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and was given 18 airlines with their lowest price.  The lowest was Emirates Airline at $833 roundtrip.  I was then given the option to go directly to Priceline and three others.  Priceline beat the $833 price by one dollar on the same airline. Funny how that happens.

    Vayama is a fun site to play around with.  It has a category called deals where you pick your city or region and a choice of trips are displayed.  They go on to describe some of the highlights of the region.