Morning in the City of New Orleans

We were up early and ready to meet the City of New Orleans. Everyone told me I would fall in love with it.  DSC_1492_edited-1

We decided to walk to the waterfront to meet the tour bus. It was supposed to be a short walk and it probably would have been if I’d checked a walking map.  But I used my phone to google the route not really thinking that google would give me driving directions. Needless to say we added a few extra blocks to our walk!

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After an excellent breakfast buffet in the restaurant attached to the hotel we took off to find the Lighthouse that doubled as a visitor center.

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We walked and walked. We passed a wonderful park with bronze statues of jazz musicians and promised we’d come back when we could sit and enjoy the live music. I love all the decorative grill work on the balconies.

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The streets were just waking up. Large trash cans lined the sidewalks waiting for the garbage pick up.  A few joggers were out but mostly the streets were empty. Clearly New Orleans is a city of the night.

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Finally we spied the “Lighthouse” . It was located on the banks of the Mississippi. I admit that being on the banks of the Big Muddy gave me goose bumps. I hadn’t even thought about seeing the Mississippi while we were in New Orleans and there it was.

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It looked like the rain had followed us from San Antonio as dark clouds threatened while we waited for the tour bus to arrive.

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Riverwalk to French Quarter

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day.

Now it’s time to get back to my tale of our most recent adventure. We were about to embark on the Amtrak portion of our trip.  We had to be ready to board by 6:30 am so we arranged the cab ride the night before.

The cab was early. It was still dark and rainy when we arrived at the station so we didn’t see much of the exterior.

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Inside was much smaller than I expected and there were plenty of people waiting for trains. As we checked our luggage I joked with the clerk who assured me that they had a better track record than the airlines for getting our luggage where it was supposed to be.

He told us the conductor would come in to announce our train so we could have a seat and relax. Time passed and I watched the clock progress toward our departure time and still no “All Aboard” announcement. Finally I got concerned and started asking other passengers. One said our train was boarding right now and that we’d better get out there. So much for the conductor!

Outside we were immediately given our “room” assignment. By having upgraded to a “sleeper” all meals were included and we had a little bit of privacy. The room was tiny and if we wanted to sleep one of us would have to climb to the upper bunk. It was adequate but I think the full size sleeper would have been nicer. Next time.

One of the nicest amenities was the lounge car, a windowed dome car with tables and more comfortable seats.

Amtrak's lounge car feature windows that reach into the ceiling which makes it the best place to soak up the scenery on a long trip. (Photo by Josh Noel/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

Amtrak’s lounge car feature windows that reach into the ceiling which makes it the best place to soak up the scenery on a long trip. (Photo by Josh Noel/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

Meals were served in the dining car. The conductor came around with a form for us to sign and choose the time we wanted to eat. You don’t just wander down anytime you get hungry. Snacks are in the the Lounge Car. Anyway, when they call your seating you go to the dining car where seating is 4 to a table. We had lunch with a French couple and dinner with a German couple. The food was excellent which amazed me considering the size of the galley and the wait staff was top notch.  I was quite impressed.

The views along the corridor from Texas to New Orleans weren’t the most scenic that I’ve ever seen. One of the most interesting to my mind was refineries we passed, at least one was burning off gas which was quite something to see. Up until now, I’d only seen it on TV.

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We passed cotton fields but I seem to have missed them. The German couple told us they had seen several.

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We wondered what the grassy crop was that we were seeing. It was clearly cultivated so we asked the dining car staff. They told us that was sugar cane.

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I never would have given Sugar cane a thought. I think of Sugar cane as an island crop not something on the mainland US. Its wonderful what you learn when you travel!

Before we arrived in New Orleans the sun had set and we were back in the dark. Once in New Orleans we retrieved our luggage, hailed a cab and soon were checked into our hotel in the French Quarter, Wyndham New Orleans.

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Our Final Hours in San Antonio

Usually my vacations are go , go , go while I try to cram in every possible attraction and sight because who knows when I will get to return. So the first day in San Antonio with the City tour filling the hours was right in style with the way most of my vacations go.

Day two was much more laid back. Being on our own with no car limited the amount of running around we could do. The rain was another deterrent. In the end once we returned from the botanical garden and got dried off, we had lunch and retired to the back veranda of the hotel. There they had tables and chairs which overlooked the River walk.

I confess I embraced the Southwestern tradition of siesta and snored my way through the afternoon comfortably ensconced in the  cushioned chairs.

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Dinner was with our travel voucher at the Hard Rock Cafe on the River Walk. Sandy had Salmon and I had the only Bar-B-Que of  the whole visit. It was so good and in true Texas fashion, way too much food!

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While we were at the Alamo I was pleased to learn that they have an Alamo Cat. We spotted one large, fluffy, orange and white cat while we were at the Alamo but it didn’t look like C.C., the official Alamo Cat.

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We missed out on the San Fernando Cathedral thanks to the rain. Founded in 1731, it is the oldest, continuously functioning religious community in the State of Texas. The Cathedral building has the added distinction of being the oldest standing church building in Texas.

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The Cathedral of San Fernando is said to be the resting place of the remains of the heroes of the Alamo. At night there is a light show that is projected on the sides of the structure.

We also missed visiting the Tower of the America’s.  Maybe next trip.

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But these were small oversights. The next morning we’d be on the train heading to New Orleans and bidding adieu to the Lone Star State.

A Rainy Day in San Antonio

As I was thinking about this post I thought it was appropriate that I write it today as it’s a rainy and dreary day in Massachusetts. Perfect for putting me in the mood for telling you about our rainy day in San Antonio.

We’d had a full day with the City Tour and the rain had held off until the end at the Japanese Garden so I guess we don’t have too much to complain about.

This morning we woke to more drizzly rain. This was our personal day. We got the grand tour yesterday and now we had the whole day to explore on our own – in the rain.

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We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant looking out over the Riverwalk while we considered our options. I wanted to go back to the Alamo to pick up some gifts I’d spotted the day before. The various tours, trolleys and buses all leave from the square in front of the Alamo so that seemed a good place to start.

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We didn’t want to start the day soaked so we asked the valet to call us a cab. Let me tell you, New York City doormen have nothing on our guys! A piecing whistle and a leap into the street and we had our cab.

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Walking would have been a couple of blocks straight down the street but taking a cab was an adventure because so many streets are one way. Once again I was happy I didn’t have a rental car!

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After loading up with souvenirs and gifts we  crossed back to visitor center where we spotted another T shirt that Sandy wanted to get. Unfortunately they were all out of the size she wanted. Thus began the great T shirt hunt while we explored  up and down the street in every T shirt store and gift shop within sight. Eventually we found a shirt similar enough to satisfy  Sandy.

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Now it was time to figure out San Antonio’s transit system.

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We each bought all day tickets for about $3.00 each and climbed aboard a trolley that would take us to the Botanical Gardens.

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It was in the Botanical Gardens that I got my angel wings. I must say they are pretty heavy.

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Along with the Angel Wings were “birdmen” sculptures throughout the gardens. These were from an exhibit by famed Mexican artist Jorge Marín called “Wings of the City.

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The rain wasn’t letting up so eventually we found ourselves relaxing in an arbor that did a pretty good job of keeping us dry.

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We may have been wilting from the rain but the dry desert was coming to life. Cactus was blooming and flowers were perking up.

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All in all it was a nice morning. We didn’t let a little rain put a damper on our day.