Places We’ve Seen
It’s important to us to get out of our motorhome and out of the campgrounds and see some of the sights in the area. One of the questions we always ask ourselves is, “Why is this place here?” And we don’t leave until we get a satisfactory answer. If it’s a populated area, it’s usually because of transportation or natural resources. If it’s a natural wonder, it’s usually because of geological forces from long ago.
Below are the places we’ve seen most recently. Click here to see all the places we’ve seen since going full-time.
We were going to go to the French Quarter Fest last year, but we were delayed in Florida later than we planned and it never worked out. So we put it on our calendar again for this year. We arrived at Bayou Segnette State Park on Wednesday, the day before the festival started. The campground is across the river from the city, a short drive from the river ferry that made it an easy commute to the festival.
The annual four-day festival celebrates local music and cuisine, and admission is free. This year there were more than 20 stages representing traditional and contemporary jazz, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Zydeco, and other genres. We picked out a few artists that looked interesting to us and heard many others as we made our way around the festival. There was so much to see and do. Below is a summary of each day of our visit.
Day 1 (Thu): We crossed the river too late for the opening parade, but we were just in time to hear the Panorama Jazz Band (favorite band of the day), who played at the Big River Stage. It was a beautiful sunny day. We explored the French Quarter, stopping for lunch in the French Market. It was fun to watch my crepe being made, and it was delicious. After more music and exploring, we headed back to the ferry, which we discovered was not running that evening due to a large diesel fuel spill on the river earlier that day. We were shuttled back to our car via bus… very crowded bus since it was 5:00 rush hour, and many people commute to work via the ferry.
Day 2 (Fri): We made our way directly to the French Market Traditional Jazz Stage to hear the New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings (favorite band of the day). Of all the music venues set up around the Quarter, we liked this one the best. It had the most dancing, and they gave lessons between some of the sets, all fun to watch. We had lunch again in the French Market; there were so many food vendors, so many choices of delicious NOLA cuisine. Becky had a wonderful muffuletta, David had a crab cake slider. It was another fun day of exploring the French Quarter and seeing many great stage and street performers.
Day 3 (Sat): The festival was cancelled for the day! It rained hard all day, starting around 11:00 am and finally letting up around 9:00 pm. There were tornado and flood warnings posted, not good when you’re camping below sea level, but the park ranger assured us that we would be fine. They only evacuate during hurricanes. I think this was the first day of living in our motorhome that we didn’t go outside at all.
P.S. The hard rain once again confirmed that our problem with the leaking slide-outs had been fixed. No leaks! We will speak of it no more.
Day 4 (Sun): The sun was shining again and the festival reopened. And it was crazy crowded, “can’t move” crowded. We made our way back to the Esplanade in the Shade Stage to hear The Tin Men (favorite band of the festival!). This group’s promo calls them America’s premier sousaphone, washboard, and guitar trio. 😀 We could have watched them all day, they were that good. But alas, they finished their set, so we set out on our final walk around the festival. We walked down Bourbon Street and listened to another jazz band, then decided to head home early. The crowd was just too much.
Day 5 (Mon): David had been nursing an injured shoulder for several days, thinking it would get better, but it didn’t. This morning, he found a doctor at an urgent care center to look at it. After a diagnosis of a pinched nerve due to overusing an arthritic shoulder and getting a handful of prescriptions, we went back into the city with David’s arm in a sling. What a trooper!
The festival was over, and we wanted to see New Orleans outside of the French Quarter. We booked a sightseeing tour that went out past the mansions of Esplanade Avenue to City Park, where we stopped for beignets. We then saw areas that have been rebuilt after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The tour continued to the very interesting Metairie Cemetery before a swing through the Garden District.
All in all, it was a fun week in NOLA. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about their visit to this city leaves with a feeling that they want to go again. We feel the same.
Some friends told us about this park, plus we had heard that it was a good place to view manatees during the winter when it is cold outside. Manatees are warm blooded and they cannot survive in temperatures below 60 degrees, so they congregate in warm spring-fed waters like those that are found at Homosassa. There were only a few manatees at the park when we visited because warmer temperatures had arrived in Florida, so the manatees had headed back out into the gulf.
The park is also a rehab center for injured and orphaned manatees as well as other native Florida animals, such as black bear, Florida panther, bobcats, alligators, gray fox, and otters. Many varieties of birds also live at the park. Most of the animals and birds living at Homosassa Springs cannot survive in the wild.
Lu, the 58-year-old African hippo, is the one misfit in the park. He lived at the park in its early days when it was an exotic animal attraction. When the state of Florida purchased the park, Lu was allowed to stay.
We’ve mentioned before how much we like the village squares in The Villages, especially the live music every evening from 5-9. One of our favorite bands is Uncle Bob’s Rock Shop. We got some photos of them playing here at Spanish Springs a couple of weeks ago.
We also had a recent visit from friends Judy and Jim. It was a cool, windy day, but nice enough to go out and explore Spanish Springs and Lake Sumter. Great fun!
It was hard to rate this farmers market. It is very large and there were so many good vendors, but it was so crowded! I don’t think we’ll go again. One of David’s favorite sayings is, “It’s so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.” And that’s exactly how we feel about this place.
But downtown Winter Garden is really nice. We were here last year and enjoyed our visit. There are a lot of little shops and restaurants to check out.
We had some extra time in Bradenton after Jennifer went home, so we decided to explore the area a bit. Glad we did. We stumbled upon a wonderful farmers market on Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. This is by far the most scenic farmers market we’ve ever been to.
The booths are lined up on both sides of an asphalt boardwalk that runs between the parking lot and the beach. The walkway is lined with trees providing shade to the vendors and shoppers. The market was larger than we expected, no doubt because of its spectacular beach front location.
We enjoyed the market so much that we returned the next day and spent the afternoon lazing about on the beach. Coquina Beach is truly a hidden gem, and stands in dramatic contrast to our last beach experience at Fort Lauderdale. To be fair, the weather was much nicer this time. But it’s not just the weather. The Fort Lauderdale Beach was loud and busy, but Coquina Beach is laid back and relaxing, in other words exactly what a beach should be.