Things We’ve Done
Wherever there are people, there are things to do. The three main ingredients are music to enjoy, food to eat, and stuff to buy. Some are better than others. Some are just like the last one we went to. And a few are one of a kind surprises.
Below are the things we’ve done most recently. Click here to see all the things 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.
The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland FL on Valentine’s Day sparked outrage throughout the country, including in The Villages. We learned that a local march in support of the national march in Washington, DC was being held at Lake Sumter Landing, and decided to join in.
Frankly, we were surprised, but proud, to see such a large crowd marching for tighter gun controls in The Villages, which is a Republican stronghold. The rally was organized by students from The Villages Charter School with other students and their supporters from The Villages and the surrounding area. It was one of hundreds of marches throughout the country on that day in support of sensible gun reform laws.
Organizers and police expected a hundred people to attend, but were caught off guard when many hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, showed. The initial plan was to march around the inner square, but the size of the crowd prompted leaders to march throughout the entire shopping and commercial area. Additional police officers needed to be called in to help control the traffic flow. There were a few counter protesters, but all in all, it was a peaceful event.
Even though it as a small gesture, we felt we did a good thing by marching. It is clear to us that the solution to gun violence, especially mass shootings, is not more guns. The Second Amendment does not, and should not, mean all Americans have the right to bear arms without restriction. We believe the NRA has lost all credibility on this matter. We have committed ourselves to become aware of political candidates who accept NRA money, and vote accordingly. This is no longer a political issue, it is a moral one. “Enough is enough.”
You get a little bit of everything in the Villages. This week we got Mardi Gras a week early. The festivities were held at the Spanish Springs village square, and it was the most crowded event we’ve ever been to in the Villages.
When we got there we almost gave up because we had a hard time finding a parking spot. But we eventually found one on a side street about half a mile away. Glad we didn’t give up. We had a great time.
We were greeted by the Perseverance Brass Band, who were first rate. Further in toward the square was a Cajun band that was also quite good. Between sets, we were entertained by the Village Twirlers, a larger group of women cheerleaders and majorettes who were closer to age 80 than 18.
You gotta love it.
One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to check out the local festivals, especially ones that have a particularly local flavor. So we were happy to learn that a local orchard was having their 18th Annual Apple Harvest Celebration.
Showalter’s Orchard is located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. It is covers approximately 40 acres with breathtaking views of the Valley. They grow, press, and bottle their own apple cider (hard and sweet) on the premises.
Each October they celebrate the apple harvest with music, crafts, and food. While we were there, a local blues band, Little Walter and the Convictions, were playing. They were quite good. There were also wonderful meal choices from some local food trucks. We had fresh baked pizza with hand made ice cream for dessert.
But clearly the best part of the event was the views from the orchard, which is located on top of a large hill overlooking the valley below. It was a splendid venue. And the cider was tasty, too.
It was the last day of our week stay in Hershey. Over the past few days, we had gone to Chocolate World (not impressed) and to the third annual Choctober Fest (overly crowded and weather was not pleasant). We wanted to do something fun before we left the area. It was a beautiful fall day, crisp and cool. What better time for a visit to Hershey Gardens and Butterfly House?
Hershey Gardens is a 23-acre botanical garden and arboretum built on a hill overlooking Hershey Park. Mr. Hershey built it as a gift for the community and to honor his wife. The gardens first opened to the public in 1937 as a rose garden occupying 3.5 acres. More gardens were added over the next few years, and by 1941 the gardens had been enlarged to their current size. In 1998 the Butterfly House opened.
We started our visit in the Butterfly House which was wonderful! The butterflies were landing everywhere including an especially stunning one on on David’s hat. Butterflies live only a couple of weeks, so the supply is constantly being replenished. The butterflies come to Hershey in chrysalid form, and are ordered mostly from small family farms that raise butterflies in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. They are kept in a chrysalis cabinet until they emerge and are released into the Atrium.
We then went outside to the gardens which are beautiful and very well maintained. They were planned so there would be color and interesting plants in every season. In addition to the fall blooming perennials and brilliant mums, we enjoyed a special bonsai exhibit that was on display while we were there.
It was a nice way to finish our stay in Hershey.