Day Eighteen: Houston to New Orleans

The day started off well. We went to the Breakfast Klub, a super-friendly eatery that specializes in made-from-scratch breakfast dishes bigger than your head. They also have awesome, bottomless cups of coffee, and not the thimble-sized ones. These are for serious coffee drinkers. Then we got to the parking lot and someone sideswiped the rental car, leaving a small but distinguishable scratch. We spent the next two and a half hours being shuttled between three police stations to try and make a report for insurance. Nothing says vacation like soul-crushing bureaucracy.

On the way to New Orleans at last, the scenery began to flatten out into marshes, sugar cane, and bridges. The massive bridges stretched for miles and miles. (One was eighteen miles, to be precise.) To take a break, we stopped at one of the visitor centers in Louisiana. What a delight!

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This is what rest areas dream of being when they grow up–clean, spacious, staffed with friendly people, and good smelling. Plus they have alligators!

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The wasted time made a massive dent in my near lifelong desire to see New Orleans. But we still had time for a po’ boy.

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The Parkway Bakery & Tavern is the place to go for these sandwiches. I got the oysters, which they only have on Mondays and Wednesdays. I can also heartily recommend the bread pudding. (Take note that they’re closed on Tuesdays.)

I was game for ice cream, but no one else was. That might have been a good thing since the baby had one of those diapers that’s so bad it takes a pit crew to change it.

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On the way to the hotel, we saw a bit of the French Quarter.

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Tomorrow we finish New Orleans and head for our last day. Sadness.

Day Seventeen: San Antonio to Houston

We were warned to get out of San Antonio early. (Not in a malicious shoot-out-at-noon way, but in a you’ll-be-stuck-in-traffic way. Apparently I-10 on this route becomes a parking lot on most days.) But we couldn’t scoot out of San Antonio without visiting my mom’s favorite TV preacher, Pastor Hagee.

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Cornerstone church was ultra-huge, but the music was good and so was the sermon. And the people were friendly. And the baby got to play with toys instead of hotel ice buckets and toiletries. It was a win for everyone.

Due to our early departure, the three-hour trip was fairly uneventful. In fact, we arrived too early to check into our hotel. So we went here to feed the police horses some carrots. They know when you’re coming and flock toward the treats. It’s adorable.

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Did I mention it was 99 degrees? It was 99 degrees. We drove by the water wall, but didn’t get out. Because it was 99 degrees.

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Then we found a bakery, Uncommon Bond. The chocolate chip cookies, oh, the chocolate chip cookies. They’re 3.50 per cookie, but they’re worth it. Seriously. (Take it from a connoisseur.)

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The bakery was in Montrose, a strip full of quirky stores and antique shops.

Next we went to our hotel, a Sheraton Suites near the Galleria. For the uninformed, the Galleria is the country’s fourth largest mall. To beat the heat, we swam for a bit and then grabbed supper here.

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Good Dog Houston makes upscale hotdogs. They’re good, so good that I forgot to get a picture.

For dessert, we headed here. They make ribbon ice, sort of a creamy shaved ice milk. They also have sno-cones with all-natural syrups. My daughter, who is allergic to all food dyes, was able to have a sno-cone for the first time ever. It was a grand day.

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After, we drove around Memorial park, a giant green space in the middle of the city. There were people out walking. They must not have gotten the memo that it was too hot for that sort of thing. Houston seems like a lovely city, especially when viewed from the safety of our air-conditioned van.

Pacific Coast Highway, Day 1–Seattle

As pre-vacation calamaties go, ours have been pretty mild. We’ve developed a reputation for odd incidents, so we were expecting something. Yesterday when I heard the sound of rain drops even though there were no clouds, I was convinced our house was flooding. Turns out I was wrong and there was no flood. Instead a mower blew a rock into our sliding glass patio door. The showering sound was the door shattering into a million pieces. Then my husband said those dreaded six words, “I think I’m getting poison ivy.” One of his eyes is almost swelled shut, causing him to delcare that he looks like Vincent from that ’80’s Linda Hamilton show, Beauty and the Beast. (Anyone besides us remember that? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

Thankfully he has two eyes. Likewise the door has two panes, so we ignored both problems and set off on our merry way. Since we’re driving most of the Pacific Coast Highway in two weeks–Seattle to San Diego and back again–we need to make the most of our time, to make hay while the sun shines. Unfortunately the sun never shines in Seattle, or so we’re told. So we made the most of rainy, 50 degree weather and saw some sights, even after eight hours of flying and a plane delay meant we spent the entire day traveling. The beauty of flying west, however, is that you gain daylight. Right now it’s almost midnight our time and still light here, making us feel like mental patients involved in some sensory deprivation experiment. Sleep? Who needs sleep? Not our four year old, that’s for sure.

But I digress, back to Seattle. The first stop for most people is the Pike Place Market, and we are no exception. Well, we’re a little bit of an exception. I staved off my morning coffee in favor of authentic Seattle coffee. I relied on other reviews to tell me which of the vast shops to visit in the Nirvana of coffee. (Nirvana, get it? Not a Kurt Cobain fan? Moving on.)

We visited Espresso Vivace Roasteria, just around the corner from the market. To me, it looked like any other Starbucks, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I ordered a white velvet (white chocolate mocha.) The espresso was properly dark and smooth, a true coffee lover’s dream. Image   Random people I don’t know enjoying coffee.

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I was enamored with this pattern, even though it wasn’t as fancy as some I’ve read about.

Our next stop was the Pike Place Market. If you only have a few hours in Seattle, as we do, then this is the place to go. The ambience is as good as the food. And if you can only eat one thing in Seattle, I recomend chowder from the Pike Place Chowder house. It’s as good as everyone says, and then some–smooth, creamy, sweet, with perfectly-sized vegetables and clams. Seriously delicious. Image

This is one of those foods I could eat every day and probably never not want more. Perfection in a paper cup.

Another must-visit place is Beecher’s handmade cheese. If we had more time, I would get a grilled cheese sandwich. As it was, we tried a few samples of delicious cheese. Image

As everyone knows, the highlight of the shop is the fish-thrower guys. (Pretty sure that’s the technical term for them.) They’re as delightfully charming as they can be, which sort of makes you feel bad for the other fish guys further back in the market. They don’t throw fish or chant snappy sayings. They simply stand in front of dead fish and look sad. Image

At last it was time for supper. My loving husband once again indulged my foodie tendencies and spent many moons traversing the same road over and over, looking for the restaurant. We finally realized we had passed it several times because obviously the way to attract customers is to make your sign as tiny as possible. Image

In case your magnifier isnt handy, that says “The Walrus and The Carpenter.” It’s an oyster bar. Do we like raw oysters? No idea, but that’s sort of the point of vacation–to try new things and have adventures. Now I can say that raw oysters taste like the ocean smells, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They were salty, fresh, and juicy. And the mouth feel wasn’t as squishy and slimy as I thought it would be. Since we took our preschooler, we couldn’t simply order raw seafood. The menu wasn’t kid friendly, so we ordered some bread, cheese, and honey. It was a big hit with a little girl who usually borders on picky. I also ordered some fried oysters that were battered with corn meal and served with a cilantro aioli. I have fulfilled my foodie street cred for the vacation by eating fancy food and am now free to enjoy burgers and onion rings as many times as I want. Image

As a reward to the poor little girl who had by this time been awake for far too many hours and was forced to eat goat cheese for supper like Seattle’s version of Heidi, we topped off our meal with some gelato at this place: Image

I had the fig and caramel. (Sorry no picture–I stood in the street for far too long while my husband circled the block and became stuck in traffic.) My daughter had the strawberry sorbet which was nothing short of fabulous.

If you’re planning on visiting Seattle, here are a couple of handy hints: Seattle Airport is not near downtown. With traffic, it was a thirty plus minute drive to the market. However, there are a plethora of hotels near the airport, and that means good deals. I would prefer to pay less and drive than pay more and be downtown, but that’s me. Also, so far the traffic has been horrible so plan to add drive time to any event. Finally, remember that it’s cold here. Although it’s June and hot back home, here it was fifty degrees and rainy. (I’m not complaining; I enjoy the break from the heat. But come prepared in layers.)

Tomorrow is my husband’s turn to choose our activity, but as he was supposed to be planning, he fell asleep sitting up. I have high hopes for big adventure. Vanessa.