Day #20. A trip to Venice!

LOCATION:  Outside New Orleans, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  3rd night at St. Bernard’s State Park
WEATHER:  Overcast.  Rain predicted, but didn’t materialize

We ate our super-delicious muffaletta for lunch.  Invented at the famous Italian Central Grocery in the French Quarter, it is a sandwich made with a round, crusty loaf of bread.  Inside are 4 different kinds of salami, one slice of cheese, and their famous olive salad spread (like a tapanade).  They cut the sandwich in wedges.  We each had a quarter.  Too much food, but I couldn’t stop eating it!

We set out for a hopefully interesting day trip…..following the Mississippi’s Great River Road on its final two-hour route south of New Orleans.  We joked that we were on MN, IA, WI, etc soil as the land was created by all the land that flows down here from the Midwest..  We followed the levy south.  It must flood a lot here, because many of the houses are on high pillars.  They are at least 3 stories high; some have elevators.    Not only does the height protect them from flooding, but also gives them a view of the river over the levy.

We passed a lot of interesting birds nesting in the trees – more egrets, rosette spoonbill, and herons.  About an hour into the drive, we crossed the Mississippi on a little ferry.

Then, another hour south.  Other than houses and oil refineries, there is not much else here.  We arrived at the end of the road – appropriately named Venice as it is surrounded by water.

  We headed over to the marina to check it out.  This is where the action is!  There were lots of fishermen and fishing lodges.  Venice is the self-proclaimed “fishing capital of the world”.

As we wandered around the dock, we saw a fishing boat arrive.  They had caught 8 huge yellowfin and blackfin tuna, including one that weighed 100 pounds!

They loaded the fish in a wheelbarrow…

And then hung them up for photos.  George pretended that he caught them.

We watched the pelicans devour the leftovers. 

The guy that had caught the fish offered us a “bite of sashimi”.  We said “sure!”  thinking indeed he would give us a “bite”.  But, he gave us a huge fillet of tuna – about 10 steaks.  He wouldn’t accept any money.  We sure hit the jackpot!

We retraced our route, heading back north.  When we got to the ferry, we had to wait a bit while this ship passed through.

DINNER:  We gobbled up some delicious (FRESH) tuna sashimi for appetizers.  Yum, yum, yum!!!  George grillled some chicken.  Side was broccoli in a cream sauce.  (I had to cook the chicken as it had been thawed.  The tuna steaks will be on tomorrow’s menu). 

BOOK:  “The Mercedes Coffin” by Faye Kellerman.  A good mystery.  4 stars out of 5.

Day #19 – Being a tourist in New Orleans

Thanks to blog reader who recommended some other campgrounds/state parks in the New Orleans area.  From here, we already have plans to head to Mississippi, but may be returning to the area after a few weeks, and if so, we will try to stop there. 

LOCATION:  Outside of New Orleans, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at St. Bernard State Park
WEATHER:  Absolutely perfect!  Sunny.  High 73

We spent the day being a tourist in New Orleans.  George had figured out a cool way to get to the French Quarter.  We took a car ferry across the Mississippi, then parked (free) in an area called Historic Algiers.  From there, we took a walk-on ferry to Canal Street.  This was much easier than driving into the city and cheaper than downtown parking.

You can see Jackson Square and the city skyline from the ferry…

We bought an all-day pass for the trolley system, and took one to the famous Cafe De Monde to buy coffee and beignets.  Alas, that was not to be.  There was a line about 1.5 mile long that would take about 2 hours, just to get to the counter!  So, we walked around the famous French Market, and George found a sweet potato pie to eat instead. 

We wandered around Bourbon Street area and other parts of the French Quarter.  We love these wrought-iron fences and beautiful flowers…

Some of the houses had Mardi Gras beads hanging from their balconies.

Parts of the French Quarter are kind of sleazy.  It must really be crazy at night.  Lots of bars and jazz clubs.  We peaked into some of the courtyards that look very interesting, and closed off from the public…

We were getting tired of the crowds (although mask-wearing was about 99%) and so we hopped on a trolley to go out to the less-crowded Garden District.

We passed by mansion after mansion, all with beautifully landscaped yards.  It is hard to believe that there is so much wealth here (along with poverty in other sections.)

We found a cute little restaurant/distillery for lunch.  We shared a “tomato stack” – 2 fried green tomatoes topped with a sauce of chilled shrimp, pickled okra, and jalapeno slices.  It was really tasty, and was the perfect amount of food.

Then, we took the trolley back to the French Quarter.  We stopped at Central Grocery to buy a muffuletta for lunch tomorrow.

By 4:00, we had had enough being a tourist.  We caught the ferry back to Algiers.  It is a darling little ward of the city, one of the oldest parts.  We stopped at a very authentic British pub. 

The bartender made us a Sazarec, a drink created in New Orleans.  It is really tasty!  It is the Pernod that is swirled around the glass that makes it pop.

Now, we were ready to hop on the car ferry, and we would be home in about 10 minutes.  That was not to be!!!  The car ferry was not running!!!!!  A part of the ramp had broken,  That meant that we had to turn around and cross the Mississippi by bridge, drive again through New Orleans, then circle back to our campground.  An hour later, we arrived.  Darn! 

DINNER:  Our friend Irene isn’t feeling well, so we each did our own thing.  George grilleld some Cajun jalapeno sausages.  I sliced them and added them to a tomato/onion stir-fry.  Side was a salad. 

Day #18 – On to New Orleans!

LOCATION:  Outside of New Orleans, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  St. Bernard State Park, about 15 miles out side of NOLA.  Water and electricity.  Nice paved site with picnic table, stand-up grill,  and fire pit.  Good bathrooms.  $14/night – a great deal.  Great wifi and TV reception. 4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Hot and muggy in the AM, cooling off nicely in PM

We had a nice overnight at Ardoyne Plantation, although the traffic noise was not pleasant.  Where do people drive all night?  We learned that the plantation was originally settled by a Scotsman who named it Ardoyne, which means “little knoll” or “little hill” in Scottish.  It is a big deal here – the house was built at 10 feet above sea level, quite impressive here in Louisiana.  That compares with New Orleans, which is 3 feet below sea level.  Crazy!

We had to measure to make sure Joy could clear the low-hanging limbs from the oak trees at the plantation as we exited.    Whew!  We made it!

I hate driving in cities, and our GPS looked like we would have to go through New Orleans to get to our campground on the other side of the city.  So, I drove the first hour, then handed the wheel over to George.  The GPS must have been set on “avoid highways” as it avoided Hwy 90 and Interstate 10, which would have been direct routes to the campground.  Instead, it took us through downtown city streets.  For awhile, we were on Canal Street.  Then, we drove through residential areas, most very very poor-looking.  We drove through the ward that had been seriously flooded by Hurricane Katrina several years ago.  About 75% of the houses have been repaired.  Most sport bright colors and tiny lawns.  The other 25% are boarded up, abandoned, with weeds in the yards.  Sad.  Driving down these narrow streets was scary – I was afraid that they would dead-end or that we would be too wide to get through.

We made it, of course.  After we got set up, George and Rob retraced our route a few miles to figure out the best way to get in to the city tomorrow for sight-seeing.  They found a ferry system which they checked out. We will try to do it tomorrow. 

DINNER:  They stopped at a Cajun/Creole restaurant  on the way home and picked up po-boys.  George and I shared a fried soft-shelled crab (local blue crabs) one.  It was very good – huge with 6 crabs. 

Day #17 – Down on the Bayou….

LOCATION:  Near Houma, Louisiana – southwest of New Orleans in the Mississippi Delta
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host site – The Ardyne Plantation.  A beautiful antebellum home.  We and the Glanvilles are parked on their circular driveway.  Normally, they have RVs park in the grass, but it is too soggy after a lot of recent rain.  Very kind host.  The only negative is the traffic noise in front of the house.  4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Moist!  Hot and humid.  High 86

A lot of fishermen arrived at the swamp tour place where we stayed last night with noisy trucks around 6:00 AM.  So, we got up, too, wanting to get  an early start.  Rain was predicted in the early morning, and we wanted to get out of the soft grass before that happened.  We drove in to the charming town of Breaux Bridge in search of some breakfast.  We found a place to park off the square, then spotted this donut shop.  Donut shops are very prevalent all around Texas and Louisiana, and they do a land-office business! 

Thank goodness, they had some savory breakfast items in addition to all their sweet offerings.  We shared 2 kolaches.  Also very common in northern Texas and Louisiana, kolaches have a Czech heritage.  They are kind of like pasties or empanadas – meat encrusted in dough.  We shared one with ham and cheese, and one with a weiner.  The Glanvilles made the better choice – a Cajun stuffed bread.

We walked around Breaux Bridge, very Cajun, and birthplace of  crawfish etouffee.  There are a lot of antique shops.  These beautiful oak trees with air ferns on their limbs line the streets. 

We strolled around the cemetery.  Here in Louisiana, cemeteries have to put the coffins on top of the ground, due to the high water table.

Azaleas are at their peak….

After this nice visit, we hit the road.  Today we drove through bayou country (pronounced Bye-You).  We learned it means “slow moving water”.  And, indeed, there was a LOT of water everywhere we drove today.  We crossed Bayou This and Bayou That throughout the drive.  There has been a lot of rain recently and the bayous were overflowing onto the road in several places.  Ditches were full.  As global warming increases, I don’t know how these people will be able to continue living here. 

We also drove over a lot of bridges – each little town seems to have a drawbridge that crosses a bayou.  As we got closer to the Gulf, there were many high bridges.  This one was somewhat under construction, and scared me to death driving…

We are staying tonight at the Ardoyne Plantation, built in the early 1800s.  This is our 70th Harvest Host stay!  The owner gave us a tour in the afternoon.  Her family are direct descendents from the German couple who built the house.  It was once a huge sugar cane plantation.  The highway in front of the house had been a bayou, and they could transport the sugar cane directly from here to the Mississippi via a web of bayous.  The house was built in the Victorian Gothic style.  Very beautiful.

We are parked under a big oak tree.  We put out our awnings to limit the heat from the sun.  Sure hope it cools down overnight, as we are dry-camping (no electricity= no air conditioning). 

DINNER:  The Glanvilles’ turn.  Rob grilled some pork chops stuffed with boudin, a Cajun sausage.  Irene steamed carrots and cabbage as sides.  Very tasty. 

Day #16: Swamp camping!

LOCATION:  Outside of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host Site – Champagne Cajun Swamp Tour.  Wow!  We are in their parking lot.  What a cast of characters!  We had to stay on the graveled area, as the grassy area was very soft due to a lot of recent rain.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 76

I got up early, hoping to get a photo of the feral hogs coming out of the swamp, but they stayed hidden.

We only had a short distance to go, and we were hoping to get uneventfully from Point A to Point B.  We managed to avoid Interstate 10 and any ferries, but the roads were awful.  Previously, I complimented Louisiana on its state park system, but the state has really ignored their roads.  The roads were some of the worst we have experienced.  Our bodies were shaken up and everything in Joy got a good shake, too. The paved road was so badly patched that I could only manage about 35 mph.  Then, our GPS instructed us to turn onto a gravel/mud road.  (I don’t make this stuff up!!!!).  It actually turned out a bit better than the paved road. We were on a road called Rookery Road, and the trees were full of egrets and rosette spoonbills – similar to flamingos, high in the trees.  What a site!   We arrived at the Swamp Tour place and got parked.  It was a little dicey.  If it rains more tonight, we may be in trouble.

We arranged to take the afternoon tour. 

It was a one-hour tour.  Our guide was a good ole’ boy…

It was actually a very good tour.

We counted 15 alligators, mostly small but one a big 10-footer. 

We saw lots of turtles on logs, and some nutria rats (something the alligators like.)  And, countless birds – egrets, blue herons, whistling ducks, and countless others.

The captain guided us through the bayou and then  the swamp – very swampy! 

Then, we went around the lake, very  popular among fishermen and duck hunters…..There were lots of duck blinds..

After the tour, we relaxed in our RVs, and then I made dinner…

DINNER:  An Asian theme – stir-fried veg and shrimp over soba noodles. 

Lovin’ the Cajun Food!

LOCATION:  Abbeville, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Palmetto Island State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 70

As I was drinking my morning coffee, and looking out the window, I spotted two large animals.  They appeared to be small cows.      I looked more closely and realized that they are huge, wild hogs.  They crept out of the swamp, pooped ( a LOT) on the grass in front of our site, then disappeared back among the palm fronds in the swamp. Darn – sure wish I had gotten a photo!

We went in to the town of Abbeville, passing a lot of beautiful southern-style plantations with azaleas ablaze in their front yards.  Quite nice.

With the Glanvilles, we found a great Cajun restaurant for lunch – SHUCKS.  Each couple shared a dozen oysters on the half shell.  Superb!

The Glanvilles split a crab sandwich (from local crabs).  The menu explained that their recipe makes 130 crab cakes, and calls for only one cup of flour and one cup of breadcrumbs, resulting in cakes that have very little filler.  Rob and Irene reported that they were delicious.

George and I split a bowl of crawfish etouffee.  It was yummy, too.

We did a little grocery shopping, then headed back to the park.  This is the road leading into the park – quite narrow with the swamp on both sides.

I sure wouldn’t want to fall into the swamp!

This gator welcomed us back to the park.

Another section of the park has nice rental cabins, picnic areas, and canoe/kayak rentals.

An unfortunate part of swamp-living is the bugs.  There are some huge flies here that divebomb and bite
people.  I walked to the “comfort station” (a nice southern way of saying bathroom).  There, I talked with two ladies; one was very Cajun and had a strong French accent.  When I commented about the flies, she said their name in French.  Apparently, there is no exact translation, but they are like big sand flies or biting deer flies.  Not nice!

We made a campfire, mostly to create smoke to keep the biting flies and mosquitos at bay. 

DINNER:  Since we had a large lunch, we decided to eat separately and lightly tonight.  I made a flatbread pizza spread with a pesto/cream cheese sauce, then topped with some rotisserie chicken, onions, and green peppers.  I served with sprinkles of green onions and tomato wedges.  Quite nice. 

BOOK:  “Just One Look” by Harlan Coben.  I picked up this book in a book exchange at a campground.  A murder mystery.  He writes quite well.  It is a real page-turner.  4 stars out of 5

Day #14 – Another crazy day of driving

LOCATION:  Abbeville, Louisiana in SW part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Palmetto Island State Park.  Water and electricity at sites.  Spacious, level and gravelled sites with fire ring and picnic table.  Very woodsy/swampy.  GREAT showers and bathroom.  With senior discount, $14/night. A real deal!  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Overcast. Showers in evening.  High 69
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  6.5 hours – see below!

Deja vu all over again!  Our daughter says we get in to these pickles so that I have something interesting to write about in the blog.  Not!  This really did happen to us…..again…..

We left our drenched RV park near Holly Beach around 10:00, in order to avoid the predicted rain storms.  The planned route was nice and easy…..a 30-minute drive to the ferry (free), followed by a scenic drive through the delta.  Total time – 2.5 hours.  Did that happen?  Of course not!

We arrived at the ferry and got in line with other vehicles, and then waited.  And waited, and waited.  Finally this huge tanker sailed by, on its way to fill up with natural gas.  We had waited an hour as they have to take precautions with these highly flammable ships, and had to give it plenty of time to come and then go.   Finally, we could see the ferry come over to our side of the waterway.  The captain started walking down the row of vehicles.  We could hear him tell Rob that his vehicle could not go on the ferry.  Then, he approached us, and told us the same.  It is because it is a temporary loading dock (due to the hurricane), and the level is too steep to accommodate our hitch.  So, we made a U-turn and tried to figure out another route. 

The problem is that there are rivers, lakes, and the inland waterway to get around.  The only option was to go north to the dreaded Interstate 10, then east, and then south again.  Sound familiar?  I-10 was its usual horrible self, full of semis, holes and bumps.  There were huge bridges to cross.  Did I mention who was driving???!!!

We got off in Lake Charles, LA to buy some propane.  Then, tried to figure out how to get to the state park.  We tried keeping in touch with the Glanvilles, but we lost cell service and gave up. 

The route took us through massive oil refineries, with roads stopped one way due to construction.  It could hardly have been worse. 

As we drove through the countryside, we continued seeing so much devastation from Hurricane Laura.  Roofs of most houses are covered in blue tarps.  Many buildings have been totaled.  Trash everywhere from remains of buildings.  So sad!  And this all happened more than 6 months ago.  They must be very frustrated.  We also saw lots of FEMA temporary housing units.


On a positive note, as we left Lake Charles, we ended up in a small town called Iowa (pronounced Ioway).  We found an authentic Cajun restaurant with a nice big parking lot.  Hallelulah!    Like many Cajun restaurants, it was just for locals and not fancy at all.  We ordered one of their daily “plate specials”.  It was rice smothered with okra, sausage and shrimp “piquant”.  The 2 sides we selected were cheesy broccoli and cornbread.  All paired with a Shriner Bock.  The amount of food was ridiculous, all at $10.  We have arrived in Cajun country!  YAY!

With full propane tanks, empty bladders, and full tummies, we continued on down the road.  We passed through rice fields, that are used to grow crawfish this time of year.   I think their system is ingenious…….After harvesting the annual rice crop, the farmers flood the fields and seed them with a few pregnant crawfish.  The crawfish start multiplying quickly, and then the farmers harvest them in the spring.   Two crops out of one field!  We are in luck, as it is crawfish season. 

To top off this terrible drive, the roads were some of the worst we have encountered.  Patches cover patches.  We also had to pass large farm machinery that take up both lanes.  Did I mention who was driving? 

We finally arrived at the park, around 4:30.  (Original estimated arrival had been around noon.)  We got set up and I dashed to the bathroom for a glorious shower.  Top notch!!

DINNER:  The Glanville’s turn.  Irene is German and made some delicious goulash. 

BOOK:  “The Blackhouse” by Peter May.  My Nova Scotia friends recommended this book, and it did not disappoint.  A murder mystery made very interesting due to its location – on a remote island off Scotland.  This is part of a series and I will try to read more.  5 stars out of 5

Day #13 – It was a dark and stormy night…..

LOCATION:  Near Holly Beach, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Johnson Bayou RV Park

It started raining about 1:00 AM and absolutely poured.  Thunder crashed all around us for hours and the sky was lit up with lightning.  There was even some light hail for a while – Airstream owners’ worst nightmare as hail causes pockmarks on the aluminum.  The storm seemed to abate for awhile, then returned.  All night long….

We awoke and peeked outside.  We now have a waterfront campsite! 

We think we got about 8 inches of rain.  At one point in the morning, we lost electricity, probably because our electricity plug-ins were under water. 

It continued raining throughout the morning.  Trix, the Glanville’s dog, ventured out to pee…..

The whole campground is one big pond.  The rain finally stopped about noon.  George opened up some of the empty sewer outlets and that helped to drain the water.  He brought in bricks so that we could get to higher ground from Joy’s entrance.

By mid-afternoon, we could slog around a bit in ankle-deep water. 

This RV park has a nice laundry so I did a load.  When the sun came out, George and I walked to the beach, about a 3-mile round trip.  On our way, we passed by flooded fields.  Alligators lurked in the deepest sections of the ditches.  One plopped in as we passed; another just showed his head.

Farther down the road, we discovered the corpses of 4 dead cows floating in the water, probably victims of last fall’s 175-hour Hurricane Laura winds.  Pretty creepy…

The beach was nice.  We had it to ourselves.  We discovered a decapitated seal lying in the shallow water.  Also creepy.

Back at the campground, it was time for a celebration……our 45th wedding anniversary!  It certainly doesn’t seem like it was 45 years ago when we married in Japan, after knowing each other for only 3 months or so.  George popped a bottle of champagne….

Here are our friends trying the champagne with some pate’ and toast points….

And here is the happy couple….

DINNER:  My turn tonight.  Sort of a chicken cacciatore.  George grilled chicken thighs on the grill.  Meanwhile, I made a meaty spaghetti sauce using ground pork, bell peppers, onions, artichoke hearts, garlic, and a jar of sauce.  When the thighs were almost done, I put them in the sauce to finish cooking.  I served with a salad and buttered tagliatelle pasta.  Very gourmet! 

Day #12 – Trying to find our RV park!

LOCATION:  Holly Beach, Louisiana
CAMPGROUND:  Johnson Bayou RV Park.  Full hook-ups.  Laundry.  Really nice owner.  No showers or toilets….UGH!  Level, grassy sites.  No picnic table or grills.  No cell service.  $30/night.  2 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very windy.  High 67
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  4 hours (should have been 1!)

With a short distance from Anahuac, Texas to tonight’s destination, we putzed around in the morning, taking our time to do odd jobs, like adjusting the air in the tires.  We told the Glanvilles that we would meet them at the RV park.  George and Rob did a little fishing, and Rob caught this BIG one!

They needed to go grocery shopping; we needed gas and propane.

The poor cell service in Anahuac dwindled away and we had no GPS at all  to find the road we were looking for.  So, unfortunately, we landed on the dreaded Interstate 10 again.  We were able to get off after a few miles and finally found the highway we were looking for.  We drove by lots of ugly, massive oil refineries and could see huge oil platforms in the Gulf.  Very ugly industry.  Even though we are surrounded by oil and gas industry, there were no gas stations to be had. 

Still without GPS, we searched for our RV park.  We weren’t even sure of its address.  Their website said Cameron, Louisiana so that is where we headed using a paper map. 

Hurricane Laura came through here in September, 2020 and really did a lot of damage.  We passed lots of houses that were in various states of disrepair – from ripped off siding, to houses off their cement foundations, to total devastation.  There was garbage everywhere – huge pieces of metal ripped off from barns and factories lying in the ditches.  So sad. 

We stopped to buy gas, and thank goodness we did!  Even in the midst of all this oil, it was the most expensive gas we have bought on this trip – at $2.89/gallon.  We kept on driving toward the town of Cameron, but the road ended!  We figured that the hurricane took out the bridge so we were in line waiting for the ferry.  Still unable to get GPS, we were a bit uneasy about continuing.  George finally asked the car behind us whether he knew where our RV park is.  It was in the opposite direction!!!!!  So, we had to turn back and retrace our steps for about 25 miles.  It turns out that it is in Cameron Parish, not the town of Cameron. 

Once in a while, we could get a bit of cell service, and it told us to turn down a road for the RV park entrance.  It didn’t look good…..and it turned out to be a narrow dirt road toward the entrance to an oil refinery!  The gate was locked and there was nowhere to turn around.  Thank goodness, there was a telephone at the gate that we could use to ask a guard to open up the gate for us to turn around.  He also provided directions to the RV park.  We were on Young Road – just the wrong Young Road – there are 2! 

So, finally in mid-afternoon, we limped into the park.  We had passed it about 2 hours ago!!!! What should have been a one-hour trip ended up to be 3.  We were pooped from driving in the stress!  And thank goodness we had bought that gas.  That was the only station we saw the entire afternoon. 

There is not much to do here.  Rob and Irene took their dog Trix to the beach, about a mile from here.  It was super windy, so we decided not to go.  They found a dead seal on the beach.  Weird.    There are no restaurants or shops.  The nearest are in Port Arthur, about 35 miles away.  So, we will probably just hang out here.

DINNER:  Irene’s turn.  She made some good chicken tortilla soup.  It was a good night for soup.

In the evening, we played cards with the Glanvilles.  They are trying to teach us.  We are not good students. 

Day #11 – A beautiful day at Anahuac Wildlife Refuge

LOCATION:  Anahuac, Texas – SE of Houston
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host winery – Frascone Winery.  Super friendly owners.  Neighbor greeted us and helped us get parked. He is a good ole’ boy, missing most of his front teeth.  😦 
  Full hook-ups available for $15, but we dry-camped.  The parking area overlooks Trinity Bay that leads to the Gulf of Mexico.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cloudy.  Cool.  High 70

Check-out time at Bay Palms was an early 10:00, so we got a good start on the day.  We drove along the Gulf eastward, then north.  Galveston Bay and the Inland Waterway surround us.

On our way to Anahuac, we stopped at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.  When we arrived, we were the only ones there.  It is very well-done – very much worth the stop.

We parked at a visitors center (closed due to Covid) and did one of the hikes – through a butterfly garden and then a boardwalk over the marsh.  

We kept seeing these little formations and wondered what they are.  Later we asked a ranger who told us they are built by crawfish!

We asked the ranger which roads in the refuge would accomodate Joy.  Two we could do; one was dirt without any turn-arounds.  First we took a one-way, VERY narrow road around some wetlands. 

We saw a few alligators…. (yes, there is one in the photo)

We met a lady who visits the refuge daily, monitoring the alligators.  She counted 71 in a pod before the freeze a few weeks ago.  She reported that they seemed to have survived the cold, as there are still 71 there (in a spot we couldn’t get to). 

They were doing a controlled burn not far from us…

We saw a big flock of flamingos and many other birds.  It was very interesting.

Then, another drive (gravel road that was a bit scary) to a boat ramp, figuring we could turn around there.  It was a nice spot.  A family there were catching crabs…

We  had a nice picnic right next to the water.

Then on to the winery.  It is in sort of a run-down town with houses along the waterfront.  Most look like fishermen’s.  After getting set up, we walked around the town, and stopped at this locals’ bar,  Channel 17, for a beer.

Back at the winery, we joined the Glanvilles at the winery’s tasting room. 

The owner is second generation Italian and learned wine-making from his grandfather in Italy.  The wine was surprisingly good. The owner’s wife is Vietnamese.  Her specialty is gator spring rolls.  Of course, we had to give them a try!

We bought some bottles of wine and mead, as we always do, to support the Harvest Host owners.

DINNER:  My turn.  I had some leftover lamb stew that I thawed and bulked it up with cannellini beans and canned tomatoes.  It was quite good.  We started with a very tasty salad, one of Jacques Pepin’s recipes, and a good way to use that BIG bag of walnuts that George bought:


4 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1/2 cup walnuts
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup minced scallions
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8-12 Boston lettuce leaves

Mix all.  To serve, spoon  into lettuce nests.