Posted in: Animal Sightings, Sightseeing

Our First Day In Florida

Our first day at the new campground was pretty successful. It was a larger campground and the sites seem nicely spaced. We managed to luck into a nice spot.

During our first exploration of the campground, we saw new (to us) animals. The Sandhill Cranes seemed to be everywhere in the campground. They are larger sized birds, with long legs, grey bodies, and a splash of red on their heads. They didn’t seem to be scared of people, but they were not aggressive either.

Nick was ecstatic that he got to see a turtle (which turned out to be a tortoise). We looked up what kind he was, and we think he (or she) was a Gopher Tortoise. Gopher Tortoises have claws for digging, as they create burrows to live in. They are listed on Florida’s Threatened List. We also read that you are not allowed to touch them, but can call a wildlife ranger to see how you can help if they are in distress. Apparently, some people have assumed the gopher tortoise is a sea turtle and put them in the water to help, but the gopher tortoises are not great swimmers and can easily drown. They recommend not putting any turtles in the water until you know their species.

It’s been fun learning about the types of animals we see along our journey.

Posted in: Campground Review, Sightseeing

Florida’s Welcome Center and A Stone’s Throw RV Park

The drive from New Orleans to Florida was pretty long. The panhandle always seems small on the map; I think because it is so thin compared to the rest of Florida, my brain tells me it’s smaller, but it took a long time to drive!

We average stopping every 3-4 hours for diesel and/or bathroom breaks. Some of the truck stop bathrooms lately have been rough, so we stopped at the Florida Welcome Center on I-10 near Pensacola, Florida. It was huge! The boys got a kick out of the plane by the parking lot. Nick loves turtles and was happy to find the turtle sculpture by the doors.

There were vending machines that sold both drinks and candy and the Sun Pass for the toll roads. You could activate your pass at another machine. It did take several minutes to go through all the screens and to get the pass activated.

We then went into the main room. They had an astronaut suit behind the desk, along with free grapefruit and orange juice. We all tried the orange juice. The side wall was covered in tourist information and was broken up into the sections of Florida for ease of use. There was a kid’s corner with a cartoon playing on the TV. The front desk had welcome bags already made up with maps, some of the information pamphlets, and a set of masks!

We decided to stop near Tallahassee for the night. We were tired and had been on the road for almost 10 hours. We stayed at A Stone’s Throw RV Park. It was very conveniently located with quick access on and off the highway. They did have bathrooms and an entertainment room (looked like a pool table). The park offered pull-throughs with full hook-ups and WiFi, but we were tired and planned on leaving early, so we only hooked up the electric. The spaces were tight together and so were some of the turns on the interior road. I was glad it wasn’t completely full as it would have made some of it challenging to move in a large rig.

We didn’t get a lot of pictures, as we arrived when it was dark and left when the sun was just coming up.

When we booked online, you could pick your spot and it would show how long the site was. We managed to get one that fit both the RV and the truck. The site wasn’t level, so we did have to disconnect to raise the front. However, the site was long enough that if it had been level, we could have stayed connected up. It wasn’t bad for around $30/night for full hook-ups, but I think it is more of a stay a night or two kind of place. There was some noise from the highways and some frogs.

Posted in: Campground Review, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

French Quarter RV Resort, New Orleans LA: Campground Review

For our visit in New Orleans, we wanted to be close enough to walk into town. Parking can be a pain in the rear, especially with a truck, and New Orleans has limited free parking (even a lot of street parking is paid parking).

We stayed at the French Quarter RV Resort. It is outside of the French Quarter (on the other side of Rampart, the dividing line), but within walking distance to things. Most places were within a 20 to 30 minute walk, and Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter was a 22 minute walk. The RV Resort was on one of the bigger streets and by the highway, so we didn’t have to try to navigate around the French Quarter (which really would not work with bigger RV’s). Being so close to the highway made it easy to get to places, even if New Orleans loves one-way streets and U-turns.

French Quarter RV Resort in relation to the French Quarter. Outlined area is the French Quarter (per Bing).

Everything in the RV Resort was paved/cobblestone. It was mostly flat, although we did have to adjust a little. There was a lamp post between each spot with a number for the site. Each site was a 20/30/50 amp with full hook-ups and cable. The connection boxes were cute and also had a light around the top. All spots were back-in. There were not garbage cans around the park; you put your trash by the lamppost and someone collected it. There was a dumpster outside the gates. Each site had a little bit of grass and/or a palm tree (not enough for shade). Each site had a bump-out of sorts for vehicle parking. We fit without a problem.

Map of the French Quarter. Campground Map and TV guide.

Behind the office was the pool area. The pool was open, although it was not heated. There was also a hot tub and several lounge chairs and other seating in the pool area. The pool area also granted you access to the gym (had snack and drink vending machines), breakfast area (microwave, table/chairs, free coffee), laundry room, bathrooms/showers, and the pool and hot tub.

The laundry room could also be accessed from the campground street. The washers and dryers were some of the more expensive ones that we have used: regular sized washer $3.25/load, larger washer $4.50/load, and dryers were $2.25/load. The washers and dryers only accepted credit cards. There was a sign on the washers that said no American Express. There was not a vending machine for detergents/dryer sheets, so bring your own supplies (or there were several grocery stores within walking and driving distance). TIP: If you use laundry pods, I found that they did not dissolve on cold water cycle here. Sometimes they worked on warm, and on hot they dissolved. We ended up with several items with the pods stuck on after they went through unnoticed in the dryer. It is not fun trying to get a dried on laundry pod off of your clothing.

Pool, Breakfast area, bathroom/shower, gym, vending machines in gym room
Laundry room

They do accept mail, which made it really nice since we had some things we needed to order. However, they will not hold mail that arrives before your visit, so I would wait until you are there to start ordering. There was a spot for outgoing mail (envelopes/postcards) on the office counter.

FQRV was tucked into its location. Claiborne Ave and I-10 run along the entrance of the park. St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 and a processing plant was on one side, with a park on the other. The lot on the backside of the campground was under construction. It looked like they were building either a hotel or apartment buildings. It could be a little loud from air (helicopter/plane) and street noise.

The campground was gated and you needed a code for the car gate and the pedestrian gate. There was a night time security guard, although from our experience you still need the gate code to get in as you do not get an identifying hanger for your rear-view mirror. Due to its location (being near the highway and downtown area), it was not in the best area. However, the walls, entrance gate, and spikes on top of the walls, made us feel safe inside the campground. The underpasses frequently had homeless camps as well. The campground does recommend not walking back in the dark, and I would agree with that. If we were going to be out late, we drove. There were Ubers/Lifts/taxis around as well.

Although the campground did not have a camp store or restaurant, DoorDash and UberEats did deliver to the campground, you just needed to meet them at the gate.

The office had a book exchange shelf and tourist brochures by the poolside door.

WiFi is available, although it was listed as available mostly to the common areas, not through the campground. We were close enough to the pool/office, that we could get the signal. It was spotty at times though.

One con for us was the price. This was by far the most expensive campground/RV resort so far. When we booked in January 2020, we knew it would be more expensive as we were going over part of Carnival season. We paid half at booking and would pay the other half the day of check-in. However, when Mardi Gras was cancelled, the campground did not adjust what they charged us (even though the other days were more expensive due to Carnival/Mardi Gras season).

VIDEO: Campground Tour French Quarter RV Resort

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes (credit card only, no American Express)

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes (4, separate rooms)

RV Sites: Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: No (no stakes allowed in ground)

Amenities:  gym, cable, free ice at ice machine by courtyard, premium sites have other things (outdoor furniture, gazebo, or grill)

Cabins: 1 condo available to rent (top floor of office)

Tent Camping: No

Full Hook Ups: Yes. 20/30/50 Amps at each site

Pool: Yes, not heated

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: No

WiFi: Limited to common areas

Accepts Mail: Yes, but will not hold prior to arrival

Fishing: No

Posted in: Food

Eating New Orleans: Willa Jean Restaurant

We saw some amazing breakfast images online of the food at Willa Jean and wanted to give this restaurant a try. We went early in the morning on a Sunday. It seemed like all available parking nearby were paid spots. We found a pay lot just a block down.

The inside was really cute and had a great atmosphere. My favorite decorations were the lights that looked like egg whisks. However, while the indoor seating was spaced out more than what they probably usually are, it was not quite 6 feet apart. We were seated inside, but a nearby table had someone coughing several times. There weren’t any seats open further away from him, so even though I got an eye roll, I asked to be seated outside. The restaurant had part of the street outside blocked off for some outdoor patio seating. The outdoor tables did not have table service. You ordered at the inside counter and they would call your name at the front door when your order was ready.

The chicken sandwich was by far the best. It was delicious and had a little bit of a kick to it. The sausage egg and cheese sandwich was good, but very messy with a runny sunny side up egg. The hangover bowl was ok, the grits were a little bit…chunkier…more textured…than what we were used to. The key lime pop tart was also a winner. I normally don’t like key lime, but this was subtle, more of a tart citrus taste. The pop tart shell had a flaky texture that reminded me of a puff pastry.

I am glad we tried the restaurant. However, I would not order the coffee again (expensive for the size) and would stick to the pastries and the amazing chicken sandwich.

Posted in: Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing

Walking with History: National World War II Museum (Will’s Blog Post)

            The WWII Museum is amazing. If you haven’t been there and are going to New Orleans for a little bit then you should visit this place. It has all sorts of cool exhibits, and artifacts about World War II. There are four main buildings which are the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the Hall of Democracy and US freedom Pavilion, the Solomon Theater Building, and the Campaigns of Courage building. We stayed here all day from about 10AM to 5PM. It was great, but if you don’t want to stay the whole day reading, I’ll explain all of the exhibits here so you can plan your trip.

            Louisiana Memorial Pavilion: This area is where you sign in and get an introduction via a fake train taking you off to “war.” On the second floor is the Arsenal of Democracy which goes over some of the statistics and overall look at the countries their armies and their weapons. It explains more on the US home front. The third floor is the D-Day exhibits which have first hand accounts, weapons used, and a cool demonstration of one of the German lookout towers with a model instrument. The First floor also has a little history on The Higgins Boat and has a motorcycle and artillery gun near the side.

            The Solomon Theater: We walked across this quickly and only saw a little, but it mostly consists of the movie theater, a fun, quick look at the marines and some of the supply ships the US used in the war and a gift shop.

            Hall of Democracy: This is where we went for lunch at The American Sector Restaurant and Bar. It was nice enough and actually pretty nice for being at a museum. I got an Oreo sundae which was delicious and chicken and sausage gumbo. My dad got a double cheeseburger with fries. We also visited their special exhibit about the distraction part of the army that was made to keep the Nazis guessing and that made the inflatable tanks and guns. This exhibit was called Ghost Army the Combat Con Artists of World War 2.

            Campaigns of Courage: This was really cool. The top floor goes over the process of taking down Japan and has a really cool building structure that first looks like a ship and then a jungle. The first floor goes over the defeat of the Nazis and looks like a desert and then the ruins of a city. This goes more in depth into the defeat of the Axis powers and has fun videos that go over most of the reading.

            US Freedom Pavilion: This is a really cool exhibit that lets you see  some of the vehicles used during World War II including a B-17E Flying Fortress called MyGalSal. It also has a jeep with a gun attached and an amphibious car that has a rifle rack in the front.

Outdoor statues
Admission button (acts as proof of ticket), stylus for exhibits, Dog Tag card (You are assigned a person to follow at the beginning of your visit in the train. You collect information along the way and can review it later. You can even log on once you are home to read your experience.)
Social Distancing Signs

DETAILS: *

  • TICKETS: Due to COVID, you need purchase tickets ahead of time for a timed entrance. Tickets are available online. Face coverings are required. There are several ticketing options, including private tours. The General Admission Tickets are $28.50/adult, $18/child K-12. There are discounts for military, seniors, college students. WWII Veterans and children under 5 are free. The Campus Pass includes General Admission and the 4-D Beyond All Boundaries movie. $35.50/adult, $25/child K-12, $7/child under 5. There are discounts for military, seniors, college students. WWII Veterans are free.
  • HOURS: Daily 9 am- 5 pm. (Closed Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day)
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street or nearby lots. The Museum also has a paid lot.
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: several hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, School, YouTube Video Link

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and Fontainebleau State Park

One of the things we wanted to see while in New Orleans was the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It holds the Guinness World Record of the longest bridge over water (continuously).

There was a toll on the north side of the lake heading south (back to New Orleans) for the bridge. The toll was $5/2 axles, or $3 if you had a toll tag. You could also take a different highway home to avoid the tolls, but it does add additional time to your commute.

When we went, it was a little overcast and cloudy. Luckily there wasn’t too much traffic on the bridge. The causeway has two bridges, one going North and one going South. Each side had two lanes. Around the middle of the bridge, there was a drawbridge to allow water traffic through, although we did not see it in action. The drive was fun. We saw a few birds roosting and a few motor and sail boats out on the water. At one point, we couldn’t see land in either direction! Lake Pontchartrain is large at 629 mi² and 39.77 miles in length, but averages only 12-14 feet in depth. VIDEO: Driving On Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from New Orleans to Mandeville (South to North)

Although the drive itself was our mission for the day, we also stopped at Fontainebleau State Park to stretch our legs. Admission was $3/person (daily), not the normal per car fee. The park had several offerings: campground, cabin rentals, playground, beach, walking trails. We headed to the Visitor Center first and learned some interesting information about the park. It was at one point a sugar plantation and was named Fontainebleau by its owner after a park in France. Located in front of the Visitor Center were the remains/ruins of the sugar mill. They were fenced off with a short picket fence, but they are in bad shape, so be careful walking near them. The Visitor Center had a campground map that had a park map printed on the backside. The Visitor Center was smaller, but worth a stop if you are in the park.

The windows looking out had an etching of the sugar mill. It is a little hard to see in the pictures though.

We drove down to the beach and it looked like a soft sand. There were alligator caution signs throughout the park. The beach also had a nice large parking lot, several picnic bench areas, and a large building with changing stalls, showers, and bathrooms. There was also a pier you can walk out onto, located at the beach area.

Walking trail to Marsh Boardwalk

It was a little muddy, so we only took the shorter trail near the beach area to the marsh boardwalk. We saw a few birds and ducks, but no alligators. It was a nice enough park, but I wouldn’t go back for more than one visit with the entrance fee. I would definitely prefer to go Barataria Preserve to get a look at bayou type of areas. However, their rental cabins did seem nice and were right on the water, so it would be a nice place to stay. (Click here for my Barataria post.)

Fontainebleau Park Details:

  • TICKETS: $3 per person for daily pass
  • PARKING: Lots of parking at beach, Visitor Center and near trails
  • BATHROOM: Yes, at Visitor Center and Beach
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Information Links:

Posted in: Hiking, Sightseeing

Woodlands Conservancy

New Orleans is great for outdoor activities, which we tend to gravitate towards. Not only do the outdoors give the boys a chance to wear off some of their endless energy, but it helps keep us active while being able to socially distance during these COVID times.

We have found a lot of parks near the city. Some of them are walking distance depending on where you are, and some require a drive to get to them. The trails have varied from dirt to wood boardwalks to paved paths. One of the last parks we explored was Woodlands Conservancy. It is tucked between two schools off of a dirt road. There is a faded sign as you get closer, but we missed it the first time we drove by. The park has a couple of walking trails and one horse trail.

We got there a little late in the day, so we only took the Uplands Trail, which is a little over a mile long. It had rained earlier in the week, so it was pretty muddy in spots (all the trails are dirt). We saw a few animal tracks in the mud and found a tree swing in a clearing.

There are ten WWII ammunition magazines at the end of the Bottomland Trail! I am hoping that the weather dries out and we can hike to go see these. That trail is 5-6 miles long, so doing that in the mud does not sound fun.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, Sightseeing

We Found Crescent Park! (French Quarter, New Orleans, LA)

Crescent Park is located near the French Quarter, right on the Mississippi River. The park is a little over a mile long. One of the entrances is by the French Quarter Market; it is tucked behind a wall, on the other side of the train tracks. If you are anything like us, you probably walked right by it and didn’t even realize it was there. There is also a parking lot at the other end of the park.

Two of the bridges you can use to access the park. The tall cement one has an elevator and stairs, and is by the French Quarter Market.

The park has several tables and chairs, lots of lawn space for a picnic, great views of the river, and a dog park. There were a lot of runners, bikers, and roller skaters. There is a large covered concrete pavilion of sorts on the French Market side where kids were practicing their on bikes and roller skates.

Foggy morning. Same views: top picture is at the beginning of our walk, bottom is at the end.

It was extremely foggy when we got to the park. We were standing on the walkway right next to the Mississippi River and couldn’t see the water, much less the city. Eventually it started to clear up. Towards the end of the park, the skies were pretty clear and blue, but on our walk back there was still some fog closer to the city.

It was a really nice walk and we enjoyed the park. It seems like it would be a nice green space to walk and enjoy some beignets. 😉 (Note: It would probably be pretty hot in the summer, as there were trees by part of the path, but it didn’t seem like they would really provide shade for the trail.)

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Hiking, Sightseeing

New Orleans: City Park

City Park is a pretty large park. You can drive and park there, or take one of the streetcars.

The park has a lot of things to do! Free things include playgrounds, walking trails, and picnic tables. Paid items include: Storyland park ($5.47, under 36″ free), Art Museum, Besthoff Sculpture Park ($5/adults, 19 and younger free), City Putt (starts at $10/ages 13+, $8/ages 4-12). There were also soccer fields, tennis courts (reservations/fee), and a dog park (permit required).

We really enjoyed walking around the park under the Spanish Moss.

On our last visit to the Park, we explored the Couturie Forest. It does not have a large parking lot, so you may have to park farther away. There is a little library nearby and a creek with a bridge to cross over. The trails are dirt/mulch. We did get to complete the arduous climb to the highest point in New Orleans: Laborde Mountain. It is a whole 43 feet above sea level! There were even chickens roaming around.

Walking around Couturie Forest: Trees, platform at top of Laborde Mountain, wild chickens, stick shelter, ibis

I would definitely get a copy of the park map on your phone before you go! It is a large park and we did not see a lot of signs with a map on them. It is a nice park to spend the day at.

Posted in: Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing

Confederate Memorial Hall Museum

One of the reasons for going on this trip was to learn/see new things and to expand the boys’ views of the world. We wanted them to be able to think and research, listen to both sides, and come up with their own conclusion, to not just take everything at face value.

And so we found ourselves one Saturday morning at the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum.

The museum is in a really neat building and is the oldest continually running museum in Louisiana.

DETAILS:

  • TICKETS: Due to COVID, you need to email the Museum to make a reservation for the day/time you want to visit. You pay for your tickets once you arrive ($10 adults, $5 kids ages 7-14). It was only open Thursday to Saturday when we were in New Orleans.
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street or nearby lots
  • BATHROOM: Yes, downstairs
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours

The museum is on the main floor of the building, with the bathroom downstairs. They had some neat pieces of history on display. It was mostly reading with one video. There was a small gift shop as well.

We started on the left side of the museum and one of the first exhibits we saw contained a Dix! New Orleans has history to the city. Being on the water, the city had plenty of trading with ships coming and going. At one point, the city was separated into French and American sides. Canal Street separated the French and English speaking parts of New Orleans. Each side had their own currency (French bills and American/English). Per our tour guide at Sazerac House, people met in the middle of Canal Street to do business, as it was considered neutral ground. One bank there decided to create a new currency, the Dix (French for 10). It was printed in English on one side, French on the other, and was a $10 bill. It later was nicknamed a Dixie, and hence the name for the South was created.

Battlefield trees with shrapnel embedded
Top: Uniform and gloves of Daniel Merwin. He lost his right arm in battle. His “Invalid Fork”, and 2 Left Hand gloves. Bottom Left: Sucession Badge image.
We find the mention of Ohio in the strangest places.
Different artillery shells.
Silver crown given to Davis, link of chain (boats), Stonewall Brigade Medal, Seal of the Confederacy

It was interesting to see this perspective on the Civil War. There were some signs that definitely had a Southern slant to the way they were worded. There was no real addressing the issue of slavery, it was mostly facts and information about battles, soldiers, and Jefferson Davis. It did give us a few good talking points to go over with the boys.

The gift shop was an interesting mix of wooden toys (chess board, 9 pins, chalkboard, Jacob’s Ladder etc.), hats and t-shirts, patches, stickers, quill pens, and the Confederate flag.