Sunday, February 25, 2018

Experiencing New Orleans on a Budget


It was a journey….. A journey across four states in 5 days. I’ve called it the Grand Road trip for it was precisely that. Day 1 my roommate and I spent the night in Georgia. Day 2 was Alabama (which is my last post), Day 3 was Mississipi and then we arrived in New Orleans later that afternoon. I’ve already posted about the Little River Canyon in Alabama and will eventually post a tidbit on Biloxi Mississipi, but I feel compelled to share our journey in New Orleans next.

We were very conscious when it came to our spending on the trip. First off, we split the cost of gas and rooms so in all (after souvenirs) it came to about $300 for a 5 day excursion. Tip number one would be to check out Air bnb. Our nightly stays, came to about $50 and then we split that in half even further reducing our price. We were quite pleased with our hosts and their overall friendliness. You can look over reviews from past visitors before making the final decision of your host home.


The other bit of advice would be use public trasit. We used an app that allowed us to to track where we needed to get off at and when we need to change trollies or buses to reach our final destiation. I would recommend getting a Jazzy pass if you plan on stay 2 or more days. It eliminates the need for carrying extra change and will save you some cash. Finding parking is a pain, so I highly recommend taking this route.


What I really loved about New Orleans was the architecture, the food, and the Jazz. Here is a snap shot from us entering the French Quarter.


There were plenty of carriage rides offered. In my personal opinion, one of the most fun parts, was taking a bus tour. We got to hear about the culture and history. We passed Sandra Bullock’s home and Robert Mannings home which was pretty thrilling. We heard about the houses that had their own horror stories. We listened to Jazz music on the bus. We then went and got New Orleans famous Beignets.

Beignet recipe: 


Here is a view from our entrance into the Jackson Square.


I really enjoyed getting to see a show taking place near the street.


In addition to the various sites, we got to learn first hand the story behind the canals that failed in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina.

I highly recommend visiting the Presbytere museum in Jackson Square. It explains and gives live footage of what was experienced during hurricane Katrina. Admission is $6 and worth every penny. When we went, the upstairs was dedicated to Marti Gras. 



We got to take a tour of a local cemetery and believe it or not cemeteries are a major attraction in New Orleans.



An additional attraction we came across was the Lou Armstrong park. It was dedicated to Lou Armstrong who was one of the most influential of men in the Jazz movement. 



I hope you enjoyed this tour of New Orleans! It so happened that they were celebrating their 300th anniversary while we were there. Next month, I will write up an entry on the food in New Orleans which I must say was one of my favorite parts.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama


One of my dreams and ambitions is to visit all 50 states and so this year, I’ve started chipping away at making my way across the United States. I’ve visited Illionois, Alabama, Mississipi, and Louisiana this year and in summer I’ll be going to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delware. And so, to begin the new quest, Christmas week, my roommate and I began our “Grand Road Trip” to the southern states. We traveled from North Carolina all the way to Louisana with Alabama and Mississippi as our main stops. The total time to travel from North Carolina to Louisana without stops is 13 hours.

One of our main stops was Little River Canyon National Preserve which is located on the top of Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne, Alabama. We took the scenic drive which has 9 different stops along the way. The first entry point is at the 45-foot waterfall. We were blessed to get to go at a time when the water flow was strong. Nature never ceases to amaze me as I witness the creativity and artistry of our great God.


Part of the joys of a road trip is being able to stop at the drop of a hat. Being able to pause to take it all the sights and sounds is part of the experience. We found this very prounced rock appropriately called “Mushroom Rock.” There were rocks on each side with a road between them. The mark of humanity was on the rocks as people had left their signatures and symbols.



Eberhart Point is the last overlook on the scenic drive and what a way to conclude such a journey. What depth this canyon has and how insufficient the picture is to capture the picturesque nature of this place. According to online records, the “Grand Canyon of the East” is 12 miles long and as much as 600 feet deep. the park protects a grand total of 14,000 acres.



This is a whitewater river at the park that ranges from a classs III to a Class V.



A far off view of the Little River Falls.


Before going, check out their visitor center and their gift shop. They have the parks history and more details.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Christmas at the Biltmore Estate


It’s been a dream in the making. A wait of 5 + years to see the largest privately owned house in the United States. And with that, welcome to the Biltmore Estate. A house of 250 rooms with 35 bedrooms for family and guests and 43 bathrooms. Construction began in 1889 and continued into 1896. It was opened up to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895. I can just imagine the remarks of awe and wonder at such a luxurious home. No expense was spared with such an intensive display of wealth. The construction of the main house required 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. Vanderbilt went overseas to bring home furnishings such as tapestries, hundreds of carpets, linins, and other decorative objects.


Upon entering, your first stop will be the Winter Garden. I highly recommend the audio tour which will walk you through the Biltmore, describing the history and background of the various rooms, kitchens, dining halls, and other areas.


The banquet hall is the largest room in the house. It measures 42 feet wide and 72 feet long, with 70-foot barrel-vaulted ceilings. My visit was at the end of October and already Christmas was in the air. Ladders were in place to hang garland and ornaments. The tree in the banquet hall is a 35-ft. live Fraser fir. In addition to this large tree, more than 100 Christmas trees are placed around the mansion with the largest tree being 55 ft. out in the front of the estate.


This additional dining area is elaborate with the upholstery and decor.


The Salon


The music room


The library which demonstrates Mr. Vanderbilt’s deep appreciation and love for books.


The Tapestry Gallery


Christmas trees! Two out ofover a  hundred.


Imagine being able to walk out on your porch each day to see this view.


View down the stair well from the third floor.


Bowling Alley


The pool which is empty due to a leak.


The gymnasium.


There are three kitchens with this being the main one.

Outdoors at the Biltmore Estate





The gardens and Conservatory are another highlight of the estate. The Conservatory was compleeted in 1895 and features a variety of exotic plants. The Conservatory hosts small ceremonies and receptions of 10 – 75 guests. It is a romantic setting for weddings, but be prepared as the estimated cost for 100 guest is between $44,612 and $45,665.





I hope you enjoyed these photos from my tour of Biltmore and will get to visit for yourself one day. By booking in advance, you could get a discount so check out their tickets online.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Camping in Grandfather Mountain


There I stood, at the edge of the cliff daring to look out into the wilderness with thousands of feet from where we were to the ground. The air was chilly, but with the frequent movement it was almost nonexistent or at least it seemed so. I just wanted to take it all in. It was like all the stress and anxiety was washed away and there I was feeling God’s presence in the most miraculous way. It had taken climbing steep hills and over large boulders to reach the top, but worth every step. And then as we looked out into the distance, a cloud was encircling the moutain. You could see the breeze pushing it around.



mountain 10

Foscoe point

Grandfather Mountain State Park is known for the South’s most severe weather and most challenging terrain, but eight of us convened out on this trip with at least 35 pounds on our back and some around 45. We were courageous. The adventure seeker outers. It was my first time camping in a tent. I cherish the times my grandparents would take us camping in their airstream, but there is something way different when sleeping in a tent, cooking food on a small propane stove, filtering your own water from a stream, and the other little various things that we take for granted in city life. Camping takes us back to our roots. How we used to live before all the fancy appliances.


Picture to the left is us filtering our water and photo to the right is how we cooked our food on a portable propane tank cooker.


Conclusion to day one was experiencing a sunset at Grandfather mountain. The oranges and pinks lit up the sky and as the light grew dimmer, the stars grew brighter. Stars beyond our ability to comprehend with the distance and multitude of them all. What looked to be a satellite slowly went across the sky and then as we looked across the horizon, not only did we see the stars clearly, but also small lights coming from the city below.


The next day was even more adventurous. We found this trail and thought that this couldn’t possibly be a trail with the dangerous nature of it, but sure enough it was and as you can see the blue streak on the rock declared that it was. So despite the strenousness of the trail, half our group ventured forward into the unknown up what was quite a steep mountain. It was most assuredly worth it and though we didn’t have time to reach the swinging bridge, we shared the views and splendor of reaching the peak. It was an adventure of a life time and though the views and sites of a trip are astounding, the people you share it with is even more part of the memorability of the journey.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson