Thursday, October 08, 2015

Hot Time in New Orleans

We'd never been to New Orleans and when The Little Mermaid tour, starring our friend Eric Kunze, made a stop there it was the perfect time to visit.  The time of year wasn't ideal.  It was very hot and humid.  But our hotel, the W French Quarter, was set in a lively neighborhood surrounded by shops and homes with balconies overflowing with plants so we didn't have to walk far to enjoy the sights. For longer outings we often used Uber to get around.

The sheer number of "must do" restaurants was overwhelming, one of the main reasons to visit this city. We feasted on crabcakes, gumbo and beignets until we couldn't eat anymore. Our final meal of the trip was one of the best dining experiences of our lives: Emeril's. We had no less than three waitstaff attending to our every need.  Each course was impeccable: oysters, gumbo, pork chop and andouille crusted fish, ending with his famous banana cream pie. Despite his quirky TV persona, I developed a new respect for this chef.

New Orleans is the place to overindulge in alcohol, encouraged by incredibly cheap drinks.  Our hotel's restaurant offered 25 cent martinis ("limit of 3 per person, because 3 is enough").  The city has a dark side as well. Many travel guides will tell you to be careful where you walk at night and to stay on heavily populated streets. Tea rooms offering tarot card readings, voodoo and white-faced witches are common as well as scantily clad strippers outside of clubs.

There has been much restoration since Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, including the Sanger Theatre, which is where Eric was performing. Every performance of The Little Mermaid played to capacity crowds, enthusiastic audiences which included many little girls eager to see their favorite Disney story. They lined up at the stage door afterward to see Ariel and Prince Eric in person.

Only four nights in New Orleans was hardly enough to scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. We look forward to next time to explore all the places we didn't have time to see.  One place would be the bayou, which we only saw from the plane as we flew home.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Las Vegas 2015

Most people would call us crazy for flying to Vegas in the height of summer.  It was 90 degrees at home and up to 105 there.  In actuality, the heat in Vegas was more bearable because of the low humidity.

But there was a reason for our madness.  Georg was given a four week reprieve from Chemotherapy and that was our time frame.  When I got an amazing offer from Aria, our favorite Vegas hotel, we jumped on the opportunity.  Our room rate was $79 a night, with a $50 resort credit and two free tickets to Cirque de Soleil.  Miraculously, I was able to get our flights free using my British Air Avios miles (and one half the trip was even in first class!)  It seemed all the ducks were in place and we decided to go.  I was a little worried about Georg navigating the airports and so I arranged for wheelchair assistance - a Godsend.

We stayed at the resort the whole four days, getting carryout lobster rolls from Todd English and eating at the Asian restaurant,  Lemongrass,  and the incredible new Michael Mina French restaurant, Bardot, which is sure to become our favorite haunt.  Because we were blessed with such a good deal on our trip, I decided to splurge on a poolside cabana.  It was a luxury to have our own space, stocked fridge, TV, healthy fruit and veggie trays and our own personal waiter. It was fun to experience how the "other half" lives, even if just for a day.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

45th Anniversary

Our favorite things to do on vacation is to have a nice room with a great view in a town that has good food and fun things to do.  For our 45th anniversary our first choice might have been Las Vegas, since we do enjoy playing penny slot machines and the luxury hotels are so reasonable.  Due to Georg's illness that wasn't an option for us right now.  I searched for places within driving distance of us that offered the same amenities.  I had read about Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo and decided to stay at the Marina Grand Resort.

We lucked out on so many levels; our hotel suite had a water/marina view, we had access to Lake Michigan, the casino was 10 minutes away and we discovered a fantastic restaurant five minutes from the resort.  We knew there was a special blessing on our time together when we entered out suite and looked out the window.  The first thing we saw was a docked fishing boat named "Fisher of Men" in large letters on the back.  Being that I have worked at Fisherman's Net Church for 40 years (our logo includes Matthew 4:19,  "Come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.") this was a good omen that the Lord was with us and looking out for us.

We explored the surrounding area and discovered two delightful places nearby. One was Jackie's Cafe, which we had read about online.  It was reputed to be a great place for breakfast.  Jackie Chen had been a renowned chef in Chicago, became disenchanted with the big city and opened a nondescript cafe in New Buffalo, with a population of less than 2000 people.  Little did we know that we had stumbled upon an amazing treasure.  Jackie herself seated us and explained that all of the food was locally sourced and house-made, including the pork sausage.  On each table was a jar of her own homemade lemon curd (which she explained took hours to cook) and a bottle of real maple syrup.  We had read about her famous blueberry french toast and it certainly did not disappoint.  The best french toast ever!

Directly across the street was an amazing olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wine tasting shop called Promeny.  We were alone with the owner, Martin, which was fortunate because he was able to tell us his story.  He had emigrated from the former Czech Republic, which he escaped while it was still under Soviet rule.  This was particularly interesting to me because my father was Czech as well. The shop had a section that was clearly Christian based and I asked him about it.  He said he had been a lifelong atheist, but one night he felt that Jesus Christ revealed himself to him and he became a believer, all by himself in that room.  He found his way to the States, met his future wife at church and they founded several ministries, one in India helping oppressed women and one in the States ministering to people with cancer.  I told him Georg had cancer and he asked if we could pray together.  All this time we had the shop to ourselves.  What a blessing it was!  I shall remember Martin for a very long time to come for his kindness to us.