Day 6 and 7 – Grand Canyon

After our amazing day in Carlsbad Caverns we headed up to Grand Canyon National Park. This is a 10 hours drive and we wanted to get there and set up our tent before dark, so we spent all of day 6 driving. There is a small city called Tusayan right outside of the park, and since it’s in Kaibab National Forest you can camp there for free. We got there right as the sun started to set, and after we had put our tent up we drove to the store to stock up on groceries. We thought it would be cheaper there since national parks are known for their high prices, but we found out the next day that the prices were quite a bit better in the park – so keep that in mind.

{Click on the map to see a larger version of it – picture source}

The next morning we got up early and checked in at Mather Campground right inside the park. We were too excited to sit still for long, but we parked our car and put the tent up before we got going. During our first trip to Grand Canyon – for our honeymoon two years earlier – we only saw a bit of the blue area in the map above. We had taken a tour bus from Las Vegas and only had a few hours to explore. We spent every second of it walking along the edge of the canyon, but there was a lot we didn’t get to see. So this time we started our trip by taking the red shuttle bus out toward Hermits Rest. The bus going out stops at every viewpoint while the one going back only stops at a few of them, so we made sure to stop at all the points we wanted to see on our way out. Oh, and remember to take a picture under the Hermits Rest bell – it’s supposed to be good luck. I think I might just believe that, because we had the best luck during the rest of our trip!

At first the weather was perfect, but soon clouds started coming in and there was rain and thunder in the distance. It never got all the way to us, but it made for some gray pictures. The shuttle buses also stopped taking people further out while there was a chance of a thunderstorm, so we followed the paths and walked for an hour or so until the shuttle started running again. Then we took it all the way to the end and bought ice cream while we were enjoying the view. It was windy and slightly chilly, but it didn’t matter to us. I know I said it last time too, but there is something so amazing and awe-inspiring about the Grand Canyon that simply takes your breath away. We were out there for hours and I don’t think we did much talking at all – we just stared. The pictures I took won’t do it justice, but this is definitely one of my favorite places in the world.

Grand Canyon
{There are rails at the viewpoints, but everywhere else there is nothing keeping you from the edge}



We took the shuttle back to the village and walked over to the Backcountry Information Center. We were planning on hiking down to the very bottom of the canyon the next day and we wanted to ask the rangers for advice – which is something I would definitely recommend because they are incredibly helpful. And since we knew that a day-hike down and up again is highly discouraged during summer, we also wanted to ask if there were any last minute camping permits left. Without one you’re not allowed to stay the night in the canyon. Well, you are still allowed to hike at night, but you can’t set up camp and go to sleep. We weren’t planning on that but we wanted to have everything covered just in case. And we got one! During spring and fall it is almost impossible to get a permit if you’re not there when they open in the morning, but since it was the hottest month of the year and we needed one for a Monday instead of the weekend, we got lucky.

After a dinner back at our campground we had planned on taking the shuttle out to Yaki Point (the end of the green route in the map above) to see the sunset. We had read that it is one of the best places in the park to see it, and two rangers recommended it to us that same day. But on our way out we saw two huge elks eating right by the side of the road. We were were so mesmerized that we had to stop and watch for a while. I’ve never seen wild animals up close like that before. They clearly couldn’t care less about us, but we made sure to stay at a safe distance. That wasn’t the case for everyone else, though, and we left when some people started walking into the forest after them.


By that time it was too late to make it to Yaki Point, and we unfortunately never got the time to see it while we were there. We stopped by the viewpoint behind the visitor center, but you really couldn’t get a good view from there. It was probably for the best since we needed to pack and go to sleep early. We were getting up at 3 o’clock (I think) to catch an early shuttle in the morning. We had also talked to the campground host and gotten our reservation for the next night moved by one day, since we weren’t going to be out of the canyon until early the next morning. So we had to pack up out tent – in the dark – before getting on the bus.

Wear Your Summer Dresses In Fall

I get an obsession with fall fashion every year around this time. Well, I guess in Georgia it would usually hit me some time in September, but Wednesday’s visit to Starbucks kick-started this years excitement. I was lucky enough to get a free pumpkin cream cheese muffin and a salted caramel mocha, and they were both so delicious that I started longing for scarfs, boots, and cozy fireplaces.

The seasons are changing (at least here in Minnesota) and it’s time for a whole new wardrobe. Only I’m not ready to let go of all of my summer clothes just yet. Especially since I just bought three maxi dresses for just $20 – after all, the end of a season is the best time to stock up for next year, while everything is on sale. So I’m keeping my dresses and looking for inspiration online to decide what I might need to accessorize them all for fall. I want to at least try to be a little more efficient with my shopping this fall; which means trying to save money by checking to see what I already have and making a list of the things I absolutely need (if I was honest with myself that list would be empty, but I’m at least going to try to shorten it a bit).

My first step is finding out what I want to wear during the next few months, and getting inspiration for styling my summer dresses in different ways (that way I won’t buy everything I see in the store, without even knowing if I have anything to wear it with). Below are a few of my favorite outfits, with dresses that would look gorgeous at all times of the year. I’ve also made a Pintrest board with fall outfits, so feel free to stop by to get some ideas of your own! - sundress in fall 2
{picture source –} - sundress in fall 3
{picture source –} - sundress in fall
{picture source –}

pinterest - sundress in fall
{picture source – Pinterest}

I’m especially excited about this last collage. There is nothing more comfortable to wear than a maxi dress, and if I plan ahead I might be able to wear mine for a couple more months. I was thinking about doing a post called “3 ways to style a maxi dress for fall”, so let me know if that sounds interesting.

Day 5 – Carlsbad Caverns, Part 2

You can read the first part of our day in Carlsbad Caverns HERE.

After our guided tour of the King’s Palace we had a couple of questions for the ranger about the cave, and since we were the only ones left he asked us to follow him back through the loop we had walked so that he could turn of the lights again. So we got to see the tour twice, once with the full attention of the ranger, who had a bunch of stories to share. You also get a much better view without the crowd of people around you, so we really enjoyed it.

The last thing we really wanted to see was the bats flying out of the natural entrance at sunset. It’s completely free and several people had highly recommended it. But we still had several hours to spare, so we decided to drive back toward a scenic loop road that we had seen signs for on our way into the park. It’s a 9.5 mile long road that gives you a great view of the park, and we thought it would be fun since what we had seen so far (both inside and outside of the cave) had been so beautiful.

It was a good thought, but it didn’t end up going as well as we had hoped. You see, there was a sign when we drove into the parking lot that said “no buses, trailers, motorhomes”, and since we were none of those things we figured we must be good to go. We completely overlooked the large sign by the gate that specifically said the road wasn’t maintained for low clearance vehicles. Our tiny dodge neon definitely fits into that category.

{We took this picture when we came back around, it wasn’t actually closed at the time}


We drove straight ahead without paying attention, and were amazed at the incredible views. The first half of the loop went really well; we kept stopping to take pictures and look around. It was late in the day and we were the only ones on the road, which was great. The weather was perfect and it was impossible to not be happy when we were surrounded by gorgeous nature. A little later we started getting a bit worried, though. We got into areas that were stony and not as well maintained, and we had to really slow down to avoid scratching the bottom of the car. And toward the end, after the third time I’d gotten out of the car to move large rocks from the path, we were pretty annoyed. We both agreed that if the road was this badly maintained there should have been a sign warning us before we got on it! Yeah… Imagine how stupid we felt when we drove back and saw the large sign we had driven straight by.


SO, if you have a dodge neon this really isn’t the place to take it. Our poor car scraped down more than once and we were worried that something would actually break – which it did. A plastic piece on the front right side (I still don’t know what it was) ended up cracking and halfway falling down. Since we were staying in the middle of nowhere we just taped it back up with duct tape and hoped for the best, which seemed to do the trick for the rest of our trip… Anyway. If you have a truck, though, I would highly recommend the scenic loop! It was too pretty to miss, especially on a sunny day.


When we got back to the visitor center we decided that we’d rather eat dinner by our car than inside. We always kept fruit, sandwiches, breakfast bars, and so on with us so that we wouldn’t have to eat out and buy fast food all the time. It’s definitely one of the thing that saved us the most money throughout the trip. When we were done it was just about time to head over to the amphitheater by the natural entrance to listen to the presentation before the bats take flight.

The bats come out at dusk, but there is no way to tell exactly when it’s going to happen. They used to have a machine that would make a noise when it sensed movement down in the cave where the bats stay, but it was broken at the time. So we listened to the talk and kept an eye on the opening so that we could let the ranger know if we saw anything. I wish I had some pictures to show you but no types of electronics are allowed. Two people were escorted out after taking a few pictures, so it’s a rule they take pretty seriously. Let me just say that it was worth seeing. The quieter the crowd is the closer the bats come on their way out. And we got to see a few of them close up, although they are so fast that it’s hard to keep your eyes on one for long.

It was pitch dark by the time we left, and on our drive back to our campground we saw the 4th of July fireworks from the city going off across the horizon. It was the perfect ending to a really fun day!

Day 5 – Carlsbad Caverns, Part 1

We camped on BLM land about 20 minutes away from Carlsbad Caverns on Thursday and Friday night. We arrived in the dark the night before, welcomed by a huge swarm of bugs that loved the lights on our car. Both of us freaked out because we thought we saw a scorpion, which turned out to just be an enormous terrifying spider. We laughed about it later, until a ranger told us that there actually are scorpions there. Oh, and don’t forget the three inch bug that flew into our trunk… That was fun.

On Friday, July 4th, we got up early and drove over to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We were nervous that the park was going to be packed full for the holiday but we got lucky and the day went perfectly, without any huge crowds or lines. I had read about the lines for the elevator down into the cave taking over an hour on busy days, but we took it five times throughout the day and never had to wait at all. It was great, and I definitely recommend going on a weekday to get the same experience.

Map of Carlsbad Caverns
{A map of Carlsbad Caverns so that my post makes a bit more sense – picture source}

We wanted to see everything in the developed part of the main cave, which included two self-guided tours and a guided tour that we’d paid for a couple weeks before. The only tour we missed was of the left hand tunnel, a historic candle-lit lantern tour through an undeveloped section of the cave on unpaved trails – they don’t offer many tours daily, and they were booked full. There are more than 119 limestone caves, and the park offers four more guided tours through other caves that are all fairly strenuous. This time we weren’t quite prepared for any of these tours, but I would really love to do them in the future. I’m already utterly awed by Carlsbad Caverns and I can only imagine how amazing it would be to see a similar cave that is also undeveloped.


First we went inside to get our reserved tour tickets and to buy an annual national park pass. It’s $80 for one year and gives you access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including all national parks. The card is good for the cardholder, a car, and all passengers. And since park passes can be $25 per park, this was definitely the cheapest option for us. Afterward we walked over to the natural entrance of the cave, and started the 2 hour walk down. You could make it down in an hour less, even though the path is very steep, but we were so amazed by the unfamiliar views that we were constantly stopping to look at things. There were lots and lots of cave swallows diving in and out of the cave opening, we were later told that they have nests somewhere right inside. And as soon as you start walking down you can feel the temperature start dropping. It was hot outside, but inside it is a steady 56°F (13°C), and I was happy that I’d brought a hoodie with me. There are lights inside, but it is still pretty dark and it takes a minute to get used to it.

Carlsbad Caverns Amphitheater
{The amphitheater right outside the cave opening}

Carlsbad Caverns Natural Entrance Switchbacks
{These initial switchbacks were pretty intense}

Inside Carlsbad Cavern

When we got to the bottom we took the elevator back up to the visitor center. We had a cooler of food in our car, so we camped out there eating lunch for the next half hour. Our guided tour wasn’t until 3 o’clock, which meant we had plenty of time to explore the Big Room before then. The path goes from the elevator and takes you around the entire right part of the map above. I think this took us about two hours too, again because we didn’t want to miss anything.

We spent some time in the gift shop, snacking (since you can’t bring food into the cave), and charging my camera before our tour started. We were taking the King’s Palace tour, which explores the area at the bottom left of the map, past the iceberg. It is blocked off to everyone that isn’t with a guide. And when you get there you can see why. There are no rails and nothing keeping people from wandering off the paths. It actually used to be open to the general public, but so much damage was done to the cave that they closed it off. You can still see where hundreds of stalactites have been broken from the ceiling. People wanted to bring home souvenirs, and because of them the cave will never be the same. This happens in every national park – and it pissed me off every time I saw it – but most parks haven’t taken millions of year to become what they are today; which makes the damage much more severe.

We were a group of at least thirty people that left from the bottom of the elevators and walked over to the King’s Palace and Queen’s Chambers. The most memorable part of the tour was when guide set us down and turned off all the lights so that it was completely pitch dark. Then, in the light of a single candle, he told us the story of how the cave was discovered and explored, without the use of electrical light. It was fun; and kind of unsettling. Some people were freaked by the dark, but I think it was a tour worth taking.


The second part of Carlsbad Caverns is just about finished, I just had too many pictures to put it all into one post.

We’re Settling In

This has been an interesting weekend (plus Monday) of ups and downs. First of all I just have to say how amazingly friendly people in Minnesota and North Dakota are! Everyone we’ve met have had a smile on their face and seem to honestly want to get to know us. Especially people from Concordia College, where Andy is now working. In addition to three social gatherings at school we’ve also been invited to two dinners, with another one coming up next Saturday. This city just has a way of making you feel welcome, and I love it!

This Saturday I saw an Instagram picture from Emily at Cupcakes and Cashmere, and decided to take her lead in having doughnuts for breakfast while watching a movie in our pajamas. I might just have to make that a permanent thing. In the afternoon we went to a barbecue that went perfectly despite the rainy weather. It didn’t stop us from having hamburgers and bratwursts, and a delicious homemade apple crisp for desert. Before we knew it four hours of great company had gone by and as we left we were told to contact them if we ever needed anything. We were in too good of a mood to go back home so we went downtown to Dempsey’s, an Irish pub with live music and a good atmosphere.


So Saturday was an altogether good day, while Sunday started out with a failed trip to the library after finding out that they are closed on Sundays until September. The drive also took us forever since there were detours everywhere and we had no idea where we were going. I love books. A lot. But everything I’ve read for a long time has been electronic, and there’s just something more special about holding a book in your hands. And I’d been looking forward to getting a few books on blogging, just to spike my motivation, so this kind of put a damper on my productivity for the rest of the day. Until Andy made me tacos for dinner!


And today we went to get new licence plates (around the same detours), when the lady insisted on changing the name on my title because the government has somehow decided that I no longer have a hyphen in my first name. It’s not on my primary ID, and there is nothing I can do about it, so I guess they have effectively changed my first name from Trine-Marie to Trine… And quick trip to the library ended up taking two hours. First we didn’t have the right paperwork, then we were told we needed to get a library card from a different library before they would give me one there. Yeah, don’t ask me. They have some weird rules because we live right on the border of two different states. BUT! We did finally get a card, and I went crazy and ended up with 10 different books – half about blogging and web design and half fiction.


The first book really didn’t keep my attention, and after falling asleep twice I talked Andy into taking me through the Starbucks drivethrough – where we had one of the weirder conversations I’ve ever had.

Starbucks guy: Do you come here all the time?
Andy: Nope, this is my first time here.
Starbucks guy: Are you sure? You look exactly like this guy who’s a regular. He comes through the drive through and orders the same thing *holding up our coffee* and his girlfriend is always in the passenger seat. Granted he had a beard… But I thought you might have just shaved. *ducks his head down to look at me* Nope. She always had a book or a magazine covering her face.

Then we talked about the weather and how we just moved here from Georgia for the next five minutes. He told us to come back and see him, and I couldn’t help but laughing as we were driving away. I love random things like that.

How was your weekend?

LaBrea Honey Nut Granola

We stayed with Andy’s uncle and aunt in LA this summer, and I fell in love with the homemade granola I had for breakfast. Not only did it look great on the table in a cute mason jar, but it tasted fantastic. With Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries it was the perfect start of the day. So I couldn’t leave without the recipe. And now I’ve finally gotten around to making my own batch.

{You’ll need quite a few ingredients, but I almost have enough to make it again – I just need more oats}

- 4 cup old fashioned oats (not quick or instant)
- 3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 3/4 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup blanched almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I have read a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon, which I’ll try next time)
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg (It’s a bit overpowering so I think I’ll only do one next time)
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Stir together in a pan over medium heat:
- 3/4 cup safflower oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup honey

Add after the granola has been baked and cooled:
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- You can also add half a cup each of dried and chopped apricots and figs, but that wasn’t in my original recipe, so I skipped it.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.

Mix everything that isn’t liquid or berries in a large bowl. Heat up the safflower oil, maple syrup, and honey in a pan. When it’s warm pour it into the bowl and use your hands or a spoon to stir everything together. Spread the granola evenly onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture after 15 minutes and make sure that it doesn’t turn too brown.


Let the granola sit until it’s completely cooled down before mixing in the raisins and cranberries and storing it in an airtight container.


Now you have the perfect addition to your morning yogurt! I prefer to eat it with blueberries, but raspberries aren’t half bad either. Just keep in mind that this recipe isn’t exactly low-calorie. But it’s worth it.


While this was in the oven I tried to figure out exactly how many calories are in one serving. Because I didn’t have anything else to do, I guess. By my estimate you end up with approximately 9 cups of granola and a serving should be about 1/2 cup, which is then 340 calories. And since Greek yogurt is a low-calorie food, that really isn’t very bad.

Day 3 and 4 – Camping For Free

We spent the next two days (Wednesday night and Thursday) driving from New Orleans, across all of Texas, to Carlsbad Caverns national park. Except for our Wednesday morning stroll through New Orleans, having a late breakfast at Johnny’s Po-Boys and giving in to the temptation to buy another batch of beignets from Café Du Monde, these two days were fairly uneventful. We spent 4.5 hours driving the first day and 11 hours the next day, with a stop in San Antonio to have lunch at The Guenther House. They supposedly have the best bacon in the world, and although I can’t prove that claim I can definitely vouch for both their bacon and their waffles! Everything was delicious.

And even though the drive through Texas was really, really long and tedious, it was also kind of fun to look at the landscape we were driving through. Nothing I have seen on the east coast looks anything like it. It might be dry, and empty, and gigantic, but it’s also beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of machines drilling for oil, some areas were fenced off for cattle, and towards the west end we suddenly drove through a field of windmills larger than you can even imagine. I think I mostly liked how different everything was. That was exactly what I was looking forward to on this trip, seeing new things.

{We stopped at a rest area to enjoy the view and take a few pictures}

One of the things I had spent the most time on while planning this trip was finding out where to stay each night while spending as little money as possible. We had decided to camp as much as possible and only spend money on hotels in bigger cities, which already helped our budget a lot. But you would be surprised at how expensive some campgrounds can be, and we weren’t thrilled about spending $40 a night just to camp outside (just because they give us access to electricity that we don’t need). So I started looking for areas where you are allowed to camp for free.

I guess you can easily set up your tent in a city park and possibly get away with it, but we wanted to make sure we were in areas where camping was permitted, and finding those areas close to where we were travelling was a huge hassle. Which is why I figured I’d at least write down the things I learned from our trip. Just keep in mind that free often means absolutely no amenities. We were lucky to find toilets in most of the places we camped, but they were often disgusting, and we always planned for the worst.


The main website I used to look up campgrounds was You type in the area you’ll be travelling through and it gives you an interactive map that shows you campsites along the way – although I think it only covers the US. I really liked the reviews of people that had stayed in these places before, and I normally picked a place based off the most recent comments. Granted none of these places were amazing, and we wouldn’t have picked either one for a longer stay. But they were perfect for when we just needed a place to stay for the night. Twice we even stayed in city parks that were pretty nice.

If that didn’t give us a spot I started looking up BLM land. The Bureau of Land Management administer American public lands, and in each state they have recreational areas where you are allowed to park your RV or set up a tent. Some of these sites are maintained, which can mean bathrooms and water, but often they are just large, empty areas of land. The annoying thing about BLM land is that there is no full map indicating where all these sports are (at least as far as I can tell), but the website has numbers that you can call to ask about it. The website for each state is different, though, and some of them are easier to navigate. The site for Washington, for example, had all of its campgrounds listed, but I had to click on each spot individually to figure out where they were.

Then there are national forests. As far as I know you are allowed to camp in all national forests as long as you follow some basic rules; the most important of them being “pack it in, pack it out”. Information about the forest will normally be easy to find on their website. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are very often national forests outside of national parks, which is great since camping in a national park can be somewhat expensive and the campgrounds fill up very fast in the summer. We camped in Kaibab National Forest right outside of Grand Canyon, and in Gallatin National Forest outside of Yellowstone. The ranger’s in the national parks can probably help you too.


Just be sure to keep your expectations low if you want to camp somewhere for free. Prepare for a spot without any amenities and bring everything you might need for the night with you. It might just be me but I prefer camping in a beautiful forest without a toilet in sight instead of staying in a dirty public park with toilets, and electricity, and cars driving by just a few feet away.

New Haircut!

After (at least) four months of not cutting my hair, and after a couple of months of not taking care of it at all, it was definitely about time for a haircut. I had only planned on getting a trim to get rid of all my split ends, but on the spur of the moment I decided that a new city called for a new style. I’ve had bangs before – and Andy missed them even more than I did – but these bangs are in such a different shape that they don’t look similar to me at all. I almost feel like I’m looking at a new person in the mirror, which is kind of fun. It seems appropriate that I look different considering all the changes that are happening in our lives right now.

Earlier today there was a get-together for new professors and significant others at the president’s house on campus. So I got a chance to meet some of the people that will be working with Andy, while showing off my new bangs for the first time. These kind of events often turn out being sort of stiff and formal, but I actually had a lot of fun – and the food was delicious!

New Haircut
New haircut, instagram pictures
{And a couple of phone pictures from my Instagram account}

On a random side-note: There have been so much talk about ice cold winters that I subconsciously expect it to be chilly every time I walk out the door. But today it was at least 85 degrees outside, and I almost wished it was cooler. Well, until I remembered that I should probably enjoy it while it lasts. This is Minnesota, after all.

Indian Food and Saturday Night

I have gotten completely addicted to Indian food lately. It’s always been one of my favorites, but now it’s moved up to first place. We stocked up on Tikka Masala and Korma sauce, and since then that’s the only thing I’ve wanted for dinner. It is absolutely delicious with basmati rice and naan bread; and it doesn’t take very long to make at all. Just boil the rice, chop up the chicken, fry it for five minutes and add the sauce. We also bought a boxed meal (one of those that comes with everything but the meat) of butter chicken that I’m excited to try. Now if only all these sauces could be good for you too.


This Saturday we opened a bottle of wine with dinner and decided to go out for downtown in our new hometown. So far we’ve mostly been unpacking and getting settled, and Andy has been preparing for his new job, but we figured it was time to do a little exploring. We have to get out and meet new people, and it’s kind of weird to actively try to think of places to make new friends. Every time I moved before it was because of school, and that’s an easy place to be social; you don’t have to go out of your way to start up a conversation and everyone’s about the same age as you. But this time meeting people is pretty much up to us, and it’s not going to happen if we sit at home by ourselves.

Turns out it wasn’t as hard as we thought. The first bar we went to had live music and a great atmosphere. We grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered two beers. By the time we had finished them we were already in the middle of a conversation with the three people sitting to our left. So, if everyone in the Moorhead/Fargo area are as friendly as the people we met this weekend, then I doubt we’ll have any trouble.

It turned out to be a very fun night. Probably a little too fun. After two months of never drinking more than a beer or two at a time my body wasn’t exactly prepared for a night out. Soooo, I woke up the next morning with a hangover and spent the day eating Burger King and ice cream and watching Lost Girl on Netflix. But it was worth it!

{A couple of post-wine instagram pictures :) Cheers! }

Day 2 – New Orleans

Waking up on Tuesday morning, knowing I was in a city I’ve wanted to visit for years, felt amazing. And it didn’t hurt that our tiny little hotel room was gorgeous. The main room didn’t hold much more than our bed, two nightstands, a tv, and a dresser, but it was all in very good quality. And the bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom, with a large shower and marble surfaces. Our door took us into a little backyard with tables and chairs, a staircase to the second floor, and a gate to the street outside. Everything was so different from a normal hotel, and it was the perfect place to start our tip. Our only complaint was that there is no parking lot. I doubt you’ll find any hotels with parking lots downtown, but we didn’t know that ahead of time and were a little disappointed to have to walk the six blocks from the parking deck when all we wanted to do was get dressed and go. Oh, and we stayed at Inn On St. Peter, btw.

Inn on St Peter backyard
{Our little backyard – picture source}

After a visit to the car and applying lots of sunscreen (it was HOT outside) we walked down to the French Market; one of the places you definitely have to see if you’re ever in New Orleans. We mostly walked along Royal street, and I took a ton of pictures. The whole street seemed to be very focused on art and there were galleries and people selling their paintings on the street everywhere. The pictures in one window really caught my eye and we stopped by Craig Tracy’s gallery, where the artist only did body paint. It was run by his brother, who told us a lot about the work. There was also a really cool video playing that showed the artist painting several of the pictures we could see in the store. He doesn’t paint pictures, only humans, then lines them up perfectly and takes a picture.

Craig Tracy gallery in New Orleans
{I found one I might even want to hang on my own wall at some point, but I forgot to take a picture}

I liked the buildings everywhere even more than the art; they were exactly how I had imagined they would be. It was like walking straight into some of the pictures I had seen of New Orleans. I loved the black wrought-iron details on all the balconies and how there were flowers and plants hanging over almost all of them. In some places you could even see lots and lots of Marti Gras beads, even though it was hardly the right time of the year. And the street musicians set the mood perfectly.

Building and balcony in New Orleans
Street in New Orleans

The French Market was a lot of fun, and we ended up walking the length of it twice. People rent areas of the market to sell their things, and it is so popular that it is very hard to get a spot. Andy absolutely loved this one stall that sold hundreds of Lego figures while I was trying to talk myself out of buying one of the wrap dresses that were sold just about everywhere (and I managed to leave without one). Afterward we walked along the water past Café Du Monde to a place with an amazing view of the cathedral and the horse-drawn carriages outside. We had planned on buying beignets from Café Du Monde, since they are supposed to be amazing, but we didn’t know that they only take cash. We headed back toward the hotel and stopped to listen to some amazing street musicians out in front of the cathedral. Their music seemed to me to be perfectly “New Orleans”, at least the way I had imagined it. Jazzy with a little bit of soul thrown in, I think. When we finally got back to the hotel we had walked in the heat for a good three hours, and we were pretty exhausted.

{This guy had bought all of the Lego sets that these figures were in! He kept the sets for himself and sold the figures}

{Who knew you could rent your own haunted apartment?}

After walking through the south-east part of the French District for about an hour or so, we ended up at Pierre Maspero’s for a light lunch. We got a small bowl of gumbo and a plate of fried alligator with a special dipping sauce. We had never tried alligator before, but we had seen it advertised all over the French Market food court and figured we needed to give it a try. The waitress described the taste as “half chicken, half sea food”, which I think was pretty accurate, especially if you add “with a healthy dash of sea water” to the description. Andy thought it was good, but I could only stomach a couple of bites. The only thing that made it edible to me were the delicious spices it was fried in, and with the larger pieces even that wasn’t enough to cover up the taste of seawater.

By the way, you might remember that this was right in the middle of the World Cup, and Andy wasn’t thrilled about not being able to see all the games while we were travelling. I wasn’t especially sympathetic… But this lunch was right at the time that US lost to Belgium, which was disappointing enough that we headed back to the hotel for a couple of beers. We had bought a six-pack at a nearby gas station and realized that you really can buy hard liquor everywhere in New Orleans. They had several shelves of it behind the counter (which is kind of funny considering you can’t even buy alcohol at grocery stores here in Minnesota). I guess it is considered the party capital of North America for a reason.

{Gumbo and fried alligator for lunch, and my jambalaya for dinner}

We ate dinner at Arnaud’s Remoulade on Bourbon street. We were craving all kinds of seafood and decided on jambalaya and stuffed crab, which we shared. We almost always split our meals while we’re travelling so that both of us get to try more than one new dish. I love trying local food no matter where I am – and I can never decide on just one thing – so this is a perfect solution. For dessert we went back to Café Du Monde (with cash in hand this time) to try their beignets before we went out for drinks. We were surprised that they were open 24 hours, but there were plenty of people there when we arrived. And if everything is as mouthwateringly delicious as those hot beignets were then that makes perfect sense! Oh, and since they were only $2.75 for three we had to talk ourselves out of getting more. Btw, beignets are french doughnuts covered in tons of powdered sugar, and you have to try one!

The last stop of the night was the original Tropical Isle (there are several of them on Bourbon street) to try their signature drink, the Hand Grenade – a melon flavored drink served in a bright green plastic container with a hand grenade on the bottom. There was actually a sign in their bar saying that their drink was trademarked and that they would pay $250 to any person who reports any other bar, except for the 5 different Tropical Isle bars, for using the name “Hand Grenade” on one of their drinks. So I guess they take it pretty seriously. It was delicious, though! Even better than the Hurricane we tried the night before. And much stronger than you first think – it actually doesn’t taste very strongly of alcohol.

The band was on break when we got there and we only stayed until they came back. Turns out they weren’t exactly amazing – unlike many of the other bands we saw. So, after spending some more time on Bourbon street, we headed back home. We were tired and a little tipsy, but mostly just incredibly happy to be exactly where we were!

BTW: I’m sorry that these posts about our trip end up being so long, but I just can’t help myself. We were constantly doing things, and there very few things I feel like leaving out – although they might be more fun for me than for you :P

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