Sunday, June 17, 2012

Balloon Ride in Galena, Illinois

We were up at the crack of dawn, literally.  We were up at 4am, at the balloon launch site by 4:50am, and up in the air by 5:10am.  Our pilot/captain was Andy from Buy a balloon ride.  He and his staff were very friendly and professional...and kept us safe, which is always a good thing!

The basket can hold 14 people, plus Andy; however our group was 4 on one side and 6 on the other.  It would be quite crowded at 14 people, so hopefully your group is 10-12 people so everyone has a little extra room.

The early morning flight is nice, but I think I want to try an evening/dusk flight as photographic conditions and lighting are usually a bit better.  It was hot and humid, so several of my pictures have a bit of a 'haze.'

Watching the balloon inflate 

 Celebratory champagne toast after landing (and the basket)

 The balloon's shadow

The morning sun peaking through the clouds

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Typical Tourists in Memphis

We were the typical tourists in Memphis...
  • Civil Rights Museum
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Rode the trolleys / streetcars
  • Beale Street
  • BBQ - we chose A&R, YUM!
  • Ducks at the Peabody Hotel

 The view from our room was of Mud Island.

 Sunset from the room

The botanical gardens

 If you fake like you're going to toss in food, the carp come swimming up quickly!

Civil Rights Museum

The ducks making their way from the 'penthouse' down the elevator and on the red carpet before landing in the central fountain

Next Stop Memphis, Tennessee

Our next stop was Memphis, Tennessee.  Chuck was in charge of planning this leg of the journey.  He chose the hotel, the excursions, the restaurants, everything.

We stayed at the Madison Hotel in a king suite that overlooked the Mighty Mississippi.  We pulled in to the valet parking area and the bellhop assisted us with our bags.  By the time we walked into the building and reached the reception desk, the bellhop had radioed in letting them know that we were arriving.  The front desk manager said, "Good afternoon Mr. and Mrs. _____, so glad you could join us."  Ok, we're off to a GREAT start!

This is what greeted me on our arrival.  Yet another check mark for Chuck!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Plantation Alley in Louisiana

I had hoped that the weather in April in New Orleans would be mild, but it was a bit hotter than anticipated.  Hot would have been fine, but mix in high humidity, no breezes and a smell that rivaled Venice (peee-ew!)  and it was just too much.  So we hopped in the air conditioned car and drove through Plantation Alley.

Houmas House is a beautiful old plantation house and surrounding gardens located about an hour west of New Orleans.  I could hang out here all day!

Oak Alley Plantation is the one that is always used in the movies.  You know, the walkway lined with huge oak trees....Here it is.  The oak trees are something spectacular.  The last picture shows a metal 'support' holding up one of the branches.

New Orleans, Louisiana

We entered into a friendly competition.  I planned New Orleans and it was going to be great!  I planned our trip to coincide with the first weekend of Jazz Fest and bought tickets for Sunday evening because John Mayer was playing.  And then...he had nodules on his vocal chords and cancelled.  Boo.  Now, I needed to make the rest of the trip even better now that my 'sure thing' was out the window.

We did the usual...

  • St. Charles Trolley to the Garden District and strolled the sidewalks looking at lovely homes
  • Picked up a muffeletta at Central Grocery, which btw, I think is gross, but Chuck liked it.
  • Walk and drank our way down Bourbon Street
  • Took a cooking class and learned how to make gumbo, red beans and rice, pecan pie and pralines
  • Strolled the botanical gardens and sculpture garden
  • Gambled a bit at Harrah's...gambled poorly, I might add
  • Watched the performers on Bourbon Street (and yes, the chick in the background is a staple here)

Make sure you choose your hotel wisely.  Here is a hotel on Bourbon Street (at night)....

and at 7am...after the street cleaners/washers (with soap) went through

The activity on Bourbon Street is starting to pick up

Jackson Square

The French Quarter