I love New York City I admit it I do always have. I’ve been there many times for work and vacation. The city has a certain type of energy that I thrive off of, even in the pouring rain. This past week I got to visit New York for a conference for work. I crammed as much time in the city as I could after the sessions. Whenever I go to the city I always seem to find some connection back to my home state, Alabama.
My Christmas break usually lasts for about two weeks. It is a time for me to rest and relax with no worries about deadlines. I spend a lot of time with family and it’s typically very low key. My dogs love for me to be at home, because they get the constant attention they so lack when I am at work. This year, however, I decided to cap off the holiday season by taking my dad to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana where Auburn was playing Oklahoma on Jan. 2. Some friends that I sit beside at the Auburn home games had made plans to go to the Sugar Bowl after Auburn’s bowl game was announced. I really didn’t think much about going until I found out I could get tickets to the game cheaper through Stub Hub. Plus I was able to get a relatively reasonable price on a hotel room through Booking.com, so the decision to go was made.
It had been about five years since my last trip to New Orleans. A lot of people don’t particularly like New Orleans because of the 24/7 party atmosphere. I on the other hand, love the city, mainly because of the food, culture and music. I used to visit New Orleans every year, but since Hurricane Katrina I have not visited as often as I would like. The last time I was in New Orleans was in May 2011 around my birthday. I have always wanted to visit the city during the Christmas holidays. I’ve seen photos of the New Orleans hotels decorated for the holidays on social media, so I knew the holiday season would be beautiful. So not only was I going to the game but able to spend time in New Orleans during the holiday.
New Orleans has many historic hotels especially on Canal Street, the main street, and in the French Quarter. My dad and I arrived early in the evening on New Year’s Day. After checking into our hotel in the Garden District, we took the trolley to meet up with our friends at The Roosevelt Hotel. It was one of the hotels that I had seen on social media, the lobby was gorgeous. We had drinks in The Fountain Lounge and then walked to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up eating at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Iberville Street in the Quarter. The restaurant is known for its charbroiled oysters, and I can testify that they do melt in your mouth. Being my father’s daughter, I struck up a conversation with the table next to me and met a woman who was a cancer survivor. She was vacationing in New Orleans for New Year’s Eve before starting a PR job in Las Vegas with MGM Entertainment. It’s funny how you meet interesting people when traveling. I have vowed to keep in touch with her.
On Monday morning, my dad and I ate breakfast at the Trolley Stop Cafe in the Garden District before meeting up with our friends. (I highly recommend the restaurant!) After we caught up with them, we hung out a while at the Marriott Hotel where the Auburn football team was staying. We saw former players and cheerleaders and, of course, Aubie the Auburn mascot. My dad stayed at the hotel while my friends and I walked around the French Quarter again. We went to see the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Part of the experience at the bar is that it slowly turns around the room. After walking around Bourbon Street we returned to the Marriott and got ready for the game.
The game didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped it would, but the night did. After the game we ended up at the world famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. The trip was fun despite Auburn’s loss. Plus I was able to spend time with my dad and my Auburn friends who have become more like family.
Most who love Birmingham, love the city’s iconic Ironman who has been sitting on top of Red Mountain since 1936. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statute in the world! Renovations to Vulcan park and the statue were made during the years of 1999-2004. I love attending meetings at the park and taking visitors to the statute. I was there last week for an organization meeting. Vulcan Park and Museum also recently renovated and expanded their gift shop “The Anvil,” and just yesterday the Birmingham Kiwanis Club announced a $4 Million gift to expand the north side of the park. These are exciting times for a the City that continues to be magical. See plans for the expansion at the Birmingham Business Journal . To plan your visit go to Visit Vulcan .
Social Media is such a big part of our lives now, rightfully or regrettably so, and because it is such a big part of our life, I wanted to give you a list of some of my favorite Southern Instagram accounts. I will probably get in trouble for not listing some favorites, a strictly unintentional act on my part. I hope I can be forgiven, in time. These accounts are my particular favorites because of the beautiful way they have photographed the South and they tell the story of life in the South far better than I could ever do in words.
My ever-evolving list of Southern Instagramers who have inspired me. Click their handle to be taken directly to their account:
- @SouthernTravels – Justin explores all things South
- @jdcrowe59 – Cartoonist with AL Media Group
- @susancowart -Susan, Nature photographer and grandmother
- @objectivityrach Rachel proceeds go to rescue victims of Human Trafficking
- @1818farms – Breeder of babydoll sheep and event venue in Alabama
- @nwbama – Steve Minor Nature, landscape photography
- @dukemanorfarm Northern Georgia Farm
- @happydaysfarm North Carolina Farm
- @picturedixie Photos of the South
- @gilmerdairy Will and his dairy farm in Alabama
- @soulgrown_birmingham The Soul of Birmingham, Alabama
- @mariandajohnson Miranda Nature, Travel, Animals
- @steelcityurbex -Birmingham, Alabama
- @_raygun_ Native Texan
- @matt1782 Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland
Note: Look for my an updated account list in early 2017. In case you were curious, I am on Instagram too. …. @_karakennedy
Guest Post by Dorothy Bloom Little:
When a friend asked me if I wanted to go on a Bus Tour to Pigeon Forge I had to think about it. I have never taken a bus tour, hmmm I like to drive my car, so I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of riding on a big bus with a lot of strangers, but I told her I would go.
When we were rolling on the interstate without the stress of driving, I was able to gaze out of the very large window and take in, absorb, if you will, the beautiful terrain.
As we approached our destination I thought leaving the drive to the driver wasn’t such a bad idea. It was pretty cool. At each stop; rest rooms, lunch and hotel were so easy. No worries about getting lost, being dropped off and picked up was sweet. There was no need to find a parking place and I didn’t have far to walk when it is raining.
The next morning I was pretty well rested and ready for Day 1 of the tour. Have you ever seen the Smoky Mountains up close? It was breathtaking and spiritual. …” and Smoky Mountains majesty…”I could have stayed there all day as long as the black bears didn’t visit me.
After our visit to the mountains, we went back to the hotel for a little R and R before heading out to have a great dinner and see the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s Show. It was pretty funny and well done which set the tone for the other shows we saw on the trip. After dinner we were off to Smoky Mountain Opry. There was so much talent as the stars performed a variety of original acts. After the show our bus was waiting to take us back to the hotel. One thing I learned was that tours get in through the side door so there is no waiting with the crowd.
Day 2: It is a day in April, 1912. We are about to embark on a transatlantic cruise in one of most magnificent ships of its time, the Titanic. The opulence of the grand stairway was mind boggling. The amenities for the first class passengers were incredible. Swimming pool, gymnasium, game room, ball room, china, silver and the list goes on. We also were able to see some of gowns and jewelry. Did I already say opulent? Of course, there was also third class passengers, one extreme to the other. All in one floating palace. And then…well we all know the rest of the story.
Once back at the hotel we rested and then got ready for another great dinner and show. Wow, what a show! It was Motown. I wore myself out chair dancing! The talent was outstanding, felt like watching a Vegas show. What a great day.
Day 3: Off to the morning variety show at the Opry. Charlie “Bob” Smith was the host. He did some awesome impersonations. My favorite was none other than the “King” of Rock n Roll, Elvis Presley! He not only sounded like Elvis but looked and moved like him. One of the other performers was the funniest stand- up comedians I’ve seen in a while. He had us all in tears. Another great day.
After the show we wandered around to do some shopping and grab a light lunch. Back to the hotel to freshen up and off to dinner and the show which started at 4:00 pm.
I didn’t know what to expect with this show. It was the show the Hit Parade, music of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s was a great trip down memory lane. After the show we went back to the hotel to pack and visit with a great group of folks.
The next day at 7:30 a.m. we were on the road again. A bit tired but no worries, see we could nap while the bus driver took us back home.
Did someone say bus tour? Let me know when to start packing.
Photos courtesy of Colette Heaton Smith