Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 31: St-Louis

Today was just destined to be one of those lazy days. We woke up late and just never really got going for the day. Part of having a vacation is having days like these.

From our hotel room we could see people marching like ants to Busch Stadium for the afternoon game between the St-Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.

From our room, we were able to see part of the game going on. With the radio broadcast it was a relaxing way of enjoying the afternoon.

Of course, tomorrow, we will be going to Busch Stadium for the real thing as Cincinnati and St-Louis (both close contenders for the
Central Division of the National League).

Hopefully the bad weather which interrupted this afternoon's game, will not show up tomorrow.

After a lazy afternoon of watching baseball and ordering room service, we decided to take a drive around the city just to see what's happening.

Aside from the beautiful architecture, saw some of the interesting people - like this guy having a conversation with the garbage can in front of him.

That's all for now!

PS) This blog post was brought to you by EZ Cracker - a product that could only be advertised in the United States.

Day 30: St-Louis

After a long drive from Memphis (about 4.5 hours!) we got to St. Louis. As soon as we approched the city, you could see the famous Gateway Arch at 630 feet tall!

When we got to out room, we were amazed by the incredible view of Busch Stadium. We almost don't need tickets to Tuesday's game ;)

Before we started our trip, Dave and I agreed that we were going to surprise each other at some points of the trip in celebration of our first anniversary. As you know, my surprise came a few days earlier in New Orleans, but today was Dave's turn.

He didn't give me a single hint of what it was and, let me tell you, I came up with several very wrong ideas. I was pleasantly surprised when we walked up to Soldier's Memorial Park and I saw a big sign saying "Rib America Festival" with several famous headliners such as Bret Michaels (who played Saturday night), Everclear, Collective Soul and Blue Oyster Cult (who plays Monday night). Rib Fest is what Dave describes as if Edgefest and Bofinger had a child.

As we got there early, we walked around the grounds and sampled many of the festival's delicacies such as footlong Beef Franks, Brisket "Samiches" and fresh squeezed lemonade.

We then made our way to our seats to enjoy the shows. Here are a few excerpts of Everclear and Collective Soul respectively:

Collective Soul played a great show! To our delight, we stayed backstage after the show and waited to meet the band. Here we are with Ed Roland, the lead singer of Collective Soul (Dave's favourite band)

I have an amazing husband and we had an incredible night!

Thanks Dave!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 29: Memphis

We saw the ghost of Elvis, on Union Avenue... we followed him up to the gates of
Graceland then we watched him walk right through. (Note we did not actually see the ghost of Elvis)

This is a picture of Graceland before we went to get our tickets to go inside...

...and then we saw the line up to get in:

...and then we put on our blue suede shoes and walked back to the car :-)

So essentially, our outing today consisted of eating at IHOP.

Now we're back at the hotel. Today is our last day in Memphis which is fine because, frankly, we haven't seen much to do around here. We'll head out to dinner tonight and then tomorrow it's off to St-Louis where I have a surprise planned for Tam!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 28: LA, MI, AR, TN

On the road again. As mentioned this was our longest drive of our trip (about 6 and a half hours). We left New Orleans early this morning. We drove through Jackson, Mississippi however we didn't see anything worth stopping for so we continued straight through.

Before arriving in Memphis, we crossed over into West Memphis, Arkansas just to make sure we stepped foot in the state. Upon further look at our itinary, we will be driving through Arkansas when we leave Memphis. In any event, we decided to make use of our trip into Arkansas. As we have been on our trip, we have noticed numerous billboards for the Powerball lottery. Over the past few weeks, the jackpot has grown to 220 million dollars. How could we resist.

We stopped at a local convenience store. I walked in and got in line behind a guy holding a bottle of Colt 45. As I got closer to the front of the line, I realized that the front counter did not contain gum or cigarettes but rather 7 different kinds of fried chicken. How could I resist that as well.

So after buying fried chicken and powerball tickets (wish us luck), we were walking in memphis!

Memphis is a a nice city which, at least in my opinion, resembles Montreal in many ways (architecture, city design, nightlife etc). Tam also sees many of the similarities. Our hotel is about half an hour outside of the city but after checking in we headed into town for dinner. After dinner we walked around and took in the local street festival.

Not the best quality, but you get the idea.

Anyway, it's been a tiring day so I'm off to sleep (Tam is already there!)


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 27: New Orleans

After a very busy night Dave and I decided to sleep in and take it easy today. After waking up late we decided to take a trip to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. When we arrived, we were just in time for the feeding of the sea otters. The otters were very intelligent playing with toys and doing other tricks in order to be fed. At the end, the trainers gave the otters blocks of ice with food inside them; we got to watch the otters smashing the ice against the windows and rocks in order to get to their lunch!

Afterwards we got to see a varitety of tropical fish, sea creatures and birds as well:

Tomorrow we will be up early as we have the longest drive of our trip - 6 hours without breaks northwards through Jackson, Mississippi and into Memphis, Tennessee.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 26: New Orleans

Dave here - still in New Orleans. As you can see from the picture above, the oil spill is still a front page story here. Despite the troubling news, today was set to be a great day for Tam and I. It certainly lived up to expectations.

Tam had marked today as a day where she had planned a number of "surprises" for us. As many of you know, our 1 year anniversary is coming up in a little under 3 weeks. Since our trip will be over we both have planned to celebrate our anniversary at various points during the trip. Today was one of those days.

The day started off with breakfast in bed for both of us - very delicious.

Tam then led me down Bourbon street to where she planned for us to each get a massage - very relaxing.

We then spent the afternoon by the pool which is just outside our back patio.

After a relaxing evening, we went for dinner at a nice place called
MiLa. Tam chose this restaurant on account of it's wine pairing with a variety of wines from the Niner Wine Estates. Again, quite delicious.

Many thanks to my beautiful wife for planning such a nice day.

As I sign off on the blog, the 11-o-clock news is on in the background. On a day that started with major efforts to stop the oil spill, it appears to still have no definitive answer as to its success yet. One thing is that many New Orleaners feel that the government reaction is similar to the reaction during
Katrina. Tam and I both wish the best to the people of New Orleans.

Tomorrow is our last full day in New Orleans followed by our move northward.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 25: New Orleans

Laissez les bons temps roulez!

We took a tour of the city today. We started out going through the devestation left by Katrina as well as the restoration efforts by several celebrities to rebuild (I must say,
Brad Pitt's architects' designs left a lot to be desired, but hey, they're free homes...)

Dave's comment: Our tour guide was the the MOST cynical guide ever. When talking about bars he'd say "make sure the girl you meet at the bar doesn't have an Adam's Apple". When talking about the local market he'd say "it used to be a farmer's market, now it's just a bunch of junk". And don't get him started on the EPA, FEMA or anybody else from the government. He was sincere though, and it was understandable given what everyone had been through. Interesting fact, he was also once the baseball coach to Harry Connick Jr.

Back to Tam's post: We saw several cemeteries and toured through the Garden District (which is where all the stars live) and many, um, interesting people...

This man married a lady from Wisconsin and she kept complaining that she missed the corn. So as a "hush up honey" gift (quoted from our cynical tour guide) he had this fence designed for her. If you are looking to have a similar fence, you can own one for only $300.00 a husk!!!

We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the French Quarter and going in all the quaint boutiques. And by 'we', I mean 'I' :)

After dinner, we went to
Harrah's Casino and Dave played (and won $400.00 while playing) Texas Hold'em poker. I walked back towards the hotel and right around the corner from the hotel, a jazz brass band erupted in the middle of the street!

What a great time!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 24: AL, MS, LA

24 hours ago we were rocking out in the car to Sweet Home Alabama. Now, as we left Mobile and crossed the state line, we cued up Mississippi Queen on the iPod. Our time in Mississippi would be shortlived though, as Mississippi is just a small chunk of land between Alabama and Louisiana.

We'll see more of Mississippi when we head north.

First, before I discuss the day, I must pay tribute to our beloved Montreal Canadiens who sadly fell from playoff contention tonight. They had a good run; all the best to them in 2011.

Now then, the drive was fairly uneventful except for the usual amusing billboards many of which advertising upcoming casino performances by b-rate singers like Wayne Newton, Cyndi Lauper and Ringo Starr, and - of course - the usual characters on the road.

We arrived in New Orleans this afternoon and checked in. Tamara and I will be staying right in the heart of the action. Our hotel is at the corner of
Bourbon Street and Bienville in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

The streets quickly filled up as the sun went down and the French Quarter was abuzz with lots of drunken debauchery and live music.

We decided to make it an early night as we have a busy day tomorrow. On the way back from dinner, we walked by a bar to hear someone shout out "I have Diarrhea!". I am a strong believer in what
Zach Galifinakis says - there's only one time that it's okay to shout that out, and that's when you're playing Scrabble.

But I digress...

Lastly, a word about my prediction on the Celebrity Apprentice. Contrary to my prediction, Bret Michaels won and I am thrilled about that. What a fighter! For those who don't know he has been going through some very serious medical issues during the past few weeks. Bret was one of my favorite contestants this year. I was convinced that Trump would once again make the wrong choice (last year he picked a significantly less productive Joan Rivers over the empirically best performer Annie Duke).

Back to the trip -- Tam and I will be in New Orleans for 4 nights (counting tonight). This will be one of our longer stays (matched only by Boston in week 1, and Chicago which is still to come).

Looking forward to the adventures to come.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 23: Mobile, AL

Sweet Home Alabama

In honour of crossing the state line, Tamara and I blasted some Lynyrd Skynyrd as we drove west down Highway I-10. Reading the billboards as we drove, we learned about how to join the NRA, and we also learned that Boyz II Men are on tour in the area in June - too bad we'll miss that ;-)

We're only in Mobile, Alabama for 24 hours so we made good use of the day. We visited the battleship USS Alabama.

Apprentice Prediction
In keeping with my tradition on the blog, I will make my picks for the winner of the Celebrity Apprentice. Despite Bret Michaels' solid personal fight with some serious recent hospitalizations, I believe that Trump will pick Holly Robinson Peete, who should have been fired two weeks ago and who was not the strongest of the final 5 (in my opinion - and in the opinion of most who watched the episode).


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 22: Panama City

Today was a pretty lazy day. I spent the day hibernating due to my excruciatingly bad sunburn. David went golfing at the nearby Jack Nicklaus course and saw plenty of turtles and egrets.

We had decided the day before to take a sunset
airboat tour of the backwaters of Panama City Beach.

We saw lots of wildlife including Egrets, Osprey, Great blue herons and...

Alligators! The picture really doesn't to the beast justice (although he was just a few feet away from us, it's really quite difficult to get a decent picture of them in the dark). The largest one we saw was about 10 feet long!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 21: Panama City

Half Way Through!

All good things must reach their halfway point. Here are the stats to date:

Days on our trip: 21
Kms Travelled: 4387
Hours spent driving: 64
States travelled through: 15 (in red below)

So we are here in Panama City and, first things first, ALWAYS remember to adjust your clock when you change time zones. We are now in the
Central Time Zone and we didn't realize that last night - wondering why we seemed to be an hour early for everything. We'll be in this time zone until just after Chicago.

Our itinary has also changed somewhat. Our revised itinary is now:

Panama City, FL: May 20 to May 23
Mobile, AB: May 23 to May 24
New Orleans, LA: May 24 to May 28
Memphis, TN: May 28 to May 30
St-Louis, MO: May 30 to June 2
Chicago, IL: June 2 to June 6
Detroit, MI: June 6 to June 9
Toronto/Ottawa, ON: June 9

So far this trip has been phenomenal; it has been a great chance for us to see a lot of North America and to spend a lot of time together. We have still not had any fights! To our surprise, Americans are a lot less obsese than we were expecting. I also noticed that when an old man starts telling a story, random strangers stop and listen. One not so nice difference is that when you say "thank you" to a person Tam often finds that the answer they give is "uh huh".

All in all it has been a great way to see the subtle differences in culture as we cross from state to state.

Panama City has been a good time so far. It has a carribean resort feel while still feeling like we're in the United States. We're staying at the Marriott which has a boat that goes out every hour or so. The boat takes us to an island known as "Shell Island". On the island we were able to relax on the beach and go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the trip to and from Shell Island we were able to see dolphins swimming and diving.

At Shell Island, while swimming, I was approached by a school of Skates. These fish which are about 3 feet wide and resemble the stingray are harmless. Most of the time they avoided me and the other people swimming, but when I was very still, the school of them would swim by my arms and legs.

That's all for now. Tam and I are both really looking forward to the second half!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 20: Florida Panhandle

Well we're venturing inward into the "Kuntryside" of the Florida panhandle.

On the way we saw prisoners at work on the side of the road, and a sign for how to get to the local judicial DUI rehab program. Interesting how the justice system works differently eh?

We stopped for lunch in the state capital of Tallahassee. Originally we were going to spend two nights here. After some recommendations otherwise we decided to pass. Having driven through, we concur that it doesn't appear that much is going on there. We did drive by the state Capitol though:

After lunch, we headed toward our destination of
Panama City (the one in Florida, not the one in Panama). This is going to be a beach destination rather than one of those historical locations which means blog posts will be shorter for the next few days.

Here is our route from today:


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 19: St-Augustine

Today was one of those "historic sightseeing days" therefore this should be Tamara's day to blog but she's relaxing so, yet again, I will be called on to try and culture myself up. I'll be honest, many of these things I'd be fine driving by and then reading about on Wikipedia afterwards. I do admit, they are interesting things to see first hand and, after all, our trip is to see all the interesting sights as we travel, so here's my best shot.

St-Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and the oldest port in the continental United States. We started the day exploring an authentic fort on the coast which was used to defend the Spanish from the English, the English from the Spanish, the Spanish from the French, the French from the Americans and so on.

After lunch, we continued our self directed tour. We saw many historic architectural sights - too many to mention. One interesting place was this schoolhouse below which is the
oldest wooden schoolhouse in America, dating back to before 1716.

And finally, what historic sightseeing outing would be complete without at least passing by one of those wacky wax museums.

For dinner we went to a French restaurant which was decorated with a Moroccan. We opted for the "chef's choice" menu. As we are finding here in the south, when we say "we do not eat pork" we need to really make sure that this is understood.

So far we have gotten:

- When you say you don't eat pork, does that include ham?

- Prosciutto isn't pork - it comes from pig.

and my personal favorite:

- You said you don't eat pork - that meat is wrapped in bacon, you didn't say you don't eat bacon.

* sigh *

We hit the road again tomorrow and will be varying our itinary again a bit. Due to rather underwhelming reviews from friends and others on Tallahassee we are only stopping there for lunch and will be heading for Panama City for more of a beach destination instead.

Hope everyone back home is doing well.



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 18: GA, FL

On the road again - we left Savannah and drove south to Florida. Notice the subtle message apparently addressed to me just under the Florida sign. Lunch in Jacksonville - final destination St-Augustine. We took the scenic route for the last half of the trip which was nice. A nice view of the ocean for this part of the drive.

Not much to say other than it's hot - 34 degrees celcius. We had dinner in the historic area (which we will return to tomorrow so expect more news to come about historic St-Augustine).

Our route today:

This will be the furthest south we are going to be going. Once we are done here, we will be heading west towards what is expected to be an interesting segment of the trip given the ongoing news concerning the oil spill in the Gulf.

For now, we will be enjoying sunny Florida, so stay tuned for more info.

Tam and Dave

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 17: Savannah

"Life is Like a Box of Chocolates"

Iconic words uttered by Tom Hanks while sitting on a park bench located in Chippewa Square in Savannah, Georgia.

In the two short days I have been here with Tam, I have come to notice that Savannah has a rich history and many notable features.

What I can describe as a mix between Old Montreal, Brockville, and Forrest Hill Toronto, Savannah, GA is a small but nice place to be.

Founded in 1773, there were 4 things that were originally not permitted in the city:

1. Booze
2. Lawyers
3. Slaves
4. Catholics

Not exactly a place for me to take up my chosen profession... but I digress.

On that subject, Tam and I picked today to peek into the local courthouse just to see what was going on there.

Courtroom #1: A scene right out of judge judy. What appears to be small claims civil cases, we get to see some unrepresented dude getting chewed out by the local small claims judge about how he needs to get a lawyer. As soon as I realize it's a civil case, I headed for the door.

Courtroom #2: Also a civil case although we got to see the judge instruct a jury on their role which was interesting.

Courtroom #3: Some poor guy in a jail jumpsuit explaining to the judge why he wanted to fire his lawyer. I say "poor guy" because from what I gathered his alleged decision to participate in an armed robbery will, apparently result in him going to jail for a total 135 years if found guilty.

Editor's note: as Tamara reads over my shoulder she says scoffingly, "pfft! poor guy! he did it!"

Sigh... good thing she's not on any of my clients' juries.

I wonder what the perpetrator of this grafiti would be sentenced to?

Too bad spray paint doesn't come with spell check.

Afterwards we went for lunch at Paula Deen's Lady and Son's restaurant.

Editor's note: at this point Tamara chimes in "where Tamara ate so much that here we are at 11pm and I haven't eaten anything since, and I'm still stuffed!"

Well, that pretty much sums it up. Gotta love good southern cooking.

After lunch we kicked around the bed and breakfast playing scrabble and shootin the breeze. Tam and I both made 7 letter words.

It's our last day in Savannah as we are on the road towards Florida tomorrow!