Mother-Daughter Weekend in New York City

I recently returned from a fabulous mother-daughter weekend in New York City. My daughter leads a very busy life and lives 400 miles away from me so it isn’t often we have time for just the two of us to be together. We talked and laughed, walked and rode subways and taxis, did everything on our bucket list and more, and ate our way through several different parts of the city. The best part of the weekend for me was spending this special time with my wonderful daughter.

We arrived Friday evening after a several hour weather related flight delay. The first thing on our agenda was a walk to Kesté Pizzeria in the West Village for possibly the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

On Saturday we started off with an early morning walk to Katz’s Delicatessen for breakfast. It was bagel with lox and cream cheese for me and blueberry blintzes for my daughter. I even ordered a salami to be sent home (it’s delicious).

We took our time admiring the amazing art at the Modern Museum of Art. My daughter knows a lot more about art than I do and pointed out some of the most famous artists and paintings.

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Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”
Girl before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso
Girl before a Mirror by Pablo Picasso
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Monet’s Water Lilies

We both loved the fabulous afternoon tea in the elegant Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel. It was our big splurge of the trip and my Mother’s Day gift from my daughter. We chose the New Yorker tea with so much delicious food that although we tried, we couldn’t eat all of the desserts.

We hopped on the subway to Central Park West to visit the John Lennon Memorial in Strawberry Fields. On our way to the memorial we stopped to admire the view of the city from The Lake.

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The Lake in Central Park West

After our full day we returned to the hotel for a short rest before wandering around SoHo and stopping for drinks and a snack at the SoHo Room. Before turning in for the night we browsed in a couple of book shops in Greenwich Village where my daughter found a book she hasn’t been able to find anywhere else.

Sunday morning started with an early morning ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Going early has it’s perks. We arrived at the Statue of Liberty early enough to beat the crowds.

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Statue of Liberty
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Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island Great Hall
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Lower Manhattan as seen from the ferry

Once we were back in Manhattan we walked to the 9/11 Memorial and spent a while in silence and reflection gazing at the two pools where the twin towers once stood. From the pools we looked up at the One World Trade Center building, also known as the Freedom Tower.

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9/11 Memorial
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One World Trade Center

It was cold and windy as we walked around lower Manhattan and it had been a long time since breakfast. We hopped on the subway to Little Italy for lunch, coffee and pastries. As we strolled along we browsed in a few shops and wound up in Chinatown (and had people trying to sell us watches and purses) before returning to the hotel for an afternoon nap.  Late in the afternoon we headed to Times Square and the Empire State Building.

Our weekend was filled with so much more than just sightseeing. One of my favorite things was just strolling through different parts of the city admiring the beautiful architecture of the buildings. I loved passing by community gardens and parks. It was fun stopping in a pastry shop on our way home one night and trying to decide which of the treats to take back for a late night dessert. Several times we had total strangers offer to help us find what we were looking for. A kind subway station attendant helped get us where we needed to go when we accidentally entered the wrong gate. One night we stopped to look at a FDNY Fire Station and had a nice conversation with one of the young Firefighters.

Monday morning we had time to walk to a coffee shop for breakfast before taking a wild taxi ride to La Guardia, We said goodbye to New York City with a fabulous aerial view of the city.

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View of the city after take off from La Guardia

SEC Football at Ole Miss in Oxford

We had just returned home from our fall football road trip when three days later we evacuated for Hurricane Matthew. This post has been on hold ever since.

If you follow SEC college football you know that our favorite team, the Georgia Bulldogs, are not having a good year. That’s all I have to say about that.

I have to say that except for the game on September 24, we had a great time in Oxford during the weekend of the Georgia – Ole Miss football game. The people of Oxford were gracious, the Ole Miss fans friendly, and the atmosphere in town on Friday and as we wandered through the Grove on Saturday before the game was like no college football game I’ve ever attended.

Our home for the weekend was John W. Kyle State Park on Sardis Lake, about a 30 minute drive from downtown Oxford. All through the campground were RV’s displaying their team colors. We didn’t spend much time in the campground but I was able to get a sunset picture over the lake on the first night.

Sunset over Sardis Lake
Sunset over Sardis Lake

Friends of ours were staying in Oxford within walking distance of downtown and the stadium. We met them Friday afternoon to browse the shops around the courthouse square and have a fabulous lunch at City Grocery. As we were enjoying our meal we noticed not one but four James Beard Awards on the wall! The food, service, and company were all excellent.

City Grocery on the square in Oxford, Mississippi
City Grocery on the square in Oxford, Mississippi
City Grocery on the square in Oxford, Mississippi
City Grocery on the square in Oxford, Mississippi
Two of the Four James Beard Awards at City Grocery
Two of the Four James Beard Awards at City Grocery

Kickoff was set for 11:00 a.m. on Saturday so we left the campground early in hopes of beating the traffic. We planned it perfectly and met our friends in time to eat a quick breakfast before heading to the Grove.

The Grove is a large area in the middle of the University of Mississippi campus. On game days it is transformed to a sea of tailgate tents lined up side by side with fans from both teams walking elbow to elbow on the pathways between the tents.

Tailgating Tents as far as the eye could see
Tailgating Tents as far as the eye could see
A few Georgia fans were tailgating in the Grove
Fans from both teams were tailgating side by side
The Ole Miss band marched by before the game
The Ole Miss band marched by before the game
Georgia and Ole Miss Fans getting ready for the game
Georgia and Ole Miss Fans in the Grove before the game

Did I mention it was HOT the whole time we were there? The temperature was in the upper nineties on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.

If your favorite college football team ever plays against Ole Miss in Oxford, get some tickets and go! It’s a one of a kind experience. And hopefully, your team will do better against them than my team did. And I hope I never hear the Ole Miss Hotty Toddy cheer ever again!

Lakefront Campground, Award Winning Barbeque, Scenic Drives, and Delta History

Our next destination was Mississippi River State Park in Marianna, Arkansas, about 150 miles north of Lake Chicot. When we stayed here two years ago we traveled on Arkansas highways between the two state parks. Since we had never traveled on the Mississippi side of the Mississippi River we took the long way and drove through Mississippi on Highway 61 (also known as the Blues Trail). Almost every town we drove through had some kind of Blues museum and signs pointing to historical sites.

We  returned to Arkansas by crossing the bridge into Helena. With only about 20 miles to our destination, on Highway 1 in the middle of a construction zone, we ran right into a powerful thunderstorm. The rain was coming down so hard Henry could hardly see and the wind was rocking us as we slowly made our way north. The shoulder on our side of the narrow two lane road was lined with safety cones so there was nowhere to pull over to wait out the storm. At one point the rain was blowing sideways. We inched along until we finally came to a place wide enough to stop. Once the storm passed we continued to the state park and had good weather the rest of the day.

Beech Point Campground in Mississippi River State Park is located on a peninsula in Bear Creek Lake. Almost every campsite has a great view of the lake.

Early morning on Bear Creek Lake
Early morning on Bear Creek Lake
Bear Creek Lake
Bear Creek Lake
Our campsite was a great place to watch the herons, egrets
Our campsite was a great place to watch the herons, egrets, and turtles in the lake
Great Blue Heron with two turtles
Great Blue Heron with two turtles

On our first morning we drove into the town of Marianna to pick up some of the delicious barbeque we had discovered two years ago. Jones Bar-B-Q Diner serves up James Beard Award winning pulled pork with a vinegary, sweet BBQ sauce and coleslaw. That’s it.  He opens early in the morning and is usually sold out by 11:00 am. As we glanced through his guest book we saw names from Europe and Tokyo as well as closer places like Memphis. You can read about our first visit here.

Jone's Bar-B-Q Diner
Jone’s Bar-B-Q Diner
Jone's Bar-B-Q Diner
Jone’s Bar-B-Q Diner

A drive on the gravel section of the Arkansas Great River Road (also known locally as the Low Road) took us through the St. Francis National Forest beside the Mississippi River. We took a short side trip through an ancient pecan grove to the confluence of the St. Francis and Mississippi Rivers. The area is undeveloped now but a parking area and overlook are planned for this beautiful, peaceful spot.

Henry and Blondie under the willow beside the St. Francis River
Henry and Blondie under the willows beside the St. Francis River
Confluence of St. Francis and Mississippi River
Confluence of St. Francis and Mississippi River
Beth and Blondie beside the mighty Mississippi
Beth and Blondie beside the mighty Mississippi

Another day we drove south on a gravel portion of Crowley’s Ridge Parkway (the High Road) to Helena for a visit to the Delta Cultural Center. Interesting displays tell about the history of the 27 county region of the Arkansas Delta. Blues music originated in the Delta in Mississippi and Arkansas and one room was dedicated to Arkansas musicians who contributed to the Blues.

Delta Cultural Center
Delta Cultural Center

We planned our trip to watch a live broadcast of the longest running blues radio show in the United States. The Peabody Award winning “King Biscuit Time” radio show has been on the air since 1941. The disc jockey Sonny Payne has been broadcasting the daily show since 1951. We heard him broadcast show number 17,583. Every one of the shows started with him announcing “Pass the Biscuits!”.

Sonny Payne broadcasting the King Biscuit Time Radio Show
Sonny Payne broadcasting the King Biscuit Time Radio Show
King Biscuit Time Radio Show broadcast booth
King Biscuit Time Radio Show broadcast booth

The old train depot houses more exhibits about the region.

Delta Cultural Center Depot
Delta Cultural Center Depot
Old Man River Display at The Depot
Old Man River Display at The Depot

While we were in Arkansas we traveled on several scenic byways. In addition to the Great River Road and Crowley’s Ridge Parkway we also drove on the Levee Road, The Trail of Tears, the Civil War Heritage Trail, and in Mississippi were on the Blues Trail.

A return to the Mississippi Delta

Two years ago we traveled through the Mississippi Delta area of Arkansas and fell in love with the area. So naturally when we began planning our trip to Oxford we decided to cross the Mississippi River into Arkansas and return to two of the places we enjoyed back then. When we told our friends we were going to Mississippi by way of Arkansas they looked at us like we were crazy.

Our first stop in Arkansas was Lake Chicot State Park. I posted about our first visit  here.  After a long day driving through part of Alabama and all across the state of Mississippi, we crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas and arrived at the campground hot and tired.

Lake Chicot State Park Site 7
Lake Chicot State Park Site 7

We got set up in time to watch a beautiful sunset over Lake Chicot.

Sunset over Lake Chicot
Sunset over Lake Chicot

The lake was beautiful in the early mornings.

Morning on the fishing dock
Morning on the fishing dock

Lake Chicot is the largest natural lake in Arkansas and the largest natural oxbow lake in the United States. It is a popular fishing destination and many varieties of birds can be seen here.

Egret on the fishing dock
Egret on the fishing dock
Cypress trees at Lake Chico
Cypress trees at Lake Chicot
Cypress trees at Lake Chicot
Cypress trees at Lake Chicot
Cypress trees at Lake Chicot
Cypress trees at Lake Chicot

On our first visit here we had our first taste of delicious Mississippi Delta hot tamales so of course getting some more was on the top of our to do list. One day we took a drive back across the Mississippi River to Greenville, Mississippi to pick up three dozen hot tamales to go from Doe’s Eat Place. We were in heaven as we ate some of those spicy tamales for dinner. The rest are in our freezer to take home. I posted about our first visit to Doe’s Eat Place here.

Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi
Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi
Three dozen Mississippi Delta hot tamales
Three dozen Mississippi Delta hot tamales

One day we took a self guided driving tour along the levee which runs along the Mississippi River to protect the area from flooding. A gravel road runs on top of the levee and the scenery changes from borrow pits to farms to woods as you go along.

Egrets flocked to the trees beside the borrow pits
Egrets flocked to the trees beside the borrow pits
Borrow Pit beside the levee
Borrow Pit beside the levee
Cattle with Cattle Egrets beside the levee
Cattle with Cattle Egrets beside the levee
Cattle with Cattle Egrets beside the levee
Cattle with Cattle Egrets beside the levee

Cotton is the number one crop in this part of the Mississippi Delta and we passed many fields on both sides of the river. Soybeans and sorghum are also big crops in the area.

Fields of cotton as far as the eye can see
Fields of cotton as far as the eye can see
Cotton is the number one crop in the Mississippi Delta
Cotton is the number one crop in the Mississippi Delta
Cotton Bolls
Cotton Bolls

Next up: A return to another favorite Arkansas State Park in the Mississippi Delta with some scenic drives, a museum, and award winning barbecue.

Girl’s Trip

Last week two of my girlfriends and I made a road trip to a resort in Orlando near Disney World. Our goal was to hang around by the pool, do some shopping, go out to eat, and have a few umbrella drinks.

Spent a lot of time chilling by the cascades at the pool
Spent a lot of time chilling by the pool

One night we arrived at The Whiskey during happy hour.  We were the only tourists at this hip locals hangout and also the oldest people there! The wait staff was great, the food was good, and we enjoyed watching the young crowd.

Happy Hour at the Whiskey
Happy Hour at the Whiskey

There is no Trader Joe’s near where I live so I am always happy to find one when I am on the road.

Got my Trader Joe's fix
Got my Trader Joe’s fix

To  celebrate my birthday on Friday we spent the afternoon at Disney Springs. This used to be called Downtown Disney and since my last visit seven years ago it has totally changed. Parking lots have been replaced with new upscale shops and parking garages have been added.

There is no fee to go to Disney Springs and parking is free. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Although we didn’t give ourselves enough time to really enjoy it all I was able to find gifts for my grand children that can only be purchased in the shops there or in one of the theme parks.

Rent an amphicar to tour the lake
Renting an amphicar is one of the attractions at Disney Springs
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando

On the way back home we stopped at Skipper’s Fish Camp in Darien, Georgia for some delicious fried shrimp and a great view of the shrimp boats.

After three days of laughter and fun, I returned home exhausted but with happy memories of a great adventure with my friends.