kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

kayaking on Loch Leven near Glencoe, Scotland, 2018

Monday, March 28, 2016

Palm Sunday Tour of Homes 2016

Lake Charles embodies so much historical relevance. One way to experience this history is to attend the annual Palm Sunday Tour of Homes, an event sponsored by the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society. Each year they highlight a different historically significant area of town and open homes to the public to view and learn the stories behind the homes.

Bob and I have enjoyed three of these tours in the past four years. You can read last year's post (a hodge podge of various home locales) here, and the 2013 Tour (Shell Beach Dr.!) here.

This 41st Palm Sunday Tour of Homes featured properties in the delightful Charpentier District. I think that is French for carpenter. Many of the homes in this downtown neighborhood were built around the turn of the 20th century by lumber barons and other leaders of the Lake Charles community. A bonus this year -- all the homes were in close easy walking distance of each other and we had a warm sunny spring day to experience them.

Historic Central School , built in 1912, served as Tour headquarters. The building is now home to the Arts and Humanities Council, several art studios and art organizations, and the Mardi Gras Museum, which was open to the public that day. (This photo only courtesy of Google images. The rest are my own.)

902 Kirby -- Queen Anne-Victorian house, circa 1900, for Edna and George H. Rock. This couple raised thirteen kids here!

Across the street, 903 Kirby is a good example of a "two-bay side-hall house," an all-American house style suited to narrow urban lots.

917 Kirby -- a traditional American foursquare; four rooms to the floor, two stories and a center staircase. Massive amounts of fascinating antiques in this place!

736 Pujo St. -- circa 1905. Fabulous wrap-around porches and fourteen columns were added later.

This, in their backyard. There's something magical about vintage brick walls . . . 

832 Iris St. -- Originally a two story, the second floor was lost decades ago to a fire. It is now a charming cozy cottage.

Oh, and the azaleas were in peak bloom. Perfect timing for the Tour of Homes!

Unique in the Charpentier District, 1010 Reid St. boasts a Caribbean plantation flair, manicured gardens, and a pool.

Something different this year -- instead of only homes on the tour, the Preservation Society included a historic church . . . 

701 Kirby St. circa 1919, is home to the Christian Science Church. An example of good stewardship of resources, the church building is a early rare example of adaptive reuse: a military structure originally built for war converted into a place of worship.

. . . and a bonsai garden at 916 Kirby St. by gardener Alan Walker.

So that's the 2016 Palm Sunday Tour of Homes! Looking forward to another great Tour next year.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal

Just yesterday, I was shocked when, in the course of a conversation with my husband, I realized we have lived in Louisiana nearly NINE YEARS! How is that possible? I still feel like the new kid on the block. Since arriving in this beautiful state NINE YEARS AGO, I have loved exploring and playing the tourist in my own backyard. There's an adventure around every corner!

I've been a blogger since 2008, but I have never participated in the annual April Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I decided I am up for the "challenge" this year. The goal is to blog every day in the month of April (except for Sundays) and write about something that starts with the letter A on the first day, and working through the alphabet until Z on the last day of the month. It is not required, but many bloggers like to have a theme. Because my blog generally (but not exclusively) focuses on travel and adventure in and around Louisiana, I chose Louisiana festivals for my theme. There are so many different things to celebrate in Louisiana -- food, music, animals, holidays --  and there's a festival for most everything. I'll be highlighting different aspects of Louisiana culture through the avenue of festivals, and of course many cities and towns along the way.

This photo was taken at the Gueydan Duck Festival several years ago.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Up, Up, and Away -- Our Maiden Voyage on a Hot Air Balloon

"Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?" asked the Fifth Dimension in their 1967 hit song.

YES! I've longed to experience the thrill of looking down at the earth from a basket hanging from a balloon ever since my family and I went to the Pittsburgh Hot Air Balloon Festival sometime in the late 1990s. I couldn't find any personal or online photos of this event or any current information. Pittsburgh readers, is this still a thing? We didn't go for a balloon ride at that time, but the event was exciting and looked something like this photo, which was taken in Albuquerque, NM and belongs to www.smithsonianmag.com. Riding in a hot air balloon has been on my list of things to do since then.

So when Bob and I visited his parents near Phoenix last week and we saw a television commercial for a hot air balloon company, we said, "Let's do it!"

We met the crew of Aerogelic Ballooning and the other riders at the Starbucks in Chandler, AZ at 6:00 a.m. last Thursday. We clamored into a van and they took us to the take-off site. As the crew unloaded the two balloons, the sun peeked up over the horizon, promising a beautiful morning.

The crew blew cool air into the balloon with two heavy-duty fans to fill it as it lay horizontal on the ground. The balloon was tethered to the basket, which was tied to the van, at this point.

Once sufficiently filled with cool air, they fired hot air into the balloon and it slowly began to rise.

Then we scrambled into the basket and lifted off! There were ten passengers (the basket is designed to hold more than that, so it didn't feel crowded) and our capable pilot Shane, who has decades of hot air balloon piloting experience. I felt 100% comfortable and safe.

Our pilot, Shane

From there, we had a birds eye view of the Phoenix valley urban sprawl and the surrounding mountains. The almost-full moon hovered over the western horizon.

You cannot imagine how scared I was to hold my phone/camera out over the edge of the basket. I was so afraid I'd drop it. But I wanted the shot.

Looking up into the center or the balloon. So pretty.

After around an hour or so, we descended into a neighborhood park. And with a gentle bump and a bounce, we were back on the ground. While the crew deflated the balloon and put it back on the trailer, Shane regaled us with some anecdotes and the history of hot air ballooning while pouring us a champagne toast.