On Monday, we had made our way up to the Florida Panhandle. Our destination was beautiful Grayton Beach, located 15 miles outside of Destin. Famed for its laid back attitude and pristine white sand beaches, Grayton was just our style. The town is a classic beach getaway, with charming little cottages and unique bars. Grayton has avoided the franchising that has inundated its large neighbor of Destin. Here the town is full of local shops with only a small Starbucks which has gotten its foot into the tight knit economy.
We spent our week working through the chilly mornings and enjoying evenings outside at our campsite. We rode our bikes out to Grayton Beach to take in the sparkling white sand. Friday would be our day out on the town. While I was busy taking a new website live, Tim did errands around the town of Destin. As his 40th birthday approaches, he had to get his eyes checked for a new driver’s license. It was no surprise when the optometrist wrote him a small prescription for his first pair of glasses. Tim isn’t quite ready yet for his new moniker “Four Eyes Bradshaw” but it’s just a matter of time.
After his eye check, we returned to home where we settled in on the beach for the afternoon. The weather was only about 55 but the sun was warm and we soaked in the vitamin D and flew the kite.
After a beautiful red sunset, we rode our bikes to the local favorite, The Red Bar. Even during the offseason, this place is packed. Filled with red furniture, red lights, red suede, and red cheeks, it is an experience. Tim and I sat at the bar and ate blackened snapper and crab cakes. The cheddar cheese grit cake that served as a bed for the fish was so delicious, we ordered another for dessert.
While we dined, we met many of Grayton’s extremely friendly down-to-earth residents. This is another place to go on our shortlist of locations to return to.
Saturday morning we packed up again and began our 5 hour drive west. We were leaving Florida for good. After 2 months in the chilliest winter on record, our Florida experience was not what we envisioned it would be. But even without the typical 80 degree weather, we enjoyed every second of our time here.
By 3:30 Saturday afternooon, we’d pulled into the New Orleans Airport to pick up Casey. She’d flown in 2 days early for a business trip and we were going out to experience New Orleans. We first started our adventure finding our campspot….French Quarter RV Resort.
Every time we drove into our new home for the next 4 nights, we cracked up. Right on the edge of the French Quarter, in downtown NO, just 50 yards from the gravesite of voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, we parked Frank. From the street, FQRV barrier walls blend perfectly with the exterior of the neighboring 1789 St. Louis Cemetery. Inside we were treated to the nicest RV park we’d seen on our trip. Sure Highway 10 buzzed loudly overhead, but the granite bathrooms, and tiled hottub stole our hearts. A 5 minute walk to Bourbon Street sealed the deal. We’d found a home.
Saturday night, the three of us walked down to the heart ot the French Quarter making a pact to not separate for the evening. It was 6 pm. 10 hours later, the three of of us walked home- never separate and full of tales. We kicked the night off with a Hand Grenade. Next we ate 3 dozen oysters with Perry the Oyster Shucker at the Bourbon Oyster House. From there we traveled back to our favorite Old Absinthe House for a round of the formerly illegal drink. Here we heard about Fritzel’s, the best place on Bourbon Street for Jazz. On our way we stopped into Cats Meow for some hilariously questionable Karoake.
When we got to Fritzel’s, we were led to the front of the house to the only free chairs in the room. We soaked in the smoke and music, feeling we reached the heart of New Orleans culture.
The band finally called it quits and it was now time for more food. 2 Gyros later, we cruised into a cabaret for dancing. By the time the clock struck 4, we finally decided it was time to go home. We walked out onto Bourbon Street and it was still packed. New York isn’t the only city that never sleeps.
Sunday morning we rolled out of bed at 9. Even with 5 hours of sleep, we knew we needed to rouse ourselves. We had reservations at Brennans, and this was not to be missed.
Brennans is a New Orleans cornerstone. Tim’s grandparents had come here in 1965 and gotten a menu with the handwritten recipe for Brennans signature creation Bananas Foster by the Chef. Sylvia and Leroy followed their footsteps and had a cookbook signed in 2004. On Sunday, Casey, Tim and I sat down for the best breakfast of our lives.
This is the kind of place that breakfast is a 3 to 4 course affair. We started off with oyster stew and baked apples, followed with eggs hollandaise over sausage, mushrooms and tomatos respectively and then followed by 3 plates of Bananas Foster. We had brought the menu and cook book which Tim’s grandparents had purchased 50 years before. Lazone Randolph, the current executive chef, added his signature. He’d just started in the kitchen in 1965, right out of high school. It’s that kind of a place. From the Chef to the attendant in the washroom, everyone had been there for decades. It was an amazing experience.
When we wobbled full of food, out the door, the Smoking Time Jazz Band had set up in the middle of the street. We stopped and listened to the music…..entranced.
Next we decided we should see some Bayou. We drove to the Jean Lafitte National Preserve. We walked past cypress knees shrouded in spanish moss, hidden water moccasins and alligators, and a pack of raucous boy scouts in the exotic wilderness. We ended a perfect Sunday at the Acme Oyster Bar. No matter the time of day, the temperature, or the number of people in town, the Acme Oyster Bar has a line. We waited 45 minutes just out of curiousity. What could be so good?
We found out, it was 3 things: the people who waited on you, the food, the people who waited on you. This was not elegant dining, but it was one of the most outstanding experiences you could have over a plate of food. We sat at the Oyster Bar and were helped by Magic, a gold toothed oyster shucker who charmed everyone within 15 feet. His shucking partner, Hollywood, told us the story of the origin of the enigmatic phrase “Who Dat”. I would relay that origin here…but I could only decipher about every 3rd word through his thick Cajun accent. It remains a mystery to this day….
We were exhausted by our 2 long days and we called it an early night while Bourbon Street continued to rock.
Monday was a work day for all 3 of us. The beautiful weather had blown away for a blustery rainy day. We finished up our cuilinary tour of New Orleans with another cornerstone of dining. At Mother’s we ate red beans and rice, etoufee, jambalya, ham and turnip greens and finished with bread pudding. Amazing.
Tim and I had almost bypassed New Orleans, but thanks to Casey we changed our minds. It ended up being one of the best weekends of our entire trip.