Sorry for the crickets chirping in here lately, I have been hard at work playing camp counselor during Little Chick’s grand hurrah summer fandango. We spent the last week of summer vacation wearing out I-10 along the Gulf Coast.
I decided she is way too accustom to airplane bathrooms and largely unfamiliar with roadside gas station bathrooms so this time we drove from Austin to Mobile. I insisted on no fast food chains, only local fare. This led to some mild comedy during lunch hour as we tore through Louisiana looking for the perfect lunch spot, starved, and I was beginning to redefine Popeye’s as “local”. But finally we found our spot: Gabes Cajun Cafe in Rayne Louisiana.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Rayne Louisiana and it’s not because it’s known as the Frog City and boasts countless murals about town – mostly of frogs. Years ago I fell in love with a song by brothers Bruce & Charlie Robison called Rayne Louisiana and always wondered about the town in the song.
And just a year before last, the Professor and I stopped on our drive from Mobile to ATX and mailed our first married Christmas cards from the post office in Rayne. And now, Little Chick and I were looking for the best food in town.
Along with everyone else. Gabes is very popular on a Friday. I should have known when cars we wheeling up and picking up orders they had called in….the day before. Needless to say it’s not ideal to add an hour and a half lunch to a 10.5 hour car trip but hey, we loved Gabes. Little Chick ordered wrong with a pork sandwich but I loved my shrimp etouffee. All in all, Gabes is good cajun road food, totally worth the time off the road.
In Mobile, Little Chick had invited a friend from Austin to spend the week with her, so I had two little birds in tow which was adorable. Her friend G was visiting AL for the first time so, of course, we hustled her straight to our local fav, Wintzells Oyster House.
While she didn’t threaten any of those oyster eating competitions listed on the board we were very impressed that G ate her first raw oyster! And then another, sans cracker. Bold. I do think she liked this one on the cracker with the sauce much better.
We had a ball in Mobile with friends and neighbors, then we popped over the bay to shop around Fairhope. And because G had never been to New Orleans, we loaded up and did a day trip that started uptown strolling Magazine Street and a delightful lunch at my personal fav, Lilette.
Mechanically we ordered my favorite antipasta platter with the most delicate salami and to-die-for burrata.
Then of course we had to drill into the Quarter and show G the sights…and smells.
Little Chick found all of our family “crests” in one bead shop so now we are prepared for college football season.
And speaking of football…the girls were fascinated by the gold painted man in Jackson Square so I asked if he would do the Heisman post with them. (ps, while handing him a tip I was terrified by the crackhead look in his eyes, the only thing not covered with gold.)
Instead of replicating the incredible historic carriage ride we did last spring, Little Chick talked me into a haunted carriage ride with this British woman Lorna. For half the time and twice the price you miss all the fascinating historic details of this amazing city and instead hear one fabricated gory tale after the next about severed limbs, murdered slaves, and about all the tourists today that claim their shoes get moved around in their hotel and how they can’t find their things in the morning where they left them.
Um, it’s New Orleans. I am pretty sure they were just drunk.
But the girls loooooved Lorna – that British accent is catnip to two 12-year old girls. They super freaked for all the gory stories and I have to admit, I did like that our horse was named Elvis and he had gold fleur-de-lis painted on his hooves.
Predictably our next stop was across the street to Cafe du Monde for afternoon beignets. My usual MO is to hit Cafe du Monde around midnight or later, I love them at night best, but I can tell you they hit the spot mid afternoon as well.
As much time as I have spent in New Orleans (it’s been a lot) I have never gone inside the St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Never. I was blown away. The girls loved it too. It is absolutely gorgeous. As Little Chick said, “Catholics really do have the best looking churches.”
Apparently it’s a three year waiting list to get married in St Louis Cathedral. Add the year we’d have to spend converting to Catholicism and in four short years maybe the Professor and I could renew our vows there! (The Professor nixed that plan.)
After a bit more walking around the French Quarter, it was time to hit the road back to Mobile. We had a blast hosting G in Mobile and it was fun for Little Chick to have a running buddy while visiting there.
Alas, in the blink of an eye it was time to head back to Austin. With early reports of Isaac looming, we made some preparations, filled containers with gasoline and began our roadtrip back to Texas. It kinda felt like we were evacuating early, except we really had always planned to drive back last Friday. Besides, we had a different storm to prepare for back in Austin (more on that below…)
We kept the standard of only eating local fare and this time the Professor took us down the best rabbit trail ever. We lunched in Breaux Bridge Louisiana (deep in Cajun country) at a nice restaurant called Cafe des Amis. It was a feast that started with Alligator Pie in a spicy roumelade sauce.
The Professor had a fried oyster poboy with shrimp and okra bisque, and I had this incredible sausage and chicken gumbo.
Little Chick was going for the burger but we urged her to go a little more local so she ordered the muffaletta (sans olives) and she loved it.
After a busy week and lots of windshield time we arrived in Austin just under the wire for different storm preparations. No, not Isaac. Little Chick’s 13th birthday! My parents flew in and we had a big weekend of celebrations. It’s hard for me to believe how quickly we’ve gone from 3 to 13…
We had a spectacular family celebration Saturday night at Parkside Restaurant on 6th Street. By the way Austin, best fried calamari I have ever had.
Little Chick wasn’t phased one bit when we left the restaurant and 6th street was jumping with its famous nightlife (ie, a bunch of drunk college kids and tourists) since she had, after all, just been on Bourbon Street.
There were gifts and laughs and celebration with her friends and more family and more grandparents. And of course, cake.
Whew. I dropped her off at the first day of school yesterday morning and pretty much slipped into an exhaustion coma all day. It was a great summer finale on the Gulf Coast and now of course we are watching carefully as Isaac makes its approach. Let’s hope LA, MS and AL have the same let-down/relief that our friends in the Keys experienced with Isaac. My friend and tarpon guide Scott Yetter posted this yesterday.
Happy 13th Birthday Little Chick, we all love you and are so proud. Prayers and fingers crossed for the Gulf Coast!