Sunday, 28 February 2016


Or the end of the world. The picture are telling.

On the way back to Houston we had agreed to have a short visit of a bayou. I'm not sure that Lake St Martin is precisely a bayou, but the idea is here. We had found a 2-hours guided boat tour that was convenient for us.

So, the pictures...:

The boat

The bayou
The first 'gator
The greenish stuff
More bayou
The second 'gator - a rubber one, there since Thanksgiving, according to the guide
No, this is not the end of the world...

More bayou

Look, a 'gator!
Bird on a branch

The moss, the bare branches, the wind... it feels apocalyptic by moments! But what a view. It was so impressive!

I'll conclude my travel notes here. Back in Houston, on Monday, Jean took me to buy cowboy's boots, to eat barbecue, and he dropped me at the airport on time for my plane back. Let's just say that the unicorn umbrella I brought back with me was a success with the airport counter ladies.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

New Orleans

Today was "walk around like a tourist" day, in T-shirt because, well, New Orleans in February.

We started in the French Quarter with a view of the Mississippi river. We were standing on embankment that separate Jackson Square from the river.
Mississippi River, from the French Quarter - New Orleans
Jackson Square - French Quarter, New Orleans
St Louis Cathedral - French Quarter, New Orleans

We spent the morning walking around, looking at the house, some very well-kept, others less so. Street names are in French and Spanish. The houses have this typical balcony that overhangs the sidewalk, and which is beautiful with trailing flowers.
A house - French Quarter, New Orleans

Another house - French Quarter, New Orleans
A few houses - French Quarter, New Orleans
After some walking around, I begged for a break and we sat in Armstrong Park.

Armstrong Park - New Orleans
We had noted a few potential places to eat and ended up on Bourbon Street eating gator burger (for him) and jambalaya (for me).

Eating on a balcony on Bourbon Street - French Quarter, New Orleans
We toured the Garden District and its cemetery in the afternoon: the district takes its name from the grand houses and their gardens. Lafayette Cemetery No 1 is one of the oldest cemeteries of New Orleans; its denizens were placed in mausoleums above ground because of the high water table. (Which is a nice to say it was a swamp.)

A house in the Garden District - New Orleans

We stopped on the way home to listen to some music in a bar, it was nice. Then an early night, and an early morning drive with a small detour to Crescent park.

Downtown New Orleans from Crescent Park

Friday, 26 February 2016

Road trip

I got up at like...3, 4 in the morning to catch the night buses that would drop me at the airport on time for my early flight. I was lucky and the first bus became the second one, so I didn't have to change, and the other passenger told me that fact before I could go down.

We landed early and jean picked me up at the airport to go straight to New Orleans! Well, straight... we had decided to take the Cajun Heritage Trail, which goes in the same direction but by following the beach and crossing pretty places.

So, in America, when you say "picnic" on the beach, you mean "driving on the beach with your car until you find a place you like". Okaay...

Picnic on the beach - the American's way
Oil rigs on the horizon
A very long beach
As you see, the weather was obligingly nice.

Later on,  we stopped because I wanted to see the Spanish moss from closer.

A tree with Spanish moss
Basically, we drove the whole day, stopping wherever we liked, enjoying ourselves and the countryside.

So in a single day I basically crossed the States from North to South (Boston to Houston) and then drove East to New Orleans. Nice, isn't it?

Thursday, 25 February 2016


So, time to finish writing things up.

Going to Salem is as easy as taking a short train ride North. On my downtown, I found an 18th century cemetery:

Salem - Cemetery
Old tombstones, uneven ground, bare trees... check.
I came back to the present (but staying in the past) with a visit to the Peabody Essex museum. Hum, a short historical note may be needed here: though Salem is mostly known for its witches, in fact it was later a thriving shipping town, and its captains sailed the world over. So these captains founded a society, and decided the creation of a cabinet of curiosities where they would collect the artifacts they brought back. That's the begining of this museum... 
So they have everything from boat models to Asian art to African artifacts... even a real Chinese house deconstructed and rebuilt in the museum. Even the temporary exhibition was interesting: modern fashion inspired by Native American traditional garb. I really, reallu liked some of the jewelry... 
After a long stop in the museum shop (the jewelry was alas too expensive!) I left for the Salem witches museum! February being the close season, all the witches and pirates haunts and tours are closed (ah!), and the museum is the only one open.
Witch museum - Salem

You are inviting to step into a room where you have a short reconstruction of what is thought to have happened, with a narrator recounting the tale, illustrated by small sets with wax characters. Then we are taken by a guide to a short history of witches throughout the ages. 

On my way to the House of Seven Gables, I found the Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, supposedly the oldest candy shop of the country. I don't know about that, but I couldn't not go in and by a few pieces. And some chocolate. Yummy.

The House of Seven Gables is both a place and a book. Nathaniel Hawthorne lived shortly in that house, which belonged at the time to a... cousin? Acquaintance? I don't remember, but he chose the house to be the set for his novel, which is a classic of American literature. Later, when the house was to be sold and presumably destroyed, it was saved and restored and turned into a museum. (More or less.) Being a late afternoon in the middle of Winter, I was alone for the guided tour, which meant that I could ask questions to clarify the specific terms I didn't understand (like, what is and isn't a gable?) and I could get a short summary of the novel. (The gable is the pointy thing that ends the roof, often above a window, but if the gable is lower that the roof, for example the protective thingy above the door in the picture below, then it isn't a gable but something else. Clear, isn't it?)

House of Seven Gables - Salem

Black cat - House of Seven Gables - Salem
So I finished my visit, took a last look at the sea, and went home.

The sea - Salem

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

New England clam chowder

What's better on a rainy day than a thick soup? I left the aquarium to walk back to Quincy Market, where I found a stand with chowder. (Chowder is a thick soup, often with cream and potatoes.)

Clam chowder in a bread bowl - Quincy market
So, soup, a mug of tea, oyster crackers (actually, I don't think they have anything to do with oysters), and a good book. Bliss.


So, the program after the laundromat was the aquarium. Since it was a rainy day, it was perfect.

Main tank
The aquarium has a huge central tanks going up three floors, with corals, fish and turtles. There si a ramp around it, which allows watchers to see what's happening in it. The top is open.

The turtle wouldn't stop moving.
I arrived on time to see divers go into the main tank to feed the fish.

Top of the tank, with divers and moving turtles
Along the outside walls, smaller tanks show different kind of sea life, from salmon to piranha, starfish to seahorses

Some kind of fish

At the bottom there were penguins, with their own rocks, and from time to time, water jets (to keep them hydrated? For play?)

Penguins and whale skeleton
Penguins and water jets
After the penguins I went to pet a few rays in a petting pool (they are slimy fish, brrr!), then went loose in the shop before going for lunch...

Widow's walk

A widow's walk (or watch) is a small platform with a railing on top of a house on coastal towns.

The street where I found my accommodation; notice the railing on top of the green house's tower.

The legend behind this architectural quirk is that sailor's wives would keep a watch for the return of their beloved on these platforms (or rich captain would watch for the return of the ships they have investments in). But apparently it's just inspired from the Italian architecture, where belvedere were an important finishing touch.

I prefer the legend.

(Wikipedia knows all about it: clic here.)