Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hotel Review: Ursuline Guest House

My last trip to New Orleans I wanted to stay somewhere I've never been before. I usually stay at the Dauphine Orleans but the price for that was too much. I found the Ursuline Guest House for roughly $100 a night and in the French Quarter. This used to be a residence more than a century ago and my side of the hotel were the former slave quarters. This made my decision to spend three nights here. The first couple of hours I have to say I wasn't impressed. I even began to regret my decision. When I first arrived I was disheartened to discover they didn't have their own parking lot. Anyone familiar with the French Quarter knows that it's easier to arm wrestle an upset gorilla than to find a parking space. I had to park a block away and carry my luggage to the guest house. Fortunately the attendant there, Chris took my bags and checked me in. He showed me to my room and gave me a map of the nearby parking lots. I took my car three blocks away which further unnerved me. I don't like leaving my car not knowing if it's secure or not (fortunately my car sat there for three days and it was just fine). I went back to the room and looked around. It was the size of a college dorm room which for me is just fine. The bed was cozy and comfy. The shower is a bit small though and for people like me who are 6'01 it requires a lot of bending when washing hair. Plus if you're part of a couple who likes to shower together it will be a cramped fit but then again you may like that. A good treat they provide every evening around 5pm is free wine. I'm not talking the gas station brand either. It's a decent brand and the glasses are generous. A half glass of that and sitting in the courtyard (where they have a hot tub mind you) already makes the trip to New Orleans worth it. The first evening there was a friendly group from Florida staying the weekend. A glass of wine makes for pleasant conversation.
The next evening at the free wine seating I met another group of travellers from North Carolina. It was a group of ladies ranging in age. The oldest was a sweet woman with a British accent and the youngest a very lovely brunette who wore short skirts and spoke of the guys who made feeble attempts to draw her attention the night before. After they left the Englishwoman and I had a pleasant chat about life, divorce, and looking ahead. I'll never forget that woman.
The guest house was a pleasant surprise. The amenities aren't that much. There is a kitchen with coffee and snacks available however it's in the Quarter you can find more fulfilling sustenance a short walk away. I also learned there has been some haunting activity reported on the premises. I first learned of it from the Florida troupe when a woman said that a housekeeper reported she hated cleaning a particular room (mine by amazing coincidence) because it made her feel uneasy and afraid. I talked to Chris about it who told me that the activity was reported on the opposite side of the courtyard from me. One incident involved a TV that would turn itself on and off. In another incident a woman exited the shower and discovered the dresser drawer had been laid out on the floor! She was staying by herself. I didn't have any strange experiences myself other than waking up feeling heavy the first two mornings. All in all I'm adding this place along with the Dauphine Orleans as one of my usual New Orleans stays.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hotel Review: Harbor House

This is the Harbor House Hotel in Galveston, TX. As Halloween approached I had nothing to do, nobody was available so I decided to spend it in Galveston and see how The Strand celebrates Halloween. Of course since Halloween was on a Sunday this year I knew all the parties would be on Saturday night but surely someone would celebrate it it's true night. The price was about $100 a night which wasn't too bad. You're paying more for the location I guess. This hotel sits on the bay in Galveston Harbor overlooking the water. This was my favorite feature. I love being near the water. The room was clean, a nice set up with two couches and a coffee table perfect for guests. The bed was nice and comfy making sleep very easy and peaceful even when the storm passed through the morning. I guess the only depressing thing is that it's right next to the cruise terminal and I made it as the ship was docked. I couldn't help but stare at the ship that held some memories for me two years ago. I want to get back on it someday! It was calling my name.

Hotel Review: Vanguard Motel

The Vanguard Motel located at 711 N La Salle St. Navasota, TX (936-825-6497) was built circa 1988 and is run by a local family. I was looking for a place to stay for two nights in Navasota while I joined a photo group to explore the city and take pictures. Because I waited until the last minute to look at hotels all of the chain hotels were booked up or would cost well over $100 a night which I didn't feel like paying. A google search of Navasota lodgings introduced me to the Vanguard. I tried researching it however there isn't much on the internet about this place. This presents a problem for travelers who use the internet to learn about as much as they can before making their choices. Until now the only photograph of the place was on google streets. This didn't help as I wanted to know if I was going to stay at a local meth & prostitution den or just a small, inexpensive motel. I took a chance and booked it for two nights over the phone (you can't go online and book and you can't find this motel on sites like expedia). I arrived late in the evening thanks to a nail in my tire. The staff was friendly however they must have just cooked something funky due to the smell in the lobby. I just prayed it didn't follow me to the room. When I entered the room I was pleased to see that it was clean. It was very small with a king sized bed, a medium sized TV set, a microwave, small refrigerator, and a coffee maker. In my humble opinion these are the bare necessities plus a little extra and for roughly $50 a night! The downside is I couldn't get a wi-fi signal even though my Iphone said there was an unsecured network nearby (I don't know if it's the hotel's or some nearby business). I enjoyed my two night stay here. I had no trouble sleeping and neither the traffic on Hwy 6 nor the nearby train tracks disturbed my sleep. I recommend this motel if you're staying a short time and don't plan on remaining in your room very long. This is well worth the price. If you have to stay inside and work on the internet I suggest you go further out to Hwy 105 and stay at the pricier hotel chains. I hope this review and pictures help the next traveler researching this motel to make their choice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Walking Through Jackson Square

I took a stroll through the park in Jackson Square. Two events were going on simultaneously. First there was a wedding in the cathedral wrapping up. That's the bells are going for. Second there was a jazz group playing. With both going on kind of made for a mesh of noise when just the band would've been sufficient.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walking in a New Orleans Alleyway!

It was late at night. Everybody said their "good nights" and headed back to their respective hotels. I wasn't quite ready to call it a night so I decided to go to Cafe Du Monde and get some coffee. Walking to the French Quarter in the dead of night is really cool, a little spooky, and a little risky. You have to keep your eyes open for criminals while you wonder what spirits walk past you.

Moment of Zen Inside St. Louis Cathedral

I don't go to church much. To have a relationship with God one doesn't need to go to church. I guess it helps but that is another post for another time. Here is a clip I shot inside the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA. I just sat there and for that minute was totally at ease. For that moment there was nothing wrong. We all need more moments like that.

Missionary on Bourbon Street

In just about every major city's party district (i.e. New Orleans' Bourbon Street, Austin's 6th street, Las Vegas' strip) there is a church group out there delivering their message. Personally I have no problem with this. In fact I think it takes a lot of guts (and faith) to walk into a hostile environment with a message that probably won't be received well by the revelers. I just walk by them and wish them well.

Atchafalaya Basin

Driving across Louisiana is one of the most boring drives to be had. There is a whole lot of nothing to be seen except for the towns you drive through and those are situated pretty far apart. The longest stretch is the near 20 mile Atchafalaya Bridge. Some people get nervous while others (like me) wonder what is underneath the bridge. Here is a compilation of videos of this Louisiana landmark.

(I want to hook up with this person and borrow his boat and go boating through that bayou!)

Driving Over Bridges

I like road trips. I especially like going over those giant bridges. The giant structures in the distance slowly getting bigger as you get closer. Then as you ascend you try to look down (harder when you're driving) for the bird's eye view. Some people are frightened by this while others like me are fascinated.

The bridge in Baton Rouge, LA

The Fred Hartman bridge in La Porte, TX (I've yet to drive over this bridge! I used to cross under the Fred Hartman tunnel)

The Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, MD.

The Huey P. Long bridge in New Orleans, LA.

New Orleans Jazz Wedding

Everyone has heard of a New Orleans jazz funeral. How about a jazz wedding? This couple got married in the St. Louis Cathedral and held their receptoin on Bourbon Street. I wonder how much they shelled out for this.

Railroad Crossing Malfunction

Oddly enough this is the only video I've shot that has had so many views and so much interest. I shot it with an old cell phone (Motorola Blackjack I think).

Silverton, Colorado

Silverton, Colorado, was founded in 1874, and was a mining town. As with most 19th century mining towns the population increased bringing in the usual vices of alcohol, gambling, and ladies of the evening. Here is an assortment of videos of Silverton.

(The first two were shot by me)