The Alluring Azores…

The Alluring Azores
The Alluring Azores

This winter we visited the beautiful Azores, the archipelago of volcanic islands located in the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal.  We spent our time on the largest Azores island of Sao Miguel also known as the Green Island for its lush landscapes and rolling green hills.  The island was one of the most visually stunning places we have ever visited.  It was simply beautiful everywhere we looked, from the sweeping vistas of the Atlantic ocean to the verdant emerald green hills filled with cattle to the crystal blue endless lakes.   It was a place that made you stop and say WOW several times a day.

We had a fabulous guide named Rui who showed us every nook and cranny of his beautiful island home.  Rui was a most gracious host and really took the time to show us why his island is such a special place.

Among the highlights of our stay were the following magical spots:

Set Cidades crater:  an incredible volcanic crater lake on the western side of the island.

Gorgeous view of Set Cidades
Gorgeous view of Set Cidades
Set Cidades from a different angle
Set Cidades from a different angle

Lagoa de Fogo (Fire Lake): another volcanic crater lake that afforded incredible views.

Lagoa do Fogo
Lagoa do Fogo

 

Hig a
High atop the Lake- it was freezing!

Furnas Lake:  an active volcanic area that included steaming domes where locals would lower their food via baskets into 4 foot holes dug into the ground and cover them will soil to cook.

Steaming Furnas
Steaming Furnas- boy did it stink of sulphur
Holes where locals would put food in ground to cook
Holes where locals would put food in ground to cook

 

Food is steaming below this mound..
Food is steaming below this mound..

 

Caldeira Vehla:  a warm water geothermal waterfall in a lush tropical setting.

Pirate and Cajun at the Caldeira
Pirate and Cajun at the Caldeira
Karyn and Heidi at the volcanic springs.
Karyn and Heidi at the volcanic springs.

Pineapple Farm:  Azores produces their own species of pineapple which is markedly different from the kinds we are used to eating in the US.  These pineapples are smaller and so deliciously sweet.  We could not stop eating chunks out of the sample tray!  We ended up buying our own and eating it right there on the spot!

Pineapples growing
Pineapples growing

Cha Gorreana Tea Plantation:  We visited this factory/plantation and learned how tea is made from start to finish.  Founded in 1883, it claims to be Europe’s oldest family run and continuously operating tea factory.

Pirate at the tea factory
Pirate at the tea factory
Tea crops growing and a beautiful view
Tea crops growing and a beautiful view

Mulher de Capote liquor factory: This family business produces a variety of fruit liquors all aged in beautiful oak casks.  The fruit is grown on the island.  We had fun in their tasting room sampling all of the different varieties.

Mulher de Capote liquor factory
Mulher de Capote liquor factory
Pineapples for liquor
Pineapples for liquor

Local architecture and a local feast:  We were fascinated by all of the beautiful buildings and how well they were preserved.  We also visited a very local restaurant and asked to be given the typical Azorian meal.  What was served was very different indeed- some of it we had no idea what it was.   We can’t say that it was all delicious- but it was definitely interesting!

Ponta Delgada architecture
Ponta Delgada architecture

 

Vila Franco de Campo
Vila Franco de Campo
Our interesting local feast....
Our interesting local feast….

 

 

Catching Up on Past Travels and Adventures….

 

Well, we have been extremely remiss and have neglected our Gumbopirate blog over the last few months.  Life just seemed to get in the way as it so often does.  An absence of blog posts certainly doesn’t mean that we haven’t been having travel adventures.  On the contrary, we have visited four fabulous European cities and one tropical island since our last post!    We will do our best to get the blog up-to-date in the coming weeks.

Sincerely,

The Cajun & the Pirate

Gumbopirate in Verona, Italy
Gumbopirate in Verona, Italy

Mardi Gras Madness in the French Quarter

The Princess and the Pirate on Mardi Gras day
The Princess and the Pirate on Mardi Gras day

It is a tradition of ours to costume and stroll the streets of the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day.  There is no other place on earth like New Orleans on Mardi Gras day and because we are fortunate enough to live here, it would be a shame to not take part in the festivities and experiences.  It is also wonderful to live right in the midst of the madness, so there is no need to to drive and worry about parking.  We simply walk our door and join in the parades!

Pirate poses for a picture with an enamoured tourist...
Princess poses for a picture with an enamoured tourist…
Pirate with her Mardi Gras goblet at Touche Bar.
Pirate with her Mardi Gras goblet at Touche Bar.

This year we did a bit of roll reversal and went as the Princess and the Pirate.  There is only one day a year when the Pirate can dress as a Princess and not feel out of place!  Again this year, his costume choice was quite popular as he was stopped time and time again to pose for pictures.  I can only imagine the conversations that will be had when the mid-western tourists return home and show the pictures to their friends and family of them posing with the “Princess”!   This year we actually met another man his size that was dressed similarly!  It was like two long-lost siblings reuniting.  Quite funny!!

A Crew of Crawfish
A Crew of Crawfish

IMG_6187

 

The Pink Man
The Pink Man

We, like everyone else in New Orleans, are now in the post-Superbowl/Mardi Gras haze/hangover.  Three straight weeks of partying have taken its toll on the people of this city.  It is time to rest and recover and get back to work!   Afterall, festival season is just around the corner….

Goodbye Crazy Crowds.. We are ready for some peace and quiet.
Goodbye Crazy Crowds.. We are ready for some peace and quiet.

Friday Fun in the French Quarter…

Happy Mardi Gras from the Pirate and the Cajun!
Happy Mardi Gras from the Pirate and the Cajun!

A long and liquid lunch in the French Quarter on the Friday before Mardi Gras is a hallowed tradition for many local New Orleanians.  It is a time to enjoy the craziness of Mardi Gras with your fellow friends and neighbors, before the tourists take over and the streets become filthy with the debris of too much partying.  We love taking part in this tradition and each year we are amazed at just how many people we run into that we haven’t seen in months or sometimes even years.  This year, we lunched at GW Fins which was wild and crazy with all of the female krewe members of Iris.  As is tradition, the male members of Hermes lunch next door at Antoine’s and then all meet out on the street at Bourbon and Bienville and the Old Absinthe House.  We enjoyed the people watching and then went to Patrick’s Bar Vin for some cocktails and more fun.

Cheers!
Cheers!
Pirate and Earl take a bite
Pirate and Earl take a bite
Part of the Gang at Patricks Bar Vin
Part of the Gang at Patricks Bar Vin

 

After Patrick’s, we braved the swelling crowds on Bourbon Street to get to the new side bar at Galatoires.  It was so new it still smelled of fresh varnish.  We broke it in though.  Pirate was the first patron to dance on the bar!   And all of the ladies were the first to sit on the bar for a group photo.  After many libations, we strolled on down to the Jax Brewery where we had an after-party at Dianne and Steve’s.  It was a wonderful day and quite a kick-off to all of the Mardi Gras festivities to come!

A little dancing..
A little dancing..

 

A little lovin...
A little lovin…
All the ladies at Galatoires...
All the ladies at Galatoires…

 

 

Krewe of Cork Rolls On Down the Quarter!

The Grape Gatsby
The Grape Gatsby

 

It was a gorgeous day for a parade!  And parade we did!   On Friday, the Krewe of Cork paraded through the streets of the French Quarter for it’s 13th year.  It was quite a celebration with the sun shining and the champagne and wine flowing.  Our Grand Marshall was Jean-Charles Boisset who is the maker of some of our favorite champagnes.  Our glasses were never empty!   Our costume theme this year was the Grape Gatsby, and the color was perfect because it did not show all the wine spills that occured throughout the day!  It is hard to march through the streets of the  French Quarter dancing to the sounds of a brass band with a full goblet of wine without spilling a drop… in fact, it is impossible.

Ed standing tall in the crowd
Great Gatsby standing tall in the crowd…
Da Coolers
Our friends Caroline and Joe as “Da Coolers”… as in wine coolers.
and the band played on..
You gotta dance when the band plays… and they always play!
Karyn and Pirate in their Grape Gatsby finest...
Karyn and Pirate in their Grape Gatsby finest…
Pink Ladies of the Queen's Court
Pink Ladies of the Queen’s Court

 

Cheers to Cork's 13th Year!
Cheers to Cork’s 13th Year!
It's not a party until someone does the Chicken Dance!
It’s not a party until someone does the Chicken Dance!

 

Sipping our way through Umbria…

Ominous-looking "Dying City" of Civita
Ominous-looking “Dying City” of Civita

 

After Venice, our next stop was the Italian countryside of Umbria.    Known for its green countryside, olive oils, wines and black truffles, Umbria is a fantastic place to spend some time hopping from town to town sampling the delicious offerings.  That is just what we did!   During our wanderings, we found two very special places worth raving about.. Orvieto and Cvita de Bagnoregio.

Orvieto is located in southwest Umbria between Florence and Rome.   It is known for its wonderful white wines, majestic cathedral, and meandering Etruscan caves running under the city.   Located high up on a mass of volcanic rock, the views from Orvieto are amazing.  We found a cozy little wine shop/cave named Cantina Foresi that was right on the main square dominated by the Duomo di Orvieto.  We huddled inside this little cave and treated ourselves to a delicious bottle of Umbrian Sangiovese. It didn’t matter that it was only 10:00 a.m.!  Warmed up by the wine, we ventured out to marvel at the beauty of the Duomo.  It was one of the most ornate churches we have ever seen.  We also enjoyed strolling through the medieval cobblestone streets and window shopping and partaking in more wine.

Duomo di Orvieto
Duomo di Orvieto
A bottle of Sangioves at Cantina Foresi
A bottle of Sangioves at Cantina Foresi

Beautiful pottery on display in Orvieto
Beautiful pottery on display in Orvieto

The second highlight of our Umbrian visit was Civita di Bagnoregio.   Founded over 1250 years ago by Etruscans, Civita is known as the “Dying City” as over the years earthquakes and erosion have hampered its development and made accessing it more difficult.  It is perched high atop a volcanic mountain overlooking the Tiber River valley.  As more and more of the city crumbles away, some residences seem to be teetering on a precipice awaiting their turn down the mountain.  But the wine still flows!  And the tiny population (sometime as few as 15 full time residents) is welcoming to visitors.  We arrived at Civita in the midst of a hail storm making the steep climb up the narrow stone walkway seem quite daunting.  As that is the only way to access the city, we charged on with heads down against the cold and hail.  Arriving at the top made us see that the climb was definitely worth the effort.  It is a city preserved in time with few modern trappings.  We settled in for one of the best meals we have ever had and of course more Umbrian Sangiovese!  Bella Italia!

Courtyard with a view in Civita
Courtyard with a view in Civita
Cathedral in center of Civita
Cathedral in center of Civita

 

 

Winter in Venizia… Bellissimo!

A View of the Grand Canal
A View of the Grand Canal

We traveled from New Orleans to Venice in December.  While we had this trip planned for months, we did not anticipate that the Pirate would be on crutches for it.  His knee surgery in early October was much more invasive and painful that we were led to believe it would be.  Post-surgery, the doctors informed us that it was much worse than they thought and the healing time would be 4 months.  Yikes!  What was done was done though, and we had no choice but to accept it.  And Pirate being a true Pirate, gritted his teeth through the pain and medicated with rum as needed.  Off to Venice we went- 10 hour plane ride and lots of rum later- we landed in a very cold and wet ancient city.

We took the Vaporetto to our hotel.  Luckily the small boat was enclosed with heating and protection from the rain.  The waters were rough and it was difficult for Pirate to get on and off with his knee, but we managed.  It was a beautiful ride through the Grand Canal.  There was so much boat traffic in Venice, it is amazing there aren’t more accidents.  Vaporettos and gondolas and water taxis come centimeters apart as they pass each other in the narrow passageways and canals.  There were even gondoliers racing in the nasty weather amongst the crazy boat congestion.  We made it safely to the Hotel Bauer and breathed a sigh of relief.

The Bauer is a fabulous hotel right in the center of Venice steps away from the Piazza San Marco.  Next door are the uber-luxury Italian designer boutiques of Prada, Mui Mui, Versace, Ferragamo and Gucci.  However, we arrived in the midst of the Aqua Alta so there was sadly (for me, not Pirate) no shopping to be done.  Aqua Alta is when the tide reaches its maximum state in the Venice lagoon and the streets of the city flood.  While Venetians are used to this and view it as just another charming feature of their city, it can be quite jarring to those seeing it for the first time.  It was literally necessary to walk places on elevated plank risers which were quite narrow only allowing for two slender people to slither past each other when going in opposite directions.  Navigating these risers with crutches and a bad knee was out of the question.   Some braved the waters in hip boots- but not many.  We opted to wait for low tide before venturing out and instead headed to the bar.  It was a great choice as they made the best champagne cocktail we ever had!

When the tides were low, we went to some amazing places and saw some beautiful sights.  We enjoyed an opulent dinner composed of wine and lots of deserts at Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco.  We also loved wandering the narrow streets of the San Polo district and walking across the Rialto Bridge.  It was easy to get lost in the winding streets with no names, but it was no problem because everywhere was beautiful and had wonderful window shopping and great places to stop for a tasty treat or glass of vino.

We befriended a gondolier named Nico.  He is a 7th generation gondolier and his son will be the 8th generation soon.  He said that gondoliering is a revered profession there that is very hard to get into unless you are born into it (sort of like river pilots in New Orleans).  Nico said that there are 400 and something gondolas in Venice (one for every bridge).  Their gondolas are works of art made of shiny black wood, gold filigree and plush velvety cushions.  It was awesome to chat with him about his livelihood and his beautiful city over a bottle of wine.

Our time in Venice flew by and before we knew it, it was time to board that vaporetto again- this time out of the city.  But our departure was not a sad one, as we are returning in May.  Springtime in Venice promised to be even better- less high water, a stronger Pirate knee, more shopping and more wine!

Pirate in Vaporetto with his trusty crutch..
Pirate in Vaporetto with his trusty crutch..
Gondola race on a rainy day
Gondola race on a rainy day
High water outside our hotel....
High water outside our hotel….
Walking on risers during Aqua Alta
Walking on risers during Aqua Alta
Cocktails at Hotel Bauer
Cocktails at Hotel Bauer
Desert time at Cafe Florian
Desert time at Cafe Florian
A nice day for a boat ride...
A nice day for a boat ride…
Cajun atop the Rialto Bridge overlooking Grand Canal
Cajun atop the Rialto Bridge overlooking Grand Canal
Karyn in the narrow canals of Venice
Karyn in the narrow canals of Venice
Beautiful Rialto Bridge
Beautiful Rialto Bridge
Pirate sipping wine
Pirate sipping wine
Navigating the streets using garbage bags
Navigating the streets using garbage bags
Venice window shopping
Venice window shopping
High water in St Marks Square
High water in St Marks Square

Summer in Newport

Summer Sunday at Castle Hill in Newport…

 

Summer in Newport…

It has been an active and hot summer here in Newport.  This small town is busier that we have seen it in some time.  The streets are always packed with pedestrians and the traffic is bumper to bumper down Thames Street each day.  The mega-yachts are taking up every available berth and there are hundreds of sailboats swaying to and fro in the harbor on moorings.  You would never know that there is a down economy by watching the activity here… but then a down economy doesn’t really affect they type of people who travel by 200 meter power boat.

Newport has also been host to some great events this summer.  We attended the America’s Cup racing at Fort Adams and were really impressed.  It was our first time seeing an America’s Cup race live and up close.  The boats are now catamarans constructed of carbon fiber composite and are very light on the water enabling them to sail at speeds upwards of 35 knots.  It was so cool to watch the boats as they would heel over and an entire hull would come out of the water with the sailors dangling atop the hull high in the air as ballast.  One boat even tipped over causing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Pirate with the Red Bull Racing Catamaran

 

Prada Catamaran heeling over during race

 

Cooling off in the Moet Tent during America’s Cup Racing

 

And they are off…

 

 

We have also enjoyed hopping around town and sipping cocktails on the wharfs and sidewalk bars of Newport.  It has been great people watching and also a great way to run into friends, both old and new.  We are thrilled to have our friends Mike and Sloane here in town.  They sailed their boat Carina up from Wrightsville Beach and our moored in Newport harbor.

Cocktails with Mom at Castle Hill

 

Dinner with Mike and Sloane at Mamma Luisa’s

 

 

 

But as we are never ones to let grass grow under our feet, we took a 10 day trip across country.  Our first stop was Las Vegas.  We watched the freaks on Fremont Street, sat poolside at the Cosmopolitan, took in dinner and a fantastic show at Caesar’s, and won lots of dough at the Hard Rock.  After Vegas, it was off to Prescott to visit family and relax for a few days.  Our last stop was Indianapolis for the Indy Brickyard Race.  Thank you Jim and Tim for your hospitality and for the fantastic Kobe steaks and never-ending Kettle-One martini’s at Mo’s!

Dinner in Las Vegas at Max Brenner- a feast of chocolate!

 

Don’t take my chocolate away…

 

We are enjoying the lazy days of summer and looking forward to whatever adventures come our way…

 

A Beautiful Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Gorgeous views along the Blue Ridge Parkway

It is that time of year again…  When the heat index reaches triple digits in New Orleans, it is time to head north to Newport, RI.  We took a five day leisurely drive from New Orleans to Newport traveling some of the way along the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina and Virginia.  The Parkway offered amazing views of the Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah Mountains at some high elevations.  Fortunately the days were clear and crisp offering us expansive views with no fog.  It was perfect driving weather for our convertible.  We spent one of our nights in Little Switzerland, North Carolina at a great hotel where we sat outside sipping wine and feasting on a seafood and prime rib dinner while overlooking the valley below.  Although, flying gets you there much faster, there is something special about taking the time to drive across the country and see the beautiful sights.  We are looking forward to doing it again in the fall when we return south to New Orleans to escape the cold New England weather.

 

Scenic stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Pirate along the Parkway

 

High in the Smokey Mountains

 

Enjoying the wine and the view in Little Switzerland

 

A Stroll Down Royal Street with the Crew of Cork…

Everyone was dressed up for the Crew of Cork party…

We made it back from wine country just in time to join our Crew of Cork brothers and sisters for the annual parade down Royal Street for the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience.  Just like all Crew of Cork gatherings, it was a wild time filled with free flowing wine, fun costumes, great people and our own Big Cork Poppas marching band to lead the way.  King Patrick and Queen Allison, in the regal finery, toasted all the revelers on Royal Street.  The every-busy “wine police” made sure our glasses were never empty.  While the weather was hot, our party was hotter.  We finished our parade back at Patrick’s Bar Vin and continued the merriment well into the night.  I am sure there were many a Corkian who was a little late for work the next morning….

Cajun and Pirate in our Murphey Goode Viking hats..

 

Big Cork Poppas lead the way…

 

Wine police hard at work..
Pirate, Bill and Andrea

 

King Patrick takes a break on his royal goblet

 

Cajun gets to don the royal cape…

 

By the end of the night, things seem to be a little turned around…