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Month Forty One was a full-on month of good old-fashioned roadtripping!
We traveled through eight states – seven of which were new to me – on our Southern honeymoon road trip, and even though a fair bit of it we were moving FAST, it was still so much fun.
The month started with us exploring Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which impressed me a lot more than I thought it would, before heading into a new state for me: Texas.
As we were hurrying to reach New Orleans for Halloween, we didn’t have a lot of time in Texas so just visited San Antonio and Austin, with a night on the outskirts of Houston with Toby’s old flatmate.
What I did see of Texas I really enjoyed – the history in San Antonio and the food and craft beer scene in Austin were impressive.
After our whirlwind trip through Texas we entered the second new state for me this month and one I have been super excited about visiting – Louisiana!
We spent six nights in Louisiana – one night in Lafayette, the Cajun Heartland, and five nights in a cosy tiny home in New Orleans for Halloween.
I loved my time in Louisiana – the swamps, the Spanish moss, the Cajun food: it was all fabulous – but I especially loved my time in New Orleans, which is now one of my favorite cities in the world.
From New Orleans we spent the next couple of days following the coast through Mississippi and Alabama, eating seafood and exploring the beaches, before reaching Florida, where we spent eight nights traveling along the Panhandle and as far south as St Petersburg, before cutting through the middle and making our way up the Atlantic coast into Georgia.
Florida turned out to be full of surprises and we had a great time exploring the attractions of old Florida, swimming with Manatees (!), enjoying the awesome craft beer scene and street art in St Petersburg, and uncovering the history in the oldest continuously occupied city in the US, St Augustine.
Next up on the road trip itinerary was Georgia, where after a quick stop in Jekyll Island to explore the storied history and driftwood forest beach, we reached another destination that I have been very excited about visiting for a long time: Savannah.
Savannah was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be, and I loved exploring the different squares, doing a creepy ghost tour, and eating some good southern cooking. We also did a few day trips during our time there.
On the way from Savannah to our final stop of the month, Mount Pleasant, we stopped off at the small and pretty town of Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, which was chock full of resorts and strip malls – making it my least favorite of the islands we visited.
Our last two nights of the month were spent in Mount Pleasant at our housesit where we are looking after an adorable Golden Retriever called Griffey.
The first night we had dinner with the hosts and met the other housesitters who are looking after Griffey’s owner’s mother’s dogs (mother and son are going on vacation together), then on Thanksgiving we chilled out most of the day, heading out to Cracker Barrel for a crowded and cheap but tasty Thanksgiving lunch.
Wow what a month it was.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries Visited: USA
- New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns
- Texas: San Antonio, Austin, Houston
- Louisiana: Lafayette, Breaux Bridge, New Orleans
- Mississippi: Bay St Louis, Biloxi, Ocean Springs
- Alabama: Mobile, Gulf Shores
- Florida: Pensacola, Panama City Beach, Tallahassee, Cedar Key, Crystal River, Weeki Wachee, St Petersburg, St Augustine
- Georgia: Kingsland, Jekyll Island, Savannah, Tybee Island
- South Carolina: Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, and Fort Pulaski National Monument – we definitely made the most of our National Parks pass this month (and last)!
Islands Visited: Finally got to visit a whole load of islands this month! I visited Cedar Key in Florida, Tybee Island and Jekyll Island in Georgia, and Hilton Head Island and Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina.
Best Meal: This has literally been the best food month OF MY LIFE! I know this sounds like an outrageous exaggeration dear readers, but I swear to you that it is not. You can check out my detailed post about everything we ate and loved in Louisiana, but here is a quick breakdown of the most incredible meals this month:
- Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s and Mr Ed’s in New Orleans – WOW!
- Beignets from Cafe Du Monde, Morning Call Cafe and Cafe Beignet in New Orleans
- Pralines in New Orleans – so decadently delicious
- Shrimp Creole from Chef Ron’s Gumbo Shop in Metairie
- Crab cakes with a charred corn scallion cream and potato hash from Elysian Seafood in the St Roch Market in New Orleans
- World Famous Clam Chowder from Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Cedar Key, Florida
- Chicken and waffles with goat cheese and pineapple jelly from Conch House in St Augustine
- Baked chicken, yams and cornbread from Creole Lunch House in Lafayette
- Blackened redfish topped with crab from Harry’s in St Augustine (and their pecan pie is amazing too!)
- Miss Shortcake and Son of a Peach donuts from Gourdough’s Big. Fat. Donuts in Austin
- Blackened shrimp from Seafood Seller in Crystal River
- Coconut Grilled Chicken with rice, beans and plantains from Bodega in St Petersburg
- Seoul hot chicken bao, roti canai and Yi-Yi’s chicken dumplings from Hawkers in St Petersburg
- Every side at Mrs Wilke’s Dining Room and United House of Prayer in Savannah – southern sides are the best!
- Pineapple and olive pizza from Vinny Van GoGo’s in Savannah
And these are just the very best things I ate, I could add another ten things to this list but I had to draw the line somewhere!
Worst Meal: Although it was my best eating month ever, I still had a couple of gross meals this month. I have never “got” ramen, but when I found a mushroom vegetarian ramen on the menu at the Pearl District Food Court in San Antonio I thought I would give it another chance. Nope, still can’t stand it. I also had devilled crab for the first time on Tybee Island and did not care for the crab meat and cracker mix – just weird.
Best Craft Beer: A few great craft beers this month. I loved the Blueberry Wheat from Cage Brewing and the Tiki Tack Gose from Green Bench Brewing Co. in St Petersburg, Florida; the Mango Wit from Proof Brewing Co in Tallahassee, Florida; and the Rapturous Raspberry Sour Ale from Three Taverns.
- Underground trail through caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico 2.5 miles/km loop
Very little in the way of hiking this month but I did do a lot of city exploration and beach walking – although not enough to keep the extra pounds off after gorging myself on southern delights.
I finally got back into my reading groove this month. I read two books I really enjoyed – Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, as well as listening to the Modern Romance audio book written and read by the always funny Aziz Ansari.
Dispatches from Pluto is a non-fiction account of a formerly New York based writer who buys an old house in the Mississippi Delta and tries to make sense of life there – it definitely sounds like an interesting, infuriating, and colorful place.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a book that I have wanted to read for years and I finally made it happen this month, as I was visiting Savannah. This book is similar to Dispatches from Pluto – it is also the observations of a New York writer who lives in Savannah for part of each year, and it features an infamous murder that took place during his time there. A must read if you are visiting Savannah – or even if you are not.
I loved listening to Modern Romance, it was actually a well-researched book about modern relationships and how romance and dating has changed since our parents and grandparents were young. And because it’s written by Aziz Ansari, it’s pretty funny too.
American Horror Story: Cult. I almost didn’t continue watching when I saw there were creepy clowns in this season of American Horror Story, but I am glad that I gave it a chance because everything started making more sense after a couple of episodes. Very disturbing – as per usual with American Horror Story – and so many twists and turns that kept it always interesting.
Impressed by Carlsbad Caverns
I’m going to sound like a big snob here, but I am generally not super excited about visiting caves when I travel, unless there is an adventure element involved – because I doubt that they will be able to impress me as much as the glow-worm caves of New Zealand. Told you I was a snob. Well, Carlsbad Caverns humbled me. We only did the 2.5 miles of trails inside the caves but that was enough to be completely blown away by the sheer size of the caves, as well as the intricate and beautiful network of stalactites and stalacmites. I wish we could have signed up to do one of the adventure tours there too but you have to book way in advance – maybe in the future.
Surprising San Antonio
I didn’t know a lot about San Antonio before visiting – just that it was home to the Alamo and that there is a riverwalk – but I ended up falling for this historic city hard, despite the fact that it rained most of the time we were there.
It is a beautiful city and so much greener than I ever could have imagined a city in Texas to be, and highlights of our time there included wandering the historic King William District on a self-guided historic home tour, exploring the downtown and the Alamo, enjoying craft beers and a movie at Alamo Draft House, wandering the river walk, checking out the hip Pearl District and spending a morning visiting the four missions that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.
San Antonio is definitely a city I can see myself returning to – I better it’s even nicer in the sun.
Loving Eclectic Austin
Austin has been on my wish list for a while. I love liberal, creative cities that have a big focus on good food, inventive craft beer and the outdoors, and Austin fits that mould perfectly. We only had three days in the city, but with a fluke of luck they were the same three days that Toby’s brother Flip was in town running an event, so we got to hang out with him and his workmates.
Eating and drinking craft beer were the top priorities and I think we did pretty good with that. We also scootered along the lake and river, had a dip in the river, went hunting for street art, watched the bat flight in the evening, explored a couple of different Austin neighborhoods, and bar hopped in the Rainey Street Historic District and Sixth Street. There is still so much to do in Austin but it was a fantastic taster.
Falling Hard for New Orleans
As much as I loved Austin, New Orleans was it for me. Damn, that city is everything. The people, the vibrancy, the FOOD, the beautiful architecture, the history – New Orleans shaped up to be even better than I could have imagined, and my expectations were high. I know that there are bad things about the city – like the high crime rate – but my experiences there were more than I could have hoped for.
We had five nights in the Big Easy and we hit the ground running, managing to squeeze a lot of activities and meals into our time there, as well as having time to chill out in the cute tiny home that we rented through Airbnb.
Highlights – other than the food – included a fun night out and a ghost tour for Halloween, exploring the Spanish moss-covered City Park, ogling the architecture of the French Quarter and the Garden District, checking out some cool and creepy cemeteries, daytripping to the River Road Plantations and the Jean Lafitte swamp, and jazz at the Spotted Cat.
New Orleans, you have just become one of my top three favorite US cities, along with Santa Fe and Seattle, and I will be back.
Halloween in New Orleans
Turns out that Halloween in New Orleans is second only to Mardi Gras when it comes to crazy celebrations, and we had such a fun time celebrating October 31st there this year. We started the evening with a delicious seafood dinner at Mr Ed’s Oyster and Fish House, and by the time we got out of there, things were already getting lively on Bourbon Street.
After a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop we grabbed hurricanes from Voodoo Lounge and did a Ghost and Vampire Tour, which was creepy but fun, then headed to Frenchmen Street for the street party. Such a fun night!
The Best Food of my LIFE
As I mentioned in my unusually long best foods breakdown earlier in the post, this month was the best eating month of my life – largely in part to being able to indulge in authentic Cajun food from its source, as well as being by the coast with access to fresh and delicious seafood. It’s going to be hard to replicate this month!! Stay tuned for a best eats in Cajun country post coming soon.
Discovering a Hidden Gem in Florida
I read somewhere that Cedar Key in northern Florida was worth a visit so we decided to check it out – and we were so glad that we did. Cedar Key is a quiet island with little development and a strong community spirit. We stayed in a cosy motel with beachy decor that was rife with cats (jackpot!), watched a spectacularly colorful sunset, had some drinks with the locals in a tiny bar at the back of a gift shop, and had some delicious seafood at one of the handful of restaurants overlooking the water. Oh, and we ate the best clam chowder ever at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant – they are famous for it.
It was only a short visit but it was a refreshing change from the overly commercialised spots we had been passing through, like Panama City Beach and Gulf Shores in Alabama, and I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.
Swimming with Manatees in Crystal River
I knew that if I was ever passing anywhere near Crystal River in Florida during the cooler months that I was definitely going to swim with manatees, and although there aren’t a lot there in November, there are still a few so I was determined to do it.
I have never managed to swim with dolphins despite multiple attempts and this was perhaps even better – the manatees are so placid and I loved watching them munch on river weed and slowly swim around. One manatee even slowly rose out of the water to the surface right in front of me and it was if it was looking me straight in the eye. Magic.
It was a great tour in general – not only did we get to snorkel with three manatees and see two others, we also got to cruise around the waterways, swim in the stunning Three Sisters Springs, and drink hot chocolate on the boat with the captain. One of my best wildlife encounters yet!
Enjoying Old School Florida at Weeki Wachee
There are a few places in North West Florida that have managed to stave off major development and retain the charms of yesteryear – Cedar Key is one of them – but probably the most unusual attraction of Old Florida is Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which has been operating since 1947.
Weeki Wachee is a delightful little park to spend the day, with a super clear natural spring to swim in, waterslides in the warmer months, a slightly cheesy (OK, very cheesy) wildlife show and a boat trip down the Weeki Wachee river. You might be thinking, that all sounds nice but nothing special, well – the park also has mermaids. Yep, mermaids, and they do a couple of scheduled underwater shows a day that you can watch from the underwater theatre.
We watched a show of mermaids of old – the oldest mermaid was 79! – and it was pretty cool, and definitely unique. My favorite part was when a turtle wanted to get in on the act and was following around the mermaids.
I didn’t take any photos as I wanted to just enjoy the show so make sure you google it – or better yet, go check it out yourself.
Craft Beer and Street Art in St Petersburg
Who knew that Florida has it’s own version of Portland or Austin? Well it does – St Petersburg, or St Pete for short. St Pete is a cool, young, trendy spot with copious breweries, a fun and exciting culinary scene, a gorgeous white sand beach, a cavernous independent bookstore with resident kitties, and some really high quality street art – it is actually now my favorite city for street art in the world. We really enjoyed our two days there and I was even imagining myself living there – and I never thought I would want to live in Florida.
An Amazing Birthday in Historic St Augustine
I was pretty happy that my birthday this year would be coinciding with us being in St Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, and a gorgeous one to boot. It was meant to rain most of the one full day we had there but it ended up holding off until early evening so we had a wonderful day exploring historic forts and the St Augustine Lighthouse, checking out the shops in the historic district, and having cocktails and lunch in our own private treehouse at Conch House, overlooking the water.
In the evening we went to Harry’s for New Orleans style seafood and a piece of birthday pecan pie – much better than cake. The next morning before we left we also went to the Pirate and Treasure Museum which was very interesting. I loved our time in St Augustine and it was certainly a memorable birthday.
Exploring Genteel Savannah
Probably since seeing Forrest Gump I have wanted to go to Savannah – the Spanish moss draped oaks and historic squares couldn’t have looked more exotic than my home town in New Zealand – and I finally made it there this month.
Savannah is truly a gorgeous city and it has such an interesting and haunted history – the ghost tour we did there was very creepy. My favorite thing to do was to walk around the historic district, admiring the architecture of the grand old homes and the majestic squares.
My second favorite thing was eating – the shared meal at Mrs Wilkes Dining Room was definitely one to remember and worth the one hour wait to get in, as was the meal we had on Sunday at the United House of Prayer Church, where the constituents were so welcoming and the food was southern home-cooking at its best.
As well as exploring Savannah, we also did some great day trips to beachy Tybee Island, the Isle of Hope and the Wormsloe Plantation, Bonaventure Cemetery, and Fort Pulaski. There is so much to do in and around Savannah and we only scratched the surface on this visit.
Because of bad weather this month we missed going to Guadeloupe Mountains National Park in Texas, and it also rained the whole time we were in San Antonio – luckily we still enjoyed our time there anyway.
Bacteria in the Water
I was bummed that I didn’t get to swim at Barton Springs in Austin or the beaches along the panhandle because of bad water quality and bacteria. I was also expecting the water at the beaches from Gulf Shores in Alabama down to the furthermost southern point we traveled – St Petersburg – to be a lot more tropical looking, the reality was that the water was dull and slightly murky, probably to do with the red tide and bacteria. I didn’t end up getting to do any ocean swimming and that was something I had been looking forward to.
Hurricane Devastation in Florida
This wasn’t really a lowlight for me as such, but seeing the Hurricane Michael devastation south of Panama City Beach was just absolutely shocking. Mature trees snapped in half like twigs, piles of rubble where buildings used to be, debris everywhere – I have honestly never seen anything like it and we were just shocked into silence. I felt so sorry for the people who had their houses and businesses destroyed – it will be a long road to recovery for them.
It was definitely an expensive month but I didn’t hold back with spending on food and activities on our road trip and we had a really fun and memorable time with so many highlights.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of ten nights in cheap motels, and one night in an Airbnb room. I also spent three nights free-camping in San Antonio and Tallahassee, one night at Toby’s friend’s place in Houston, two nights housesitting in Mount Pleasant, and 14 nights staying in Airbnbs in Austin, New Orleans and Savannah – which we paid for from our honeymoon fund, so I haven’t included these costs.
Food and Drink $1067
New record for me but it is our honeymoon, and it was the best eating month of my life so I think it was worth the investment. We were eating out for about 85% of our meals and ate a lot of seafood so this total isn’t that surprising.
- New Orleans print singlet $25
- Bikini Bottoms $21
- Gas $173
- Parking $5.50
- Toll $1
- Uber $13.50
- Lime Scooter Rental $6
- Edward Steves House Museum in San Antonio $10
- Vermilionville Arcadian Village in Lafayette $10
- Vampire and Ghost Tour in New Orleans $17
- Mardi Gras World in New Orleans $22
- Death Museum in New Orleans $17.50
- Whitney Plantation near New Orleans $22
- Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour in New Orleans $19
- Manatee Swim Tour in Crystal River $69
- Weeki Wachee State Park Entrance $8
- St Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum $13
- St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum $16
- Mercer Williams House Tour in Savannah $13.50
- Dead of Night Ghost Tour in Savannah $32
- Wormsloe Plantation in Savannah $10.50
We don’t usually do a lot of paid activities but we went all out this month! I really enjoyed all the museums we went to and I feel like they helped us to learn more about the places we were visiting. And the Manatee Snorkeling trip was worth every penny.
- Phone Credit $51
- Toiletries $7
- Tibetan Gemstone Bracelet $85
- Austin pins $3.50
- Halloween Makeup $3
- Activity Tips $15
- Laundry $2.50
- Books $31
- Gifts $30
I kinda splurged on a bracelet this month which is very unlike me, but I consider it a birthday present to myself.
What’s in Store for Next Month
Next month will be a lot slower, with three weeks of the month being spent in Mount Pleasant at our housesit.
There is a lot to do in this area so although I will have time to relax, cook, read and invest some much-needed time on this blog, we also have a lot of exploring to do.
I am looking forward to spending a lot of time in nearby Charleston where there are loads of restaurants I want to try, as well as doing day trips to the Ashley River Plantations, Fort Sumter, Beaufort and Folly Island, and spending time on Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms near where we are staying.
After our housesit finishes, we will have eight nights to get back to Denver, where we have a another housesit that begins on the 23rd December, although we are planning to get back into town a day earlier.
The route we are hoping to take will include stops in Congaree National Park in South Carolina, Athens in Georgia, Birmingham in Alabama, Memphis in Tennessee, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, Amarillo in Texas and Espanola in New Mexico, but this will depend on weather as it will be mid December by this stage.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here