Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Big Easy

We worked our way across Louisiana the next morning (really cool elevated highway through most of the swamps...no alligators sighted though, sigh) and reached New Orleans mid-morning.

First stop..."our" cemetery. In Louisiana, they have parishes (from the French, "paroisses") which are identical to "counties" in any other state (except Alaska...they don't call them counties or parishes!). That was a total digression but cool tidbit, nonetheless. 

The "St. Roch" area to which we were headed was simply a neighborhood within the parish of Orleans (as is New Orleans, just down the road...). Whatever the parish, I felt drawn to this place because, well, he is one of our Patron Saints...that and it is a reasonably famous, extremely cool cemetery. (You read the blog...you know we are cemetery people!) The "famous" part are the many prosthesis, crutches and canes that are left behind from pilgrims who prayed to this Saint of Miraculous Cures and were relieved of their affliction.

This was another "we're not home" moment. You see, New Orleans is built on a swamp so no one there can be buried underground. Everyone has a crypt or is in a mausoleum...some are very impressive. Definitely not like the one we visit in Braddock!

I love this one...so many things happening, it's like Where's Waldo

National Shrine...even though it was closed, we could still pray!
Happy to be heading out for food

A short drive away, we queued up for the local snack...beignets! They are light, fluffy, and robed in powdered sugar. Just the thing for some quick energy to propel us around the French Quarter. Again, God blessed us with a magnificent day in which to explore.

mmm...the coffee was yummy as well

We had about an hour to walk around the French Quarter. As suspected, it was beautiful French architecture combined with a drinker's paradise. I didn't get a photo but one of the shops on the street was lined with machines (think froyo) that dispensed frozen drinks of every shape and size. I did capture the sentiment...

There were also entire shops full of Mardi Gras masks. This place must be hopping during the pre-Lent festivities!

It seems I've filled a whole post and haven't even gotten to the church yet! So, I'll leave you in suspense and return soon with The Big Easy, Part Two...the Catholic stuff ;0)

We are blessed.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Texas...and points east

We had such an enjoyable time in Galveston (reflecting on it, that's why we didn't see the cathedral...sometimes you have to see God outside the church...definitely the case when the beach is calling!) We woke up early, had a few more hours in the waves, then headed to the eastern end of the island, about 10 minutes away. Here we would "catch a ride" across the water to the Bolivar Peninsula to the east. Yes, a FERRY RIDE! Even cooler? It's free...part of the highway system, just like the bridges and tunnels in the north!

drive on and park behind the car in front of you

hop out and take in the sights

The dolphins swam out front!

GPS...knows it's water and knows it's a highway. Confusing.

Pelicans welcome us to shore
I have to say, on the trip of amazing experiences (meaning totally unlike home) this was one of the coolest. Just another one of those benefits of traveling the country...so many different things to see and do!

Before we move on from the Lone Star State, I realize I have neglected to comment on the food. That was a huge oversight since there are two major things on which to comment. Seafood and spice. Two good words. Yum. We had a wonderful feast one night in Galveston and the kids were definitely up for trying the local fare.
He chose a po boy, shrimp I think...and ate the entire thing!

My jambalaya girl

Little man helped daddy with his catfish
When we stayed in Dallas, I asked DH to go back out after the kids headed to bed and find an adult beverage and snack for us. He took a short drive down the street and returned bearing wonderful gifts. First, they sell those HUGE beers (like at the baseball games) but, instead of $10.50, they are $2.50! (bear with me...we can't buy alcohol in convenience stores where we live) One can was perfect to settle me in for a good sleep after days of driving. It was also good to have extra liquid on hand to wash down these bad boys.
I think the name is actually in Spanish. Should have been a clue. We've been known (me, especially) to partake in foodstuffs that tend toward the very, very spicy (in my pregnancy heydays I was known to get a #10 level at the Indian restaurant nearby). These, though, were a different animal all together. I remember, after eating about three, turning to DH and saying, "I think I'm damaging the lining of my esophagus." True, indeed. Wicked hot and addictively good. Turned out to be a wise purchase, though, since we could only eat a handful at a time...they were a snack that lasted until Alabama! I just found them on Prime Pantry and I will order them again but I feel like I need to hold off a few months to fully regrow the lining of my throat and stomach. lol.

Ok, back to the travels. We departed the ferry, drove through "goat island" where we saw many a mobile home on stilts and not much else but sand and water.
Not the actual place...I got this from the Internet. Quite similar, though.
DH was intrigued by this and could imagine such a place as his vacation home. Even looking at the picture makes me a bit queasy. I can't imagine living through a hurricane in that.  Driving on, it wasn't long before we crossed into Louisiana. I was sad to see Texas behind us but excited for what we would experience in this new state!

We were heading to Baton Rouge for the night but made a stop halfway in Lake Charles. What a beautiful little waterfront town. It was clear that we were in Louisiana from the abundance of Mardi Gras attractions but, being on pilgrimage, we headed to church.

Down a side street from the main drag, across from the municipal building, we found the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Grateful that we were still within the Extraordinary Year of Mercy, we decided to stop to see the Holy Door. Who knew we would get an educational experience as well!
There is a palm tree out front...definitely not home!

So grateful to God for the Holy Doors on this trip. The extra grace was needed!

This parish chose to use the Year of Mercy to teach people about all the amazing opportunities for Mercy within the Church. Brilliant!

I missed station #1...the main altar

Annunciation window. Beautiful.

The cathedra. I love looking at each different coat of arms

Beautiful cathedral, wonderful stop to remember all of the amazing gifts we are given as Children of God. We are blessed!

Next, "our" cemetery, yummy treats, and finally Confession!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Texas...Part Three

As I mentioned, the night was not stellar but everyone seemed well enough to push on so the next morning we headed south again, landing just outside of Houston.

Before we left, when people were asking me about the trip and we got to this point, it usually passed by quickly as "we're going to visit some interesting museums along the way." I just knew, spouting, "We're taking the kids to see the National Museum of Funeral History!" might get more comments than I was prepared to defend. Now that I have the pictures, you'll understand why it was a must-see.

I love our country! I love the topography change driving through the mid-west and heading south. I love the differences in the people all across the land. I love that in a little suburb outside a major Texas city, you can visit the Vatican! We learned about what happens when a pope dies and how a person becomes a Saint.  In this case, St. Pope JP II and St. Pope John XIII...double bonus! Oh, there was also a fantastic exhibit on presidential funerals...what an amazing place!
Tiny one was a little freaked out by all the popes hanging around ;0)

In case, like me, you get confused about the color

They had all the Papal Crests!

Seal the apartment and break the ring.

The pope gets three coffins


This was a running list of all the Saints

President Lincoln's funeral procession.

I am grateful for stumbling on that museum. It has been around for 25 years now and, if you ever get to the Houston area, you should go. History, Religion, Geography, all sorts of good things to see and learn! (Just steer clear of the "celebrity" section...kind of sad and odd - and the Day of the Dead if you have little ones who scare easily.)

Once again, our itinerary did not hold to reality (can you see why we never go on actual, packaged pilgrimages?) but no matter, we pulled into Houston after Mass had ended and had a nice opportunity to walk around slowly without disturbing anyone.

I read that Houston has a very large Vietnamese community and the bulletin, showing two of the weekend Masses in Vietnamese (and one in Spanish) certainly bears that out. I was just excited to be in a place, so far from home, led by His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Pittsburgh-native :0)

This stop - The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. (Co-Cathedral meaning one Archdiocese, in this case Galveston-Houston, has two Cathedrals...the other, St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica in Galveston...which we somehow missed seeing but, you know, I'm not perfect).

This was a really amazing structure. No way to capture it all in one photo.

Beautiful Holy Door. Blessed to witness so many pilgrims kneeling to pray before entering.

Walking in, the Crucified Jesus

Walking out...the Resurrected Jesus
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton! Patron of all homeschool moms :0)

Huge, amazing Stations

The dome was simple and beautiful. Twelve windows: one for each apostle with the Holy Spirit in the middle.

I love this - young St. Joseph!

A beautiful stop on our way to that day's final destination. I am always awed to see the differences in Catholic Churches...knowing that they all contain Jesus present in the Eucharist. Different but always the same.

We stayed in another house and I am happy. The kids needed to spread out. I'm also happy that it was built around the time our own home was so it was a bit of familiarity for the ones who were homesick at this point. Creaky floors= home ;0) It was also a few minutes away from the long awaited moment...the Gulf! I have to laugh, not packing suits for the girls (because it was November!) - I should have known that wouldn't stop them. What a blessing to have a night and morning to spend splashing, drawing, kite-flying, watching (the dolphins and pelicans) and just being together. So blessed.

Beautiful old home

Lots of space to do family stuff ;0) (no idea what was happening in this picture!)

I love watching the joy of children

He never goes to a beach without his kite!

Fully clothed? Must be Northerners ;0)

Jumping waves with some of my favorite people!
Even looking at the pictures, it makes me smile. There is an extra blessing God gives at the beach...looking out at the vastness of the water, the open sky...everything points back to His creation and how blessed we are to witness and participate.

Come back...next, we take part of the Texas highway system that doesn't involve a road (!) as we work our way to New Orleans.