The Rites of Spring

I had planned to write about another topic this week but decided to postpone it because Saturday was such a marvelous day that I do believe Spring is here. And about time too….

In just a few days, we’ve gone from a hard freeze to mid-70’s.  For the first time in months, Susie and I walked around a nearby lake (which I think is a retention pond dressed up as a lake).  A start to losing ten pounds of “winter fat” that I put on last Fall  😉 and which I’m determined to lose.  Susie needs my ten pounds because she only weighs 95, despite my efforts to get some weight on her.

This first week in March has been marked by a number of “events.”  It was our anniversary on the 4th.  The celebration will be a very special one that’s happening tonight and which I’ll tell you about next Sunday.  For now, I’ll only say that it has the potential to set me back in the quest to lose ten pounds because it is a buffet of sorts that only happens once a year.

Today is also the birthday of my best friend from 5th grade through junior high.  He moved into a house two doors from me when his family arrived in Manila.  As fate had it, we were in the same 5th grade class.  We lost touch after graduation but reconnected a few years ago thanks to a mutual friend.

In a birthday e-mail, I remarked about another childhood friend that his sister had tracked down just a few weeks ago.  He mentioned that Nate’s father was with the 101st Airborne and had parachuted into France on D-Day.  He ended his military career as a Colonel with the First Cavalry in Nam.  I would have loved to hear his war stories from the liberation of Europe, especially the 101st’s stand at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

On the negative side, a close friend of Susie and her mother passed away suddenly a few days ago.  Fortunately, we visited her at her home about 50 miles west of us while returning from Panama City about two weeks ago.   Although she was in her mid-80’s, we were not aware of any special health problems.  (She suffered from lung cancer a few years ago but it was in remission.)

Spring is the time when I start thinking of vacations for the rest of the year.  And vacation is something I need to take a lot of between now and November 2010 when I retire.  I need to take four weeks by the end of the year and another four weeks by November 2010 or I will lose that time to sick leave, for which I’ll only be paid 25% of its value when  I retire.

I want to retire with the maximum vacation time I can paid for. I’ll be a bit short on the maximum for sick leave even though I have over 1,000 sick leave hours.  I’m projecting a payout a bit over over five digits, before taxes, enough for that trip to the Netherlands and Belgium I keep trying to put together.  Hope USAirways stays alive long enough for me to cash in my last 50,000 miles for a free ticket over there.  But if not, I got my miles’ worth since we’ve flown to Europe free twice.

So I’ve been planning two vacations to two favorite cities these last few weeks.  Which has seriously impacted my poker time!  😉

I’m wrapping up a few minor details for a Spring Break week in New Orleans at the end of the month.  Like St. Augustine, it’s  a nice walking around city but a lot larger and a lot closer than our other favorite walking around city: San Francisco.

Susie likes Nawlins because her mother took the family there regularly after her father died when she was young.  (Her parents spent their honeymoon there.)  So Nawlins has a lot of memories for Susie.  I’m mainly interested in the muffelettas, cafe au lait, Zapp’s potato chips and other fine culinary aspects of that very unique city.  (We were last in Nawlins for Thanksgiving 2007 and the tourist areas are fine.)

Speaking of San Francisco,  I’m in the middle of planning a two-week trip that way to take advantage of a free Southwest ticket.  My Manila high school’s class of ’79 is having its 30th anniversary reunion in San Jose and all classes are welcome.  (The classes of the 70’s regularly party together so I know lots of alums from the 70’s.)  Since I missed last year’s 70’s classes’ Vegas blowout, I don’t want to miss this reunion.

The plan is to fly into Vegas for our annual trip there.  Then rent a car after a week in Vegas and drive into the the Bay area.  Possibly through Mono Lake and Yosemite, a trip which we did many, many years ago coming from San Francisco.

After checking airfares from Vegas to San Jose, it’s just another $120 to rent a mid-size car for a week and make it a driving vacation.  We were in San Francisco in October 2007, so we don’t need to spend a lot of time in the city this time around.  We’d rather see some “new’ sights.

To rephrase a line from Apocalypse Now,  “I love the smell of vacation on a fine Spring day.”

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12 responses to “The Rites of Spring

  1. Happy belated anniversary! I hope you two have a wonderful day together.

  2. Same here, happy anniversary! Now, will you be staying in or near the Quarter on your NOLA trip? I have a couple of “insider” recommendations for you. And a request!

  3. Thanks FN and Nick!

    We’ll be staying at the Royal St. Charles, which is on the other side of Canal from the Quarter, in the first block of St. Charles.

    What’s the request? Some Zapp’s potato chips? And some N.O. brew to go with it?

    And what’s the insider tips? We’ve been there at least a half-dozen times, but I’m sure we’re missing something….

  4. Okay, that’s 14 blocks from Esplanade, but it’s walkable. Once you cross Esplanade, you’re in my old neighborhood, called the Fauberg Marigny. There is a restaurant called La Paniche that was my home away from home. It’s on the corner of Burgundy and Touro (my old house was a block away, on the corner of Touro and Rampart). Also in my neighborhood was the Praline Connection…on Frenchman Street as I recall. You should check out these restaurants. They are both ultra cool. Oh now I’m becoming “homesick”. The request is, I want pralines…but not from Praline Connection…they have to be Loretta’s. I used to buy them at Walgreen’s. Insiders know they are the very best. It was just a little family operation…I hope she’s still making them.

  5. Happy anniversary! Hearing about all your vacation plans makes me really ache to take a real vacation myself. It won’t be possible this year, but I’m on the home stretch of raising kids. 2 more years of high school for the youngest and then I hope my travel dreams will really take off.

  6. Ok FN, I’ll check out the Walgreens and other sources for Loretta’s. How many you want? Do they come in boxes? Pralines are way too sweet for me, like fudge.

    > these restaurants. They are both ultra cool

    As in expensive? 😉 I need *value*…

    We typically pick up a muffeletta for one lunch at Progress Grocery; touristy but good. They premake them now to cut wait time. At lunch there’ll be a dozen in line.

    Gumbo Shop (or is it Pot) just up from the Church is reasonable, but otherwise we watch for the specials. I did track down a coupon for $15 off Le Meritage; never heard of it. I’m hoping with thee economy down the restaurants will have early birds, specials, etc.

  7. Thanks Terri!

    I think anyone who endures a MN winter deserves a Spring vacation. Let me know when you start planning if you head out west; that is my second home and I can give you some tips.

  8. No, no, no…these are neighborhood restaurants, although Praline Connection has achieved some fame. Praline Connection is soul food, btw. Started out as a candy store, then they made a restaurant next door. What with inflation, I don’t know, but you could get a full meal for dinner at either for under $10, and lunch even cheaper. I’m quite sure it’s still cheap…you don’t survive as a neighborhood restaurant without decent prices.
    Who cares about touristy…that’s the great thing about NOLA. There is no tourist v. native thing, really. Progress Grocery is fantastic, no better muffaletta on the planet, which is the way it ought to be since they invented them. And Cafe Du Monde…wonderful. Argh, I miss it.
    Usually you have to buy Loretta’s individually, but I’ve been known to buy a whole box even if I had to pay the single price. 🙂 Also, have you discovered Verdi Mart? It’s in the Quarter, speaking of cheap food.

  9. Happy belated anniversary. Hope the celebration was enjoyable. Planning vacations can be half the fun, although sometimes “getting it right” can be more important than the plan. One of our more memorable trips was planned on the plane. We were going to Vancouver and then over to Victoria. We had both been working so hard we just didn’t have the energy to plan it out until we sat down on the plane and took out our AAA tour books. By the time we got to Portland we had it all planned out. It turned out to be a monster of a drive over to Port Angeles Washington to Mt Rainer; next Day to Gold Beach. We staid on 101 which I swear ran down hill all the way to San Jose. The Redwood Parkway was breathtaking.

    If you haven’t yet been to Yosemite it is our favorite place we know of. And North of SF Point Reyes is really scenic too, rustic and quiet and beautiful. Also if you haven’t been to Moss Beach Distillery it is a great spot, about 45 miles south of SF on the Pacific.
    http://www.mossbeachdistillery.com/

    Happy planning

  10. FN…haven’t heard of Verdi Mart. I will check it out.

    And just how many Loretta pralines would you like?

  11. PT…. I think I enjoy planning a new (someplace we’ve not been before) vacation more than the vacation itself! The vacation itself is sometimes anti-climatic because I’ve “done” all these things in my imagination during planning and the imagination is usually better than reality.

    We did the Port Angeles to Victoria ferry trip too. But, we’ve not been to Vancouver.

    As for 101, on a 3-week trip we drove the entire Oregon coast from Astoria into the north California redwoods (Redwood City), then back into Oregon for Crater Lake, then east along the Columbia River Gorge and looped back to Portland via Mt Hood.

    That was one of the top driving trips we’ve taken. Another was from Seattle along the northern Cascades to Glacier, then down to Yellowstone, on to the Tetons and back to Seattle through southern Idaho. That was also 3 weeks I believe.

    We’ve been to Yosemite before but that was many many years ago. It was one of first trips to the western national parks. We’ve visited almost every major one, including southern Utah / Four Corners / Mesa Verde.

    I have a travel photo site:

    http://www.ditona-beach.net/jpg

    Many trip photos taken with a 35mm camera are not there because I’d have to scan all those print photos. That’s a retirement project!

  12. Verdi Mart is, or was, another little insider secret. A half dozen ought to do me, they may be a couple of bucks each. As an alternative, I would accept Sally’s (in the Quarter).

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