..the sun, the beach, the white sand, the waves, the emerald green water...

Title: Anderson Family Florida Trip 2001
Point of Departure: Saint Louis Missouri
Destination: Destin Florida
Purpose: Family Vacation to go to the Beach
States: Missouri, Arkansas, Tennesse, Mississippi, Louisana, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois
Duration: 10 days
Vehicle: 1994 Nissan Altima
Odometer: Start: 102,187 End: 104,215
Distance: 2,028 statute miles (round trip)

Trip Diary: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 |
Photos: Jackson Square | French Quarter | Condo | Beach1 | Beach2 | Emerald Coast | Dockside | Sand Castles | Sand Turtles

Day 1 - Thursday 08/09/2001
Travel day from Webster Groves MO to New Orleans LA.
We left Webster Groves, Missouri about 5:50am to get an early jump on our long trip to New Orleans, Louisiana . We drove straight south on I-55 and the trip was uneventful. Lunch was at a McDonalds. We drove across the bridge over Lake Ponchatrain. It's an amazing 27 mile bridge - it seems like you are driving into the ocean. Once in New Orleans we promptly ran into a rush hour traffic jam. We arrived about 4:50pm, after traveling 676 miles. So 676 miles in 11 hours - not bad.

Most people have heard New Orleans referred to as the "Big Easy" but natives are not fond of that name. As the Gumbo Pages says: "Just do yourself and us a favor and please DON'T call it "The Big Easy" Lesson One -- not a single native New Orleanian would ever call the city that." I suppose it's somewhat like people refering to Saint Louis as "St. Louie", it's not a name that's used by natives. New Orleans was founded in 1718.

We lodged at the Crescent on Canal. The hotel is located on Canal Street a few blocks from the French Quarter, just north of Interstate 10. This hotel apparently had been a Ramada Inn in a previous life. We were less than impressed with this hotel and the staff. We would have liked to have stayed closer to the French Quarter but couldn't find anything within our price range. At checkout we presented the staff member our laundry list of problems we had encountered and got our bill reduced by $20 a night. (Editors note: I recently found several posting on the Internet describing similar problems with this hotel).

We walked down to the French Quarter. and dined at the Original Papa Joe's, 610 Bourbon Street. Katie had soup, Kelly and Kerry split an order of pasta and Mary & I split a Muffuletta sandwich. While we were there two middle aged couples came in a selected a table. Then the four of them got up and moved to a different table. Then back to the original table, then another move, then a final move. They switched tables five times! I wonder how long it took them to decide on a resturant!

On the walk back down Bourbon Street we stopped at the Court of Two Sisters and bought a Hurricane. Next came a visit to a bead store where the girls each bought a colorful mask and Madri Gras doll. At another store we bought a Zydeco CD, some Pat O'Brian's Hurricane mix for a gift and the cashier gave the girls each a little frog. It was a long and hot walk back to the hotel.

Bourbon Street is full of action. At night they close the street to vehicler traffic. I was surprised how narrow it was. Lots of shops, resturants, bead stores, bars, nightclubs, mimes. We heard jazz, blues and rock music coming from various clubs. There were some interesting looking clubs, unique stores (condoms) and some cross dressing people. Checkout what's happening there via the Bourbon Street Webcams

Day 2 - Friday 08/10/2001
Sightseeing in New Orleans.

We rode the bus down Canal to the French Quarter then walked the few blocks to Jackson Square and the infamous Cafe Du Monde for Chikory coffee and Beignets which are a square pieces of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are served in orders of three. The menu calls them French donuts - apparently they were imports the New Orleans by the Acadians from Nova Scotia. Cafe Du Monde is fun, definitely worth a visit.

After breakfast we did the walking tour of the French Quarter with the Friends of the Cabildo . The tour was led by a city licensed guide and emphasize the history, architecture, and folklore of the area. The tour lasted a couple hours and was a lot of fun.

We rode the streetcar to the Aquarium of the Americas where we spent a couple hours. The girls got to touch a baby shark and a good sized starfish. They like shocking themselves at the electric eel exhibit. Very nice aquarium. After the aquarium visit we rode the free ferry across the Mississippi River and back. The ferry ride offers a nice view of downtown New Orleans.

The weather in New Oreans has a reputation for being unpredicatable. I was hot and humid when we were there. We observed several people with sweat rags used to wipe the sweat off there forheads.

Next up was a visit to Jackson Brewery which is now four floors of stores, kiosks, restaurants, bars and cafés. We visited the Virgin Records Superstore on the ground floor and bought the latest CD by Jane Monheit.

We dined at the Crescent City Brewhouse at 527 Decatur Street for dinner. The waitress was kind enought to give us a go cup for our beer and off we went for another visit to Bourbon Street. It just wouldn't be right to leave New Orleans without sampling a Pat O'Briens's Hurricane so we did. Bourbon Street is full of interesting characters and stationary mimes.

We walked down to the St. Charles Street Car stop and waited for the trolley car. It hadn't come after about half an hour so we decided to take the bus back to the hotel and call it a day. While waiting for the bus the same drunk who had talked with us earlier reappeared, staggering around asking for help in finding his hotel. He said to us "...I really like this city...what city are we in?...oh yeah New Orleans...". I doubt he ever found his hotel that night.

Upon returning to our hotel we discovered we had no towels. After two conversations with the front desk and an hour wait we finally got our towels and were able to shower and clean up. This was a lousy hotel.

Day 3 - Saturday 08/11/2001
Travel day from New Orleans LA to Destin FL.
We ate the continental breakfast at the hotel before leaving for Destin. A sign stated there was a two donut limit per person! We took the scenice route to Destin, staying off of the Interstate highways and close to the coast. We ran into a bad rainstorm in Biloxi Miss. We went north to catch Interstate I-10 but the exit was closed. We we detoured west, where we could see a long line of traffic backed up on the Interstate. We returned to Highway 90 and continued our slow progress eastward. During our travels Mary read Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery to the girls. One of the reasons the girls travel so well is that they love to listen to books.

Our options for lunch were few. Kerry inisited that she have "nugget chuggets", meaning chicken nuggets. Her sisters found this histarically funny and kept repeating it over and over. We all got a good laugh out of that. We lunched at a Hardee's where air conditioning was blasting away despite cool tempatures. Several of us complained to a worker will little effect.

After lunch we hustled the remaining 30 miles or so to the Mobile Bay Ferry (850-434-7345) near Fort Morgan State Park. We arrived just in time to see it pull away. With an hour and a half to burn we drove around Dauphin Island and looked at the homes - lots of very nice houses.

The Ferry was a fun ride. Halfway across the Ferry stopped to allow a large freighter to pass. We saw a dolphin jumping in front of the bow of the ship as it passed. Neat! Kelly and Katie enjoyed standing on the observation deck and taking everything in.

We stayed at the Mainsail Condominium complex located about 8 miles east of Destin Florida and about 1 mile from Sandestin on Highway 98. We booked our reservation through Resort Quest International Managed by Abbott Resort, Inc. (1-888-909-6807).

We arrived at the condo about 7:15pm, a bit later then we had intended. We checked in, unloaded the car then visited the Winn Dixie across the street for groceries and Cash's for some beer. After a late dinner and a couple phone calls we grabbed the flashlights and hit the beach. We walked in the water, listened to the waves and watched crabs scamper about on the beach. It was wonderful to walk in the water after the long journey to get here. A wave came in a soaked the bottom part of Kerry's dress so she had had enough by then. Kelly, Katie and I continued down the beach for a few more minutes looking for shells and watching the crabs. Shells are few and far between in this part of Florida.

Day 4 - Sunday 08/12/2001
Beach Day.

We declared Sunday to be a dead day and slept in. Our only activity this day would be to go to the beach and play in the ocean. We spent a few fun hours on the beach playing in the sand and water. Katie was bitten on the finger by a little crab. The sand it very white and very fine - it never seemed to get to hot to walk on. The water is a pretty green color (hence the name emarald coast). The salt water took a little getting used to and can really make the eyes and nose burn.

We made tacos for dinner. Afterward the girls watched Beethoven's 3rd. After the girls went to bed the adults watched Bachelor (so so).

Destin Beach

Day 5 - Monday 08/13/2001
Beach Day
In the morning we exchanged movies and stopped by a local beach store so Kelly and Katie could buy boogie boards (small, lightweight surf boards). We bought sand castle building toys for Kerry (and the rest of us). Did you ever notice that on the beach everyone is a kid and plays in the sand? You build sand castles knowing full well that either the ocean or another beach person is going to destroy it eventually. But hey that's ok. On the way back to the condo we drove around and watched some people para-sailing in the gulf.

Our second day on the beach playing in the sand and water. We were starting to understand why so many people come to the beach for vacation. It is very relaxing to spend the day on the beach, watching the waves, people and waves of people. Close your eyes and listen to the waves pound the beach. A cooler of you favorite beverage nearby. No phones or fax machines, no deadlines, no TV's. Ok, I'm ready to go back!

The girls ate fish sticks (their request) and the adults had grilled chicken and Chardonnay. The little people watched Tarzan and the big people watched Pollack (very good).

Day 6 - Tuesday 08/14/2001
Beach Day
Mary went shopping for a while and girls hung out with their Dad. We played cards games like Uno and Go Fish.

We went to the beach but got rained out after about an hour and half. We had dinner at Angler's Beachside Grill and Sports Bar, Okaloosa Island, next door to the Gulfarium. We ate outside on the covered deck and watched people fishing in the gulf. The food was good as was the view of the beach.

After dinner we paid the $1.00 to walk out on the fishing pier. The pier turned out to be quite a pleasant surpise as we got to see a sea turtle and dolphins. A fisherman caught a baby shark about 12-14" long. People joked about taking closeup pictures of it to make it look bigger than is really was. It did reinforce the fact that there are sharks in the water in close proximity to where many of us play.

On the way home we stopped for ice cream and managed to spend over $13.00. We stopped at the outlet mall and visited Timberland and the Gap.

That evening the kids watched Mary Kate and Ashley's Greatest Parties while the adults viewed State and Main.

Day 7 - Wednesday 08/15/2001
Beach Day
We did the beach thing for 6 hours on this day. Mary returned to the condo to make us lunch and we ate on the beach. Rob, Kelly and Katie went for a catamarand ride with Fritz ($50 for a one hour ride). It was very peaceful out on the water with just the sound of the sailboat moving through the water. The girls enjoyed it but were a little uncomfortable in their life jackets.

Late afternoon we drove east on County Road 30A to Seaside which advertises itself as a ", a classic American beach town" and shopped. The girls each bought a Ty toy: Kelly: Siam the Cat, Katie: Devine the Angel Bear and Kerry: Elizabeth the bear. We bought Mary a nice t-shirt at Sue Vaneers as an early birthday present. We stopped in Modica Market for a snack and discovered that the store had appeared in the movie Truman Show staring Jim Carry.

That evening the girls watched Rug Rats in Paris and Mary & I watched The Gift.

Day 8 - Thursday 08/16/2001
Pool/Beach Day
The girls said they had had enough of the beach and wanted to try the pool on this day. I had held them off as long as I could with pronouncements like "...we didn't drive 800 miles to sit by the pool - we can do that at home..." . We did the pool for about an hour. Afterward Kelly accompanied me to the beach to take a couple pictures. Once on the beach Kelly decided the beach would be fun afterall. We returned to the condo for a quick lunch then off to the beach for about 3 hours.

Mary found a small sand dollar about the size of a dime. After a few more minutes we found a couple more but they were very fragile. Mary may try to use them in her handmade jewelry.

We went to Harry T's for dinner. It is located on the ground floor of the Destin Yacht Club, on the Destin Harbor in Destin. There is quite a legend of Harry T that includes time in a circus and the armed forces. Nice place. We took some pictures on the dock behind the resturant and once of them may be good enough for our Christmas picture this year.

On the way home we hit the outlet mall again visiting The Gap and the grand opening of Eddie Bauer.

that evening Mary and I watched Men of Honor and the girls watched The Olsen Twins Switching Goals.

Day 9 - Friday 08/17/2001
Beach Day
We hit the beach from 10-12. Then we had lunch, cleaned up and headed to Pensacola the scenic way. It took considerably longer to get there then we expected. We arrived a the National Museum of Naval Aviation about 5:00pm. That left us only an hour to look around at all the exhibits (you really need a couple hours). Most impressive.

On the way home we got gas, bought some postcards and picked up carryout pizza from Jordano's located near CAMPING on the GULF Holiday Travel Park. While waiting for the pizza we shopped at Wing's for t- shirts and Kelly and Katie boat some inexpensive beach footwear.

Day 10 - Saturday 08/18/2001
Travel day from Destin FL to Webster Groves MO.
The long drive home. We had heard lots of stories from friend about the long drive back to Saint Louis and doing it all in one day. It seemed like a long way to drive in a single day and it was! We left at 6:02am and arrived home 13 and a half hours later, at little after 7:30pm - total distance was 759 miles. We hit 3 traffic jams, largely due to road contruction and one rainstorm near Mount Vernon, Illinois. The upside of the rainstorm was a beautiful rainbow off to the east.

Our route home was as follows:

  1. 98 west to 293
  2. 293 north across mid-bay toll bridge to 20
  3. 20 west to 85
  4. 85 north to 331
  5. 331 north to I-65
  6. I-65 north to I-24 (Nashville)
  7. I-24 north to I-57
  8. I-57 north to I-64 (Mount Vernon)
  9. I-64 west to I-44 (Saint Louis)
We stopped in the little town of Luverne AL, about 50 miles south of Montgomery, after traveling for about 2 hours and ate breakfast. Apparently they gets lots of tourist as the signs in front of the McDonald's and Hardee's encouraged travels to stop and eat.

We stopped for gas in Mount Vernon about an hour out of Saint Louis where we happened to be in the middle of a rainstorm. We all got soaked running inside the building to use the bathroom. A few miles out of town the rain stopped and the bright rainbow appeared. I should have stopped and taken a picture or two but the thought never occurred to me until some time later.

This route seemed rather popular as we saw lots of Missouri liscense plates. I was surprised at the speed at which the traffic moved on the Interstates along this route. The average speed seemed to be about 10 mph over the speed limit with a fair number of vehicles exceeding that. On the southern part of this route the posted speed limit was 70mph so you could make very good time. Part's of the route are tree lined on each side which is rather pretty. Although after a while you start to feel a little closed in.

On the way home we listened to The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, on tape. We all guessed our day's mileage total and arrival time. Mary was closest on mileage guessing 798 and Kerry was closest on time by guessing 7:21pm (721 happens to be her birthday).

Happy Trails.

Gumbo Pages- lots of good info here
French Quarter
Jackson Square
Cafe Du Monde
Friends of the Cabildo
Aquarium of the Americas
FLAUSA.COM- official tourism marketing agency for the state of Florida
Destin Florida
Mainsail Condominium
Doctor Beaches
Best Beaches in the USA
USA Today Beach Survey

Trip Diary: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 |
Photos: INDEX | Jackson Square | French Quarter | Condo | Beach1 | Beach2 | Emerald Coast | Dockside | Sand Castles | Sand Turtles

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