Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Way Down South... Louisiana 2014

Oh my goodness. Where to start? 

Every Vacation is an adventure, but some more so than others. When 10 days becomes 16,  you know it definitely counts as 'more than others.'

Me, playing with Jake and Faith's puppies.

 We were down in Louisiana, about an hour and a half southwest of New Orleans. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate the marriage of Nathan's brother, Jake, to his beautiful fiance, Faith. We were both in the wedding party (Nathan was best man) and so timed our arrival to get down just in time for the joint Bachelor/Bachelorette party on Saturday, the 15th.

So THAT's spanish moss
 We had a layover in Houston on the way down, which kept getting shorter and shorter... by the time we landed, everything had been pushed around so much that we only had half an hour to get to our gate. No time to procure gluten free supper. I was grateful for the snacks I'd packed, but it wasn't enough to get me through till after midnight, cuz...

..there'd been some miscommunication about the rental car insurance, so when we got to the pick-up place, they wanted to charge us twice as much as we'd been quoted online. There was no way we could afford that. Thankfully, Jake was willing to drop everything and come pick us up right away. Still, it was 12:30 before we found me a baked potato at Wendy's, and after 3:00 before we all got to sleep.

The party was fun, although it didn't go according to plan. Plans are pretty flexible down there, apparently, and things were constantly changing from one hour to the next. But the people were lovely!

On Sunday, Jake let us borrow his car to drive down to the edge of the bayou and see the ocean. It was a simply gorgeous drive down!

My first look at a sugercane field!
 It was surprisingly chilly - Louisiana didn't escape the cold front that swept over the nation last month. Still, it was a good 50 degrees warmer than Minnesota!

We found this little cemetery on the drive down and got out and looked around. I'd never seen raised graves like this before. It was beautiful.

That night we went to the supermarket and got seafood. We made scallops and alfredo that night, and the next I made fried catfish.

This catfish is going to become a bit of a family legend, cuz the only gluten-free breading I could scrape up was frosted flakes. (Nope, couldn't find regular corn flakes.) Still, it was a big hit and my father-in-law is going to beg me to make it every time I visit from now on.

On Monday, we finally got our own rental car (SO much cheaper to rent from a local place rather than at the airport) and drove down to New Orleans. We didn't get a ton of time because we got a late start and had to be out of the city by sundown, but we made the most of the time we had.

I'd located a little restaurant in the French Market Food Court that had gluten free offerings, and was thrilled to enjoy GF crab cakes - something I've not been able to find anywhere else. All organic too!

We made a quick circuit through the flea market, then poked around in a few different shops. For a souvenir, we picked up a Christmas Tree ornament with "New Orleans 2014" written on it.

We also visited a candy factory, where we got to sample pralines and purchased gummy worms for the long drive home.

Tuesday was a rest day, and on Wednesday we visited the local Aviation and Sawmill museum.

I really enjoyed learning about how they processed and used Spanish Moss.

Plus, huge trees are always fun.

It also gave us some more time to hang out with Faith. We'd only met her in person once before, at that was very briefly at our very hectic wedding. We really enjoyed having the whole week prior to the wedding to get to know her and her family, and see her and Jake as a couple.
replicas of originals

people had better handwriting in those days

it's so small!
 Thursday was the rehearsal, which ran for a good two hours, and the dinner, which was lovely! I got some really delicious grilled fish - my in-laws had told me to order whatever I wanted off the menu, since I couldn't have the fried shrimp everyone else had access to.

It was really fun seeing Nathan get into his best man mode. He's been in a lot of weddings, and been best man twice before now, so he's an expert. (Or at least, I think so.)

Bridal bag goodies
 There were 8 bridesmaids, 6 groomsmen, one junior bridesmaid/flower girl and one ring bearer. As far as we could tell, Nathan and I were both the oldest and the tallest of the guys and girls, respectively.

The bridesmaid hair requirement was a french twist, but mine was so short, they allowed me to do it however I wanted. I think I managed okay. ;) Then I ended up doing four of the other girls' hair as well!

 Look at that train!

Look at that LACE!

I really enjoyed getting to spend a lot of time with my mother-in-law. There were just 8 of us representing the Hajek side, so we took our duties seriously

The wedding ceremony was at 2:00, followed by photos, food (buffet style) and dancing. I don't have a good photo of the hall, but it all took place in this gymnasium that had been transformed into a magical light and flower filled hall of romantic pillars, candles and mini Eiffel towers.

I really liked seeing Nathan in this old fashioned tux
At about 5:15, Jake and Faith went off in their limo to start married life! Nathan and I left soon after, ready to relax after all the intensity of the past few days... little did we know what was in store.

My bouquet
Sunday morning I woke up in extreme discomfort. I won't go into TMI, but it got worse all day, until we wound up at the ER at about 7pm. They identified the issue (doesn't always happen!) and prescribed stuff, but I didn't feel as well as we'd hoped the next day. We were a half hour from the airport when I broke down, crying, and told Nathan "there is no way I can get on that plane."

This was hard. We found out that it would be $400 to change our flight, and we couldn't get a refund on the original tickets. Still, Nathan was so patient and sweet and didn't make me feel bad about it at all. His parents were still down at Jake and Faith's house, which, since they'd left for their honeymoon, was open for a few more guests. So we went back out there and settled in to do everything we could to get me better.

It was a rough few days. I had to give up getting home to have Thanksgiving with my family, which was hard all around. However I had Nathan with me, and we got more time with his parents (whom we see less, anyhow) so that was a blessing in disguise. They were willing to postpone their own trip home in order for me to heal as much as possible. They were also willing to lend us their second car so that we could complete the final leg of our trip home.

Friday morning we finally set out for the long drive home. We spent the night in Kentucky, took a supper break in Illinois at my in-laws house, then pushed on to get to Minnesota by 1:30am on Sunday morning. My mother-in-law ended up coming up with us to visit my sister-in-law, so she got a chauffeur on the way up (Nathan) and we didn't have to worry about getting the car back to her.

That last week was really hard, but God totally had us in his hand the whole time. Nathan only had to miss two more days of work due to Thanksgiving, so that was another blessing.

But I'm really, really glad to be back home, in my own kitchen, with easy access to stores with plenty of Gluten Free options, and close to my doctor and supplement provider. All of this has made us decide that, between being gluten-free (dominos was the only gluten-free restaurant in our area of Louisiana. I had pizza 3 times.), and having unpredictable health issues, we're not travelling out of state again for a long, long time. This is sad because we have so many friends and loved ones in other states that we'd hoped to visit over the next few years and now we have to accept that it is just not feasible. I guess I'll just have to lure everyone here with my cooking or something... ;)

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