Louisiana Bucket List ~Cajun Country Region

Here comes the final region in Louisiana, but perhaps the one it is most associated with as a state aside from Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Cajun Country region.

Breaux Bridge

  • Cajun Country Swamp Tour: What better way to explore the bayou region that to take a swamp tour.

Cypremort Point

  • Cypremort Point State Park: Looks like a nice way to experience the Bay area.

Grand Isle

  • Grand Isle State Park: We took a day to visit Grand Isle during our time in New Orleans, because we wanted to say we visited the Gulf. The water wasn’t safe for swimming when we visited, but we did stick our feet in the water and got to see some dolphins from the pier.

Jennings

  • Gator Chateau: This place claims to be home to rescued baby alligators, so I’m all in for this one!

Lacassine

  • Bayou Rum Distillery: This allows visitors to visit the largest private rum distillery in the U.S.

Lake Charles

  • Sam Houston Jones State Park: Looks like a neat bayou and marshy ecosystem.

New Iberia

  • Tabasco Country Store and Visitor Center, McIlhenny Company: Here you can take a tour of the legendary Tabasco company.

St. Martinville

  • Lake Fausse Pointe State Park: Another state park that could lead to some fun bayou hikes.

Ville Platte

  • Chicot State Park: Once again, a beautiful park that will give you a taste of Louisiana wildlife.

All attractions found in the 2018 Louisiana Travel Guide.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites~ Coralville, Iowa

Normally when staying at hotels, Andrew and I tend to lean toward Wyndham properties. We are members of their rewards program and they are usually the most cost effective for our budget, even if they aren’t always the “nicest” hotels on the block. However, over Memorial Weekend, since we were back preaching for our vicarage church, the church put us up in the Holiday Inn Express, and I’ve got to say, our experience has me seriously considering them the next time we need a hotel stay, because the perks just might be worth the extra money for the night.

Church had already picked up the hotel keys for us, so we didn’t have to deal with the check in process, so I have no opinion on how well that process works. When we first made it to our room I was immediately impressed with how spacious it was.

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The bathroom was located directly to the left before you reached the closet in the above picture.

Andrew really appreciated the height on the shower head, since many hotels have shorter shower heads installed and it makes it tricky for a taller guy like him to shower comfortably.

After walking past the closet, there is a nice seating area with a couch with large ottoman and a small table for two. This table would come in handy if you were staying there for awhile and wanted to take advantage of the next feature…

…the kitchenette! As you can see the cupboards were well stocked with a nice assortment of dishes, and they even provided a small bottle of dish soap to rinse the dishes after use. We made use of the fridge as we had leftovers from our Satay Platters at Blackstones.

Beyond the living area was the King bed and a nice area to place our suitcases. There also was a desk and large TV.

We were on one of the upper levels so we had a nice view out our window of the parking lot and hotel next door. This hotel is also located right by the mall, so if shopping is your thing, this is a great place to be! Plus there are lots of great chain restaurants nearby, but personally I suggest heading into downtown Iowa City for some good local restaurants.

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The final awesome aspect about this room was that the temperature was controlled by a wall thermostat instead of just trying to control it on an AC wall unit.

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I don’t have any pictures of the area as it was quite busy with it being Memorial Weekend, but the breakfast was also super good for a hotel breakfast. They had a great selection of eggs, a breakfast meat, biscuits and gravy, several cereals and fruits, and even a pancake machine. They also had an indoor pool, but again, due to several families utilizing the hotel, we did not use it ourselves.

We had a great stay and would gladly stay again and look forward to staying at Holiday Inns in the future!

Mallard Lake Trail~ Maryland Heights, MO

Another trail we like to frequent in the St. Louis area is Mallard Lake Trail located just south of Creve Coeur Lake Park. If you park at Creve Coeur, you can lengthen the trail listed here by going around both lakes. If you are looking for a somewhat shorter trail, this is the one to choose as the one around Creve Coeur Lake is 3.7 miles.

If you solely want to hike the trail around Mallard Lake, the best place to park is at the Lakeside Cafe, across the street from the Lou Fuze Soccer Fields. That’s what we usually do. The day we took pictures, we headed to the south of the lot and worked our way around the lake that way.

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The trail begins as a paved path with a line dividing the middle, but that doesn’t last for long! However the scenery is beautiful along the way!

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A little way down the path you come to a sign that states how long the trail is.

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After that you the trail winds it’s way through some “field” area before reaching a wooded area. If I recall correctly, you lose the pavement after the paved path branches off toward a neighborhood.

When you reach the wooded area, it can be a welcome relief from walking out in the open sunshine.

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When you’ve made it through the wooded section, you will reach an intersection with the Lakeside Trail of Creve Coeur Park. If you keep going straight you will end up on the other trail. You want to turn left to use the shared trail portion as you walk beneath the overpass.

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From this point on you will be back to a paved pathway. Along the shared stretch we saw some lovely cranes out in the water. I think a counted about 10 of them!

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After the short walk along the overpass, you will reach another intersection. Again continue to your left, or else you will end up walking the Lakeside Trail instead of the Mallard Lake Trail.

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Just beyond that area, you will reach yet another intersection, this time being a roundabout. Keep heading to the left! The other directions will take you out to various roadway paths that connect to other trails in the area!

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You get a little bit more of a stretch with some lakeside views. Mallard Lake is much smaller than Creve Coeur Lake, but the trail allows you to see far less of Mallard Lake than when you take the Lakeside Trail around Creve Coeur Lake.

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Finally if you’ve followed all the directions correctly, you will end up seeing the Lakeside Cafe up ahead on your right. If you’ve come around a mealtime, I highly recommend stopping by! Their patio space is dog friendly! Even if you aren’t in the mood for a full meal, their nacho plates are excellent, but more on those in next week’s post!

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Saint Louis Zoo ~ St. Louis, Missouri

One of my favorite things to do in all of St. Louis is visit the Saint Louis Zoo. One of the best reasons is because its FREE! Sure you can pay to do the extras, like feed the stingrays in the summer, visit the Children’s zoo, take in a sea lion show, but the size of the zoo is enough to keep you busy without all of the extras!

Andrew and I have visited several times over our years of living in St. Louis. The Penguin and Polar Bear exhibits are just a few years old, and a new Grizzly Bear exhibit just opened this fall. We haven’t been to see it yet, but I’m hoping to very soon.

When my sister and I visited this past summer, we got there as early as we could so that we could beat the heat as best as we could. I tend to park up by the World’s Fair Pavilion. It’s a bit of a walk, but it’s better than having to pay for parking in the zoo lot. This meant we entered the zoo at the North Entrance, which is an actual building that also houses a gift shop, bathrooms, discovery classrooms, and a food court restaurant. We exited the building and decided to head clockwise through the zoo. This meant we took in the penguins and polar bear first and then moved to the Aviary that’s been there since the 1904 Word’s Fair. We also got to see the apes early on. It’s the first time we saw the inside the building since it was so hot, and we loved the gorilla that was eating an onion! Then it was on to the African animals and Big cat section.

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By then we had made it towards the center of the zoo, which is where the seals and sea lions are located. When she and I were there we got to sit in during a keeper talk with the seals; when Andrew and I visited about a month later we sat in on a talk with the sea lions. It was fun to have seen both presentations shortly after each other.

Following our time with the seals (which also have a neat tunnel that you can go into to see them swimming above you), we decided to visit the bird house and then grab some food. We ate inside the Lakeside Cafe. I find that the food is pretty reasonable in price compared to lots of other tourist places I’ve been.

After that, we took in the bird house and primate house, and then finally headed over to my favorite area, River’s Edge. This is where you can find many Asian and African animals, like the elephants, hyenas, hippos, cheetah, spotted dogs, and rhinos. The best part was a baby rhino had recently been born, and we were lucky enough to be able to see the sweet thing in the distance of it’s habitat.

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We decided not to visit the reptile or insect house, because neither of us are big fans of either of those! That meant it was time to head back to the north entrance and visit the gift shop. We both wound up purchasing a tank top to remember our sister trip.

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Molly’s Cupcakes~ Iowa City, IA

It’s been a tradition to almost always find somewhere that serves cupcakes on our anniversary. That’s because we had S’mores cupcakes at our wedding! This past anniversary proved no exception. We gladly went to our favorite cupcake place in town (and quite frankly, it may be my favorite cupcake place ever,) Molly’s Cupcakes.

Molly’s Cupcakes is located downtown, right across the street from the Old State Capitol. They have quite a few different flavors to choose from each day and also allow you to build your own, although I’ve never tried that option.

We’ve had several different cupcakes from Molly’s over our time in Iowa, and while the S’mores Cupcake is good, this particular day we went with our favorite: Cookies and Cream. It may be called something different on the menu, but that’s essentially what it is.

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As you can see, these are a chocolate cupcake with a thin layer of chocolate icing on top, plus the creamy frosted goodness on top of that. Also, there’s a nice chocolate ganache filling inside the cupcake as well!

Molly’s has a very cute storefront that offers swing seats by the counter and some bench/table seating in the front window area. However, we went into town to grab our cupcakes before dinner, so we got ours to-go so that we could enjoy them in our hotel room after dinner at Wig & Pen.

Sorry for the nearly half a year delay in these posts! Subbing in first grade got quite crazy and I’m just beginning a 3 morning a week 3 year old preschool class, but I’m hoping to start this new year off right and get about 3 posts up a week!

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A Few Notes

I’m very excited to take this blog in another new direction! Every Tuesday I will still be posting a Travel Tuesday post that shows our journey to various places across the USA. But I am please to say that I will be working on putting together state bucket lists as well!

Some things to know about the new state bucket lists!

  • Each post will be based on a particular region of a particular state. If I created one post for each state it would be a list of hundreds of places to visit! By going by region (and even sometimes major city), I’ll be able to stick to a decent amount of attractions in a day.
  • All of my info I’ve used for my bucket lists have come from state visitor guides, Pinterest articles, and a book titled “50 States 5000 Ideas” put together by National Geographic. Bucket lists will also be based off my husband’s and my interests, so please keep in mind that much much more could be added to each list but this is a way for us to keep track of places we’d like to visit on future road trips someday.
  • I’m planning to keep posts organized in a way that you could drive from region to region to see these sites.
  • Most bucket list posts will only included attractions as restaurants tend to open and close more frequently than major attractions do. These posts may need to withstand a bit of time before we visit said places.
  • Some places we will have visited before but I want my readers to know that they were great places to spend some time. If we’ve visited them I’ll put the date we have in parentheses and maybe include a fun picture!
  • I will try to post 2 or 3 bucket lists a week because otherwise between all the different regions of states it would take me 6 years to accomplish this goal!

Finally not related to the bucket list posts, but still very exciting! You can now follow sitesandbitesjournal on Instagram to see some more up to date pictures of places we are currently visiting rather than wait for the lengthy detailed blog posts that follow trips.

Date Nights!

Ok so people who know me, know I love to try new restaurants. I have a huge bucket list of Saint Louis restaurants listed by neighborhood hanging on our closet doors in the bedroom.  Lately, Andrew and I had been slacking on crossing things off that list, so we thought we’d try to do one thing a week.  It’s a New Year’s Resolution that we hadn’t even planned on!  The past two weeks we’ve visited some very good restaurants!

Last week we went to Dave and Tony’s Premium Burgers in Creve Ceour.  The burgers were amazing and I love how you can customize them to exactly what you want.  Just walk in, fill out the little card, and you are good to go! That being said….if you want to add fries, get just one order between the two of you….we had WAAAAAY too many fries to finish!

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We followed up the meal with hot chocolate (since winter finally arrived in St. Louis) and a nice game of cribbage!

Now yesterday we went on another date night!  This place I actually stumbled upon by accident.  I’d been researching the Restaurant at the Cheshire Inn down the road from us (which is temporarily closed.)  They suggested checking out the Fox and Hound (located in their Inn), but when I searched I found this sports bar in Chesterfield that sounded mighty appetizing!  So off we went!

First off….can we just say how amazing all of the food was! So so so good! The atmosphere was delightful. We were seated right by the big screen TV so we got to watch the Broncos take down the Steelers.  Our waitress was attentive and did I mention my wings were amazing!  Also what you see below in the picture is the half order of wings….can you imagine the full?!

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Needless to say, my mouth was on fire after all those wings, so we had to make an ice cream stop on the way home.  Yes, I ate it right out of the carton. No, I’m not ashamed. Yes, we followed our ice cream with a game of cribbage….do you sense a trend here?

Thursday July 16, 2015- Kansas City, Missouri

Day 5 of our trip was yet another full day!

I really wanted to check out the Kansas City Zoo even though the entire week had been quite a scorcher.  The great thing was, when we arrived and bought our entry tickets, it came to half the price! Why? Well because they only charge half price when a heat advisory is in effect, and you can ride the tram to the Africa section for free that day.  First of all, this zoo is much larger than it looks on the map! But it is by far the coolest zoo I’ve ever been to.  My day was already made when we went through the Australia section first and had a kangaroo hop right across our path!  So neat!  I also loved the Penguin exhibit (with real ice being made inside it!) and the really cool monkey house area where the monkeys could walk over the glass above you!  We did take the tram out to the Africa section because the heat was already getting to us. Lots of neat exhibits out there as well, but the heat definitely wore us down.  They did have a 1 1/2 month old gorilla though who was absolutely adorable!

After our morning at the zoo we drove back over to the Crown Center to try out Fritz’s Railway Restaurant.  A friend had recommended this place to me and judging by the line we had to wait in to get in I was sure it would be worth it.  It’s worth it for the experience alone, but the food was also good and really inexpensive.  It’s you standard diner food, but when you order you have to pick up the phone at your table and call the kitchen to place your order (this can take some time and can be hard to hear.)  Then after awhile, a train car is sent out of the kitchen and brings your food to your table.  So neat!

Our next stop in the day was the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  This museum exists because the Arabia Steamboat sank in the Missouri River in the 1800’s. In the 1980’s a family excavated the ship out of a cornfield.  Everything in the ship’s cargo was completely preserved and has been cleaned and put up for display in the museum.  It was definitely worth the visit.

Following the museum we went to RAYGUN T-shirt store.  We are huge fans.  Then we went to the hotel for a little bit before grabbing some pizza a few miles from the hotel at Minsky’s.  They claim to have the best pizza in Kansas City, and I’m pretty sure they do!

Total Cost for Day: $153.77

Zoo Admission: $15 Lunch: $17.85 Steamboat Museum: $31.52 Dinner: $20 Hotel Cost: $69.50

Budget Traveling!

Fort those of you who don’t know me well, let me tell you that when I travel, I always, ALWAYS, look for the best deals!  TripAdvisor is my best friend when it comes to planning a trip.  I figure out what the must-sees are in an area based on others reviews, what hotels I can stay at for cheap (without being disgusted with my living space), and of course, checking out the must visit lower budget restaurants are in the area.

Another fun fact is that my husband and I have been married for 3 years now, and each anniversary I try to plan a little trip somewhere.  For our first anniversary we stayed local (and at home) but made visits to a few museums and lighthouses in the Milwaukee area.  Last year, we had an early trip planned since we were moving to St. Louis on our actual anniversary, but went to Door County in Wisconsin for a few days a week prior to our move.  This year I wanted to go check out Kansas City.

One of my goals in life is to visit every state and every state capitol.  Kansas City is about an hour away from Kansas’ state capitol of Topeka, so we decided that if we were going to make the trip, we would add on a day and see what the state’s capital had to offer.  We also decided to add a day to the end of our trip as well, to Independence, MO which sits as an outlying suburb of Kansas City on the MO side.  I wanted to check this place out since I knew that’s where the Oregon Trail started and I also read raving reviews about the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library located there, so it seemed worth the extra day.

Well all that being said, in the next few blog posts, I hope to details the adventures we had in those three cities but I also wanted to let everyone know that it is possible to take a trip for two to the Kansas City area for 6 days, 5 nights and see 13 attractions and eat 10 meals for under $700!  Don’t believe me….check out the details in my next few blog posts and you can see how this trip could happen for you too!  Trips can be a lot more affordable than you imagine!

Welcome!

After some encouragement from my husband, I have chosen to start another blog!  This blog will focus on all of the fun places I travel to and the many, many places where I find some yummy goodies.  From time to time I may even include some fun recipes I’ve tried in our home!  While I already have a blog that keeps my friends and family updated on the events in our lives, this one will solely be focused on food and travel!  I’m excited for this new journey!