Monday 11 November 2013

Monroe, Louisiana

Sadly in October Brian's grandmother passed away. With family all over the place (both in the US and outside it) rather then do an immiedate funeral they planned a memorial a few weeks later. It was held in Monroe, LA where she had been living. Brian had been to Monroe only once before, and it was my first visit. While I had met his aunt at a family wedding, it was my first time meeting the extended family.  Actually due to the long time span since Brian had last been there, it was also the first time he was meeting some of his second and third cousins!

We flew from Toronto to Monroe via the Dallas/Fort Worth airport on Friday evening. Despite my many many flights over the years, this was my first time doing the whole connecting thing. Brian found this unbelievable, but due to my dislike of flying I always try and find something direct. Anyways; the whole trip was pretty simple. We flew out of a smaller terminal which was a pleasant surprise since it meant a much quicker process through the border and security checkpoints. The larger terminal that most flights to the US leave from has incredibly long lines so it was nice not to have to deal with them. The flights themselves were uneventful - thankfully not much turbulence. The flight from Dallas to Monroe was on a pretty small plane, similar to the prop jet I used to take all those years ago for my many Toronto-Baltimore trips to see Brian. 

The Dallas airport is huge, and very much a connector hub. There are shops and restaurants everywhere, and I had a bit of time to wander around while Brian was dashing in and out of security for a quick cigarette. I stopped at Starbucks for a latte needing a caffeine boost (there was a small time change, and it was later in the day) and ordered my seasonal favourite Egg Nog Latte. That was a mistake! Three of the employees had no idea how to make it, and the forth (a manager) who was called over just steamed the egg nog. When I inquired as to where the espresso was, I was told "Oh, the Egg Nog latte doesn't have any caffeine." Hmm, okay, that sort of defeats the point of calling it a latte huh? (I did end up turning to Google and confirmed that the drink does in fact have espresso as I suspected but there was no point in arguing). That's my pet peeve with the non-Starbucks run, Starbucks. Most of the ones in the airports and stores are independently owned, so their employees don't ungo the usual training. I truly can't recall the last time I had a good drink made from any of the independent ones besides the Markham Longos whose barista is amazing. 

Out flight into Monroe arrived at 8pm (we almost missed it since we were mistakenly sent to the wrong gate!) and we were met at the airport by Brians Aunt Sue and her husband. They took us back to their house, served us some delicious Lousianna Style Gumbo (which I have to say is as awesome as I've heard) and then headed back out to pick up Brian's mom and cousin. We spent a couple hours catching up as it had been years (in fact the last time Brian saw his cousin was 20 years ago) before we went to our hotel. Initially the plan was for us to stay with his aunt, but she gererously secured us hotel rooms. When we walked into the hotel room that night the fridge was stocked with water and soft drinks, along with a goodie bag of treats. Southern hospitality truly does exist - and I'd love to encounter more of it up here in the North. 

Saturday morning we went straight to the memorial which was a small and quick family service. Sue's children, grandchildren and great-grand children all came so there were a few minutes of hugging and introductions. I think I met about 20 people in the span of minutes, but I managed to keep all the names straight! 

After the service we had a lunch on the bayou which was wonderful. The bayou is beautiful and something I am glad I was able to see. Such beautiful colours despite the grey day outside. 

Lunch was great - I tried another Louisiana speciality a spicy shrimp po boy and it was delicious! The way in which the shrimps were seasoned and served on the bread was perfect and something I plan to experiment making. 

Once lunch was over we were able to go back to the hotel to change before gathering back at Sues house. Her daughter made a cake batter dip which was unbelievable. I have since made it a few times and it is a great desert. 

Cake Batter Dip
- a box of rainbow chip cake mix, 2 cups of plain vanilla yogurt, and 1 cup of cool whip. You mix all this fine their and add some sprinkles. It gets served with fruit, wafers and anything else. 

You have to love all the interesting recipes that have come from Pinterest. 

After awhile catching up a bunch of us piled into the cars and went to visit Duck Command the location of the Duck Dynasty site. While not a show Brian or I watch, the show is popular enough I was aware of it and the family behind it. Visiting the Duck Command was an interesting experience, I can't believe now much this family has skyrocketed to fame making duck whistles. The place was packed, tourists from all over and everyone buying tons of merchandise. Christmas CD's of Duck Calls, whistles, clothing, etc. It really amazes me how much reality TV has become part of our culture (I don't personally think its a positive thing despite enjoying reslity TV on occassion). I am positive that if the Honey-Boo-Boo family opened a store people would flock there too, which is just sad. 

After our stop there we went to Antique Alley where we wandered in and out of of the local shops. What a really cute place, and very proud of Duck Dynsty - products and posters everywhere! I can see now happy some of the town appears at having Monroe be put on the map. Perhaps after recent magizine comments made by some of the family members, some may be rethinking that stance, who knows. All of the people working in these stores were so friendly, especially once they heard I was from Canada. I can't remember the last time I had such a happy and positive shopping experience. I found these adorable Christmas headbands which I bought for myself, my mom and a gift for Amanda. Getting them back home was complicated since I only brought a tiny carry-on but I managed it. 

After Antique Alley we drove around Monroe for a bit getting a sense of the history. We again retuned to Sues and spent the rest of the evening catching up. There were a bunch of younger kids who were adorable. Two of the little girls were 4 and the boy around 2, and they reminded me so much of my brother Adam, cousin and myself at that age. Just like my cousin and I, these girls were all happy and hugging one second and fighting and crying the next. Then just as Adam did, the boy was following them around and trying to do whatever they did. It brought back a lot of memories! 

That night after leaving Sue's Brian and I had a late night snack and drinks at an Applebee's near the hotel. Our waiter was brand new, a sweet kid but really nervous and kept forgetting everything we ordered. But we were easy going so it didn't matter. 

The next morning Sue, her husband and Brian's Mom dropped us off at the airport. Brian, his cousin and I were leaving Sunday (as I said, it was a quick weekend!) but his mom was staying until Monday. Our flights home were again thankfully uneventful and before evening we were back home recovering from an eventful weekend. 

Though the reason for the trip was sad, it was a nice weekend visiting with family. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet more of Brian's family, it was wonderful for him to see and catch up with everyone.  Sometimes it takes sad events to remind us how important family is. 

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