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I grew up in a typical southern home, where most meals were the stick-to-your ribs comfort food, but every once in a while my mother would break out a cook book and try to make some exotic dish.
I liken my mother to Martha Stewart without the scandal. Yes, she’s crafty and into made from scratch meals, but there are some things my mama just couldn’t teach me: travel cuisine terms.
No, I didn’t grow up in a plantation home. Before marriage, my fine dining experiences were limited to Prom and a first date here and there. I wasn’t ever given etiquette lessons, although my English heritage tries to show itself. My freelance writing has allowed me to experience things that are out of the norm for where I live. As CajunMama, I will pass along little nuggets of info I’ve learned along the way, so that you other Mamas out there can impress your friends with your knowledge. You’ll never feel like Julia Roberts from that dining scene in Pretty Woman, ever again.
See the title up there….Amuse-bouche? Maybe you’ve heard the term, maybe not. Let’s pick it apart. Bouche means mouth. I knew that already from Frere Jaques and high-school French. Amuse? Helloooooo. So you can put those together and figure out something is going to entertain your mouth.
An amuse-bouche is a sample of what a chef can prepare. It isn’t an appetizer, which is something you’d order off the menu. It comes in one or two bites and everyone at the table gets the same thing. It is a little taste to get your tongue ready for the delights the chef has to offer, and the chef is usually creative and goes all out for these. The best part: they’re free!
My first introduction to Stonehenge was in history books and television. Then came National Lampoon’s European Vacation. I had hopes and dreams of my dad driving my brother and I right up to monument, but not knocking it over like Clark Griswold. Alas, I had to wait until I was in my 30s to see this massive pile of rocks.
My freelance writing took me to London, on assignment, but I chose to hang around the UK a few days longer and take one of those soul-oh trips. I boarded a train to Salisbury (pronounced Sals-bury) to meet my friend and personal tour guide, Keith Kellett, a local travel writer. Keith resides in Amesbury, which is the nearest town to Stonehenge.
Our first stop was Old Sarum, the original settlement of the area. It was a perfect introduction to the history of town. The next stop was Woodhenge, which is believed to be the model for the actual layout of Stonehenge.
I spent time before leaving the US to research lodging choices in the area. Since the exchange rate from dollar to pound is HORRENDOUS, I was on a very tight budget. I found a quaint place to stay called The Antrobus Arms. Keith let me know that locals call the place “Old Auntie” right before he dropped me off for the night.
The place was actually a very cool place to stay. The gardens are right out of a Miss Marple episode, for all you BBC lovers out there. I was led upstairs to Room 20, which is where The Beatles stayed while filming HELP. I was tired from the journey, so I hopped into the shower. When I stepped out, I was startled to see Paul McCartney staring at me from the wall. No, I was not on any hallucinogenic. The walls were papered with The Beatles news clippings, handwritten lyrics, and pictures. My mother used to dream of marrying Macca. Of course, I had to call her and tell her where I was staying.
The next morning was Stonehenge. If anything, I was a bit disappointed. I think I had psyched myself up for a mother ship landing or some solar phenomenon to happen while I was standing there. What I wasn’t expecting was having to park across the street with all the tour busses, walk underground to get to Stonehenge Theme Park, and then stand in line with a bunch of Japanese picture-taking tourists waiting to walk through the turn stall. WHAT? A freaking turn stall?
Keith and I were given museum-style listening devices where visitors are able to pick their language to hear all about Stonehenge, if you pressed the proper numbers at the corresponding points. So, I walked slowly around the rocks, following all the other tourists in typical cattle style.
Even though I didn’t get to drive my car up to Stonehenge and back into the monument, I’m still glad that I was able to see the place in person. Well, that’s another thing to mark off my bucket list. I’m off to my next stop in life.
I was oblivious to the tourism importance of Man Malls until two appeared near my city. Hotels began to pop up, and even good ole Starbucks opened for business in these no-longer rural areas. My family decided to take a Sunday drive to Cabela’s, located in Gonzales, LA. I was completely shocked when traffic halted on the I-10. It seems as if everyone else in the state of Louisiana had decided to check out this new Man Mall for themselves.
Local police officers were directing traffic into the parking lot (which was full, of course). We hiked a mile to the actual store and I had the Mama Death Grip on my children’s hands so that they would not get lost from me in the mob.
Promotions of Chevy giveaways and pictures with Nascar drivers were strategically placed near the entrance. The whole experience was reminding me of the bargain basement bridal gown sale that always makes the national news. I was expecting to get trampled at any moment.
And then we made it through the doors.
The scene was a wonderland for outdoorsmen (and women). Kids were staring in awe at the wide array of aquatic specimen in nearby tanks. Others were admiring the taxidermy exhibit of animals placed on a mountain. But the truest scene was of women sitting on benches checking mobile phone messages while their men competed for the attention of the store associate. It seems there was a limited supply of discounted knives, and these men just had to have one.
This parallel universe offered a respite, in the form of a General Store, for the women to wait on their men. The homemade fudge slices were calling me, where the kids and I waited for my husband to return triumphantly with his $9.99 knife.
From their site:
“We started this business out of the desire to share our knowledge, as fairly new parents, of the many great products available. We spent countless hours researching the latest and great products to make a families life easier. With our personal experience as parents and constant research we will help make the right choice for you.”
Wow. This is the type of shop TravelingMamas.com likes. And they even have a showroom that is opening April 25!
So, what do you have to do to win something? Check out Tots on the Go’s Travel Gear section and choose the item you want to win. Just come back here and leave a comment stating your choice of prize. The product with the most comments is the item we’ll give away to a lucky winner.
We’re giving you guys a month to enter, so be sure to tell all your friends. Contest is open to US residents and immediate family members of Traveling Mamas are ineligible to win. Closing date is May 13, 2008. Winning entry and prize will be announced on Winning Wednesday, May 14, just in time for that fabulous family vacation this summer.
Family travel and Baton Rouge are words that one might not associate together, but don’t underestimate the capital city of Louisiana. The Red Stick (baton and rouge are French for stick and red) is full of budget-friendly activities for families visiting for the day or a weekend. Here’s a list of a few places that won’t break the bank.
1. Louisiana Arts and Science Center – LASM offers free admission to the Museum Galleries on the first Sunday of each month. Regular admission is $9 per adult for all attractions and $8 per child 12 and under.
2. USS Kidd Veterans’ Memorial and Museum– This former naval vessel sits on the Mississippi River near LASM. Adult admission is $7 and children 4-12 get in for $4. This is the price for the ship and museum. The ship Is handicap accessible on the first level only.
3. Baton Rouge Zoo – My family has a yearly membership of $35, which includes admission for two adults and up to five children. Regular admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 2-12. The Cypress Bayou Railroad rides around the zoo and departs every half hour from the front entrance of the zoo. Train rides are $1.50 per person. Visit on Wednesday from 3 to 5pm and get in for $1 per person.
4. Bluebonnet Swamp – This 101-acre facility offers trails to help families learn about the ecosystems of Louisiana. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 per child under 18.
5. LSU Mounds – Families flock to these steep hills for an afternoon of rolling in the grass.
6. LSU Tiger Cage – See Mike the Tiger, LSU’s mascot.
7. Louisiana State Capitol – Kids have a blast learning the US states, which are engraved on the front steps of this historical building.
8. Frostop – This downtown burger dive offers frosty root beer and messy burgers for a fun family meal.
For more information, visit Baton Rouge’s official site.
Have you visited Baton Rouge or are you a resident? What are some activity suggestions YOU have for families in Baton Rouge?