Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Orleans, LA, Part One

As promised, I'd like to show you a little winter get away, my husband and I took in February, to one of our favorite cities: New Orleans, Louisiana! (All photos, and photo collages, in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The French Quarter section of the city makes one feel as if they have stepped back in time. The city was established by French colonists, and was named after the Duke of Orleans, who reigned as Regent for Louis XV from 1715 to 1723.

The older section of the city, the French Quarter, is known for its distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture, as well as its multicultural heritage.

We arrived the day after Mardi Gras - the famous celebration held annually in New Orleans to celebrate "Shrove or Fat Tuesday," which is the day before Ash Wednesday in the Christian faith. As much as we knew that the Mardi Gras carnival celebration would be a wonderful sight to see, we did not want to deal with the large crowds and noise. 

 It was fun to see the French Quarter still decorated for carnival....

....and the traditional, green, yellow and purple decorations were displayed everywhere!

Of course, the party never stops on Bourban Street!

The thirteen street long block is a mix of bars, restaurants, and other forms of entertainment which are on a more seedy side, but it is definitely a "must see" at night if one visits New Orleans.  One evening we enjoyed listening to a jazz band in the Musical Legends Park that is located along one section of Bourban street.

Another New Orleans tradition, that is a "must do," is to stop at Cafe Du Monde for their chicory flavored coffee, and fresh beignets. The original coffee stand opened in 1862, and now is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there is almost always a line to find a seat! 

The beautiful Saint Louis Cathedral is one of the most notable landmarks of New Orleans, and is located next to Jackson Square and faces the Mississippi River. 

Built over the foundation of a 1727 church, and completed in 1851, it is the oldest active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

The magnificent Rocco style interior of the cathedral, includes a stature of Saint Joan of Arc. The cathedral was a serene place to visit after a busy day walking around this very scenic and enjoyable city.

I have much more to show about New Orleans! I hope you will come back soon to see Part Two.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO

The ride north from the Denver area to the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, where the New Belgium Brewery is located, is only a little over an hour away, and passes some beautiful scenery.  My husband and I wanted to take the free brewery tour of New Belgium Brewery, Colorado's biggest craft brewery, since we moved here. Colorado is known for it's variety of beer producersand is home to five of the top 50 craft breweries in the United States.

(All photos, and photo collages, in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

New Belgium Brewery opened in 1991 after its founder, Jeff Lebesch, decided to take his home brewing passion commercially.  If you enlarge the photo collage above by clicking on it, you can see the brewery's logo is a bicycle, and a bicycle is permanently parked outside.  The brewery's legend is that one of the co-founders was influenced by a bicycle trip he made through Belgium and Europe, tasting craft beers along the way.  When he returned home he developed and brewed his own amber ale, and named it "Fat Tire" in honor of that trip. Fat Tire Beer is now their flagship brand, and most popular beer

Bicycles are used as decorations throughout the brewery!

Most of the brewery employees bike to work in the brewery, which is located close to the bike path along the Cache Le Poudre River. All employees have a stake in ownership of the brewery, which they earn after one year's employment, along with a limited edition Fat Tire Cruiser bicycle. After five years employment the company sends the employee on a trip for one week to Belgium!

The New Belgium Brewery utilizes sustainability and recycling in its operations. You can watch a new program video about many of these methods at this Youtube link.  They use solar and wind power to provide electricity in their plant, plus methane gas created as a byproduct of their on site water treatment plant.

The brewery also uses an energy efficient kettle for the brewing process, that heats twice as quickly, and provides significant savings in natural gas consumption,

I enjoyed photographing the colorful mosaics floor around the demonstration kettle on the tour.

The brewery has been named one of the "Best Places to Work"by many publications and organizations, as it promotes employee satisfaction and wellness. How could they lose with profit sharing, free bicycles, trips to Belgium, paid sabbaticals, and fun slides provided for the employees to use to travel from one floor to the next?  My husband had to try one out!

At the end of the free tour of the brewery, we were treated to samples of the different New Belgium Brewery beers in their tasting room. In addition to Fat Tire, they make Ranger IPA, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle, Shift, and a litany of other beers--seasonal and artisanal blends. My husband and I really enjoyed the tour and would not hesitate to go again on another visit to Fort Collins.

New Belgium Brewery is located at 500 Linden St, in Fort Collins, Colorado, Tuesday - Sunday, 11AM to 6PM. Their free tours are very popular, so it is best if you book ahead of time at this link or call 888 NBB 4044.

New Belgium Brewery is expanding, and is opening a new brewery on the east coast, in Ashville, North Carolina sometime in 2015, so that they may have a market beyond their present 38 out of 50 states.

Have you tried any of the New Belgium Brewery beers? Do you have a favorite?

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Georgetown Loop Railroad

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter or Passover holiday! We had beautiful weather and I cooked a big holiday meal, as usual. I have also been very busy with Spring time gardening. My husband and I planted many iris flower bulbs and multiple perennial rhizome roots in our front garden, in hope that in a couple months we will be rewarded with beautiful flowers.  I still have not had time to edit my recent vacation photos in New Orleans, and when l looked at my photo files I realized I never showed a trip we made to the town of Georgetown, Colorado, where we rode for an hour and fifteen minutes on the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad. As you can see by the photo above, the train ride is a very scenic ride through an area of Clear Creek Canyon and over Clear Creek.  Clear Creek brings down melting snow from the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains for sixty six miles, where eventually it joins the South Platte River. (All photos in this post will enlarge when clicked on)

Clear Creek was the location of the most intense early mining activity during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859.  I took the photograph above, of a vintage photograph on display at the Georgetown Loop Railroad Visitors Center. I thought it showed both the ardor and the harsh conditions with which these early miners worked to fulfill their dreams of striking it rich in a gold or silver discovery. Georgetown earned the nickname "Silver Queen of the Rockies"

As soon as we drove closer to the railroad park we could see the famous 600 feet high Devil's Gate High Bridge that spans Clear Creek Canyon. Completed in 1884, the three foot narrow gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad was considered an engineering marvel for its time, and was one of Colorado's first visitor attractions. In 1973, the Colorado Historical Society began restoring the railroad as part of its 978 acre park.

Click on this photo of a placard in the park of the Georgetown Loop Railroad, to see a diagram that shows how it was built in circular loops, as it rises in height, to reduce a 6 percent grade to a 3 1/2 percent grade.

The beginning of the train ride is fairly level, but soon we would be turning in many loops running over the over the creek and slowly climbing higher.

We chose to sit in the open rail car to get the maximum views.

At one point we passed under the Devil's Gate Bridge, knowing that soon we would be on top of it! You can see a video of us going under the trestle on my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page on this link. As you can hear on the video, the train ride is narrated, and we heard the history and many interesting facts about the area and the railroad.

Climbing higher, we could see a good view of the creek and some of the ubiquitous bicycle riders that are on many Colorado roads.

We also had a good view of this section of Interstate 70 that runs parallel to some of the train track. You can see the slow increase or decrease of the grade ,depending on whether you are traveling west or east.

About midway through the train ride we passed by the Lebanon Silver Mine entrance. You can buy tickets to take an hour long guided tour inside this 1870 sliver mine, where you will travel 500 feet through the mine hsaft to see the veins. of silver and learn about how the mountain was mined.

Many areas along the ride became narrow in width....

...I almost felt like I could reach out and touch the canyon's rocks!

We had a brief stop at the Silver Plume Station. Silver Plume was once another mining town

We finally reached the highest trestle called the Devil's Gate Bridge

We had a good view looking down at Clear Creek.  I took these photos in autumn, but in June the creek will swell to four times this size with the spring snow melt.

The train passes over the bridge slowly for safety sake. You can see a YouTube someone took from a distance of the train going over this this link

A photo from 1855 of the original Devil's Gate Bridge taken by Louis Charles McClure. and now in the public domain.  The train narrator told us that the original bridge used to sway quite a bit when the train passed over it!  Thankfully the new bridge, rebuilt in 1984, is much safer and sturdier.

Looking down through the tracks!

In the distance is historic Georgetown.

We are approaching the end of the train ride and the engineer blows the "right of way" pattern on the vintage steam engine train whistle.  To hear it, click on this link for my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page.

A good view of the steam engine as we pull in to the station. You can see the Devil's Gate Bridge  bridge in the distance.

On the day of our visit their was a complimentary wiener and brat roast at the visitor's center. It was so nice to sit by the creek and eat our food and try one of the local micro beer brews.  My husband and I really enjoyed our ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad and look forward to taking another ride, and maybe a mine tour, when it re-opens for the season.

Colorado has many historic and scenic trains to ride and we look forward to doing all of them. I also look forward to taking you along, on my blog, the next time!

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