New Orleans and Sarasota - April 2016

New Orleans and Sarasota – April 2016


After leaving NYC we headed back down south – way south. Our destination was Sarasota, FL for Nicole and Jose’s wedding, but we had plenty of time to enjoy the journey. Our first stop was Harrisonburg, VA to visit Brandon and Valerie for a day or so. We enjoyed the setting of a pastoral landscape framed by the Appalachian mountains, as well as getting to hangout with some good friends. Our second pit-stop was Knoxville for some catching up with family and inventory sourcing. Next was Nashville for a couple days (more work) and then on to New Orleans for 10 days before a stay in Sarasota for the wedding.

Whew! Listing out each of those stops sounds like a lot of travel for just 2-3 weeks but in hindsight none of it was too rushed except for perhaps Nashville. Since we are also working from the road, we always seem to find inventory sourcing and shipping to fill any of the downtime that we have. We are still working on the balance here and it is definitely a lot harder to achieve when only staying in each spot less than a week. Hopefully when we are in Europe at the end of May and June – where we physically can’t shop (except online) – it will be a nice change in pace. We’re also looking forward to our month long stay in Montreal this summer where we can slow down a bit and feel like we’re “living” somewhere again.

New Orleans and Hotel Strategy:

We love New Orleans for its laid-back attitude, warm winters and affordable food. This was our third time coming in about as many years so we decided this time to stay somewhere different than the touristy areas. We were actually hoping for the garden district but couldn’t find much affordable. Instead, we scored a sweet deal on a Staybridge Suites in Covington, LA across Lake Ponchatrain from NOLA. It was only 5k points a night during the IHG pointsbreak promotion, so we ended up booking 9 nights for almost the same points price as two nights at the normal rate (20k points/night).

Our hotel was actually across Lake Ponchatrain, a 40- minute drive across the causeway to get to downtown NOLA. This wasn’t a big deal (we are pretty patient drivers at this point) but would have gotten old if we went into downtown more than the 3 times that we did. Instead, we hung out mostly in the little towns north of the big easy – towns like Covington, Slidell and Hammond. This gave us a great taste of how, I assume, the rest of Louisiana lives. The hotel was wonderful and a good example of one of the various hotels with suites in their names – they all seem to be more affordable, convenient and pet friendly than the business oriented chains.

We saw some great sunsets on our commutes across Lake Ponchatrain to New Orleans.

This is us rockin’ the van. We need a good name for it. You can see all the boxes we haul around for shipping in the background.

Here’s a New Orleans beach for you! This one is across the lake from NOLA in Hammond, LA area. It was kinda a cross between a swamp and a beach.

Crawfish boils are my new favorite seafood. I think we had crawfish 4 times in 5 days. They were only $1.50/pound raw or $2.50 cooked! Since there aren’t many tourists across the lake from New Orleans, it was easier to find more affordable, yet delicious food.

It was nice to be somewhere with yards and plenty of green space, such as this neighborhood near our hotel in Covington that we took frequent walks through. The dogs loved it too.

Since IHG pointsbreak lists are such a great deal, our new strategy for booking travel is only book out as far the window for the list extends. We book all the pointsbreak hotels we want, fill in the gaps with paid stays, short term rentals, etc, and then wait for the next list to come out (4x per year) before booking again. We have 340k IHG points right now which equates to 68 nights and that should take a little while to burn through. We hope to keep earning points through the frequent promotions IHG runs.

The way the math works on the promotions, including paying for stays with the IHG credit card and getting bonus points on top for having elite status, I figure that we can get enough free stays resulting from paid stays to get our price per night down to about $30. That’s cheaper than our mortgage back home!

There is usually a downside to the pointsbreak hotels, for instance a location relatively far from the main attractions (like ours in Covington).

New Orleans is still on our short-list of places to “settle down” and live for a few months out of each year. It was starting to get a little too warm for comfort at the end of May, but I think the weather is just about perfect from October to March/April. We are going to keep our eyes open for an affordable one or two-bedroom apartment near the garden district that we could buy and then rent during the warmer months and live in during the winters.

One of my favorite spots in New Orleans is on a beach watching the boats going up and down the mighty Mississippi river.

And of course the affordable, tasty and unpretentious food in New Orleans is hard to beat. Here are some pics:

Ramos gin fizz where it was invented. Expensive but tasty. Atmosphere in this place can’t be beat.

Had a ridiculously rich croque madam sandwich (difference between the croque madame and monsouir sandwiches, I learned is the addition of a soft-boiled egg to the madame.

Closeup of this beast

Had to go back to Commander’s palace for lunch. The food was much better than I remembered it (25 cent martinis probably helped it taste better and cloud my memory of the previous visit)

Classic NOLA architecture near the garden district in NOLA

We did get quite a bit of work done from the hotel. It rained almost two days straight while there so we took that opportunity to do various things on the computers. We are always trip planning it seems. Also, we are trying to find some products to sell online which we can source cheaply and in a repeat frequency from China. That it taking some time but should be well worth it as a source for passive income and cash flow if we can make it happen.

NORA helps me with our work whenever possible. She doesn’t have opposable thumbs so its hard for her to peel labels. Good moral support though.

More moral support from Nora, our snuggle-monster.

We’ve been steadily increasingly our weekly sales as we build inventory in our online store. We wanted to share one of our largest weekly sales revenue numbers not to boast but to maybe inspire others. We only see a portion of these sales as profit, but it is encouraging that we only started selling in earnest the past 5 months or so but we are now here with a business that we could live off of. We are very grateful to have been given the many tools we have to use towards a comfortable lifestyle.


After our stay in New Orleans, we drove across the top of Florida (a boring drive) and then down to Sarasota for the wedding. We stopped in Tallahassee for one night but didn’t really get a feel for it.

This was our second time in Sarasota and we have decided that it is definitely one of our favorite cities in Florida. It is smaller and more quiet than Tampa to the north. The keys and bays are beautiful and it is easy to understand why siesta key was named the best beach in America.

Nicole and Jose’s wedding was fantastic and a ton of fun! It was great to hangout with everyone and we are so happy for them. We know they are great for each other and are excited for their marriage.

Noodles and Jose’s beautiful wedding venue on the Sarasota bay. It was picture-perfect.

US at the wedding.

Other than the wedding and all the activities surrounding that, we enjoyed a couple very nice seafood meals, did a fair amount of product sourcing and a shipment, and hung out with the various friends and family there. It was nice to catch up with everyone and be social for a change. Apart from the lack of nearby dog-friendly beaches, the pups liked it too. Nick discovered the lizards, which he didn’t know existed before. Watching him hunt them was amusing.

One negative aspect of Sarasota is that the majority of beaches are not dog-friendly. It turns out the locals can be pretty territorial about this too. There was this one beach that we found about 40 min south which allowed dogs though.

Nick surprised me by swimming out into the ocean a few feet to join me in the water. It was pretty terrifying for him though.

We’re going for a jog!

Nora soaking up the sun like a bum

View from the condo my parents rented on Siesta Key

Beautiful sunset on siesta key

Mayne’s parents and Elisa, Siesta Key

Mayne’s parents

Enjoying the beach

Was good to hangout with all the family at the wedding.

We had mothers day brunch with the parents and Terry and Brice were not playing around at the buffet!

On the way back to Nashville we carpooled with Mayne’s parents and brother, but parted ways in Georgia. They were gracious enough to take Nick and Nora for the month while we are traveling in Europe (I am writing this from currently from a high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid, barreling down the track. The speed readout near the exit sign reads 290km/hr. It literally feels like riding a bullet and it is amazing).

Will post about our Barcelona visit soon!