Though severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina just five months after its debut, Slidell Rocks Climbing Gym rebuilt and reopened just months later and continues to provide the community with opportunities to build up muscular and cardio strength. The climbing center showcases top-rope challenges on walls nearly 40 feet high, as well as lower courses for younger climbers. Two bouldering rooms mimic the lifestyle of ancient arachnid cavemen with rooftop grips and seven hangboards. Between summit attempts, climbers can relax in the concessions area, watching their favorite sports on the televisions and munching on rock candy harvested from an active sugar volcano.
All manner of motorized vehicles race down twists and turns at NOLA Motorsports Park’s 600-acre racing facility. Exotic racecars roar along an international-standard racetrack, whereas professional go-karts harness their speed on a smaller scale. Motorcycles join their four-wheeled cousins during regular bike races, as spectators look on jealously, yearning for the day when humans finally evolve wheels of their own.
Carey Long’s professional interest in fitness stems from something personal. After experiencing the early passing of his parents, Carey decided to focus his fitness approach on prolonging life. Racking up certifications in physical therapy and strength and conditioning training, Carey began developing Real Life Fitness, a system catered to regular people who want to improve the quality and extend the longevity of their lives. The system seeks to boost energy, address chronic health problems such as high cholesterol, and promote physical activity, all while keeping in mind the time limitations and challenges of everyday life.
Original slave cabins are just one of the historical sites that groups explore during tours of St. Joseph Plantation, a working sugar-cane plantation built in 1830 that shares a fence line with neighboring Oak Alley Plantation. A schoolhouse, a blacksmith's shop, and many other structures reveal the workings of day-to-day life in the 19th century. Relatives of the family that has owned the property for more than 135 years guide many of the tours, peppering excursions with tidbits of history such as details about the childhood of plantation son and famed architect H.H. Richardson.
When faced with time off after graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University, Maggie DiMaggio took to baking cake after cake in her own kitchen. Seeing the potential in her baked treats, she soon began taking weekly pilgrimages to the Mandeville farmers' market to sell her cupcakes and fine breads. As the popularity of her creations grew, the special orders began pouring in—so many, in fact, that she had to open a storefront just to manage the demand.
That storefront soon evolved from its humble beginnings into The Chocolate Vine, a European-style bakery that also houses an intimate café. To foster a cozy, inviting atmosphere, Maggie furnishes the small eatery with tables and chairs from local antique stores and regularly applies a fresh coat of buttercream icing to the walls. When not crafting almond-, strawberry-, and chocolate-infused cakes , she cooks light lunches with fruits and vegetables from a local produce stand. Maggie also graciously opens up her wine cellar for regular tastings, during which guests sip on eight glasses of her finest reserves.
In West Monroe's countryside, 20 acres of grapevines sway among gently rolling hills and tall, old trees. This is Landry Vineyards, tended by Jeff and Libby Landry and their four sons. They began growing hybrid blanc du bois grapes—specially bred to withstand the South's climate—at their first vineyard in Folsom back in 1999. However, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina leveled their crops, inspiring them to move to higher ground.
Today, the Landrys ferment a full roster of wines from blanc du bois and other hardy Southern grapes. The crisp fruit flavors of semisweet blanc du bois white pair well with spicy Cajun and French-inspired fare, whereas the Envie Rouge—made with red cynthiana/norton and black spanish/le noir grapes—acquires its own spice from oak-barrel aging. The Landrys also import and ferment many grapes that they can't grow, including hand-picked bunches of cabernet from Washington State.
Besides sipping wines, customers can visit the picturesque vineyard for tastings and cellar and winery tours. And during regular concerts, they can sip wine among the sounds of blues, jazz, and grapes quietly gossiping about which grape pickers have the softest hands.