Full Circle

In New York, at the beginning of this trip, we had an excellent Hudson River trip. Smart dress code, dancing, great food etc, and tonight we went full circle with a river cruise on the Mississippi which was, well, New Orleans!! Both great, but so very different and reflecting the character of the two cities.
To be fair, the commentary was very good, as were the jazz band. The Mississippi in New Orleans is 200 ft deep, and carries 1 million cubic feet of fresh water per second into the Gulf of Mexico. Big ships can go upstream for over 200 miles before the bridges restrict their passage, and the levees go on for 1200 miles to St Louis! It’s quite a river, the third largest in the world.
It was a 40 year old steam driven paddle steamer, one of only 2 in service in the USA, but the motor/engine is over 80 years old and was refitted from another boat. It was a surprise, in such a litigious country, that the opening part of the commentary started with a 10 minute description of all the bars and all the drinks available, followed by a 5 minute description of all of the items available in the gift shop, followed by 1 minute on the safety procedures. Obviously, marketing trumps safety here!
Some other random things about New Orleans.
They have terrible problems with termites, allegedly brought back from Asia following the Second World War by the troops in their equipment. Sounds familiar to those of us in SW France, where the same is being said! Namely that the US forces brought into France the deadly disease which is attacking the plane trees alongside the Canal du Midi! But then the French would blame the Americans for anything.
Besides swarming around from time to time, a building recently collapsed in the French Quarter from termite attack on the foundations, (the first vacant lot anyone can remember in the F Q) and as you walk around you see little round steel plates screwed into the pavements. They are everywhere. Apparently the authorities put fresh wood in them and then visit to check on termite activity. Then they blitz them with poison.
We passed a sugar refinery on the boat which apparently produces 6 million pounds of refined sugar a day, which might account for some of the obesity.
Smoking was only banned in bars and restaurants here within the last 2 months, just before we got here. Thank you.
And in response to an email, I’m in most of the pictures because Lou uses her I-Phone (from which we can post directly onto the blog site), and I’m in charge of the “proper” camera, from which we cannot, until we get back home.
Anyway, up tomorrow and back home to France.

River Trip

We went down to the river & boarded the Natchez paddle steamer for a 7pm depart. It seems that it really is a paddle steamer, one of only two operating, the other one is in Louisville. The boat itself is 45 yrs old but the paddles are 90 yrs old having been recovered from another vessel. It was a very interesting trip, although in reality there is nothing scenic to see. The Mississippi is a working river & is industrialised either side of the town of New Orleans. The facts & figures that the guide gave were were fascinating together with more information, this time visual, about Hurricane Katrina. We saw the famous levees which do in fact go all the way up to St Louis, a mere 1200 miles. 

The Natchez is quite a big boat & tonight there was a buffet meal provided in 2 sittings. I reckon that each sitting catered for about 200 people & there were plenty of folks who didn’t eat, so I suppose there must have been upwards of 500 people on board. The meal was not haute cuisine but was comparable with most golf club food that I have encountered. The whole thing was very well  organised & a logistical success in limited conditions. 

We wandered back to our hotel via Bourbon St again & this time I had the misfortune to spot of one of the ‘oxymorons’ that I mentioned in last night’s post. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

We are just about all packed & will be settling down soon ready for an earlier start than usual tomorrow.

I’ll round the whole thing up when we get home so keep looking for a few days.

L xx

Preparing For Home 😢

Well, we’ve just done the preliminary packing, for a relatively early departure from New Orleans to Chicago, on to Heathrow, and then into Toulouse. We’ll leave the hotel here about 09.30 Sat and be home about 18.00 Sunday. A long trip.
We haven’t done as much here as we would have liked, but I’m still a bit under the weather.
I did find an old fashioned barber this morning for a wet shave, and when I asked how much, he just said “you sit in the chair, it costs you 20 bucks”. And so I had the shave, beard trim et al, and considered a Brazilian at that price, but not in the window, and not with a cut throat razor!
And now, some general reflections on the trip.
We’ve had a blast, and Lou’s enjoyed it far more than she ever imagined. People are very friendly, and it seems to be sincere, other than in a service environment, at times. Although “How y’all doin'” can get a bit wearing, but that seems to be the norm to the north of New Orleans.
We’ve both learned lots more about popular music, in its many guises, and heard some great live music.
But the food! It’s a 24/7 food culture, with an all pervading smell, usually sugary, rather than savoury. And the mixture on one plate is truly bizarre to a European, with honey on everything, yes really, everything.
There’s very little lamb or duck, it’s beef, pork or chicken/turkey.
An example of a New Orleans snack is crispy Brussels sprouts, with miso sauce and toasted almonds. Say no more.
And it shows in the people, who are either fit or fat, and the fat are easily outweighing the fit (sorry!), especially outside of New York and Chicago. Be careful where you park your bike.
It’s also a TV/sports obsessed nation. We’ve not turned on a single TV during our visit, and yet have seen more TV here in a month than we’ll see in a year at home. They are everywhere.
And the tipping policy is again quite bizarre in our culture. It cost me $10 from the hotel door to our room. You don’t mind when they’re lugging very heavy suitcases, but sometimes it’s silly. And independent to the level of service provided.
Obviously, we’ve been influenced by the people to whom we’ve talked, the museums that we’ve visited etc, but some things do stand out. As Mark explained, if a building downtown (city centre) is empty, you have to still pay taxes, and so quite often they are simply demolished. This gradually leads to an almost post-apocolyptal scenario, which can feel, rather than be, quite threatening. We saw this in Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale etc, with vast parking lots & buildings dotted about. Slowly, cities are trying to rejuvenate downtown areas, but it’s a long, slow process.
The Interstate road network is stunning and driving is pretty straightforward, and the links into the cities are excellent. But they seem to have been ruthlessly built at the expense of the poorer areas and to have displaced/ghetto-ised the blacks. Equally, using local taxes to fund local education means that the rich areas have good schools and the poor areas suffer, which only reinforces poverty and lack of opportunity. Whatever great steps have been taken, there’s clearly lots of secondary discrimination here.
OK, off the soapbox. For our French friends reading this, we were delighted to hear that New Orleans is trying hard to rediscover its very French origins, and has reopened schools who teach in French as their primary language. Although apparently, it’s Parisian French, not Occitan French, nor Cajun, Creole French.
Anyway, we’re off now to cruise the Mississippi on our last evening, aboard a real old paddle steamer.
Keep on rocking!

Fri New Orleans

We have had a morning of pampering. Doug went out to find a barber for a wet shave—apparently closing his eyes in case the barber was using a cut-throat razor! Mine was more infinitely more pleasurable, a manicure followed by a pedicure. My finger nails are always at their best at the end of a holiday. I don’t know how long this will last once household chores & gardening come into the equation again. 

After lunch we have packed our bags ready for the off tomorrow & our marathon trek home. Tonight, however, we have one last treat in store. We are going on a paddle steamer (the genuine article it seems) for a 2hr Jazz cruise along  the Mississippi. Along with the Jazz there will be a buffet table & drinks to sooth us along.