Thursday 6 August 2009

Lost in Louisiana, part 2

I am in the process of transferring travel stuff from my old travel site to this blog. This is the trip where I got culture shock in the USA. Hope it doesn't make too many Americans laugh at me too much!

We were in New Orleans to do touristy things so on our very first full day we had to get to grips with the 'packages' that are on offer just about everywhere. For example, if you go to the aquarium, you can buy a special ticket that includes, say, a paddleboat ride on the Mississipi. This is what we naively did. We did explain at the time that we wanted to take the evening boat ride, which we hoped would be less busy and more interesting. We were told by the ticket seller that it would be no problem but we soon discovered when we went to buy our tickets for the boat that evening rides were not covered in the 'package'. Since we remained resolute there followed a very long process in which we attempted to get our ticket reimbursed and buy new individual tickets. After that, we left the packages alone, having discovered that they were arranged for the convenience of the commercial process rather than for ours.

The aquarium at New Orleans is a nice aquarium, and the IMAX cinema is a nice IMAX cinema. We have seen such things before, but we are quite fond of undersea creatures, so are always willing to see some more. The most interesting exhibits at the aquarium are the leafy sea-dragons and the sea combs, but it was also interesting to see the exhibits on the Lousiana bayou fish and learn more about the ecosystem of the area we were visiting. Apart from that, I was just revelling in the nice warm sunlight after a long, cold winter at home. The restaurant in which we ate lunch surpassed all my expectations. It turned out to be the best food of the trip in a laid back atmosphere, though I was a bit purturbed by our neighbours who cheerfully revealed everything everything there is to know about their investment portfolios and best acquaintances' love lives by speaking in very loud voices.

The afternoon included a trip to the local supermarket to buy food for our breakfasts. This was more interesting than you might imagine. I think Mike has been out of America too long because he can be completely thrown by everyday life there. This supermarket was quite large, but it seemed as if the only things it contained were a hundred types of orange juice, a hundred types of cream cheese, and a hundred types of bagels. Mike wanted plain ordinary orange juice, made from oranges. Unfortunately what was available was orange juice without pulp and no calcium, orange juice without pulp and with calcium, orange juice with extra pulp and without calcium, orange juice with extra pulp and with calcium. I was equally phased since I ended up choosing cream cheese with chilli peppers in and bagels with blueberries in. I only realised afterwards that the two do not go well together. And the most amazing thing is that the reverse combination would also have been possible.

Evening came, and with it our hard won boat ride. I had always dreamed of riding in a paddle boat and now I was to get my chance. It was still light when we boarded and we soon realised what a wise thing we had done coming in the evening. We had seen the boat leave a couple of times during the day, with people packed in like sardines. In the evening, there was a seat for everyone who wanted one, and no queue at the bar.

With the blare of a horn we set off, and spent much of the next hour admiring brightly painted tugs, oil ships and other industrial types of boats while drinking cocktails and listening to the music of the live band. After a while, we got a bit cold and went to explore the boat. We spent a long time trying to photograph the paddles that drove it, then discovered that the engine room was open to be viewed and that it was warm in there. I have always been very interested in engines but perhaps not quite so much as Mike. He soon got into conversation with the driver and dug himself into the engine room for the rest of the night. Rather a mistake on his part, since no sooner was I back on the deck when a guy started talking with me. His conversation, which was about my camera and the methods of photographing cities at night, seemed so innocent that I might not even have suspected he was chatting me up, if he had not vanished in a flash when I mentioned my husband.

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