Friday, October 17, 2014

New Orleans – My first trip overseas

New Orleans

This is an old note that I found I had wrote four years ago back after a trip to New Orleans from Melbourne. It was my first trip overseas and so I found my first experience of the world beyond Melbourne, to be in the land of hopes and dreams in the United States and through the recovering city of New Orleans. The home of Jazz and a place only recently hit by Huricane Katrina, and during the time of my visit, the region had just been hit by the BP oil spilt, so there was some interesting creative measures by the locals to keep business going. More on that soon.


So after my first visit I had the following experience and observations:
I found the US to be a remarkably different place from what I initially pictured it to be.  The LAX airport was slow, busy and confusing. I found it so easy to get lost in the process and many ‘visitors’ spent hours waiting to be accepted in through immigration. Customs was quite for travelers like myself were going to catch a connecting flight, so that didn’t stop me from getting lost after finally making it through the process and walking out of the International terminal towards a Domestic terminal one. A newbie traveller, I didn't realise it at first but the airline I was travelling with at the time (Delta airlines) didn’t have baggage included in the package so I had to pay extra to get that on board! LAX did have staff here and there to assist, but the directions from signage assisting you in where you need to go is quite poor, you have to go up a general lift at one point, go outside etc. I had to ask a few people where to go.

The flight from Melb to LA seemed a bit endless at times, but I managed to squeeze in sleep, food, a few movies. A Confucius movie was really captivating me, as listening to the business radio. A quick little tip - bring your own music as the music changes volume length etc. too often but be wary of power as only premium eco or above have access to power points. Use so use wisely.

Shoes must be taken off in a US flight entry check, along with no water bottles allowed to be carried on at all. I slept on that plane for most of the journey to New Orleans. Headphones is a must for domestic airlines like Delta that don’t supply it them free for you. You’d end up buying a crappy one you’ll throw away. The screens for a flight movie were shared between six as well and no sound if you didn’t have a headphone set.
Walking out of New Orleans was much hotter than I expected. Being under aircon is a breeze. The airport is pretty rundown and it can get easy to get lost or be unsure at first. Once you get your head around it, it’s not that bad. I was walking out of the domestic flight zone unsure if I missed the spot to pick up my baggage. It turns out that it would be waiting for me once I left that zone (after inquiring about it). Oh, the toilets in the US are massive! The seat is huge and there is a massive bowl filled quite high with toilet water. Guaranteed toilet splash that’s for sure which always feels so weird.

Yep, I'm one of those weird people that take pictures of toilets... couldn't help it after watching the Simpsons episode with Bart going to Australia..
Post-hurricane Katrina the city and streets are full of life. I did a mini tour on a shuttle bus to the hotel route and toured the town on foot later in the evening. Great nightlife I’d say, so much free jazz and hotdogs! Heaps of drinking places (and adult entertainment as well if that’s your thing). The bars are funny down this street called ‘Bourbon St’ which is the main nightlife street that I found. So many people walking up and down the street, people on balconies from hotels, bars and stripclubs yelling, screaming, drinking and throwing things down at guys trying to lure them into the venues. The bouncers are funny, always trying to direct people in with their hands, trying to psychologically get you suddenly feeling like you should be doing as they say and entering their venue.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans (during the day...)

At the end of the street was pretty funny, there was a voodoo (gypsy) shop there. Maccas (McDonalds) was an interesting experience too, yes I was looking for an okay place for dinner but as I hadn’t eaten much in the last 5-6 hours I gave in and waited in the long line for something quite and snappy to eat. Little did I know hotdogs were also around so I thought even though my boss’s had a funny dissatisfaction towards them. I wanted to taste that for myself. Tomorrow I’d said.

I ended up through the Casino a couple of times too, once to change money as the hotel had a ridiculously poor rate of 0.67 AUD to USD (I found out later after I checked - so it very nice of them to tell me), and the Casino which was kindly recommended to me had a much better rate of 0.78. That’s still ridiculous compared to the 0.83-0.84 that I remember seeing in Melbourne. Ah and there was me thinking the hotel would give an awesome rate... I ended up changing $127 into $102.55 or something along those lines...  On my second visit, I got bored so I went to learn how to place this Caribbean type game called ‘let me go’ or something. Anyways, after losing about $20-30, I ended up getting a full house (11:1) and since I bet on some funny $1 bonus bet, I received $75 more. $20 times 11 equals $220 = $295, plus $5 tip to dealer. I must have had $25 chips out as well as I ended up with a total of $330. The table minimum went up $5 and I didn't want to find myself stuck in a gambling habit, so I left the table after that win. Surprising everyone on the table who must have felt that I was leaving the table on a winning streak! Still, quit while you’re ahead I’d say...

I only realised later that that baccarat as that was my original intended game since I wanted to win on a dragon bonus (I have a thing for dragons). After watching, I felt inclined to give it a go. But after a while, I realised it would be silly, and I cashed in my chips. I needed to make sure I quit while I was ahead ;)

On another day I explored the city areas, walked along freeways, past what I felt were the 'ghettos' that were often noted in those raps songs. I also came across a nice seafood festival, or shall I say more specifically an Oyster festival, as there were so many little oyster booths around. I tried some and it wasn't too bad. I later saw local constituents on stage having an oyster eating competition, essentially showing and demostrating to locals that the seafood was still safe to eat, even after the BP oil spill in the gulf region. Good on them to do that!

All in all, it was a great first trip to the US and having New Orleans as the first foreign city (aside from the quick stopover in LA) to visit. The people were nice and friendly and I loved exploring the city. It was a perfect first overseas visit for me!


Lazy people, and the seafood festival in the background

French Market

Inside French Market

Army tank somewhere. I think it was near the museum

Random sitting area inside the army museum



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