FROM THE BIG APPLE TO THE BIG EASY

So apparently it’s pronounced ‘New Or-lins’, not ‘New Or-leens’ as Hoff and I have been saying. How embarrassment. Not to worry, poor pronunciation corrected, we find ourselves in the Big Easy – but not without a few stops along the way.

We made two (almost insultingly short) stopovers on our way from NYC: one night in Washington DC and one night in Baltimore.

We arrived to DC at lunchtime on Friday and hit the tourist trail. And then it started raining. Hard. So we bought an umbrella and a very attractive plastic poncho. Then the rain stopped. You’re welcome tourists of DC.

Anyway, we forgot about our meteorological woes and prepared ourselves to do what surely most people plan on doing when they visit DC: re-enact that scene from Forrest Gump where they have a reunion in the middle of the Reflecting Pond by the Lincoln Memorial. And what do you know? The Reflecting Pond is currently the Non-reflecting Ditch of Mud due to the construction of a replacement. Apparently it is a very necessary replacement and is going to cost $US30 million. Pfft. You’d think they could have waited until after we visited.

Never mind, DC is iconic and stunning regardless of inclement weather and ad hoc large-scale maintenance. It was a mammoth afternoon of walking but we saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Non-reflecting Ditch of Mud, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial, the White House and the Capitol Building. It was epic. By the end of the day I may have even used the zoom on my camera to have a closer look at certain statues because I couldn’t be bothered actually walking over and looking at them. Don’t judge me.

Our accommodation in DC is worth a special note – the Mount Vernon Square Bed & Breakfast. I’ll level with you here – Hoff is not a big fan of Bed & Breakfasts. I think he prefers the anonymity of a big hotel where you can come and go when you please unnoticed. Anyway, as I am the official travel agent and what I say goes, I booked us in to this B&B for our only night in DC. And I pleased to report that Hoff now reports a ‘whole new appreciation for Bed & Breakfasts’. It was that good. It was a stately brownstone that has been designated a historical building, and the owners, Keith and Lydia, have renovated and filled the property with a beautiful collection of furniture and artifacts from many years of world travel. It was like coming home at the end of the day, especially after the hustle and bustle of New York City. And the breakfast was amazing too, more on that to follow.

Our second stopover was one night in Baltimore. We were booked to fly out of Baltimore Washington International Airport to go to New Orleans anyway, so we figured a change of scenery might be in order for the night prior. I’m a little ashamed to report that our experience of Baltimore scenery on this particular occasion was limited to the interior of the hotel laundry and a post office (me) and the interior of the hotel gym (Hoff). But it was good to have a break from sight-seeing and get some ‘life admin’ done nonetheless.

Now, further to my list of things that I had hoped to achieve on this trip, the following is a list of things that I have achieved quite without anticipating that I’m still pretty chuffed about:

  • I ate fried green tomatoes for breakfast cooked by Lydia in Washington DC (not green, incidentally)
  • I passed through a metal detector on my way into a post office in Baltimore. I hope you appreciate those post cards, Grandma.
  • I shared a lift with a drag queen in New Orleans (not clear if it was a Halloween costume or standard Friday night attire. Not important really.)

So on to New Orleans. Our first night in New Orleans was spent eating shrimp and grits (tick) and watching the seventh game of the baseball World Series (which is a US-only competition – go figure). Incidentally, the St Louis Cardinals won which I was stoked about because (a) I read in Sports Illustrated that St Louis Cardinals fans are known as the ‘BIBF’ – Best Fans in Baseball’; even cheering the opposing team for a job well done and (b) because Meet Me in St Louis is one of my all-time favourite movies. I know, I’m a serious sports fanatic.

Hoff has been like a kid in a candy store here when it comes to the array of sports on offer here. Apart from baseball he has been enjoying the NFL, college football and ice hockey too. At this point I’m kind of thankful for the NBA season lockout.

The amount of world sporting knowledge that Ryan has boggles the mind. Everywhere we go, he knows something about the local sport, the team, or the players. And I mean everywhere. Sometimes he can even tell the locals a thing or two that they may not have known themselves. As we meander around the streets of the US (note to self: must try to use the excellent word ‘meander’ more), he spouts an endless stream of location-appropriate sports trivia. So much so that sometimes I forget to listen. And when I do, there is so much to take in that I become quite concerned that all this trivia is taking up a disproportionate amount of mental real estate in my brain. Mum, Dad – if I come home and I seem to have forgotten birthdays, names or places, it’s because I have had to erase childhood memories to remember that it took the New Orleans Saints 43 years to win a Superbowl, at which time they ceased being known as the ‘Aints’ as opposed to the Saints. Thanks for that, Hoff.

Anyway, after a morning wandering around the stunning properties of the Garden District here in New Orleans (we dropped in on Sandra Bullock for a cuppa but she wasn’t home), we are having some quiet time before we head out to the French Quarter to have a Bourbon on Bourbon Street and find somewhere to watch USC Trojans v Stanford on TV. Of course.

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