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New Orleans, March 2019

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George K

Conductor
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Sep 7, 2014
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The Chicago Burbs
Mrs. George and I returned to New Orleans last week. Getting to be old and feeble, she we find that limiting our activities to a couple of things per day makes it more relaxing and pleasurable. There's no pressure to "see and do everything" so we take it easy in The Big Easy.

We were in the Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station waiting to board The City of New Orleans (8PM departure). We arrived at about 6:30 and we were enjoying the complimentary fruit, sodas, cheese and other snacks. The lounge is only for first-class (sleeper) passengers. The hoi-palloi sit on plastic seats in the cattle pen coach waiting room. About 15 feet away from us, was an older lady, watching something on her phone/tablet. At first I thought she was talking to someone on the phone, then I realized that she was having a conversation with whatever streaming thing she was watching.

After about 15 minutes, she unbuttoned her blouse, revealing a white tank-top underneath. THen, to the surprise of everyone in the lounge, she took off the tank top. She was naked from the waist up. If that weren’t weird enough, she got up and started walking around the lounge, topless, with her arms crossed in front of her, barely covering her breasts. Everyone in the lounge, of course got really uncomfortable, looking down into their books/phones. I pulled out my phone and snapped a couple of photos and went to talk to the lounge attendant, who was at his desk in a separate part of the lounge.

“Nah, that can’t be,” he said. “I kid you not, I told him, and showed him the photos, and pointed to her as she approached the desk. He told me to wait there, and called security. When he returned, I went back to my spot in the lounge, to find that she had returned to her seat, and had taken off her pants, revealing a set of long-john-like underwear. She was still naked from the waist up.

Security arrived and asked to see my photos, and as we boarded the train, they were still talking to her.

We departed on time, at 8:05. We skipped dinner on the train, having eaten before we got to Union Station. We had our attendant make up our room at about 9, and we settled in for the night.

Since The City of New Orleans has the sleeper cars close to the locomotive, the near-constant horn as it passes grade crossings gets to be a bit of an annoyance, so I've invested in some earplugs that mitigate that. Mrs. George likes to sleep with the drapes in the bedroom open, so I also wear a sleep mask, so I don't see the outside lights.

I awoke at about 6 AM, in Memphis and snapped a shot of what was outside:



It's no surprise that the train goes through some of the most scenic parts of the country, and Yazoo City, Mississippi is no exception:



A few days before departureI was notified that the Army Corps of Engineers had opened a spillway near Lake Ponchartrain, and that the tracks along they way might be flooded. Although the damage was far south of us, the logistics of turning trains around required that we de-train in Jackson Mississippi, and take a 3 hour bus ride to New Orleans. The bus was...horrible. It was crowded, there was no place to move, and we felt like we were in coach on a crappy airline.



Despite the discomfort, we arrived in New Orleans pretty much on time. The bus ride was non-stop from Jackson MS to NOLA (about 3 hours). We caught a cab at the Amtrak station and took a ride to our hotel.
 
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George K

Conductor
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Sep 7, 2014
Messages
1,185
Location
The Chicago Burbs
We stayed at the Roosevelt Waldorf-Astoria in NOLA. This old hotel was the hangout of Huey Long and FDR and JFK have stayed there. When Katrina struck, the hotel took advantage of the disaster and remodeled everything. Though "traditional" looking, you could tell that pretty much everything had been refurbished. Unlike our stay at La Pavillon, there was no shabbiness to be found. We had a suite, and loved it.







The Roosevelt is two block away from Bourbon Street (near Rampart) and this was the view from the living room of our room:



The good thing is that we were across the street from The Ruby Slipper. Unlike many "chain" restaurants, RS had managed to keep some individuality of their fare. We've had breakfast there many times, but never at the French Quarter location. It was pretty tasty, and no wait on Tuesday, our first full day in New Orleans.

 

George K

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The Chicago Burbs
Tuesday morning, we went to the Audobon Insectarium on Canal Street. It's in the same building as the US Post Office, and so, being a Federal Building, everyone's subject to search/metal detectors when you enter. Mrs. George set off every alarm with her total joints (1 shoulder, 2 knees, 1 hip, spinal cord stimulator). When she was "wanded" she tried to explain to the guy about her procedures. She was surprised that he didn't seem to care. I told her that he only cared about guns and bombs. Everything else was irrelevant.



At any rate, the "bug zoo" is really cool. It was our second visit there, and when we return to NoLa, we'll go back again.











Also, if you're hungry, you can get a nice snack there. The Insectarium is kind enough to post nutritonal information:






 

George K

Conductor
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Messages
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The Chicago Burbs
Upon returning to our hotel, I had a couple of (cheap) Scotches We relaxed before our evening excursion to the Balcony Music Club (no cover, no minimum!) to hear our favorite New Orleans band, the Dapper Dandies. On our 3rd trip here, we found a the Balcony Music Club. We stumbled in, and heard, for about half an hour, a fantastic original New Orleans type of Jazz band. They call themselves the Dapper Dandies. Sadly, we only saw them for about half an hour before their set was over, but we mad a point of seeing the entire set on our 4th trip, and we had a great time. Since our trip in 2017 and now, I’ve become FB friends with their lead singer, Tiffany Ann Pollack. She has such a stage presence, and she really carries the band. She has mailed me a CD of her work with the band.

Mrs George consumed two (!) Hurricanes, while I indulged in Virgin Marys.





One of my favorite Hoagy Carmichael ("Heart and Soul") songs: "Lazy Bones."
 

George K

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Of course, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to Jackson (did I trigger anyone?) Square where you can always find some music in front of the Cathedral:











We spent about 20 minutes watching these guys before Mrs. George wanted to go shopping (again) for needlework:

 

George K

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Wednesday we went to the Garden District for shopping, etc. Magazine Street is about 4 miles long, full of quirky shops and fun places to eat. On our way, we noticed a neat telephone in the elevator lobby of our hotel:



Magazine Street exemplifies some of the New Orleans style of architecture, along with some of the more traditional:




We found a neat glass studio there (Pollack Glass) where Mrs. George was able to find a pendant.





One of Mrs George's favorite needlework stores is on Magazine Street as well.




Another store was still upset about the Super Bowl that wasn't.



This is more typical of the architecture along Magazine Street.



 

George K

Conductor
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Messages
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Location
The Chicago Burbs
Friday was our trip to City Park. We had been there a couple of years ago, but the web page said that the Kiddie Amusement Park had opened, so we hopped on the Canal Street Streetcar ($3.00 for an all day pass.

While we waited for the streetcar to arrive, I was able to catch a nice photo of New Orleans being New Orleans:



The ride was great.


The walk along the main drag to the NOLA art museum is quite scenic.







Some of the oak trees are remarkably old.



Check out the root system!



The art museum. We were a bit pressed for time, so we didn't go in. Next time.



The "Big Lake" lets you rent "kayaks" and paddle boats for a nice cruise on the lake at the center of the park. There were all kinds of waterfowl there.





Turtles sunning themselves.



A nice view of "Big Lake."

 

George K

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We left New Orleans, checking out of our hotel at noon. On a Saturday morning, the Ruby Slipper was a lot more crowded than during the week.



We departed from New Orleans United Passenger Terminal at about 1PM, boarding our bus for our three hour ride to Jackson, MS.




We were delighted to see that Amtrak went out of their way to provide wonderful food for our trip through central Mississippi!



Though it's obvious, Amtrak's path is just to the right of our bus ride here. There's a lot of water, coming within 2 feet of the tracks as we go along Lake Ponchartrain.




As we traveled North, I heard a strange "beeeeep" coming from the driver's area. It happened a couple of times, and then became a steady alarm. Our driver pulled over to the shoulder and checked out the coach. When she returned, she told us that a "hose busted" and that we couldn't carry on. She called for another bus and said it would be an hour for it to get to our location. Since we left 90 minutes earlier, I was skeptical. The good news is that, even though it was Mississippi, it wasn't raining, and it wasn't August. Our bus was without any power whatsoever.

We made the best of it, spreading out in the grass. Mrs. George did more needlework, and I listened to a lecture on Biologic Anthropology.





We spread our luggage out, waiting for our rescue bus to arrive.



And, after an hour and a half (what did I say?), arrive it did. We got on, and continued our trip to Jackson, Mississippi.
 

George K

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It took about 10 minutes from our arrival in Jackson, MS for us to leave the busses and board train #58 for Chicago. Mrs. George and I got settled into our bedroom, and headed to the dining car. I posted elsewhere about dinner, but I enjoyed the cheesecake for dessert. Was it the best cheesecake I ever had? Of course not. But, considering I was moving at 79 mph in Mississippi (Mississippi!), I can't, and won't, complain.



The bus ride was surprisingly tiring. I don't know how people do it cross-country. I filled our collapsible cooler with ice, poured myself some (not cheap) Japanese whiskey and returned to our bedroom. I put on my jammies, crawled into the upper bunk and tried to watch some TV.

Too tired. Unplugged everything, put in my earplugs (we were only about 100 feet from the locomotive, and the horn was incessant) and went to sleep.

I awoke in southern Illinois to a nice sunrise over the fields of corn and grain.



We were still an hour behind schedule as we pulled into the station in Champaign.



But, by the time we hit Homewood, we had made up most of the time. The skyline was in view as we approached the city.



And some of the gentrified areas were quite appealing. This is an area that you wouldn't want to go to about 20 years ago.





Pulling into Union Station, I could see the rear of our train.



Despite our late arrival in Jackson, we made up time, arriving in Chicago only about 15 minutes late.

We had a great time (love, LOVE, New Orleans) and we plan to return in the fall.
 

George K

Conductor
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Sep 7, 2014
Messages
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Location
The Chicago Burbs
This was our fifth trip to New Orleans since March 2015. We've become very comfortable with the city, and we take our time doing things - no hurry to see and do everything in a few days.

As I mentioned, our travel is free, on points, do I don't mind spending a bit more for a first-class hotel. We've stayed at The Ritz-Carlton (1), La Pavillon (1), Windsor Court (2), and The Roosevelt Waldorf-Astoria (1). I would not go to La Pavillon again, but the choice of the other three would depend on what kind of rewards I can use.

We are returning in early October, probably staying at the Roosevelt again - though I might switch, after a few days, to the Ritz-Carlton, because of rewards on my credit cards.
 

jiml

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Feb 27, 2019
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Toronto area
Thanks for this great, complete report. NOLA is one of the few cities accessible by Amtrak that we haven't visited and I'd really prefer not to fly. From our location (north of Buffalo, NY) we'd be able to take either the Crescent route or The City, and have been leaning to the former (despite preferring Superliners over Viewliners) - especially with the bus nonsense.
 

Bob Dylan

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May 31, 2009
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Austin Texas
Thanks for this great, complete report. NOLA is one of the few cities accessible by Amtrak that we haven't visited and I'd really prefer not to fly. From our location (north of Buffalo, NY) we'd be able to take either the Crescent route or The City, and have been leaning to the former (despite preferring Superliners over Viewliners) - especially with the bus nonsense.
You should be OK for the Crescent by then, but expect a Late Arrival, #19 is having poor OTPs between Atlanta and New Orleans due to Freight Congestion.

The Food is much better in the Diner ( the City has no Chef)and of course Viewliner Roomettes are much Superior to Superliner Roomettes!
 
Joined
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Excellent report with a great collection of photos. Haven't done New Orleans since the late 90's, I hope to get there this year. The hotel looked terrific.
 

anumberone

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Los Angeles
I woke up at 3:30 am, couldn't sleep and stumbled into your trip. Really enjoyed the ride. Thank you!
 
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