Trip Start Jun 06, 2011
51Trip End May 22, 2012
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Where I stayed
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What I did
LK: The delay meant that the promised scenic highlights would now be hidden under cover of darkness. Cityscapes of the North East – dark before we reached Philadelphia; foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains – slept through Virginia; Louisiana bayou country – wouldn't know. Our new travelling companion, Madeleine, agitated successfully for free food so off we went to the dining car, pleased with our small victory.
KK: A victory not as small as the little plastic bowl the food arrived in was. Some rice, some reconstituted chicken and some unidentifiable brown gloop. It was hilariously awful. However we could not complain about the seats on Amtrack, lots of leg room and wide enough to seat the most expanded of American rumps
LK: We waited a long time in North Carolina, a pattern which was to repeat itself as the day went on. Apparently once you’re off schedule you have to give priority to existing trains/freight which compounds your situation. Six hours delay had meant we would arrive in New Orleans at 1:30am Friday but this was clearly was unattainable. Beginning to feel like I am in prison, and not feeling sufficiently Zen-like to allay this unbelievable frustration.
KK: Becca helped. She was sitting diagonally behind us and was travelling to see her sick grandfather leaving her two kids with her husband. She was hilarious and turned the purgatory into a movie script on her phone, which she read out to us through fits of giggles. A highlight being shortly after an American family had a complete breakdown, with mother who just lost it and her two kids; one of whom had a massive hissy fit and the other who passed the time by trying to block the toilets or empty out the bins.
LK: Beer also helped. Promising not to touch a drop until 6pm, we passed from Eastern Time into Central Time around 5pm, so toying with us for an extra hour
KK: Two hours outside New Orleans we worked out how to make the seats really comfortable (you need two each) but one hour out they came round and collected all the pillows (we had grabbed about five as people got off).We got off the train and picked up our luggage at 4.30 in the morning. Ten and a half hours late and forty hours after arriving at the station in New York. We thought about staying up but the Kingsize bed in our hotel convinced us otherwise. A horrible thing to consider is that this might be the nicest place we stay in (The Sheraton, with spa, pool, gym and view over the Mississippi – thank you Michelle at Dawson and Sanderson) and it was standing empty while we were stuck on that damn train.
LK: I think it was Friday when we stepped out into the 90F heat of New Orleans. But how exciting to be here – fuelled by a bacon, eggs, grits and biscuits breakfast we wandered the grid of the French Quarter before taking our lives into our hands (according to the guide books) and dipping our toes outside the tourist area. The reason for this was to visit St Louis Cemetery No 1 which contains the grave of "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau. Someone had thoughtfully draped a shed snakeskin over her tomb (see pic).
KK: We wandered back to our hotel via the bottom end of Bourbon Street, which is the tackiest part, with strip bars and cheesy adverts
LK: Red beans and rice? We also had the more lexically challenging jambalaya and gumbo which were delicious, good job as I was very tempted by the alligator on the menu instead. Then we took advantage of one of New Orleans greatest selling points, where you can take out your bought beer into the street, so long as it’s in a plastic cup and you finish it before you enter your next bar. What a civilised way to do your sightseeing. Or not, in some places.
KK: Johnny White’s Sports Bar (as recommended by Barry in nyc) is a fine place some way along Bourbon. After that it descends into a whoopin’ and hollerin’ alley of titty-bars and clubs that Bigg Market punters in Newcastle would consider heaven. So we didn’t bother.