The big easy....
Part of the reason we chose to stop in Merida was that it had an international airport with flights to the US. We booked a flight to New Orleans via Dallas that should have had us in by about 9.30pm that evening.
Merida airport is very small but we almost missed our flight. Neither Shelly or I heard the call for our flight even though we were sitting right beside the gate. One of the staff had to come and get us and escort us aboard. The stewardess kindly advised the whole plane that "the Markham's' are now aboard so we can take off." It was little embarrassing.
The descent into Dallas was a little rough thanks to a storm system, although the weather around the airport seemed pretty clear. Texas has somewhat unpredictable weather at this time of year. We were expecting the immigration checks coming from Mexico would be painful as usual, but the processing couldn't have been smoother. It was in fact the smoothest we'd encountered in the US, probably because it was largely automated. But arriving at our gate, we were disappointed to discover our flight had been delayed an hour and was due to leave at 9pm. Oh well. We wandered off to the foodhall for dinner - tacos! When we got back the flight had been pushed back to 9.30pm. Great! Then 10.30pm. Now, not so great.
American Airlines handling of the delays left a lot to be desired. The staff continually provided dubious updates and contradictory instructions. Two other delayed flights were directed to the same gate as ours, resulting in total chaos as no one knew which flight was leaving where or when. Everyone was terribly frustrated.
About 11pm American Airlines advised that the plane for New Orleans was ready but they had no pilots and so were flying them in from another airport. The weather had turned by this point so no one knew when they would land. It didn't help ease the frustration. The pilots finally arrived near midnight and it looked as though we might finally get away by about 1am. It was a relief to board the plane at least.
I'm not sure when we left but it was late. I think we arrived in New Orleans a little after 2am, but then - grave disappointment - all our luggage had been left in Dallas. In fact, due to weather problems in Dallas planes had been backed up all day and people's luggage was simply not being shipped. So we joined the 30 other people who's luggage had failed to make the plane filing a lost luggage claim. This took ages because the baggage handlers had actually gone home and the clerical staff had to pack up the luggage rolling around on the carousels because their owners were either still in Dallas or had arrived earlier in the day. What a debacle!
We arrived at our hotel a little less than enthused at 3.30am. The hotel staff were very sympathetic and helpful, giving us a bag of spare toiletries so that we could at least clean ourselves up, and with that we crashed.
Really New Orleans
We had a food tour booked at 11am the next morning but our bags still hadn't arrived so we had to rewear our clothes. Disappointingly, the skies opened up with torrential rain at 10am and showed no signs of let up. Our umbrellas and rain coats were in Dallas of course, so we had to buy a couple of ponchos, not that that helped keep us particularly dry.
After a fraught run across town, ducking from landing to landing to avoid the rain, we arrived at the tour meeting point and... the rain stopped. Thank you God! The tour, led by a retired school principle who shared an equal love of food and history, was excellent, and when we returned to our hotel three hours later we were very pleased to find our bags. Thank you God again!
That night we indulged in that particular New Orleans tradition of street drinking as wandered Bourbon Street. New Orleans allows street drinking as long as the container is not made of glass. All the bars offer their drinks in plastic 'travellers' cups.
After a good loosening up we set off to Coops Restaurant. Ten years ago we'd washed up at Coops after a particularly big night, rather tired and emotional and ate what we believed was 'The Worlds Best Fried Chicken in the World.' It was worth the double superlative. Of course, sober heads later prevailing, we could never be sure that it wasn't our hangovers that had swayed our judgement. We were determined to put Coops to the test.
We arrived to find the place packed and a queue outside. We slipped inside to read the chalkboard menu on the wall and sat down temporarily at an empty 8 seater table by the door. When the waitress saw us she bawled us out for sitting down without permission so we skulked outside. The group ahead of us in the queue, who were about 8 people, were agitating to claim the table. The waitress, who's attitude could be said to be a little 'fiery', didn't appreciate these customers' comments and a furious argument erupted, leading the whole group to storm off. Suddenly we were at the head of the queue - two please! Another couple came up behind us and registered their interest in a table for two, and then we all waited out on the sidewalk. A minute later the waitress came out with a proposition - if we all wanted to sit together we could have the big table, otherwise a table for two could be about 30 minutes. We elected to form a party of four. It turned out to be a very good night. Our table guest turned out to be the lead singer in a band called, 'Cookie Cutter Killer' and he was in New Orleans to celebrate his birthday. We had a night of great conversation and - YES, I am happy to say Coops Fried Chicken IS THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN IN THE WORLD. Their jambalaya is pretty damned good too.
The next day were a little slow moving so we had a late brunch and cocktails at Napoleon's, one of New Orlean's oldest bars.
Then we wandered into the newer part of town to visit the National World War Two Museum. The museum gets saturation advertising in New Orleans, especially the 4D movie presentation "Beyond all Limits", narrated by Tom Hanks. Unfortunately, neither the museum, nor especially the movie, are very good. Both provide a very propagandistic and factually incorrect interpretation of World War Two. The movie is, I would say, pretty dreadful and Shelly fell asleep within minutes, that's how bad it was.
That night we hit a tiki bar for the usual lethal cocktails and walked away with a set of glasses - something else to pack in our bag!
The next morning we moved hotels. We'd decided to stay another night to make up for the one we lost because of the flight. The second hotel was near to the World War Two museum so it meant another trek across town - so we took a cab. The Old 88 was a magnificent restoration of an old warehouse and quite spectacular. When we got into our room (early) we were kicking ourselves that we didn't choose this hotel first off. We'd looked at it several times on Booking.com but always thought it was a little too far out. It was, but it was so good it made up for it. It was also just across the street from a Popeyes, so lunch was sorted!!
Why is it that Australia only has the shittest American fast food, like McDonalds and Burger King, while great fast food chains like Popeyes don't get a look in?
We shopped, wandered the streets, visited the garden district and generally wore ourselves out before we headed into the Jazz bars at xx that night. I was wearing my bowling shirt with the naked lady and got grabbed by a couple of burlesque dancers who were spruiking for a show. I was keen but Shelly wasn't so much .
The next day we picked up a hire car from Europcar, just up the street from our hotel. It was time for a road trip!