On my fiftieth birthday, Garry and I went to New Orleans.
It was a gastronomic delight. Every place we ate was better than the last, including the breakfast bar on the corner and the hamburgers in the gin joint down the street. From the moment we got on the airplane and headed south, we focused on where we’d eat as well as trying to figure out where to drink and listen to music. Everyone on our flight was doing the same thing.
Reservations are competitive.
Turned out to be simpler than we expected. We handed our list to the concierge. He worked out the schedule and made the reservations. Nice!.
One event would not take place at a restaurant, though dinner was included. The trip down the Mississippi on a paddle wheeler which we were going to do on my birthday. It was my 50th and our official excuse for being in New Orleans. We had planned the boat trip for The Big Day.
Let me get right to the point. It was the only experience in the whole week that wasn’t great. Every other thing we did — from the tour of the swamps where we met the alligators, to each meal we ate — met or exceeded our expectations. The cuisine was exquisite, the service was warm, friendly, and efficient.
There was music in the air everywhere. The drinks were big, strong, and delicious. Unlike the real world, you could walk around the streets with a tall drink in your hands and no one would care. Probably because they were clutching similar beverages.
It turned out, the paddle wheeler wasn’t a paddle wheeler. In the sense that it didn’t have a paddle wheel. When I asked where the paddle wheel was, the “guy” explained that there weren’t enough people booked this trip to bring out one of the big boats that had paddle wheels, but this was a steam boat. So what was my problem?
I wanted the paddle wheel. I felt cheated, but I was coping like an adult. Until they lined us up — just like kids in a school trip — and marched us to the steam trays. Where they had the limp vegetables, mystery meat, jello (take your pick, red or green), and a few other anonymous items that invited me to move on.
If your future plans include a trip to New Orleans — and it should — make sure your paddle wheeler has a paddle wheel. Bring a picnic lunch. Or eat before (or after) your excursion. Don’t eat their food, even if you are hungry. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you.