Now that Tristan and I have a "regular" routine, we have been able to make plans for a few trips. "Turbo Tourism" is on the agenda ladies and gentlemen!
The first turbo trip was down into the DEEP south.
First stop: New Orleans. NO (as the locals seemed to label it left right and centre) is by no means a big city. It's almost Canberra size - just with a population 4 times bigger! Tristan treated me to a very fancy hotel room on the 33rd floor with a view of the Mississippi river and the French quarter. Conveniently, it was also only a few blocks away from Bourbon street. After walking Bourbon street in the afternoon, we sampled the local cuisine (deep fried seafood) and watched as the night came alive! Despite being a Tuesday night the street was packed with people, drinking frozen daiquiris from plastic cups, and barely legal ladies inviting the general population into their pavilions of fun and pleasure.
While Tristan (literally) drank up the ambiance, I had a horrible realisation that I was an innocent! As worldly as I thought I was - well Bourbon street cleared me up of those misconceptions quick-fast! It was GOLD! Probably not a place to be pregnant and sober, but fantastic all the same! Definitely a place to play and go wild! I have no idea how a person would survive mardi gras there, but I would love to find out! A very memorable night, despite needing to go to bed at 1030 because I simply couldn't stand any longer.
The next day we explored the French quarter and ate breakfast at one of the well known french "patisseries" Cafe Du Monde. So disappointing! The drinks came in a can, and the only food you could order were beignets- a doughnut kind of thing that tasted like the soles of your shoes - ewww! The water front was nice, but it was easy to see how the city flooded. It's mostly at or below sea level and the drainage is limited... but it is iconic.
We then drove East to go on a swamp tour. I wasn't too keen, but as it turns out, it was one of the best things we have done so far. We saw so many beautiful birds, racoons, and of course alligators. It was a great experience. I think most of the wild life have a sugar addiction as the tour guides fed all the animals marshmallows (which they couldn't get enough of!). It was really an "oh wow" moment when you realised the diversity the region. Of course, it was also the moment that Tristan discovered that my feet had doubled in size and were squeezing out between the gaps of my sandals... travel + humidity = embarrassment and very sore feet!
Shortly after we left Louisiana and entered into Mississippi and we finally saw the "beach". Sure it was man made, manicured and looked about knee deep as far as the eye could see, but it was water enough to make us feel a bit home sick. We dipped our feet into the Gulf of Mexico, drove passed about 10 casinos and finally caught up with Tristan's father, Roger. It was so nice to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice so far away from home. RJ definately could feel it, as it was from that moment that he started wiggling like a little worm - and just hasn't stopped!!!
The next morning, despite having an opportunity to sleep in, we got up early to start the next adventure. But first, there was that Tornado warning - a lovely alarm clock whatever the time of day. We jumped into the car and kept heading east (past the storm) into Alabama and found a huge memorial park complete with battleship, submarine and huge air hanger. It was slightly raining when we arrived, so we looked in the hanger first. It was awesome. There were mostly "modern" aircraft so I could actually recognize a few of them. Tristan, as always, went snap happy especially when we saw the Blackbird (only aviation geeks will appreciate that one). Then outside it started to rain, and pour and rain a little more. Tristan braved weather to have a look at the sub, while I stayed safe in the hanger, looking a pictures of the damage Katrina did to the displays. A few minutes later Tristan came back a drowned rat and we decided to hit the road again.
A few miles further down the road, we made Florida - well the very western edge of Florida anyway. Our destination was the naval aviation museum. It was this massive building, filled top to bottom with planes. There were no spaces or gaps - it was just all planes! However, they were mostly older aircraft. Tristan scurried around taking photos and I strolled around slowly. There were displays on space aeronautics that were cool, but all in all I think I appreciated the Alabama memorial park more. While there Tristan sweet talked his way into a back stage tour of the museum's flight line. The guide was a retired bloke that just wanted to have a yarn and tell his stories. It was really nice and he had a couple of stories about Australia.
We then jumped back into the car and drove back through Florida and Alabama to Mississippi to spend another night with Roger. Spending time with both Tristan and his Dad makes you remember how many similar mannerisms they have. One would answer a question and if you weren't paying attention you would have sworn that it was the other one replying. It still makes me laugh when that happens. The Apperley traits have bred true and strong between father and son. I just know RJ would have joined in if he could.
It was another early morning and we headed back to Louisiana to fly home. First we visited the American WWII museum. After spending so much time studying this period of time it was very interesting to hear the story from a US perspective. The museum was very much like the War Memorial in Canberra (thought much smaller), however, it had this fabulous Steve Spielberg/ Tom Hanks movie at the start that walked you through the war. It was "4D" but of greater value was that it visually showed so much of the story that a still museum just isn't able to do. The academic in me picked at all the (huge) gaps (and bias) in the story, but it was very interesting to see it through the eyes of another.
3 hours at the airport, and a 3 hour flight back to Denver and we were home! Happy feet (or at least feet returning to a "normal" size)
Following 4 states in 4 days I was exhausted, and poor Tristan had to turn around and go straight back to work the next morning. But it was worth it: seeing Roger's face as he got to look at the sonogram photos of his grandson, watching Tristan boast about life, getting to see so many of the sights and delights of the aviation world in a few days, seeing (and tasting) the south, and ticking a few states off our to-visit list. Happy family! But exhausted!
We have Thanksgiving in a few days. We are hosting.... gee I hope I don't ruin the turkey. I'll let you know...