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New Orleans - Part 1

New Orleans - Part 2

New Orleans - Part 3




Tasting bourbon straight from the barrel
On the Kentucky

Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Lounge on 4th St in downtown Louisville
An Urban Bourbon Weekend


Inside the Grand Hall
An Anniversary in St Louis by Rail


Boston's Freedom Trail


Getting ready to toast our trip!
Chicago to Seattle aboard the Empire Builder


It was already Wednesday and our train was scheduled to leave... but not until 1:00 pm! Eschewing the top of the Hilton for a closer view at street level, there was a bit of time for one last foray into "The Quarter".   Some of us were suffering from beignet withdrawal and Yvonne and I had the day before seen just the place to assuage our cravings: a neat little place on Bourbon tucked back away from the street.

The beignet -- a cross between a French pastry and an American doughnut and smothered in powdered sugar -- is a caloric treat that will add pounds to your body with a single glance.  But they are sooooo good, it's almost impossible to resist.  Cafe Beignet's version is gigantic, so we got two and split them amongst the four of us, washing them down (so to speak) with a glass of champagne.  What a way to finish our too-short excursion!

A rather large and severe storm (how appropriate...) was fast approaching from the west, necessitating a hasty retreat to the hotel to finish packing and check out of our luxurious quarters.  We bid farewell to Mr. Lawson, thanking him again for his efforts and for the incredible hospitality at the Hilton.  He assured us that he had done nothing beyond the ordinary.  Perhaps.  But it certainly was nice to be made to feel so very special. 

A short taxi ride to the train station got us there just in time to watch a torrential downpour begin, replete with beaucoups lightning and thunder.  Although earlier than we would have preferred, we were all grateful to be dry; outside the station, the storm raged.

We eventually boarded the train and were shown to our rooms; departure took place precisely on time.  The good news is that the ride back to Chicago was a vast improvement over what we experienced on the way down... and certainly a welcome relief; it was a very proper way to finish an excellent adventure!  We tracked the storm most of the way home, but heard little of the thunder and none of the rain that occasionally pelted down.  We simply enjoyed the ride, the very good dinner and the service -- all as good as I recall from previous Amtrak journeys. 

Arriving in Chicago, it was as if we never left: the sun was shining, birds were singing, the temperature was headed for 80 degrees again and the trees and flowers were almost in full bloom (all of this in the third week of March, no less!).

It seemed as if it were over almost before it began, the sounds, sights and smells of New Orleans all too suddenly becoming a distant memory.  But I do remember Mr. Lawson's advice: "Make sure you come back.  You could visit here twice a year and never do or see the same things twice."  I believe it, and I do plan to return.  For now, I was looking at my lawn, where the grass in my absence had risen to cover my ankles.  I would have to mow... today.  But that would not deter me from thinking how soon we could manage the next trip.  I fired up the mower, put on my headset and played a song:

The City of New Orleans
by Steve Goodman

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

1970, 1971 EMI U Catalogue, Inc and Turnpike Tom Music (ASCAP)




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