After two hours in the traffic to get to the airport on Friday afternoon (left home in Moema at 4pm and arrived at 6pm), I still had to stand in an endless queue for about one hour and a half to check in, and another good hour to go through the security service. The plane took off about fifteen minutes later than scheduled, which after all was not that bad. All is relative.
The flight was smooth and I got an unexpected birthday present as I was the only passenger who managed to have three free seats to myself. Therefore, I was able to stretch my legs and sleep a while before landing at Dallas airport at 6 am on Saturday. In Dallas, the adventure began. A group of 30 or more people (me included) waited anxiously for our luggage to appear on the carroussel belt. After no more suitcases were spit out through the hole, we consulted the man in charge who told us there was nothing else there. Two minutes later, we were told to retrieve them at our final destination and complain at the American Airlines counter there if nothing arrived. Some people, who were pressed for time to take their connections, left immediately. I lingered for some time more and ten minutes later we were told the missing lot had been retrieved and was on its way. Mine was the first to appear so I rushed through customs and checked it in again to Nola. I had to wait for another hour in the queue for security check and finally boarded the plane at 9 am.
One hour and a quarter later, I landed in New Orleans. It was sunny and very warm (32 C). Paul, a driver hired by Merlot, was holding up a card with my name: B. Dieu so I identified myself and went to get my luggage. To my surprise, the suitcase, which I had locked with the security lock and key, had been forced open. I found a card inside saying it had been screened by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). When I complained to the AA attendant, she said she could do nothing about it. Apparently, there are more people having the same problems. In short – I shouldn’t have locked it and that nobody was liable for damage to my locks. I bought my small silver Samsonite two months ago and only used it once, so you can imagine how happy I was to see a wobbly handle and the locks broken into. So if travelling anywhere, check out these tips.
The airport is about 17 miles from downtown so after a 20-minute drive, Paul carried my bags to the Sheraton front desk, where I was met with preferential service all the way, from the moment I checked in to the fruit platter in the room and kind note from the manager on my desk. I am on the 47th floor, with access to the club service and an incredible view on the Mississipi river.
After unpacking, sending a quick mail to the family saying I arrived safely and a long shower, I ventured out into the heat of the afternoon to explore the surrounding area. I managed to find a cable to download my photos at Radio Shack and did some window-shopping at a shopping mall nearby to escape from the quick but heavy rain. At about 6 pm, I walked all the way down Decatur street, crossed the rails next to Toulouse station and headed straight to the riverside , where I took a two-hour steamboat tour down the Mississipi – a wise decision I thought, as I sat on the top deck and learnt about the sights along the way, the cool breeze , the superb sunset and the New Orleans skyline and waterfront all lit up on our way back (must learn how to take night pics – this is the only one that came out).
I will make another post on the Sunday excursion tonight but the photos are already on Flickr so if you have any questions or comments, leave them here or there. If there is anything you recommend I do during this stay, write it on your own blogs and link it here.