Tales of the Cocktail is always an adventure, but even getting there this year was an unexpected adventure.
Based on previous visits to New Orleans, I decided that this time I would arrive a day early and leave the day after the TOTC festival took place. So, on a Tuesday morning I got a flight from Syracuse, NY to Washington DC to catch my connecting flight to NOLA. All went well, in spite of having only a few minutes to get from one gate to another to board the second plane. They were actually boarding as I arrived at the gate. In my seat, I was looking forward to having a cocktail in anticipation of a fairly long flight. We taxied away from the terminal, and then proceeded to drive around the entire airport for the next 20 minutes. The pilot then said that they had been told to change the original direction of take-off, and we were in line. Ten minutes later, he said there was a severe storm front coming in and no planes could take off or land. A half an hour later he said that the entire airport was shut down due to lightning. So, we sat on the plane for another hour. After then storm, the pilot then announced that due to Federal regulations, he and the crew were unable to fly us to New Orleans as they would go over their allotted amount of air time for the day. So, we headed back to the terminal to await another flight.
In the meantime, I texted my wife what had been happening, and as soon as she heard about the cancelled flight, she booked me a sleeper car on Amtrak from DC to NOLA. It was to leave from Union Station at 6:30pm. So, I avoided all the lines of frustrated flyers trying to book other flights, and took a cab to the train station. Of course, it was rush hour in DC by this point and it took a while to get there. All the while, I still hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast or had anything to drink other than a glass of water on the plane. So, after making sure my train ticket was good to go, I sat down at a restaurant in the middle of the station and ordered a dinner of a charcuterie platter (huge!) and a few local beers.
Finally sated, I made my way to the platform only to hear that my train was delayed due to equipment problems. And it continued to be delayed every fifteen minutes for the next few hours. Finally at 9:15pm, I boarded my sleeper car and relaxed. After another beer and a few shots from a bottle of Bushmill’s I bought at the station, I called it a night and slept until 7:00am the next day.
Well, slept isn’t really quite the word. If you’ve never tried to sleep on a train, it’s quite different. Speeding up, slowing down, loud clanking noises from the tracks, conductors making announcements of upcoming stations, etc… woke me up several times during the night. But, it was better than having to sleep in coach or in an airport terminal!
Anyway, the rest of the journey was pleasant, and I got to talk with a few folks at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining car. One woman is from New Orleans and knew all about Tales of the Cocktail. She told me all kinds of insider information on life in the Crescent City and why she loves it. Another gentlemen had just quit his job to move to New Orleans from Washington DC and be near his son and grandchildren. Turns out that his son is a clarinetist who plays a weekly Saturday night gig at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman St. Check them out at http://panoramajazzband.com/
I finally arrived at 10:15pm, took a cab to my hotel and even before I unpacked, walked up to the local Compac store and bought myself an Abita Restoration Ale. Believe me, I need restoring after traveling for nearly 36 hours! I was finally in my second home. Lovely and welcoming New Orleans… #totc