We have been away for two weeks – to Mexico, Cuba and Canada – yet all the travel just seemed like a prelude to getting back to the Crescent City.
Cuba was terrific and an eye-opener yet again for me. Things have changed there, if almost imperceptibly. Like visiting a friend’s house and knowing that the furniture has been subtly rearranged. It is also definitely more expensive now that they insist on all tourists using the Cuban Convertible Peso. If you get a chance you should go there before it opens up even more to the West.
Havana is an amazing city that seems to be falling in on itself though now many of the buildings are being repaired or renovated. It might have two and a half million people but only the traffic of a city of about 250,000. How they keep the old American cars going is a miracle. The live music in the cafes is uniformly good though I do not care if I ever hear ‘Guantanamera’ again.
A day trip to Vinales revealed the beautiful countryside and the thousands of turkey vultures that circle the sky (hardly as attractive as eagles close up). Visited Ernest Hemingway’s house on the outskirts of Havana, the Ambos Mundos hotel where he stayed when he first arrived and some of the many bars at which he drank.
After two nights on the beach at Varadero it was off to Toronto, which was in a cold snap that neatly matched the days we spent there. Saw Nick Lowe at The Phoenix Theatre and he was superb as usual. Met Ron Sexsmith there and had a chat. He is off to tour Japan and says that there is not a lot of interest in him going to Australia. Surely someone will bring him out, his last album Late Bloomer was great.
A visit to Niagara Falls allowed us to get completely soaked as the boat sailed into the spray. They give you a poncho to wear but they don’t tell you that you are going to be drenched. We wondered why the Japanese on the boat before were not looking happy when they alighted.
From the cold of Toronto to the inviting warmth of New Orleans. It will surprise no-one that the first thing I did was to visit the Louisiana Music Factory and buy some CDs. No surprise either that we went to Adolfo’s on Frenchman St for dinner. The double cut pork chop was enormous, the sauce delicious. I do not know how they cook the chop so perfectly. Graham and I barely managed to finish them. The waiter was impressed. The girls each had the rack of lamb and reported it as superb.
Anyway, it nearly finished me off. Just made it back to the Cafe Du Monde for coffee (definitely no beignets!)
Tomorrow everyone else on the Off The Record tour arrives and we have the welcome dinner at the Maison Dupuy.