It was truly wonderful to see everyone. We hadn’t seen family and friends for several years and so it was lovely to catch up with so many people. I had 3 main worries about going (if you don’t count the bit where I cringe at the thought of spending money. That’s not so much a worry as being a cheap-ass.)
Worry One: Being hungry. We are vegan and I am wheat free and Louisiana is about meat and meat and more meat. It was a very unfriendly place for plant eating people the last time we were there. Plus now the no wheat issue can make choosing food a bit trickier.
Worry Two: My back would hurt. I have some back issues stemming from a twice broken coccyx that won’t allow me to sit down for too long comfortably and this trip was all about the travel--sitting on an aeroplane for nearly 10 hours as well as numerous car journeys. We flew into New Orleans and needed to get all the way to Monroe. That’s a lot of travel time.
Worry Three: That my allergies would be out of control due to aggressive Louisiana pollen and pet hair. Yes--being severely allergic to animal dander and having EVERY friend and family member be pet owners is a bit awkward to say the least.
It turned out that only one of the three worries really came true. Louisiana has become a much friendlier state about other people’s food choices/needs. There were many varieties of non meat foods out there including some soy yoghurt and gluten free pretzels! I was never hungry. We ate at several restaurants and there was always something to eat. We had lovely grilled courgette and asparagus with a marinated grilled Portobello mushroom the first night we arrived and it only got better from there. In Alexandria, I highly recommend the wee restaurant on Jackson Street called Little Greek. http://www.littlegreekrestaurant.com/ We ate there twice and both times the wonderful owner made us something special. The first time he whipped up these lemon garlic potatoes with brown rice and the next time he outdid himself by making us a special gluten free pizza with tomatoes, olives, onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach and topped it with what he called “tofu cheese” which was a bag of soy shreds. I normally don’t go for the fake stuff but this was hands down--the BEST pizza I have ever eaten. And then he used leftover gluten free dough and an apple to make us a little baked apple in cinnamon pastry topped with powdered sugar for pudding!!! What a nice man!!! If we lived there I’d eat there all the time so if you live in Alexandria--go to the Little Greek and meet the nicest people who will cook you amazing food.
Worry two had been my back, but I was able to get up and stretch on the plane and my back was relaxed and loose and pain free until the flight home--and by then I didn’t care as I was going back to my own bed. It was so pain free that I was able to exercise many times taking advantage of the mini-gym in 2 of our hotels. I ran on the treadmill several days and even beat my record for press ups (push ups to my American peeps)--I did 40. Granted they were “girl” press ups--but hey, I did 40. Can you do 40? I think not.
Sadly the one problem that plagued me from beginning to end in varying degrees was allergies. Even Spiderman was suffering from the pollen so I know it was bad. But being a sensitive little flower I was affected by pet hair. My mum and step dad tried so hard and were 90% successful in keeping themselves pet hair free and keeping me from being sick. I love them so much for the amount of energy and money they spent from renting a car so I could breathe freely as well as coughing up money for a hotel room when my allergies couldn’t take the tiny caravan we had planned to borrow. It was fine until we brought out the sheets and blankets. Damn you allergies!!! I didn’t have as much success in Monroe and spent most of the visit with Spiderman’s family trying not to claw my face off or rub my eyes until they bled. I spent a good deal of time being pretty doped up from high levels of anti-histamine. This is precisely how I slept through the Bob Dylan concert all those years ago. I was taking high levels of anti-histamines and people were smoking dope all around us and I just drifted off to sleep with my head on Spiderman’s shoulder and Bob Dylan looked really small on the stage and the speaker pulsed like a giant beating heart. Thankfully, there was no dope smoking this visit so with just the anti-histamine to contend with I managed (barely) to stay awake and try to contribute to the conversation. Despite my allergies, it was good to see everyone.
But there were a few things that I learned.
1. I am still not a petrol head. I am spoiled to the life we lead here with no car and excellent public transportation. I was shocked at how you really did have to drive EVERYWHERE. I feel like with the plane flight and all the driving (well, riding) in cars we did I am personally responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer. Polar bears are dying out there because of me, I just know it.
2. We are loved by so many people. We had family drive quite long distances (all the way from Texas!) to come and have lunch with us. Lots of people really wanted to see us and went out of their way to do so and I felt loved and supported by all. Some friends are the sort that you can pick up right where you left off 10 years ago and we were blessed to have dinner with our dear friend LeCrete who is as mad as a hatter in the best possible way.
3. I adore Lebanese Iced Tea. I have never been a tea drinker. In the South it’s all about the sweetened iced tea but in England, it’s all about a steaming cuppa with a bickie. I don’t like either but I have discovered Lebanese Iced tea and I am working to replicate the recipe at home. It was sweetened tea, lemonade and rosewater with pine nuts floating on top and so delicious and refreshing I can think of nothing else I’d like to drink in the world ever again.
4. There is such a thing as a Squirrel Cook Off. Have a favourite squirrel recipe? Then bring it along to the Squirrel Cook Off and you might when a prize. We saw a leaflet advertising this and it was funniest (and grossest) thing I think we saw the whole visit. Thank you Louisiana.
5. There’s no place like home. Or as it says in the book The Best Nest:
I love my house
I love my nest
In all the world
My nest is best.
I was glad to go and see everyone, but returning to a place where I can walk instead of drive, where I can recycle, where I can breathe clearly means everything. Louisiana was once our home but it felt very like a place to visit--it does not belong to us anymore--and I am so glad that we belong to England and England belongs to us.