New Year’s Eve
We didn’t do very much on the morning of December 31st. We slept in and wandered around some more around Bourbon St. We decided to get tickets to the Sugar Bowl that would take place the day after. We found a nice pub to eat dinner while we watched Clemson beat Oklahoma.
After changing at the hotel, we made our way toward Jackson Square. Hosting the yearly Mardi Gras madness, New Orleans is used to dealing with street festivities. Sarah had done the research again – we would watch the fireworks from the Mississippi riverside. We thought we might be a bit late, but we quickly found a perfect spot when we arrived around 10.30pm. Around midnight the fireworks were lit. It truly was a beautiful display. It beat our previous New Year’s experiences – London, Paris, Berlin – because we had a comfortable seat, a perfect view, and we weren’t squished by hordes of people.
It was quite cold, so we didn’t spend that much time in the actual park. We did manage to spot some of the ancient oak trees, some of which are older than 600 years. We also paid a visit to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, but we weren’t very impressed – perhaps because we fail to understand modern art.
The Sugar Bowl
Later that day we made our way to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Sugar Bowl. For my European readers: the Sugar Bowl is an American football game, in which two college teams compete to “win the bowl.” I cannot emphasize enough how big of a deal this is for Americans, especially those that have gone to college.
Sarah and I grew more excited and got more and more goose bumps the closer we got to the stadium. We had seen many fans of both teams – “Ole Miss Rebels” (from the University of Mississippi) and Oklahoma State University – on the streets of New Orleans in preceding days. Both groups were chanting, with the Ole Miss Rebels being the bigger and louder group of the two.
The stadium truly is a superdome. It is huge, first of all, and the stands are very steep. It can seat around 75,000 people, and as it is a domed stadium, it is known to get extremely loud during games. The noise of the crowd was deafening.
Perhaps I was more impressed by the performances of the two rivaling marching bands than by the teams themselves. The match itself was not extremely exciting as the Rebels took a decisive lead in the second quarter they would not give up anymore. We nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You feel so alive among such vibrant crowds. Nothing beats hearing and feeling a sudden roar of tens of thousands of overly excited people – young and old, men and women.
Unclaimed Baggage Center
After spending our last night at a hotel this trip, we made our way to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. The what?! Yes, the Alabama Unclaimed Baggage Center. Over 99.5% of domestic airline’s checked backs are picked up at the baggage carousel. For the remaining 0.5%, airlines conduct a three-month tracing process in an effort to reunite the owners with their belongings. A small fraction of this 0.5% is ultimately “orphaned,” and airlines sell this baggage to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. And that’s where visitors like us can buy it.
It feels a bit like grave robbing – going through stuff that, in a sense, belongs to someone else. About 7 hours after we left New Orleans, we walked into the huge store. The offerings are really quite crazy. Some stuff makes you wonder – did someone really wear or use this?!
Not everything is an obvious deal. The center makes an effort to value the products, but sometimes they are way off. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but it means that true scavengers can find themselves a great deal.
We ended up buying, 4 pairs of sunglasses, 1 watch, 1 set of Beats headphones, 4 ties, 3 jackets, and (of course) ~20 books. A nice New Year’s present to ourselves!
About 11 hours later, around 5am and in the middle of the night, we drove into our parking garage in Arlington, VA, drawing an end to a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s holiday.