First time travel abroad: New Orleans

I took my first plane journey when I was 11 years old. My oldest daughter was 11 weeks. Times have certainly changed.

Back in the 70s, Mum took my brother and me to New Orleans to a visit her cousin, Aunt Hanna – who had emigrated. It was quite the journey, involving 4 different planes and 5 airports. We switched planes in Copenhagen, New York’s JFK and in Atlanta, Georgia. But I didn’t mind one bit. I was 11, my brother was 9 and neither of us had ever been on a plane before. Nor had Mum. In retrospect, I see she deserves some credit – admiration, even – for setting out on such a long, complicated journey with two raucous kids and no travelling experience.

New Orleans was a very exciting destination for our first time travel, especially the night-time lights of Canal Street and of course the French Quarter: Bourbon street, the jazz music emanating from every doorway, the horse-drawn carriages, people of different skin colours (Norway in the 70s was a very homogenous society), but also things that now seem mundane, like shopping malls. And Burger King. I had only ever been to proper restaurants and I couldn’t fathom how it was possible to cook the food in the short time between us ordering and paying.

Some days, we had lunch in a cafeteria. I had just started learning English, yet I was quite proud of my linguistic skills. Imagine my frustration when I was given a packet of crisps when asking for chips. I had yet to master the nuances between English and American. In the mall cafeteria, we had to carry trays with food to our tables, another new experience. Although, we did, in fact, have a choice: if we chose a white tray, we carried it ourselves, if we chose a green one, a man came over and carried it for us.

In New Orleans, policemen carried guns. Norwegian police didn’t. Still don’t. We had never seen a gun in our lives, except on Alias Smith and Jones. It was very exciting. As were huge water melons. Delicious! Grape juice and peanut butter on the other hand: horrid! The poor American children had to eat that?

New Orleans

At the beach, I had to wear a bikini top. I thought it looked completely silly and it was bloody unfair. I never could see the reason for that. Still can’t. I was a kid, not a woman!

On board all those planes, we were offered as many sodas as we wanted. What a treat. Normally, we were only allowed such “toothrot” on Saturdays and only a small bottle – 25 cl – each.

While waiting for planes, mum let us roam freely around the airports. I don’t think the thought of us getting seriously lost or kidnapped even occurred to her. She was pragmatic. In Atlanta airport, we went into a shop, looking to buy a pressie for our grandmother. We had 4 dollars, and thought we were very lucky to find a souvenir plate that cost 3.95. Were we ever surprised when the clerk at the cash register asked for 4.15. We didn’t really understand what tax was. At home, tax is calculated into the price, so it’s never an issue. Trying to locate Mum to get more money, we got lost, of course. Fumbling around in a huge airport restaurant, we looked for signs saying “way out” as we had been taught. Here, signs only said “exit”. Very confusing!

I’m glad to say it all worked out though. We arrived home safely, souvenir plate and all. And, as a bonus, our teeth hadn’t rotted and fallen out, despite the litres and litres of soda we had consumed on board. The “only-on-Saturdays”-policy was a harder sell after that.

This post is a contribution to the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival on first-time travel, hosted by Claire Algarme @ First-time travels.

9 Responses to “First time travel abroad: New Orleans”

  1. Lucy 2 September 2010 1856 #

    That’s a lovely story. What a journey though!

    I was caught out by the tax too, the first time I visited the USA.

  2. Sophie 11 September 2010 0132 #

    Hi, just blog hopping and came across your site. Will be following as I have my blog – http://www.familytravelogue.blogspot.com looks at travel with kids.

  3. Anne-Sophie 11 September 2010 1716 #

    Thanks for comments, everyone.

  4. Sophie 14 September 2010 0824 #

    Hey Anne-Sophie, thanks for stopping by the blog and for your kind comments! Looking forward to getting to know you! All the best,
    Sophie

  5. Louise 23 September 2010 1203 #

    What a charming story.

  6. Tamara 9 October 2010 1514 #

    Bravo to your mum for taking you and your brother on such a trip, and I love the details in your story. My husband David and I were in New Orleans some years ago too, by the way, so thanks for bringing back some fun memories.

    As far as the differences between British English and American English which you bring up – I’m an American who’s lived in England for more than 10 years now, and David (who is English) and I still find so many differences between our speech patterns! We never thought there would be as many differences as there are…

    Lastly, I’ve never been to your native Norway, unfortunately, but I do hope to get there some day.

    Thanks again for this lovely article.

  7. Ashely 5 May 2012 2041 #

    I’ve always wanted to travel to New Orleans. I’m afraid if I do I will never want to leave though!

  8. Gayla 8 March 2014 1134 #

    What great travel memories! It is amazing how times have changed and travel has become more accessible. Yet American culture is still a strange thing compared to other parts of the world ;-)
    p.s. I’m getting used to having tax included in the price. Sure wish the US would get onboard with that concept, but it would be a hard sell, since there are so many different taxing authorities :-(

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    […] of Sophie’s World, is based in Norway and has lived in the US and in New Zealand. She shares how time has changed, […]

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