Friday 24 June 2016

Merci beaucoup à la Louisiane

“Oh yes, this place is like the Energiser bunny,” drawled the guide. “It just keeps on going.” So it was a great shame we had only 15 minutes for the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum at Monroe, where the guided tour is normally 40 minutes, followed by browsing. The rooms are full of glass cases full of intriguing items (a Red Cross dagger; Nazi eagle-with-swastika train engine plaque; original aviator sunglasses), the walls and ceilings hung with fascinating stuff. Claire Chennault, despite his girly name, set up the Flying Tigers to save the Chinese from the Japanese and was afterwards presented with a fabulous embroidered Emperor’s gown (which, by a creepy sort of coincidence, includes a tiny swastika in its pre-Nazi incarnation).
The Selman Field navigation school was the biggest in the US, turning out over 15,000 smart guys (the less smart became pilots), one of whom guided the Enola Gay to Hiroshima. Aerial bombing is a bit of a theme: the museum also covers the establishment of Delta Airlines, which began as a crop-dusting company bent on eradicating the boll weevil from Louisiana’s cotton fields, about which we’ve learned so much over the last few days.
We had lots of ground to cover today, literally, so we trooped reluctantly back on the bus to swoop past Bossier city, which our driver told us was where Dubya flew to on 9/11 to hunker down in the bunker; and then was stuck for anything else to say about the place.
Nearby is Shreveport, a much artier and more interesting city, “Louisiana’s cultural Mecca” where Elvis hung out a lot. All we had time for, though, was Artspace, in a lovely Art Deco building, where we had a quick overview of the Moonbot studios exhibition. They are very successful at animation. How successful? Two Oscars and four Emmys successful. Impressive.
And then it was back on the bus again, a boxed lunch, a stream of Twitter-news about Brexit, and goodbye to Louisiana as we swooped into Texas, skirting around Dallas with a glimpse of the Book Depository, before arriving at the airport to flit to LAX for the long trip home again on American Airlines' almost brand-new Dreamliner.

So, Louisiana. Worth a visit? Most definitely: for the food, the music, the variety, the accent, the history, the people. I enjoyed myself enormously. So would you.

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