Personal travel manager Kylie Gretener representative for Mooloolaba in Queensland recently experienced the best Louisiana has to offer. The #tasteUSA mega famil hosted by Brand USA and Air New Zealand was in celebration of the commencement late last year of Air New Zealand flying between Auckland and Houston.
Participants on the recently held ten-night mega-famil were split into six groups, each enjoying a multi-itinerary famil experience. Gretener had the privilege of experiencing the historical and cultural state of Louisiana.
“This was my first time to the USA, so I was particularly excited to see Louisiana as I had heard so much about its southern hospitality. I can honestly say its true having experienced the ‘Yes Maam’ and ‘Hey Y’all’ warmth that welcomes you wherever you go. Everybody was always so warm and welcoming and happy to share their local food and culture with us.”
For Gretener the history of the region was an important part of understanding how Louisiana has been shaped over the years.
“History is such an important part of the destination and is evident everywhere. The beautiful plantation homes of Houmus House and Oak Ally Plantation are well worth a visit to understand what life was like when the sugar cane industry took off in the area. The capitol building in the state capital of Baton Rouge is also an incredible sight and gives a good understanding of how the civil war has shaped the region.”
As Gretener discovered, the French influence on the state provides a real hotpot of food options and flavours to experience.
“The amazing Cajun and Creole flavours of the Southern States are truly all that I had heard about and more. We had the opportunity to do a cooking class at New Orleans School of Cooking where we learnt how to create the flavours of the deep South. I put my learning into practice by cooking a gumbo for a group of fifty people from my lifestyle village travel club as I did a presentation about my experience in Louisiana. It went down an absolute treat!”
A visit to the popular Tabasco Factory on Avery Island was also a highlight.
“We got to hear about the family history, and see how Tabasco sauce is made. Here at Avery Island is the only place in the world where Tabasco sauce is made and to this day is still made in accordance with the original recipe! The secret is the mashed chili’s that are fermented for three years in Jack Daniels’ barrels.”
Bourbon Street in New Orleans is synonymous for a nightlife experience but Gretener instead ventured where the locals go and discovered a fabulous alternative.
“We all know Bourbon Street is the famous place to go and see the night life, in fact its popular with tourists both day and night. I discovered that locals go to Frenchmen Street and it was amazing. It was exactly what I expected to experience in New Orleans with jazz and blues music in small bars and a local instead of touristy feel. I also discovered an artists’ market on the street that opens until 1am with some really interesting stalls and people to talk to.”
With over 1,000,000 alligators in Louisiana and still counting, you can’t visit the Southern State without seeing at least one.
“Alligators were everywhere. We toured an alligator farm learning about the process from collecting the eggs to exporting the skins. Alligators are very sensitive animals and it was interesting to hear that small changes in the way they are cared for can cause them a lot of stress. A highlight was holding a baby one during our visit to the farm and it made me feel a bit sad about what we had just had for lunch because they were so cute.” laughs Gretener.
Gretener discovers that there is a lot to do in Houston but you need to ensure you manage your time well.
“Houston is a very big city! The airport is over an hour away from the downtown area, so I highly recommend you organise transfers for your clients as it is a long way in a taxi. We visited the Johnson Space Centre, which is great, but make sure your clients have plenty
of time as there is a lot to read and experience once you are there. I also recommend you find a tour that includes a hotel pick up as it is also a long way out of the city.”
The ability to share her personal experiences with clients is important to Gretener.
“Being able to experience the destination for myself, find local gems and soak up all the local knowledge makes such a difference to the sort of experience I’m able to put together for my clients. As a result I can now provide my first hand tips and experience for places to eat, where to shop and must do activities, I’m confident I can give my clients accurate and up to date information. It’s these personal recommendations that make all the difference.”
For more information or to speak to someone confidentially about TravelManagers please contact Suzanne Laister on 1800 019 599.