Have Tickets Will Travel

The joy of travel is often found in the unexpected, and we were both surprised and overjoyed to find a truly authentic French bistro in Omaha’s “Old Market”.  So much about La Buvette reminded us of Paris; from the freshly baked baguettes; to the chalk board menu; to the way street-side patrons sat shoulder to shoulder instead of across from one another; to the less than attentive service.  Yes, even the service had a traditional French flair.  But the food.  Oh-my, the food.  The chicken and sausage cassoulete was simply fantastic.  This was our first meal in Omaha, and boy did we hit a home run.

From La Buvette we wandered the streets of Old Market, the city’s self described “Arts and Entertainment” district.  It’s a charming area filled with restaurants, shops, and interesting architecture along cobblestone streets.  Old Market felt to us a bit like New York’s Greenwich Village, writ small.  At just a few city blocks it doesn’t take long to exhaust the area.  But it was here we found our next culinary surprise, Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine.  Having never visited Iran, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the menu, but the lamb khoresht was terrific nonetheless.

Had we done nothing else but eat, we might have still considered the trip worthwhile.  But the city held other surprises, too: namely the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is arguably the best we’ve visited.  In contrast to many other zoos, Doorly goes to great lengths to place animals in their natural surroundings.  This isn’t simply a collection of critters in cages. It endeavors to create a safari-like experience, and largely succeeds.  Here you’ll find howler monkeys frolicking in the world’s largest indoor rainforest and pumas prowling within the world’s largest indoor desert.  Bats are housed in sparsely lit subterranean caves and swamp animals swim underfoot of a floating boardwalk.  None of which mentions the 71,000 square foot aquarium, or the 14,000 square foot butterfly pavilion, or countless other more traditional exhibits.  We don’t make a point of visiting zoos on our travels, but this is one that shouldn’t be missed.

As with all trips, not everything is a hit.  The Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge which spans the Missouri River, was, pedestrian.  While the illuminated cable-stayed bridge is pretty at night, we could have done without the long walk through deserted downtown Omaha needed to get there.  We dutifully walked half way across the bridge and into Nebraska before gratefully returning back to more populated areas of the city.

We also made an excursion to St. Cecilia’s Cathedral.  Visiting cathedrals and places of worship is a pretty normal part of an overseas itinerary, but doesn’t really happen as much here in the states.  A fact we were reminded of by our grudging hotel van operator who repeatedly questioned why we were going to church at such an odd hour.

St. Cecilia’s is attractive enough but it doesn’t take long to see the entirety of it, and there is nothing else in the neighborhood to see or do aside from a small museum dedicated to the Cathedral’s history and origin.  Disinclined to recall our crusty van operator so quickly, we took our time with the museum and even perused the church pamphlets, where we found such classics as “Planned Parenthood Steals Souls”.

Notwithstanding some misfires, we found Omaha to be a city of surprises, and not only because our expectations were probably lower than they should have been.  The city really does have some world class attractions.  It’s a place we never would have selected as a long-weekend destination and probably would not have gotten to had we not already had airline tickets.  And we’d have been poorer for skipping it.

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  1. How to Become a Global Citizen | Everywhere Once - November 14, 2011

    […] Many companies claim to provide legal street addresses with all the benefits of a physical address, but be sure to do your own due diligence. Our plans to use a South Dakota service were upended when three different independent brokers told us we couldn’t use the mail forwarding address to obtain health insurance in the state. That discovery cost us two airline tickets we had already purchased to fly to South Dakota to set up residency there. (Turning lemons into lemonade, we took the flight anyway and ended up with a surprisingly fun weekend in Omaha, NE.) […]

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