Oct 22, 201209:21 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Notes from the Other Side
I was in Genoa, Italy, last week for a summer vacation that circumstances pushed back to the fall.
--There are 620,000 residents of Genoa. Out of those, 200,000 ride motorbikes. On a weekday, between workers and university students, there are so many bikes parked along the downtown street that a person could walk down the block on bike seats (though the owners wouldn’t like it very much). Downtown parking for the bikes is free and does help relieve auto congestion. All the riders wear helmets and all the machines seem to be in good condition. In this very hilly city, the bikes make life easier, except when it is time to find a parking place.
--We took a side tour one day to Monaco and, while there, visited the Monte Carlo casino. I am not a gambler but since I was there I visited the casino where I invested five euros in playing video blackjack. We lost 2.50 euros, and then printed out the ticket to cash in for the remaining 2.50. Of course, probably like a lot of tourists, we decided not to cash it so that we could have a cashier ticket from Monte Carlo. Another big win for the casino. The facility was very elegant. What struck me the most was how quiet it was. There was not that annoying electronic clanging noise that you hear in American casinos. There was more of a quiet, dignity to the place; the sort of setting where James Bond could have sipped from a brandy sniffer while playing roulette. I am sure there is a psychological reason why American casinos have all that noise, but to me, if I am gong to lose, I would prefer to do it in silence.
--Like New Orleans, Genoa is an old port city that has undergone riverfront revival. A catalyst was a 1992 exposition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of native Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. Like New Orleans, there is now an aquarium on the waterfront and cruise ships have become an important business. Unlike New Orleans, Genoa allowed a waterfront expressway to be built. It is not pretty but it is not obtrusive either. As the shipping business has changed to containerization throughout the world, old urban ports have had to reinvent themselves. Tourism has often been the answer. Lucky are the cities like New Orleans (which already had a thriving tourist industry) and Genoa (which did not) that have been able to keep their waterfronts productive.
-- Next week the Saints play on Sunday night. To me, they had a night game this weekend, too. Because of time differences, the Saints-Tampa Bay game started at 7 p.m. here. Downstairs in the hotel bar, the wide screen TV was set on a soccer match. (I felt like going in there and predicting that the final score would be 1-0); fortunately, we were able to stream the WWL radio broadcast . The game ended at 10:52 p.m. (and thankfully not a second later) local time. I don’t know who won the soccer match, but I can report, at the NH Plaza Hotel in Genoa, there was at least one Saints celebration.