St. Louis Cathedral, French Quarter
I hadn't been to NOLA in years, and in truth, hadn't been much impressed by it on past visits. It was probably the circumstances. The first time I visited I was with my ex-husband and we'd argued most of the trip. The remaining visits had been work-related, so I'd only seen a sliver of the city, usually slogging through muddy streets during the steamy rainy season or through the hazy lens of post-meeting happy hours. And so it was with some reluctance that I found myself trudging into the city again. This time it was post-Katrina and I imagined that the city would be in an even worse state, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
Frenchman Street, French Quarter
Was it visiting the city in the sunny spring weather with azaleas blooming, this time with someone I actually liked and no meetings to attend? Or had the city been transformed post-hurricane? Many of the crumbling buildings and roads had been repaired, parks had been cleaned up, there were more tourists than ever, but a different kind than before, more wholesome and family-oriented, sober even. It was the best trip I'd ever taken to the city and was made even better seeing it through Luis's eyes. I learned later from several locals that the sudden influx of FEMA money had given the city a face lift, an unexpected benefit of the tragedy. And best of all, the incredible can't-keep-us-down New Orleans spirit was stronger than ever.
Of course we had to sample the amazing food: beignets, cafe au lait, boudin, oyster po' boys, etouffee. There is music everywhere in New Orleans, in the streets, coming from the windows of the bars and cafes, in the concert venues. Even the National Park Service offers free concerts most days of the weeks, and you can listen to incredibly good music for free or for a small donation in the squares and parks of the French Quarter every day of the week. We wandered down the back roads and found brightly painted houses, small local pubs and voodoo shops filled with every charm, curse and amulet that you could want. So far, it has been on of our favorite stops, a city full of life, music, color, mysticism, friendly and helpful people and some of the best food in America. New Orleans is back and better than ever.
Cafe du Monde