The quick brown fox jumped over the good, but lazy Parker family.
So, we had sometime this year between Christmas (in Houston) and New Years (in Waco, more on that later) and decided to make a couple days of it. While both sides of the lady sparkler’s family have a history in the city — and her father spent the first 20 years of his life there — thankfully everyone had moved away in the years before Katrina.
First of all, we had a fantastic time. The city is very much open for business, and while we hit all the touristy areas (French Quarter, Esplanade, Garden District) we never felt unsafe, even for a moment. There was live music everywhere, descent crowds in the streets, and outrageously good food. It was just an amazing experience.
Even so, something seemed just a bit melancholy. While the streets were full, it wasn’t as busy as it “should” have been two days before New Years (and the Sugar Bowl, even if it was Georgia vs. Hawaii). And, while we were admittedly in the wrong part of town, the locals seemed to have returned in even less force than the tourists.
I may have been projecting, but there was a real sense that a clock was ticking on New Orleans. There was quite literally water everywhere. We must have driven on 30+ miles of causeways over all sorts of rivers, lakes, swamps and bayous to get into the city. Not to mention, the area protected by the levees blew my mind (we drove what seemed like 20 minutes from the French Quarter before we passed the last sea wall).
It’s hard to explain how exposed 12 feet above sea-level seems unless you’ve been there (and that was the “high” ground).
Things to Do
So, back to the great time we had … The only “must” on my list of recommendations is Frenchman Street. Located just off the eastern edge of the French Quarter, it is much less “college frat party” than Bourbon Street. There are at least four great, authentic music venues — we saw great performances at d.b.a. and Snug Harbor, and listened in to another at Blue Nile.
We had nothing but spectacular dining experiences, including breakfasts at La Boucherie and the ever-famous Café du Monde, lunches at Napoleon House (built in 1797) and Central Grocery (the home of the Muffalatta), and dinners at Bacco and Acme Oyster House. It seems like such a stereotype, but you really do eat and drink here non-stop, and all of it was not only reasonably well priced, but well worth their reputation / our effort. (Photos of all these places are in the Flickr photoset if you are interested.)
Finally, if you are looking for cemeteries, St. Louis no. 3 (up near City Park) was perfectly safe, and our trip out to the Garden District (to stare at the mansions) was worth the effort. I will say that we rented a car and were glad we did; they weren’t running that many street cars, and taxis were hard to find outside of the hotels.
I have no idea what will happen in the next 100 years, and I am even more conflicted then ever about exactly how much hubris we should muster to try and beat back what nature seems to have planned for the city. The one thing I am not conflicted about is this: Go. Honestly. Such a great experience, and there is enough left to give you a flavor of what everyone else has been talking about.