Up early, as usual. Off to find a highly recommended restaurant. I wanted Cajun! But it was never to be. We were sidetracked by a wonderful little patio place on Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street, the street of legend, was a disappointment. Strip clubs. Music that spills onto more than the sidewalk.Bourbon Street music is SO loud you can hear it a block away. And you can hear music from six or seven clubs at the same time. It’s deafening and it’s miserable. We avoided it at all costs.
But on Tuesday morning we figured it was safe to walk Bourbon Street at 7. And it was.
It was right on Bourbon Street that we found the patio restaurant. We dove into a crawfish omelette, frozen cafe au lait, and, of course, beignet.
We spent much of the rest of the day playing tourist, riding the trolley cars from one end of the city to the other.
The best ride is the one that goes down St. Charles, through the Garden District. Trees and power lines are draped with a rainbow of cheap beaded Mardi Gras necklaces since St. Charles is one of the parades routes.
St. Charles is a mixture of residential areas with a few small shopping centers and a sprinkling of restaurants. None of the restaurants I noticed were chains, which gave this part of the city an A+ rating from me. Actually, the French Quarter, downtown, and the Garden District were all filled with non-chain restaurants. This is one of the things that makes New Orleans a wonderful place to visit.
Wonderful too because of names like Thank You God Cab Service. And wonderful because of the way the people talk. When asked how locals survive the heat/humidity combination, a woman explained, “We are tropical hothouse flowers, I’ll have you know.”
We ended the day dining on a balcony that almost, almost, gave a view of the river. Stuffed crab and jumbolaya on pasta. To die for. It was hot on that balcony but worth the sweat since it was our only balcony dining experience.
My sense, in these few days, is that New Orleans is making a comeback. First Katrina, and then last year the BP disaster. When I was here last year two short months after the BP rig blew up, the city was tense. Faces were grim.
Everywhere I went there were camera crews. The national crews had big name newscasters and full eight-to-ten man crews. Scouts were dashing about setting appointments to talk with the mayor, the chief of disaster operations, etc. They had caravans of big trucks and vans topped with satellite dishes to enable them to send the news “Live, from New Orleans.”
The small local crews operated closer to shoestring budgets. A crew of two or three, sometimes just one, and no satellite dishes. These newscasters didn’t lounge in a chair chatting with passersby, like me. They were out gathering all the news themselves. In contrast to the relaxed manner of the national bigwigs, these men were drawn, strained, and one was even crying as he gazed out over the Gulf.
The entire Gulf Coast was littered with newsmen last year. And yes, they were all men.
But New Orleans is coming back. This year the faces are full of smiles. The people are, overall, friendly. Greetings are warm and from the heart. Everyone is willing to tell us about a great restaurant, festival, or special event. Some are willing to do a traveller a special favor, like the bartender across from our hotel who shared the bar’s internet password so I could get online.
In some areas torn apart by Katrina, there are new homes, repaired homes, and newly planted tall trees. Fresh coats of paint and new gardens. CDs raising funds for victims are still for sale in bars and cafés.
New Orleans is a survivor.