New Orleans LA- Dec 4-6

22 Dec

We arrived in New Orleans on Saturday night and checked into Le Richelieu, and old hotel at the east end of the French Quarter. Why Le Richelieu?  If for no other reason, it has a self-park uncovered lot, good for a Eurovan with storage pod on the roof.  We walked down the street and had dinner at the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, a far cry from CPK.  We sat outside in the comfortable night air across from the French Market, feeling transported to another world.  After dinner we walked Bourbon Street and Canal Street.

More text and a few photos follow below – click on the “(more…)” below

Bourbon Street is a far cry from the cool jazz scene I remember from my first visit in 1962.  The street, at least on Saturday night, is closed down to traffic allowing the crowds of people to walk the street.  Lots of drinking, smoking and partying on the streets.  The former jazz clubs have given way to a conglomerate of rock-n-roll bars, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, souvenir shops, and the like.  The doorways to the strip clubs often have scantily-clad strippers tantalizing potential customers.  The open bars feature big screen TVs tuned to football games, one with a sign that tells all “Tits, Football, Beer.”  The second floor balconies are lined with people partying and enjoying the street scene below.  It’s a rowdy New Orleans scene.

Canal Street is far more sedate, but still busy with people.  Major hotels (Ritz, Roosevelt, Crowne Plaza, Marriott), tourist shops, and the like line the street.  A much quieter and more orderly scene than Bourbon Street.

The next day, a cold crisp morning, we walked to the locally popular Old Coffee Company for breakfast.  Not only was the food good, the waitresses, dressed in New Orleans Saints jerseys, provided talkative, friendly service/entertainment.  We spent the day walking more of the city – Bourbon Street (much different in the morning), Canal Street, the waterfront.  On the waterfront we found an unlikely Holocaust Memorial Sculpture.  Then, a wonderful afternoon stop at Cafe DuMonde for cafe au lait and beignets.  How can one be in New Orleans and resist the traditional, despite its rampant commercialization (many shops in the city sell their products).  Being in New Orleans, we steeped ourselves further in the city culture by watching Drew Breese pull out another 4th quarter victory over the Bengals.  New Orleans loves its Saints.

The next morning we drove around the Lower Ninth Ward, having visited here last in 2006, six months after Katrina.  The debris that littered the area in 2006 – boats, upside down cars, furniture, housing rubble – has finally been cleaned up.  Many of the uninhabitable houses have been razed, many are still standing.  Empty houses still carry the paint markings made by rescue workers in the aftermath of Katrina.  The area is much improved, but still has a way to go.  When was the last time the Lower Ninth Ward was in the news?

Our friends, Jeff and Wendy, did a Katrina photo assignment for GQ magazine several years ago.  While there, they met two Lower Ninth Ward residents, Joseph and Denise, whose house was destroyed by Katrina.  They befriended Joseph and Denise, and created a project to help Joseph and Denise get their house rebuilt.  At Jeff and Wendy’s urging, we stopped by to personally deliver their greetings to Joseph and Denise.  Denise welcomed us into their home, and took us on a tour of her neighborhood, including Fats Domino’s house.  We enjoyed our brief visit, and the opportunity to see the Lower Ninth Ward through two of its residents’ eyes.

On the way out of town, we stopped at the Apple Store to have my crippled iPhone repaired.  After waiting an hour for our Genius Bar appointment, our genius replaced my old phone and transferred all by lost data onto the new phone.  Almost, that is, because I lost all of my iPod music, books and podcasts.  Not really lost because I have them on my computer at home, but lost for the balance of this trip.  A minor inconvenience.