Saturday, May 7, 2011


I started my New Orleans trip by taking a ride on the St Charles Ave streetcar from The French Quarter, through The Garden District, into Uptown and beyond!  As we passed down the tree lined street that perfectly shaded the elegant houses behind them you couldn’t help but be reminded of Mardi Gras.  There were thousands of strands of beads still hanging in the trees, wrapped around power lines and dangling from the street signs.  Some people had even decorated their wrought iron fences by wrapping the beads around them in an intricate pattern, perfectly symmetrical on either side of the fence.

My visit to the Lower Ninth Ward which got hit the worst by Hurricane Katrina was eye opening.  Hearing the stories and being reminded of how many people died in this horrific event, in their attics while trying to escape to higher ground and in their homes where they thought they were safe only to have them washed away while they were still inside, was heartbreaking.  The houses that remained still have debris on their roofs left behind when the water finally retreated.  Some houses have large holes in the wall or the ceiling is completely imploded, clear that it had taken a vicious blow from a car, a truck, another house or a boat that had crashed into it.  There were eerie spray-painted markings on the houses, put there by the rescue workers indicating how many bodies were found inside. 
Few homes have been rebuilt because the insurance money never came through and these people literally have nothing left.  When the hurricane hit life stopped for weeks – there was no electricity, no air conditioning, no debit cards, no money, no communication systems, no way to find out if your relatives from across town were alive or dead.  Can you even imagine?  18,000 lives lost – 15,000 in the lower ninth ward alone.  On a much more positive note Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation has made huge strides in turning these people’s lives around.  The only pre-requisite to receiving a new energy efficient, flood resistant home is that you lived in the lower ninth ward before Katrina hit.  These houses are really neat, complete with solar panels and water absorbent cement.
Speaking of Brad Pitt, I stopped by his and Angelina Jolie’s house in The French Quarter but they weren’t home.  Darn!  I also stopped by Sandra Bullock’s house in The Garden District but she wasn’t home either.  But she does live in a gorgeous neighborhood.  The Garden District has big, fancy, historic homes, lots of flowers and greenery, and wide streets with low hanging trees that meet in the middle.  Every street you turn down is just as nice, if not nicer, than the previous one!
The food.  Oh good Lord, the food!  Wonderful!  I never knew I liked southern cooking until now.  From the jambalaya to the beignets, and the creamy red beans and rice to the po’ boys, there’s some good eatin’ to be done down here in good ol’ Nawlins!  I bought some southern spices and such and am anxious to try to recreate these amazing dishes at home!
The French Quarter is something else.  While I ate on the balcony of a restaurant on Bourbon St a random jazz band marched beneath me playing, gathering participants along the way who danced and followed along with them.  The guitar player from the club across the street brought his electric guitar and microphone out into the streets to liven things up.  The Lucky Dog vending carts were out in full force on every corner.  The streets were blocked off as evening approached and people spilled out into the streets hoping from one bar to another.  The neon lights from the signs shown bright beckoning you in to see what was going on.  Music filled the streets and everyone, and I mean everyone, proudly carried a drink in their hands down the street.  The street cafes are always packed with people listening to the various jazz or blues bands playing either across the street or in the cafĂ© themselves.  I loved the energy!
I took a leisurely cruise down the Mississippi River on the Creole Queen, a fancy paddlewheeled riverboat.  New Orleans is the only city that is split by the Mississippi.  In all other places throughout the country the river acts as a state or city border.  The cruise took me to the Chalmette Battlefield, which was super thrilling because you know me and battlefields.  I just can’t get enough!  (I really hope you noted the sarcasm!)  There are reminders of the hurricane everywhere, especially along the river where there are docks still standing…just barely.
 The people of New Orleans are fiercely loyal to their city and are proud of how they’ve rebounded after the disaster that affected nearly every resident’s life in 2005.  What a city!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Katy -- Would love to get in touch (fellow career-breaker here), but I don't see your email address here. I'm at Thanks!