I’d previously been to New Orleans three times; 1972, 1984,
and 1998 but not since and wondered how the city had changed in the years since
Hurricane Katrina transformed it.
An estimated 150,000 of the poorest and least educated citizens left New
Orleans for Houston, Atlanta and other urban destinations never to return.
My friend Patty Morrison had never visited the ‘big easy’
and not wanting to fly to Fort Lauderdale or drive to Orlando, picked this
alternative cruise ship port.
Patty’s first impression was of a much richer and whiter city than I’d
remembered and probably dressed up with festive parades and wild partying going
on seemingly everywhere.
Our route from Atlanta was I-85 to Montgomery, Alabama, then
head south on I-65 to Mobile to pick up I-10 to Slidell, LA, about 465 miles of
driving where we planned to spend the night. We drove into the French Quarter for dinner and discovered
that we had luckily stumbled into the city at the height of Mardi Gras.
We thrilled at mingling with tens of thousands of people
Saturday night, Feb. 24, in the Vieux Care district, hundreds hanging from
balconies. After a bucket list
great evening, we drove back to Slidell to sleep and saved a nice sum by
avoiding room rates jacked up for Mardi Gras with a near-20%
room tax plus expensive parking.
Sunday morning, we explored the city with focus on the
Garden District and the Magazine Street corridor which we found charming. After a customary beignet and a coffee
at a café, we drove to the Cruise Ship Terminal adjacent to the giant
convention center and close to the central business district and boarded
Norwegian Cruise Ship Breakaway featured below.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans and America’s version of the Latin
and Catholic Carnival is in my opinion practiced most extensively and vividly
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Parade routes are down main
streets that get blocked off and make car transit variable. Total festival costs for main
participants – floats, costumes, parades, parties – may exceed ten percent of individual
The many local krewes support their parades by also lining
the streets with supporters.
Café du Monde in the French Market is world famous for its
beignets and coffee. We sampled
this Magazine Street café and believe their beignets are even better.
Patty patiently waited on the corner while I photographed
this busy intersection that reminded me of Atlanta’s popular Virginia-Highland
neighborhood. An Another Broken
Egg restaurant is located right behind her.
I visited the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair with my wife Sue
and son Sasha, then aged five. The
long blue mural really captured the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit experience that was
sponsored by the Audubon Zoo and Breaux’s supermarket chain.
A muralist, paying homage to Joan Miro, painted the artist’s
more famous forms.
New Orleans was a surprisingly nice send off – next stop,