Out and About in New Orleans, and Where We Stayed

I’ve visited New Orleans, Louisiana 4 times so far during my life. Twice pre-Katrina, twice post-Katrina. Every visit has been quite different. There is something so magnetic about this place. It is a city that I hope I will be lucky enough to return to, again and again. Here is a small handful of sights from roaming around the NOLA, the Crescent City:

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Love the old regional architecture. Those house lamps are gas and the effect is pretty magical when they’re on at night. It’s so cliché, but there is something shiveringly wonderful about walking down the streets of NOLA at night.

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Along the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

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A lovely home in the Marigny neighborhood.

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More loveliness in the Marigny.

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Even though we weren’t there for Mardi Gras, it’s easy to see preparations for it going on all of the time.

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From the spectacular horticultural gardens in City Park.

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At an antique/rummage store in the French Quarter.

I freely admit, these images leave out the ongoing devastation from Katrina. I’m a pretty shy photographer, and it felt too raw and disrespectful to be the tourist taking pictures of storm damage, if that makes sense. Make no mistake, the most visible sights in the French Quarter and right around it look pretty good. Part of that is because those weren’t damaged as badly as other parts of the city.  Part of it is because bringing tourists back was crucial to the area economy and so damage there has been dealt with pretty quickly. But if you drive around at all, it is shocking how much hasn’t been addressed. At all. We’re talking abandoned hospitals. Street after street of homes missing roofs, or outside walls.

Clearly I’m no expert, but I still can’t get over how damaged and wounded things are nearly 8 years out.  A guide at a mansion we toured in the Metairie suburb of the city mentioned with a quiet, offhand rage the plight of a friend of hers who still hasn’t gotten an insurance settlement on her storm damaged home yet. In my mind, the post-Katrina situation was and remains the shame of the nation. The people of New Orleans deserved (and deserve) so much better than they got (and are getting) from the rest of the country following the storm.

Still, the feeling on the streets was better.  We visited in 2009 for a friend’s wedding, and it was pretty grim. Tense. I remember signs posted on community bulletin boards in neighborhood cafes and coffee shops in the Marigny neighborhood detailing recent area crimes -muggings, knifings, and shootings- cautioning people to not be out and about after dark alone. People weren’t smiling, and even the French Quarter was relatively deserted. Our friends had the entire second floor of a restaurant along Bourbon Street rented out for the dinner following their wedding, and I remember standing on the balcony watching the tiny, tiny trickle of people walking down that street and telling my husband that this was a pale ghost of what being on Bourbon Street should be like. Mind you, I don’t actually love the crowds and the rude behavior so many folks get up to while they’re there, drunk on their own daring, but I knew the lack of those crowds had to be hurting a city that seemed like it was pretty much on its own when it came to recovering. So even though we mostly avoided the French Quarter while we were there this time because the crowds are now BACK, it was good to see them back, too.

Another sign that the crowds are back? The hotel my husband and I like to stay at was booked. That’s why we decided to give airbnb.com a try. Unlike our guest room stay in Memphis, in New Orleans we had an apartment all to ourselves. Located in the Faubourg Tremé area and just steps from the Mahalia Jackson theater where we saw Leonard Cohen perform while we were in New Orleans, the apartment was pretty fantastic. One of four in an old Creole style building, it was owned by a burlesque dancer and decorated with all sorts of memorabilia from her career.  It was comfortable, parking was a breeze, there was a great coffee shop steps away, and the price was beyond reasonable. A huge win.

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In Faubourg Tremé, steps from where we stayed.

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Exterior of the apartment we rented via airbnb.com in New Orleans.

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The apartment’s living room. It was shotgun or dog-trot style, with all of the rooms connected to one-another.

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I think the apartment we stayed in was originally built in 1825. It’s a toss-up which I liked better, the 13 foot high ceilings, or the incredible wood floors.

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