The Big Easy Is Calling: A Guide To New Orleans, LA
Over three years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The storm took so much from so many, leaving thousands homeless and destroying many parts of one of the United State’s most beloved cities. When the floodwaters eventually overtook New Orleans and its parishes, over eighty percent of the area was covered by water. In spite of everything that occurred, the residents and supporters of New Orleans have mounted a recovery effort that rivals any of humankind’s great achievements. Although Katrina took so much, it never took the spirit of NOLA’s people and they remain as lively and emotional as they were pre-Katrina. Because much of the city has been repaired, there is no better time than now to visit New Orleans. Gas up the ride; the Big Easy is calling.
More Than Beads
Just a mention of New Orleans probably sparks images of craziness, beads, Mardi Gras, and Bourbon Street. These are all correct, but New Orleans has so much more to offer than unadulterated debauchery and sin. Partying until your dignity completely disintegrates is only one option. New Orleans also offers enjoyment for everyone ranging from history buffs, music lovers, to urban explorers. Most importantly, please do not be fooled about the state of the city in Katrina’s aftermath. Although New Orleans has not fully recovered, it is completely open for business and nearly all of the attractions that made the city so great are available.
So where should we begin? You could probably spend a week just in the French Quarter and still not do or see everything this historic area has to offer. Although the Quarter is surprisingly small, every street in this district deserves a walk down and just admiring the architecture should occupy a portion of your time. The streets are very narrow and have a European feel, as does the Quarter in general. The French and Spanish influences are still evident in everything from the cast-iron metalwork to the traditional wooden louvers covering the windows and doors. Of specific interest are the Quarter’s old world style street signs made of tile. These artistic creations are sometimes located on the walls of corner buildings or the curbs themselves. In either case, they are a beautiful and often overlooked part of a city packed with historic subtleties.
Historic Bourbon St.
Even if you are not a fan of the party scene, take a stroll down Bourbon Street at least once during the evening hours just to get a feel for what goes on there every night. Because Bourbon Street is blocked off from vehicular traffic after dark, thousands of drunk partiers are free to stumble from bar to bar, steadily losing their self-respect as the night continues. If that is not for you, the morning is a great time to explore Bourbon for two reasons: One, few people are conscious, and two, the city uses a cleaning crew to “sanitize” the street from the previous night’s festivities. Yes, Mardi Gras is not necessary for this famous stretch of road to be very nasty by last call. If nothing else, you can say you have seen both faces of Bourbon Street.
Switching gears, because many visitors never travel outside of the French Quarter, numerous hidden gems of New Orleans remain dominated by locals. The Faubourg Marigny (pronounced Fa-Bore Mare-Uh-Nee; the locals do not enjoy when you massacre their exotic neighborhood names!) is a great area to explore and within a safe daytime walking distance from the French Quarter. The Marigny’s boundaries are Esplanade Avenue, North Rampart Street and Saint Claude Avenue, Franklin Avenue, and the Mississippi River. Most of the fun lies along Frenchmen Street, which is home to a solid variety of bars, music venues, and great bookstore and boutiques. The area is thriving with culture and has a down-to-earth, hippie feel. It is also a great place to people watch and get a better feel for the real New Orleans. Because NOLA has such a diverse population, the crowds range from college-aged hipsters to transients, creating an eclectic atmosphere worthy of exploration. Staying true to New Orleans, The Marigny is also a wonderful place to see some live music.
Because there are so many things to do and see in New Orleans, this article could easily transform into a short novel. If nothing else, know that a road trip to the city that loves to have a good time will leave you wanting more. Most importantly, however, is to know that Hurricane Katrina might have damaged the city itself but it did not affect the spirit of the city in the least. Moreover, because everything is almost back to normal, there has never been a better time to visit. So listen carefully, the Big Easy is calling you.
By: Gordon Alford