forever new orleans

Okay, I’ve already been asked about this by more than one person, so let me end the, I did not get to see my New Orleans boy. When I contacted him, it turned out he was right in the middle of his finals for law school…which felt like a convenient excuse to avoid seeing me, until I received a nice message from him a few days after I came home. So maybe it was an excuse, maybe not…either way, I admit there was a bit of disappointment. But it certainly wasn’t the make-or-break factor in my trip.

Because my trip was awesome. I didn’t realize until right before my trip how many people still think of New Orleans as an entirely devastated city…in fact, one of my students said to me (with a straight face), “isn’t New Orleans still underwater?” During my vacation, I also saw this article online that discusses the misperceptions the general American public has about the Crescent City right now…basically, too many people are unaware that the city is waiting with open arms for the tourists to return.

And yes, the city has its problems. Public transportation is still not running 100%, some of the tourist attractions have yet to reopen, and crime can be a concern…but that last one in particular has always been something tourists there are warned about. Even before the hurricane and the levees wreaked their havoc. But in the big picture, New Orleans is still a wonderful place. I was reminded a little bit about its virtues during my long weekend there in August…after being there for a week this time, I can honestly say it’s a fabulous place to visit. Here’s why:

First and foremost, the food. Not just the Cajun food, but all the food. As my friend Catt said, “nothing is bad, and nothing is good for you.” She was referring to one place in particular, but I had only one less-than-superb meal all week. If someone tells you they planned their schedule in New Orleans around mealtimes, they aren’t lying…we definitely included “where to eat” in our conversations about where to go and what to do each day. I would recommend any of the following restaurants (some of which are long-standing New Orleans traditions): Mother’s, Felix’s, Tujague’s, The Camellia Grille, Sekisui Samurai Sushi, Reginelli’s, and of course, Café du Monde.

The sights. We visited the Audubon Zoo, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and the Audubon Aquarium…all of which were great. The best sights, though, aren’t the attractions…the best sight to see is the city itself. You can see the quaint, eccentric charm of the French Quarter…the old elegance of the Garden District. And then there’s the people-watching. If you like people-watching, New Orleans is the place to be.

The shopping. For knock-offs, trinkets and a random assortment of merchandise, there is no better place then the French Market. Then there are the used bookstores (like Crescent City), antique stores and art galleries (like Jamie Hayes) throughout the Quarter, and the multitude of locally-owned boutiques and shops throughout the city…which are all lovely. Of all the cities I’ve visited in the past couple of years, New Orleans definitely seems like one of the better ones in terms of being able to shop locally, for everything from stationery to clothes to groceries, and to find awesome things, whatever your tastes might be.

The music. It seems to permeate every corner of the city…from the jazz band accompanying Santa Claus through the Riverwalk to the street musicians at Jackson Square. And if you’d like to take a bit of that New Orleans sound home with you, I have to recommend the Louisiana Music Factory. The staff there was super friendly, and it was so helpful to be able to spend some time at their listening stations before picking out what I wanted.

Last, the people. Everyone – everyone! – was friendly and gracious. The trolley and bus drivers…the waiters in the restaurants…the staff in the stores…the random people we walked by on the streets…every person said “hi”, greeted us with a smile, acknowledged us. In fact, it was a little humbling how kindly grateful some of the locals were. Our waiter at Tujague’s said simply, “Thank you for visiting New Orleans”…and that wasn’t the only time we heard the sentiment.

So if you’re trying to decide where to go on your next vacation… you should go to New Orleans. If you’ve wondered whether this city full of culture and history and life is ready for visitors…you should go see for yourself. The city is ready for you…waiting for you…looking forward to having you experience all it has to offer.

Where I am: Lebanon, KY
What I’m reading: Atonement by Ian McEwan


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