The number of travelers visiting New Orleans doubled in 2007 compared to the year before, proving that Hurricane Katrina’s damage to the city’s tourism industry isn’t irreparable. IgoUgo members are among those who visited the recovering city recently—some to remember, some to discover, some to party. Here, their reflections prepare others for what to expect on a visit to New Orleans in 2008.
Though she was hesitant to visit for fear of seeing her city in ruins, in February 2007, frequent visitor cr008k found that her favorite place is “as wonderful as it ever was”:
”In the main touristy areas, everything seemed back to normal. The French Quarter had been pretty much undamaged, and it was just like it had always been. There were tons of restaurants, delicious places that offer traditional New Orleans treats at a good price in a fun atmosphere. Nothing to be disappointed about there. The nightlife was still raging. There are tons of fun, casual, laid-back bars to go to for a few (or perhaps many) drinks. There were plenty of tourists and others out, even though we didn't go in the heart of tourist season. It was almost easy to believe that no hurricane had ever happened there. Overall, visiting New Orleans is still as wonderful as it ever was. The culture is still great, the people are still friendly, and the city is still fun and has plenty of great things to offer. I'd highly recommend that you visit.”
Meanwhile, North Carolinian RoBoNC was visiting New Orleans for the first time to attend both Mardi Gras (he left “already planning for Mardi Gras 2008”) and a tour of areas affected by Katrina. He found New Orleans’ lively spirit in both experiences:
”Getting a grasp of the enormity of the devastation is best achieved by taking a guided tour. Katrina tours have come under much criticism because it has been argued that tour companies are profiting from the residents’ miseries. I tend to disagree because these tours bring reality to the forefront by explaining where the levees broke, how high the water level went, and other aspects of the destruction that cannot be gained from television or even self-exploring. The greatest benefit of these tours is that most of the reputable tour companies send most of the proceeds back to the city to continue the rebuilding efforts. After taking this tour, I believe the spirit of N’awlins is alive and it is going to take more than a hurricane to silence it.”
There was obviously a lot of partying going on in New Orleans in February 2007, because ripplefan2 was in town as well. He and his girlfriend, also first-time visitors, enjoyed a classic Crescent City weekend:
”Giant, elaborate floats cruised by with jesters, knights, and children throwing beads and other Mardi Gras paraphernalia at the ever-growing crowd of onlookers. On Canal, the city’s true artists come out. On the corner of Bourbon and Canal, a face-painter stood covered in tie-dyed robes offering free face paintings in return for tips and a picture for his collection. A horn blower sat on the adjacent corner blasting the hypnotic sounds of Miles Davis. It was a truly unique place to be at that time. The next day, to help quell our hangover, we decided that a gingerly walk into the French Quarter was a good idea and walked along the river to the aquarium. Our first stop was the highly regarded Café Du Monde for some coffee and beignets. If you have the chance, I highly recommend a visit to the café, not only for the beignets, but also for the ambiance.”
For the BartonFamily, visiting New Orleans is tradition: they arrive via Amtrak every other year. Another tradition of theirs is settling into Jackson Square on the first day of vacation:
”It's become our tradition to purchase muffalettas from Central Grocer and bring them here for a picnic. And there's plenty to keep us entertained while we enjoy our lunch. Jackson Square is full of character and characters. We once met a Frenchman (if he wasn't French, he had a great fake accent!) who was taking his leashed pet rabbit for a walk. On another occasion, a man sat down across from us and removed his shirt. (He was about as in shape as we are so it created a sight to behold.) Within minutes, he was approached by two police officers who told him to put his shirt back on. He refused, wanting to know why. They didn't waste time debating the point, and in the blink of an eye, had him on his feet, escorting him—and his shirt—right out of the park. At Jackson Square, one can totally relax, people-watch, and listen. The carriage rides are on the south end of the square, along Decatur Street, while the psychics, tarot card readers, sketch artists, street performers, and musicians line the remaining sides. Together they create an interesting cacophony of entertaining sounds and offer an abundance of photo opportunities.”
On yet another first visit, kimbis ventured south to New Orleans from Michigan Last August to see what she was missing. For one thing, she’d been missing out on New Orleans cuisine, and she returned with a recommendation:
”Sad that I never saw the city before Katrina, I decided I needed to go down for a long weekend. The Camilla Grill is a New Orleans mainstay, and just opening back up in mid-2007 after being closed since Hurricane Katrina. It's the kind of place locals adore and some tourists just don't quite get. You don't go to the Camilla Grill for the food, really. My pecan waffle was good, the hamburgers smelled great, but the main attraction is the people...both customers and staff. It's the kind of place where you high-five the server when he takes your order. Leave your pretense back in your hotel room, and just go and enjoy.”
And two more New Orleans virgins hit the city this past September to celebrate their first anniversary. Newlyweds smccalib and husband want others to know that they found the perfect place to stay at Ashton’s Bed & Breakfast, where they befriended the owners:
”We were fortunate to be able to eat dinner with Patrick and Karma our first night in New Orleans at Mandina's on Canal Street. I had the soft-shell crab almandine and it was soooooooo goooooooood. My husband had trout almandine. We learned so much history about the city and the restaurant during our dinner. And the next day, breakfast was magnificent: poached eggs served on a bed of spinach and artichokes with hollandaise sauce, a fresh fruit bowl, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Patrick supplied us with maps and advice for our adventures that day. That evening he suggested we try the Red Fish Grill. It was superb, as were the beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde. All in all, we rate our stay with Patrick and Karma as a 15 on a 10-point scale. We'll be back!”
All of IgoUgo’s recent New Orleans travelers echoed her sentiment that it won’t be long before they’re back. It seems The Big Easy's good times are only getting bigger.