Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Walking to New Orleans
First off, we went on Easter weekend, so that may account for the lack of crowds. But I don't think so. The streets were basically deserted for the first few hours. By mid-afternoon, there were more people mulling around, but still, nothing like the levels pre-Katrina.
We got into New Orleans around 5 p.m. Friday night. Exhausted from driving and whatnot, we checked into our hotel, planning on having a low-key evening. The hotel (The Residence Inn on St. Joseph St.) was awesome. My friend Clara, who made mucho money last year, decided to spring for it. Which is good, because no way I could pay $300 a night. Anyway, she got us a suite. We each had our own bedroom, our own bathroom. There was also a living room, dining room and kitchen. We had a mini-apartment. It was very nice. King sized beds with real linens, pillows that I wanted to steal so badly and comforters, really comforters, not those nasty little coverlets most hotels have.
We decided to head out for dinner and founds this hip Chinese place across the street. Hipstix. I highly recommend it. We didn't, of course, get Chinese. I had the striped bass and it was Oh.My.Gods. awesome. (New Orleans has fantastic food in general.) It was cooked in this pineapple, mushroom, green onion, berry, mint sauce that was just.....wow. We had some really good wine, caught up (I haven't seen her in ages and we used to hang out like eh, every day, when we lived in the same town.) Then, it was back to the hotel for a dip in the hot tub and sleeeeeeep.
Saturday was Walking Through New Orleans day. Our hotel was a short walk to the Quarter, so that's where we went. First, we dropped by the IMAX to see a feature on coral reefs. Clara loves 'em so, we watched. The IMAX is nice, but I wasn't overwhelmed. I did, however, get to relax and plot out the day. After that, we got our tickets for the aquarium and then headed on down to the French Market.
I have to admit, I adore the French Market. All those open air stalls, filled with tables of stuff. I know, it's kinda low-rent, but oh well. It's fun! I bought way too much jewelry, as I always do. Amber. I looooooove amber. So, I have new earrings, new necklaces, new bracelets. I'm happy. Amber makes me happy! I found this gorgeous amber butterfly...had to have it, didn't even care about price. But, the Market itself, while awesome, was not as big as it used to be. Before the storm, it went on and on and on. Now, it's fairly decent sized, but clearly smaller. The 'market' part is no more. There used to be a section devoted to actual food. But that's not there anymore. Hopefully, it will come back, once the area recovers. It's hard to bring your produce to market when your garden space has been ruined by all the gunk that was in that water, after all. And gods know, the seafood industry has taken a hit.
After a nice long wandering through the market (Clara's first time. And boy was she pleased. She was like "now I see why you like this place." Girl spent more than I did.) we headed back up the street for lunch. (We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. Not my choice, but she wanted to go there and hey, she did pay for the hotel.) Then, it was off to the aquarium.
You can tell there have been serious changes to the place since the storm. It's recovered, but it's not quite as amazing at it once was. They rearranged things, expanded the kids section. That was all good. But it took me forever to find my giant sea turtle! Finally found it, since I wasn't used to the new layout. There were really far fewer turtles than usual. They used to be all over the place, but now? Not so much. It made me sad, since I love turtles.
We did a little more wandering, then headed back to the hotel. It was starting to rain (frigid, freezing rain in April?? In Louisiana?? ARG!) and we were walking, so . . . We got off our very, very tired feet for awhile, then decided -- we was tired, we werent' walking to a restaurant for dinner. So, we got Japanese delivered and watched Mean Girls on tv. (Very funny movie, if you haven't seen it.) Then, it was a nice trip to the workout room and looking longingly at the hot tub -- it was outside and it was in the frigging 30s!! In Louisiana. In April!!
And then, we packed up the next day after having a really yummy hotel-provided breakfast and headed home. All in all, a very fun trip, if a bit low-key. We both needed a break and it was nice to get back to New Orleans. We're planning to head back down in a couple weeks to do the museums. There are four or five within walking distance of the hotel.
So, that's my dispatch from New Orleans. There were clearly signs of recovery, but it was clear that there was a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done. Lots of apartments being built and for rent, but rents are extraordinarily high at this point so not many people can afford them. I really love New Orleans. I love the feeling of the place, the age and the history. And it hurts to see it still so far from what it was. But still. . .it was a nice weekend.