My wife and I have just returned from a weekend trip to New Orleans. We both grew up in New Orleans and now live three hours away in Brandon, Mississippi. Her parents still live down there so we go as often as we can afford to visit. The biggest thing we love to do in New Orleans is eat. There are so many restaurants we are always discovering new ones to try; couple that with the many festivals around the area and you have what I call "heaven on earth"
Now, I know after Katrina, hell even before Katrina, the opinion of everyone outside the city of New Orleans was such that the city was populated by godless heathens and other undesirables. To all of you that have never lived in or even been to New Orleans, let me tell you this; the city is not dying, it is not a den of thieves, nor is it a city best written off. As a simple matter of fact, I chafe whenever I hear someone who is not from New Orleans putting her down. If you have never been then how do you know?
One very true, very sad fact exists for New Orleans natives; this fact is no matter where you go in this great country, you will always be disappointed in the food. There is no other place in America that has the number and variety of restaurants like New Orleans. I know, I know, there will be the naysayers touting NYC, Chicago, L.A., Atlanta, ad nauseam but let me tell you there is no other place in this country where you can sit down to a Middle Eastern meal while your laundry is being done right next door...in the same duplex...by the same owner of the restaurant.
We went to the Crawfish Festival in Chalmette this weekend; this is only the second year for the festival since Katrina. Once we stepped into the festival, though, it was like they had never skipped a beat. Sure, driving through the Lower 9th Ward we saw remnants of the destruction the flooding wrought but the area was also very much alive with reconstruction. Houses are being raised and rebuilt, along with the hearts and hopes of its residents. The despair and hopelessness you are hearing about on the nightly news didn't appear for us and the residents of St. Bernard Parish and Chalmette were just as warm and welcoming as they were before Katrina.
The food was outstanding as always and the bands provided music that was ambrosia to my ears. The weekend after Easter is the French Quarter Festival and if you are anywhere within 500 miles of New Orleans I would say you absolutely HAVE to go. While you're there check out a few of the restaurants down St. Charles Ave, Prytania or Magazine Street; you will see what I mean about the food of New Orleans. I will post another story here soon about my home city where I will tell you about some of the great places nobody but the locals know about.
In the meantime sit back, pop a Dixie and turn on LSU Baseball!