Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Road Trippin' - Gulf Coast Style

With a long Labor Day weekend and our son's 18th birthday to celebrate, we decided to take a road trip to New Orleans. We had not been to New Orleans for a visit since Hurricane Katrina and were curious to see how the city was doing.

We decided to stay and be tourists in the French Quarter. We knew what the 9th Ward looks like from accounts on television and magazines and with the political corruption still rampant there, nothing will be done for quite some time. If you want to travel there and help the city, go be a tourist and spend your tourist dollars with the local merchants and artists, struggling to keep themselves in business.

Even with a holiday weekend, the crowds were small. We stayed at the W New Orleans - French Quarter. It is a terrific place and the location is wonderful for walking the French Quarter.

We noticed with sadness that the French Market is gone, except for the entrance archway. Also, Central Grocery was closed, so we weren't able to get our craving for their muffalottos filled. We were able to buy the Italian Olive Mix at Frank's though.

We ate two fantastic dinners at Bacco, the restaurant at the W Hotel. It is owned and operated by Ralph Brennan, of the legendary restaurant family. The food is described as Italian with a Creole fusion. Top notch cuisine.

The French Quarter is open and ready for your visit. It is very clean and we were not bothered by the panhandlers of the past days. There is also very little of street musicians or vendors. Lucky Dogs are still available, though.

The weekend was also Southern Decadence weekend. Southern Decadence celebrates gay pride. The highlight is the Sunday afternoon parade. The crowd was big for that event and no incidents of note occurred to dampen the mood of the crowd. Only a few protesters were visible with large placards proclaiming God hates fags, and the like. Police security kept them back and away from the crowds. It was the campy side of New Orleans and a bit of normalcy for the French Quarter. Everyone had a good time. Beads were thrown and the costumes were a sight to behold.

The view from the expressway into and out of the city shows lots of rebuilding and signs of everyday life. The people are still warm and welcoming. They are happy you are in their city.