New Orleans was an old friend from my past and when Maurice and Susan Cooper invited Charlene and I to come stay with them in the French Quarter for four days it was a no brainer. We flew into New Orleans on Sunday April the 9th, the Last Day of the French Quarter Festival. Within minutes of arriving we were sitting with friends sipping cold beer and enjoying the festival which in true New Orleans style was going strong. The festival consisted of a series of stages set up across the French Quarter playing every thing from zydeco to country and everything in between. The crowds were thick, the music was amazing and the atmosphere was pure fun. We spent our Sunday soaking in the entertainment and sitting in the shade of huge live oaks visiting with old friends and sipping cold beer.
The music was amazing, and free! After a while Cooper disappeared and returned with a styrofoam dish of fresh crawfish. Ahh cold beer and crawfish I was back in the city of my youth. In the late 70’s and 80’s I worked in Morgan City Louisiana and the French Quarter of New Orleans had been the place my friends and I had squandered much of our youth and most of our hard earned money. As the nuts in tights danced by and the musicians sang I had to give Charlene a hug. It’s great to come back to an old stomping ground that full of fun memories but it’s even better to do it with someone you love and want to share the crazy fun with.
We wandered home around 8:00 in the evening after dining on street food and cruising the various music venues all day.
By Monday they were tearing down the music stages, cleaning the streets and a much mellower City of New Orleans was before us when we walked to breakfast. Cooper and Susan turned out to be the perfect hosts and guides. For the last 27 years they have been returning New Orleans for French Quarter Fest. We willing followed as they guided us around town finding fantastic food, music and entertainment. Being the Geezer’s that we are we found ourselves sleeping till 10:00 in the morning and walking to local restaurants like Mother’s and The Ruby Slipper for breakfast/brunch every day.
Each day breakfast was a long leisurely affair where we tried City favorites like black ham and eggs and crawfish étouffée omelets. On the right I’ve got a new favorite I found at the Ruby Slipper, it is an omelet with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions and capers, WOW.
I remembered a New Orleans from 30 years ago. A New Orleans with the same great food and great music but a lot rougher around the edges. The New Orleans we enjoyed this week has matured into a world-class destination. The streets are clean and the ever lingering smell of garbage and stale beer is gone. Each morning crews were out working hard to keep the streets clean and their efforts have made the streets of New Orleans a lot more enjoyable.
One cool addition is New Orleans has become a movie center. Not a block from where we were staying at the Plaza Resort they were filming a scene from NCIS New Orleans. We talked to some people and the movie industry moved into New Orleans following the horror of Hurricane Katrina. So id you want to see some movie magic being made the Big Easy is a place where you can watch them film on the streets
Another aspect of the Big Easy that is new is the addition of attractions that give you the ability to take a break from the music and food and explore some new types of entertainment. We checked two of the new attractions, the World War Two museum and Mardi Gras World. I would recommend these two amazing attractions to anyone and don’t worry they are both big enough that you could go back a few times and not see everything. Check out my blog on these attractions.
With the Trolley and the Street Cars if you base out of any of the Down Town areas you can get around. The RTA has a senior rate for a RTA ride, as a senior your ride will cost 40 cents so for the price of a beer you can get around all day. Our room was up by Harrah’s casino and we could ride the Trolley to the French Market and Jackson Square in a matter of minutes. If you get a chance ride the Street Car up St. Charles Street it will take you up into the beautiful old houses of the Garden District and by many of the Garden District restaurants.
It’s always different going back to an old haunt and New Orleans was no different. The old staples like Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop and Mother’s Restaurant didn’t seem to have changed at all but the City of New Orleans has changed. It’s grown up, It’s cleaned up but even as the more mature and clean city it has become it is still pure fun, pure music and pure good good food. Charlene and I will be back soon because New Orleans may be one of the funnest cities to visit in the world.