We got up early this morning, hurriedly showered and dressed and loaded our cameras into the truck and headed away from the house. We had no idea where we would end up but it was just too nice a day to stay home. The sun spiked the temperatures to 75 degrees with an occasional cloud that pretended to threaten rain.
We drove the back roads for a while then entered the interstate at Breaux Bridge and headed east. The first stop was for boudin balls and meat pies which we munched while heading east.
We drove around Baton Rouge and thru LSU's campus; the campus was deserted as it should be on a Saturday. Eventually we made it to New Orleans. I was surprised to see the crowds this year. Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has never seemed as crowded it was pre Katrina. We walked to Cafe Dumonde and waited for a table. We waited and waited. This is normal. The place was packed. Eventually I did find a table then waited again for the wait staff to find us. The beignets as usual were perfect. Cafe au lait and beignets is a must stop for me every time I'm in the city. Crowds were everywhere. The street mimes, tap dancing children, artists, and dancers were hawking their talents.
We eventually made it to the River Walk and watched the traffic on the Mississippi River. We could see paddle wheelers, barges and ocean tankers in the water; bikers, skateboarders and strollers on the levy. The homeless were out with their closets packed into their shopping carts and busily talking to themselves. In the background you could hear the jazz bands playing and spontaneous dancing by the crowds; New Orleans is a noisy city. Sirens, music and people make for a city that whirls and spins with laughter and music. Mardi Gras just amps it up even more then usual.
We spent some time driving down St. Charles and looking at the mansions built by the cotton and sugar cane moguls. The streetcars on St. Charles were making their frequent stops and starts catering to the visitors and the locals that use them for transportation to and from their jobs.
We cruised Bourbon Street and inched down the street among all the crowd that walked in the middle of the street until a vehicle came through and moving leisurely to allow for traffic. A wedding party dressed in black with the bride in a black and white gown marched ahead of us giving way when they heard the trucks' approach.
We had dinner at Tony Medina's on Canal Street. This is the first time we have been back to Medinas' since the hurricane. The previous times we have driven by seeing all the kitchen appliances sitting on the sidewalk; the building was devastated from the hurricane. It has been remodeled and now open again for business. Canal Street is almost back to normal. Palm trees have been replanted down the center of the street; the street lamps have been repaired and the stores are no longer boarded up.
We didn't go to the Lower Ninth Ward this trip so I don't know how much restoration has been done there. There is still a lot of cleanup to be done but the crowds are back which will help the city recover.
I love driving through the 'Quarters and watching the people and there were lots of people to watch. By 6PM you could spot the tourists. Glassy eyed and staggering or screaming, dancing and flashing their "hurricane glasses" of drinks these guys were never going to be conscious at midnight.
A friend bought an apartment on Boubon Street immediately after Katrina from a man that wasn't staying around for the next one; the next hurricane. The apartment is on the sweet end of Bourbon. It is a double apartment; two apartments bought and connected by remodeling and tearing down the adjoining wall. Steve was having a gathering there; cooking a chili and drinking beer with friends before the parade. We were invited to attend. No parking spaces to be found anywhere close to his apartment so we headed home. Maybe next time.
This will probably be the last time I visit New Orleans pre surgery. When I am in walking mode again, it will be too hot to go and I don't do New Orleans in the heat of summer.