Before the start of the ICMC Conference today, I spent the weekend exploring a bit of New Orleans. Zip of course came along for the ride and photo ops.
In this first article of several, we make the obligatory trip to the French Quarter. This area largely survived the devastation last year and was quick to reopen as the “adult Disneyland” that people associate with New Orleans. Just outside the quarter on Canal Street, damaged downtown buildings being repaired and closed businesses are a common sight – a little eerie in spots. but inside things have the appearance of being back to normal. The bars and restaurants are mostly open, music and neon lights are everywhere. Tourists are in abundance (perhaps not as many as before, I have no way to gauge this), and there were plenty of people and vendors around the major sites, such as Jackson square and the cathedral(?) of St. Louis:
Churches are fine, but there are also monuments a plenty to one of the town’s real religions: jazz. Here Zip poses with famed jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain:
We also took in some live jazz at the New Orleans Jazz national park in the French Market along the rivier:
The famed architecture of the quarter is exactly as one would expect:
Again, most places seem to have weathered the storm or been repaired quickly, and many that are not hotels or business are up for sale as condos. There are still plenty of signs of the last year’s events, such as ubiquitous blue dog, here decked out for Mardi Gras (or pretty much any day here, it seems):
A few pleasant breaks from the stereotypical tourist fare could be found in some of the small specialty shops sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, including a rather intruiging shop dealing in occult products, including “black cat fur.” No cats were harmed in the collection of this fur, one hopes… Also some craft stores, a modern art gallery that didn’t give in to insipid tourist tastes, and a cool little shop that used the mason’s “Pyramonster” as it’s logo.
Another welcome addition to the day was a performance art troupe Wild Animus, who performed part of their piece on the riverfront near Jackson Square:
Apparently, the artists responsible are part of a San Francisco art collective, go figure. Several performers were handing out free DVDs, which I have yet to review, but I am curious about this work.
There was a particularly surreal moment as a wedding processing, complete with Dixieland-style band crossed paths with Wild Animus. I have a little bit of that on a video, which I will post as soon as I get a chance.
Having had enough of the French Quarter, I went in search of what is apparently one of post-hurricane New Orlean’s best kept secrets: where to get tour passes for the bus system. After several attempts, I finally found a tourist info agent who pointed me in the direction of a kiosk in one of the shopping centers, but when I got there I was met only with a sign that said “Back 30 minutes after the hour.” I believe it was about 2:45 at this time. A little annoyed, I headed back to Canal Street anyway to catch a streetcar (and pay full fare) towards the city park, where the city’s main art museum and sculpture garden is located. Of course, the streetcar would be out of order when I got there, and the busses running in its place were nowhere to be seen. The changes of making it out to the park before the garden closed to visitors at 4pm seemed pretty slim. But instead of stewing in my frustration, I headed with Zip back into the quarter for a more local kind of stew and a local brew:
This is definitely following the traveler’s rule “When in Rome…” In addition to gumbo, we sampled some of the ever popular oysters, cooked in this case:
And with this, the first of many tasty meals and refreshing beverages to come (too many?), we conclude this part of the story.
Be nice or leave.