Welcome to The Crescent City!
For years I have been wanting to visit the city of New Orleans and yesterday I finally made it to the renowned city I have waited with great anticipation to visit. Peter and I made the short 3-hour trip from Pensacola to the “Big Easy” for a nice little day trip. Trying to plan a day trip to a city with so much to offer is a mission in and of itself. But narrowing down the exploration to a more concentrated section I decided that it was best to stay in the heart of the city, to see the sights this city is most known for, so we stayed in the French District.
This city isn’t what I expected and yet was exactly what I was picturing at the same time. When Hurricane Katrina struck this city it was the strength of the people, the community and this country that helped built it back from up from the rubble, so I expected to see the haunted touch of disaster evident on the city.
Driving into the city was a challenge, we couldn’t figure out why there was so much traffic and so little parking, it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon but it seemed like there was more traffic then there should have been. Come to find out that this last weekend was the thirty-third annual French Quarter Festival! Talk about great timing! The city streets were thriving with music, shows, actors, vendors and people as far as the eye could see! Parking of course became a nightmare so after scavenging the area for almost a half an hour we finally found a parking garage that had space and wasn’t going to cost us $25 to park. Heading out to the streets to New Orleans now became less of a random day to mossy about the city but it became a mission to see and explore as much as humanly possible. The culture here to me is completely mind blowing! It became a Cajun version of Key West of sorts pure liberation and insanity! No one cared what was going on around them, what they were wearing at times, everyone was just free. And the music! Every alley, every street corner, every main straight stretch was filled with music of all genres! This to me is what feeds the soul, the music that you would hear from corner to corner shows the true heart and soul of the people. It shows their freedom, strength, personality, this is the heart of America. A heart that has come from a long history of change. As you walk down the streets of the French District on building walls you would see these tile signs to tell you the historical name of the street name during the Spanish occupation of New Orleans. I had to find it slightly ironic that New Orleans was once was the capital of a Spanish Province and yet it was founded by the French and then reclaimed by the French for a time before it was was acquired by the United States. It is so interesting how a single city can encompass such a profound history from many countries, this is what makes America so unique. Moving through the festival you could see the personality continue to show itself with every vendor. What I loved about this city the most is how supportive it is of the arts. No specific art either but every art! There were street performers, musicians, painters, puppet painters, psychics, palm readers, chefs, poets typing on typewriters and so much more! Some say this is the heart of Louisiana but I think that this city shows the true heart of America. Our country was once called the melting pot and this is a perfect example as to why we are called the “Melting Pot”. It is our diversity that makes us unique. It is our heart that makes us resilient and it is the people who make us strong. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming smell of filth in the city. I have been in many big cities before but this was something I was not expecting at all. Personally it kind of broke my heart, to see such a beautiful city, a city that has stood against all odds and still remains standing and yet all tourists care about when they come is to party and enjoy the drunken freedom that comes with being able to drink freely in the streets. Yet the further you remove yourself from the iconic Bourbon Street and make your way more towards Frenchman street you see little houses with smaller courtyards. Front Caribbean styled doors designed to let air in and keep bugs out during the hot humid southern summers. I think this is a side of New Orleans that most people miss when they visit this grand city. Another great location to visit while visiting the city is Frenchman’s Street. This is kind of the artistic street of French District, home of the floating garden and the rotating art flea market. Among my own kind I was enthralled with this street, spending time picking the artist’s brain and appreciating the diversity of their art that before I knew it the sun was nearly set. Home of “Who Dat” and the American city that is branded with my beloved fleur de lis I am happy that this spare of the moment adventure had such a happy ending. Normally when traveling I visit either right before or right after a festival so the fact I was able to visit on the last day of the grand festival was a thrilling thing to experience. This city is, to use a line from Shrek “like an onion, it has lots of layers”. There is no way possible to see it all in a single visit especially one that was so short but I will say that even in such a short time if you really look there is more to this city than meets the eye. You have to look though, you have to look in the details. How the city walls still have stains leftover from rushing winds of a hurricane, city sidewalks broken and uneven from flooding and most importantly the people of the city…an old lady sitting in her doorway with her feet kicked up painting the faces of strangers passing by, a man tending to his garden built in pots hanging to his balcony. These are the details that many people miss as they pass through the city.
Traveling Photographer Out!