Thursday, April 21, 2011

The big easy

Just got back from a quick trip to New Orleans, Louisiana last night.  I was there for exactly 24 hours, and had the opportunity to visit and stay in the French Quarter for the first time in about fifteen years.  Obviously, a lot has happened since then, namely Hurricane Katrina and the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

When I arrived Tuesday evening the airport was busy.  By the way, how cool is it that the airport in New Orleans is officially named "Louis Armstrong Airport?"  Shuttles to the business district and the Quarter were nearly full, but I scored the last seat on one and off I went.

My last visit to the area was about three years ago, and I stayed in the suburbs to visit a client on the north short of Lake Ponchartrain, so I hadn't ventured into the heart of N'awlins recently.  Was immediately struck by how bumpy and uneven the roads seemed.  Could this have been an aftereffect of all of the hurricanes and bad weather that struck the area since my last visit?  Reminded me more of where I live, pothole central, than somewhere in the southern US.

I was pleased to get a good look at one of New Orleans' famous cemeteries, albeit as we hurtled by in the shuttle bus.  No underground burials there because the whole area's technically below sea level, so there are crypts above ground of various levels of ornation.  Vast, and quite unique.

I knew we were approaching what the locals call the business district when I saw the Louisiana Superdome, which was nearly destroyed first by Katrina and later by the refugees who went there when there was nowhere else to go.  It looked great.  I've never been in that building, and obviously there was still work being done on it, but nice to see such a visible symbol that things are moving back to normal there.

Passed by the Convention Center, which was another site of despair and confusion during the height of Katrina; it appeared to have been fully restored to full functionality.

My colleagues and I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone, in the French Quarter and right in the heart of things.  Nice, traditional room, free wi-fi (always a plus) and a decent meeting room.  We visited the Bourbon House (one of numerous establishments owned and operated by the Brennan family) for dinner and it was excellent in all respects.  And stopped in Mr. B's Bistro, across from the Monteleone, for lunch yesterday and it was equally good!

I could go on and on about what (and how much) we ate but suffice it to say that all appears well in the culinary world in New Orleans.  And I had oysters and shrimp, so I have to believe that all is well in the fishing industry, too.

Bumpy ride back to the airport (where, incidentally, they have the least comfortable gate area seating of any airport I have visited) and then home.  Quick trip, fun to see some of the folks who were present, and certainly enjoyed some good food and atmosphere.

Not sure when I'll go back.  But I would like to.

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