Friday, July 25, 2008

Loved New Orleans

What comes to mind when you think about New Orleans? The Saints football team? Mardi Gras? Wild parties on Bourbon Street? Hurricane Katrina?

I watched, horrified when Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc during the latter part of August 2005. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, and the world seemed turned upside down as we all wondered what we could do to help. Images of those stranded at the Saints Superdome haunted me for a long time.

After what I saw Hurricane Katrina do to New Orleans via televised news stories, I wondered why anyone would ever want to live in this location. A little over a year later, I was given an opportunity to find that out for myself. During a business trip, I fell in love with New Orleans, and when my husband and I were given a chance to live there permanently, we seriously considered the offer.

My husband embarked on a business trip to New Orleans in October of 2006. He works for Monsanto and one of their plants is located outside of New Orleans. He had been asked to help with a special project for his company, and he had invited me to tag along with him. It was explained that we would be staying for about two weeks and I was delighted. I love to travel and this was a place I had never seen in person. I did wonder if there would be anything to see after all of the damage Katrina had inflicted. I was also bit uneasy about spending time in the Big Easy, after hearing about the rising crime statistics. Both of those fears proved to be unfounded.

I can state without hesitation that this was one of my favorite trips of all time. I loved the food: luscious fresh seafood; Cajun and Creole delights; as well as culinary treats like pralines, Muffalettas, and German sausage.

I loved learning the story of this Louisianna port town. Because of its access to the Mississippi River, New Orleans was settled by a myriad of cultures and it is a city with a rich historical background. It will be next to impossible to list everything I loved about New Orleans in one blog, so I will do so in a series of blogs. Today, I just want to whet your appetite. =) The one thing we were told to do repeatedly while we were there was to spread the word that New Orleans still exists, and is still tourist friendly. And there is a plethora of things to do in this location. Everything from sampling the wonderful food I mentioned above, to touring southern mansion houses from the Civil War era (none of these were damaged by "Katrina.") There are numerous bayous to explore, alligators to observe, and historical graveyards to wander. Rhythmic jazz to enjoy, and the French Quarter to savor.

As for the crime concern, we were never in any danger during our entire trip. True, we didn't venture anywhere alone, and we stayed in brightly lit areas at night, but I felt safe during most of our stay there. (We did have one scary adventure that I will probably share eventually.) Despite that one moment, I would visit again in a heart beat.

From time to time, I will share some of the adventures we experienced, as well as pictures that I took of the area. The picture I've included with this blog is of a jazz band playing in colorful Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans. To me, it captures what this city is all about, joi de vivre, or joy of life. The people who remain in New Orleans have taken this creed to heart. They are determined to rebuild, to survive, and to enjoy each day as it comes. We would go far by following their courageous example.

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