We first visited as newlyweds on our honeymoon and the combination of music, food, history, and soul was addictive. We have since journeyed to New Orleans every year of our married life at least once (but usually far more times).
We love everything about New Orleans, from the feel of the French Quarter to the touch of the breeze on your face as you stroll along the levy and the Mississippi glides along beside you; from the grand houses along Saint Charles to the funky painted river shacks along Burgundy.
We love the people of New Orleans, who demonstrate an exuberance (even since the storm) that cannot be described in words. They have a gracious hospitality that makes you feel at home. They have a sense of tradition, family, and love for living that is downright infectious and makes you tap your foot, join along and (if you're lucky) carry just a bit of the South home with you.
We love the food ~ of course ~ of New Orleans. Whether beignets at Cafe Du Mond in the early morning with a cup of steaming chickory coffee (even on 100 degree days), Turtle Soup au Sherry at Arnauds, Praline Bacon at tiny little breakfast haunts in Fobourg Marigny, Gumbo anywhere with the crusty French bread that is only found below sea level in New Orleans, waiting in line for a Mufaletta at Central Grocery, fried Pecan pie and burgers at the Camillia Grill at the end of the St. Charles Streetcar line in the Garden District, Alligator Sausage Cheesecake at Jacques Imos Uptown, a Po-Boy from Mother's where the one hour wait even on a steamy summer afternoon is worth every minute, the Avacado Shrimp salad at the Napoleon House, Bread Pudding at Commander's Palace, even a Lucky Dog consummed on Bourbon street at 2AM ~ food just tastes better in New Orleans.
Music. When Katrina was coming, and Ivan the summer before (yes, Gretchen has been there for each) ~ what you noticed first (besides your favorite Daquiri stand closing on Bourbon) was the silence. The music stopped. In the months after Katrina, it has taken time ~ but the music is back in the Quarter. What a sound. Preservation Hall is the best ~ where you have to tip $20 to hear "The Saints" but you won't ever hear the song the same way again. Or taking a ride over to Frenchman's Street for an evening at Snug Harbor ~ where Ellis Marsalis is know to drop in a few nights a week. Street musicians abound ~ some better than others ... the best can be found in the mid-afternoon at Cafe du Mond. And don't let them fool you ~ they'll take your tips, but if you want a CD (and yes, you will want) they can whip out the credit card machine before your VISA leaves your wallet.
There's just something about New Orleans.
It's Mardis Gras ~ and most folks outside of the South don't get Mardis Gras ... it's an intensely family-oriented celebration. Our friends in New Orleans are loving today, sort of a mid-year Thanksgiving. And we celebrate with them. We've got a great batch of Gumbo going on the stove, and french bread. We're picking up our King Cake (and here in Saint Louis you HAVE to call a real bakery and ask for the traditional almond paste King Cake ... traditional cakes don't have crazy fruit filling like Soulard's "traditional" cake claims!) and we will celebrate family, food .... so as the Cajun's say "Laissez les bons temps rouler!"
Let the good times roll!