It is amazing what smart people with good intentions can do to increase tourism. A few years ago, New Orleans was discussed with sadness and tears and pity parties. We wondered how this formerly over-the-top tourist extravaganza could ever regain its footing. From Acts of God, to incredibly poor politics, it looked like the glory of New Orleans was going to be a historical study for academics. Culinary artists, gourmets, gourmands, and oenophiles were going to have to take their tastes elsewhere… New Orleans was no longer an option.
Fortunately the city that heralds “Let the Good Times Roll” did not hear the lamenting sounds of outsiders. Business people and political leaders picked themselves up from the debris of Katrina and developed an extravagant city that is flush with good food, good wines, great shopping, interesting museums, and a joie-de-vivre that is constantly in your face. Children running through the streets and hotel lobbies are happy; parents are jubilant; and seniors stroll blissfully along the streets, holding hands, kissing over drinks, and partying through to the following morning.
This first in a multi-part series, “My Take on New Orleans,” will, hopefully, capture some of the joyfulness that makes New Orleans a destination that is selected by choice and not by chance.
New Orleans. Not for the Timid.
Two four-letter words best describe New Orleans. One word begins with “w” and the other begins with “f.” Have you guessed? The answer is wine and food! There is no better place for world-class foodies to indulge their finest fantasies than at the New Orleans Wine and Food Festival. I am not usually one to rave about an event, but the people responsible for this program did a really fine job of providing lots of information within a well-orchestrated and enjoyable program.
If you and your significant other(s) are looking for a place to dine in splendid surroundings, with your food experience prepared by some of the best chefs on the planet; if you are prepared to select from wine lists researched and presented by world-class sommeliers, and visit unique museums that are not duplicates or clones of other learning institutions, then you had better call your travel agent and book a long weekend in New Orleans.
Glad. Not Sad.
Unless someone points out the location(s) of Katrina, visitors will have no visible notice of any disaster that has tried to knock this major-league entertainment contender against the ropes.
Drinking starts early in New Orleans, and ends late, as local laws permit visitors to walk the streets with drink in hand; folks of all ages take the permission as a gift from the gods. Between tweeting on iPhones, and drinking from hurricane cups, it is hard to believe that visitors ever find their destinations.
It is impossible to walk the streets, check out busy hotel lobbies and bars, without noticing a significant number of visitors wearing “double/triple xxx” pants and t-shirts. Although the shopping mall and local boutiques herald the latest in fashion with reasonable price tags, most of New Orleans visitors parade the streets and restaurants in pants/shorts and t-shirts along with flip-flops on their feet and straw hats on their heads.
Wining. Dining. Fetish.
Conversations revolve around food – where did you eat, where do you plan to eat, what did you eat, and when are you going to eat again? There is a good reason for this food focus – New Orleans is a mecca for some of the best harvests from the sea and farms, and according to chefs, the time from sea/soil to table can be under three hours. The chefs interviewed claim that the sea food/crops they are buying from local fishermen/farmers is as good as before Katrina, although the amount of product may be limited. Large demand and limited quantities produce relatively high menu prices; however, price does not seem to be a deterrent to visitors.
In the face of full disclosure, I must admit that I was in New Orleans specifically for the 20th Annual Wine and Food Festival, which may have drawn foodies from surrounding communities, but given the large number of people crowding the streets and hotel lobbies with extended families, I think everyone was in New Orleans just to have a good time.
New Orleans is a handicap-accessible destination and hotels are pet friendly. For a hotel that is not only a PBF (pet’s best friend); handicap accessible; and conveniently located near the convention center, casino, and shopping mall, the Loews will meet lodging needs. Management goes an extra step to pamper pets by keeping a toy box at the front desk. Loews also offers an in-room dining menu for their pampered pets that is as gourmet as it gets. The food is prepared by the Master Chef at Café Adelaide, and the K9 option is called Bark and Beef. Although reluctant to share the secret recipe, I was “told” that it is a gourmet blend of beef, eggs, and brown rice. For feline guests, the menu du jour is fresh fish, simply prepared. For less finicky pets, the hotel stores wet and dry Iams puppy and cat goodies. This is not a hotel for sloppy pets – so pet-etiquette is strictly observed: the hotel delivers (upon request) 2 shinny bowls, a placemat, and puppy waste bags as part of their in-room service. Pet walking routes and pet sitting services are also available.
This is a strolling town. Cabs are available but pricey, and drivers are likely to have bad attitudes, and the use of public transportation is not encouraged. The viable alternative – take to the sidewalks to get from place to place. Curb cuts along the sidewalks make the journey comfortable for visitors in wheelchairs, using walkers or pushing strollers. The restaurants do try to accommodate a variety of guests, from physically challenged to small toddlers needing high-chairs. The museums and other attractions also attempt to accommodate all visitors; however, it is best to call ahead when needs are special – so that the organization can make the visit as enjoyable as possible. Southern charm and hospitality goes a long way to making everyone feel welcome.