Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meandering in Mind and Body at the French Quarter

Usually I don't have trouble getting a "feel" for a place but this is not the case with New Orleans. I'm not sure what it was like pre-Katrina so it's difficult to know if the "texture" of the downtown, French Quarter, has been adversely affected. I'm guessing that it has been in a major way based on my observations.

My preconceived notions about the French Quarter were that it was going to have a charming look with a party atmosphere. I expected restaurants, bars, casinos, and lots of people. Bourbon Street in particular was a point of interest since I'd seen footage of Mardi Gras on television.

In reality I'm not sure about what I saw. I learned that the French Quarter was not flooded like the rest of New Orleans so there is not too much residual building damage. Here and there are closed businesses but most are open. So where are all the people?

I was struck by how few people we saw in the French Quarter. When you peered into the restaurants and bars, shops and studios there was nary a person. There were some tourists walking about but nowhere near the number I was expecting.

We walked a lot during the day and a half we spent here. Up and down streets like Decatur and Toulouse. We spent a little time on Bourbon, but after around 8pm it turns raunchy and we thought limited exposure to this was a good idea for Julie and Z's sake. We shopped at the French Market and ate jambalaya, muffeletta, fried shrimp, and red beans and rice.

Another element I wasn't expecting was a fixation on voodoo and haunted buildings. I think I would have enjoyed more of a spotlight on jazz and the Big Muddy. There were casinos, but these were outside of the French Quarter on the "American" side of Canal Street.

All in all I enjoyed our time in the French Quarter and New Orleans overall, but have mixed feelings about it. Architecturally it is interesting, culinarily it is tasty but in my mind I wonder about its past and about its future. Will this turn out to be a lull in its "history" or does it only have the atmosphere I was expecting during Mardi Gras?

~Desi

PS: Side note...as a Catholic, I am also pondering the whole Mardi Gras thing. After seeing Bourbon Street I'm wondering if Fat Tuesday is a day I want to be associated with.

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