My dearest NOLA, I wrote you a love letter because you have held my heart captive with such good times. I’m not too fond of the way hurricanes treat you. Even more, I dislike how you get treated even worse after a hurricane devastates you. You deserve better because you are such a tantalizing fantasy that I cannot shake from my memory. I love your eccentric spirits, exquisite cuisine, Francophone ambiance, and Gothic architecture. It reminds me of living in Europe or visiting one of the French Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe, St. Martin, or Martinique. Consequently, I decided I must write my love letter to New Orleans, yes to you, my NOLA.
When I see you, I feel like I am in a tropical yet strangely European city. Of course, NOLA is my nickname for you, I know you are much more than European. That’s why I love your Joie de vivre.
One of my partner’s workmates is from NOLA, and she invited us to a dinner of boiled crawfish and vegetables in her backyard. It reminded me so much of my visits to NOLA.
I visited first with my daughter in November 2015. We stayed in an Airbnb on Port Street, described as Bywater Marigny. Our host, Ruby Dee, was thoughtful because she painted the house lime green with bright blue Caribbean window shutters, so we could always find it on our way home after some adult drinks. Despite the drinks and mostly the food, we always found our way home. It was close enough for a leisurely walk to the Quarter, where all the action was.
Crazy Cool Place
My daughter and I ate gumbo and a few other delectable cuisines, plus wine, and then walked on Bourbon Street. Here is a thing we do. We sing a song we both know with words of the City we may be visiting. So, you guessed it. Together, we sang “Moon over Bourbon Street” by Sting. This euphoric behavior is perfectly normal in NOLA. I love music, Sting, which is not weird for someone from the Caribbean. I had a classmate that loved heavy metal and bands like KISS. We embrace all genres of music. My daughter and I once sang,“I hear Jerusalem’s bells are ringing…” yep, while in Old City Jerusalem in the Muslim Quarter, bells were indeed ringing. Crazy fantastic for us!
Our visit was part of a college road trip, which we needed to fill the middle in with some NOLA. Ruby Dee mentioned in our communications that we would be in town the same few days as the Kwee de Boo Halloween celebrations. That was a pleasant surprise. It’s like a grand old street party celebrating the dead and not-forgotten. It’s not as intense as Mardi Gras, which is still on my bucket list. We ended up with piles of Oojami Mardi Gras beads around our necks. If you want to purchase some of these to spice up your next party, click here.
So Close To Being Famous
At one street corner where the parade was incredibly crowded, a film crew with a camera on a crane was shooting a scene for one of the Jack Reacher franchise, Never Go Back. Signs on the sidewalk alerted us that we agreed to be extras in the movie by being in the area. We saw one actor, Cobie Smulders, running through the crowd with the crane camera following her. Meanwhile, my daughter set herself up to be in a shot with Cobie. They edited her out since I never saw her in the final movie. It was so close to being famous!
NOLA, the one thing I don’t like is that ride on Interstate Highway 10. That is basically a floating bridge on a variety of swampland. Next time I will fly to see you in NOLA.
The Second Visit Was A Birthday Gift
The second time, my partner gave me a gift of a trip to NOLA. We took the plane this time. She made the bookings. So, I don’t remember where we stayed. But it was small and had all we needed. I remember visiting a vegan restaurant called Seed. It was an excellent choice for breakfast. This diet was the early days of my half-veganism, except when the meat was blissful to the palate. There were no festivals when we visited. We entertained ourselves with all the museums, including the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, serving healthy samples of chocolate-covered cockroaches to try. I passed!
On our last day, we had a late afternoon flight, and a rental car with a full tank of gas, we decided to see outside New Orleans. We drove south. After passing many levees and floodgates, we ended up in St. Bernard Parish. This area is like Waterworld country. This is an area not often seen or mentioned in the news. The people living in these areas are Fishermen and Shrimpers. Most of the area is below sea level. Therefore, many of the trailer homes we saw were on stilts. Some even prepared a boat tied to the house to escape during the subsequent flooding. We saw the monument to the 164 lives lost in St. Bernard Parish during Hurricane Katrina. My love letter to New Orleans has some sad realities.
The Monster Comes And Takes Lives
We saw houses in New Orleans where we could see the watermark from the flooding. There was evidence everywhere of places being underwater. I have been through hurricanes myself. Read my other article, "How to Not Die in the Next Hurricane,” outlining my experience. I saw destruction after my three hurricanes. But I could not fathom the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. This monstrosity made landfall off the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005. It crushed the landmass as a Category 3 storm with winds approaching velocities as high as 120 miles per hour. I could not imagine such devastation until I saw this land, prone to the fiercest storms on earth, with people living below sea level.
NOLA My Darling, I Will Be Back
I give you a rose for the times I had with you. You gave me great food. More importantly, you made me realize how fragile life can be and how we are all just trying to live and take care of our loved ones. The people who live on the coast of Black Bay, California Bay, and the millions of Bays in this area want the same things many of us want: to eat and feed our families, to have peace, to leave a legacy, and to thrive. I don’t have the answers to hurricanes hitting the Bayou almost annually.
Between September 27-28, 1998, Hurricane Georges rained destruction from the Lesser Antilles to Louisiana. NOLA, we shared that hurricane. I did not even stop to think of it then, so caught up in my hurricane woes. No matter how many hurricanes punish you for being so unique, we will continue to visit you, NOLA. I will continue to delve into your mysterious magic and welcoming arms. Our house has a “Rue Bourbon” sign over the kitchen as a remembrance. I am inspired by your culinary art. I am inspired to write a love letter to New Orleans.
Let’s lift a wine glass and salute you, my dear NOLA. Cheers!
My love letter to New Orleans may be your trigger to take a visit. Here is an entertaining book that describes NOLA as a magnificent Venice in the US that’s always worth visiting.