Despite the wind and water scars, the ongoing lack of housing, and generally somber atmosphere in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina‘s devastating effects on the region, editorial intern Katie Howell tells us that her summer in the Crescent City was surprisingly positive. Just over a year after the tragedy, she shares some of her favorite things to do in this city that’s slowly pulling itself back together:
New Orleans has always been welcoming to tourists and new residents, and the aftereffects of a major natural disaster didn’t stop the city from showing me a good time. This is a city of details, and a perfect day can be spent absorbing them by biking along the levee or strolling down the side streets of the French Quarter. Many times, I stumbled upon a back-alley bookstore or an antiques shop and would get lost for hours in the history and culture.
By far the most moving experience I had was driving through the Lower Ninth Ward and seeing piles of rubble, bathtubs on rooftops, and cars wrapped around trees almost a year after the storm. Despite all the devastation, there was always someone sorting through the debris or hauling off chunks of sheetrock, bringing a sense that life goes on in an area that has lost so much.
With so many images and stories of the devastation all over the media, it’s almost revolting to think about looking at even more of these images, but there’s nothing quite so humbling as viewing the Hurricane Katrina photos at the Louisiana State Museum and then walking out the front door of the museum to see the rebuilding efforts in action.
On a cheerier note, New Orleanians continue to be fiercely proud of their amazing food—rightfully so. The Bon Ton Café (401 Magazine St., +1 504 524 3386) in the Central Business District offers delightful Louisiana food and is one of my favorite restaurants in the Big Easy. Lunchtime is always crowded, so I’d try to go early to beat the business-crowd rush. And the bread pudding is arguably the best in New Orleans. Another favorite, Port of Call on the eastern edge of the French Quarter, has a somewhat dingy appearance, but serves the best hamburgers in town.
My favorite New Orleans activity also turned out to be a great way to escape the hubbub of the French Quarter and downtown. The Canal Street Ferry takes cars and pedestrians across the river to Algiers Point and the views of New Orleans’ skyline from the ferry platform are well worth the $1-per-car fee. Walking along the quiet streets of Algiers Point, one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans, I saw picturesque turn-of-the-last-century shotgun houses and quaint shops, and discovered my favorite bar in the Big Easy, The Crown & Anchor, a neighborhood pub great for meeting colorful characters and enjoying a round of darts and a Pimm’s Cup.
Everyone knows that New Orleans is a drinking town, but the sights (and smells) of Bourbon Street weren’t exactly my cup of tea, so I decided to try out some other watering holes. The Bulldog in Uptown on Magazine Street offers more than 100 different beers and has been voted the best place to drink beer in New Orleans. I liked to go on Wednesdays for ‘Pint Night’ where you keep the glass with any draught beer purchase: instant souvenirs! Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar in the Warehouse District is a great place to grab dinner or a drink—like the Shark Attack, a rum-and-lemonade concoction that comes with fun plastic toys and a live-action demonstration. The Voodoo Two in the CBD is a low-key establishment with friendly bartenders and a fun atmosphere, where I almost always heard some classic Fats Domino playing on the jukebox. And I always had a blast at live music venues like Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., +1 504 895 8117) and Maple Leaf (8316 Oak St., +1 504 866 9359).
New Orleans is well on her way to recovery and autumn is the perfect time to visit. Not only are there events like the Voodoo Music Experience Festival, Art for Art’s Sake, and the Louisiana Swamp Festival, but the weather is considerably more pleasant than when I was last there in June, July, and August."
- Nat Geo Expeditions