Back in New Orleans

New OrleansWhat a treat it was to be back in New Orleans. I love this city with it’s distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture. Who can resist the charm of the French Quarter where vining plants spill over the edges of balconies?

I love the multicultural atmosphere of the city, as well as the complete mix of architecture, from Greek revival, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, to Renaissance Colonial, and Gothic. I love the street performers, the ghost and voodoo stories, the street cars, the parades, and the people of New Orleans.

New Orleans, catastrophically affected by Hurricane Katrina, and hurt by the recent recession and the BP oil spill, is still struggling to recover. While the city welcomes back thousands of visitors yearly, many of the bayou inhabitants have yet to return as post-Katrina housing has become quite unaffordable.

New OrleansI was in town as part of a team competing in the Ironman 70.6 triathlon. What an amazing experience. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to Alyce Weixler and her husband, Andy Gunkler, for having me as their half marathon relay runner.  We had so much fun together; seeing the city through their eyes was wonderful.

Together we experienced the amazing cuisine of Nola that you really do not get anywhere else in the country. Jambalaya, gumbo, and muffulettas are all traditional dishes, and no visit would be complete without beignets from Cafe du Monde.

New OrleansThe cafe was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans. So make sure to visit. People-watching on the terrace of Cafe du Monde is my favorite thing to do in New Orleans, rain or shine.

And Then There’s New Orleans Jazz

New OrleansOn arrival day, we had a lovely drink at the bar of Brennan’s, where a Jazz orchestra provided a festive welcome.

To best way I know to describe Jazz in New Orleans is to borrow a phrase I read in the New Orleans Official Guide: “Jazz, of course, is not an invention. It’s alive. It grows, it dies, it changes, it stays the same. Jazz is to American music what the Mississippi is to America, and just as many rivers feed into the Mississippi, music (and musicians) from many cultures came together in the creation of Jazz. And they came together in perhaps the only place in the world where it could have happened, a place where multiculturalism was, and is, embedded in the fabric of everyday life: New Orleans.”

Jazz was, of course, not born in one day or one place, nor was only one particular person responsible for it. Jazz is when a variety of influences come together to create something special. In New Orleans, they call that gumbo. And I agree that nobody makes gumbo like they make it in New Orleans.

I can’t wait to visit again!