The rebirth of New Orleans
When Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, New Orleans went from a party town to the most expensive reconstruction program in America's history. But this is a city where culture means business. Beloved tourist destinations on the high ground – in the French Quarter, the Garden District and Uptown – have reopened their doors, and the festival season kicked off in February with a roaring Mardi Gras.
Need a reason to trumpet the Big Easy? As Wynton Marsalis said, “What gives you the will to survive? That will has to do with your soul and your spirit. That is what culture is.”
Eat and be merry
A few years back, New Orleans was voted the second best American city for dining by Food & Wine magazine. To this day, perhaps the best reason to come to New Orleans is to eat. Restaurateurs understand that improving New Orleans' economic health has much to do with the happiness of a well-fed tourist. Restaurant Month, locally known as Parade of Cuisine, is a food and wine festival that takes place in August 2006, with special menus (and prices) at some of New Orleans' finest dining establishments.
In New Orleans, you're spoiled for choice: Galatoire's reopened January 4, so we can once again partake in delicious shrimp rémoulade and crabmeat maison, as well as house specialties like soul-satisfying trout meunière and lamb chops bearnaise. Upperline is also up and running, with its amazing Oysters St. Claude, fired and topped with a Creole bordelaise sauce.
For a sweet fix, Café Du Monde is once again delighting its patrons with its beignets (doughnuts, for the uninitiated). And, to round off the night, stop by the Napoleon House for the archetypal New Orleans nightcap, the Sazerac. One of the world's oldest cocktails, the Sazerac was invented in the Big Easy and is a mixture of Pernod (or other absinthe substitute), syrup, Peychaud's bitters and rye whisky.
The sad truth is that many of the wonderful restaurants in predominately African-American neighbourhoods are still closed. But there's reason for hope: People are coming together and doing their best to rebuild what they can of the city. Willie Mae's Scotch House, a Creole-soul food restaurant owned and operated by Willie Mae Seaton for over 50 years, is being resurrected, which means we'll soon get our hands on Willie Mae's wet-battered chicken. For further up-to-date listings of what's open for business, visit Zagat Survey's New Orleans' update.
Galatorie's Restaurant, 209 Bourbon St., 504-525-2021
Upperline, 1413 Upperline St., 504-891-9822
Café Du Monde, 800 Decatur St., 504-525-4544
The Napoleon House, 500 Chartres St., 504-524-9752
Willie Mae's Scotch House, 2401 Saint Ann St., 504-822-9503
Most hotels in or near the French Quarter are taking reservations, including the grand and opulent Le Pavillon Hotel and the elegant Windsor Court Hotel. The swanky W Hotel has also reopened for business. For smaller boutique hotels, try the Hotel St. Marie with balconies that overlook the French Quarter. Or spend a day enjoying the lush, tropical courtyard of the Hotel Maison de Ville with its Audubon Cottages and 18th-century townhouses.
New Orleans has always been known for its warm hospitality. During the hurricane and its chaotic aftermath, both the Royal Sonesta on Bourban Street and the 1,100-room Sheraton provided shelter for hundreds of guests and employees.
Come back anytime
The French Quarter Festival (April 21–23, 2006) will take place as scheduled this spring, as will the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 28–30 and May 5–7) – both great excuses to get back to the city. But on any given day, New Orleans is worth a visit.
(Jervey Tervalon is a New Orleans native and has written two novels set in the Big Easy. He teaches writing at UCLA and is currently working on The Pootbutt Survives: A Memoir of Growing up in the Hood.)
We offer daily flights to New Orleans via Chicago in conjunction with Star Alliance™ member airline United Airlines. Book now. Rediscover the Big Easy with our great deals on hotels (nightly rates starting as low as $107 CAD) and car rentals.
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