I followed Hurricane Katrina all day yesterday via CNN.com. I watched the footage last night on TV - the amount of devastation and destruction that has occurred is amazing.
New Orleans is a funny place. The first people to settle there were actually criminals - French criminals freed from prison if they would go and settle this humid swampland that no one else felt like settling. And the spirit of Bourbon Street was born, the raucousness, the party like your parents are out of town, anything goes craziness that accompanies a trip to the French Quarter. New Orleans: home to the hurricane (the drink, not the storm), voodoo, haunted houses, and more. New Orleans is a badass.
Now all the above stuff sounds crazy, and sometimes its over the top. But there really is something about New Orleans. Here's something I wrote about Bourbon Street for a travel web blog that I post on:
Bourbon Street can sound very pretty, but in actuality, it can be the ugliest street in America. Try walking down it in the morning before they've cleaned up all the garbage from the night before. Cups, papers, beads, vomit, bottles, and more will clog the gutters, and when that Lousiana sun shines down on it, you will smell the sinfulness of the night before. Don't take a stroll down this street at 10am, because you will see things you do not want to see. You will see the garbage I have just mentioned above, those who are already drinking too much, and those who still haven't stopped from the night before.
Instead, take a stroll down this street in the early evening, just when dusk has fallen. As the neon lights of Bourbon begin to kick in, and the music pours out of the bars and clubs, you can feel like you are in the midst of Mardi Gras, even if it's the middle of September. There is something joyous about people cheering all the time, about rainbow-colored beads raining down from the balconies. There is something raucous about women showing their breasts for hooting admirers, and about the shadow of a stripper through a joint's shaded window. There is something so delicious about the feeling of a hurricane going down your throat like fruit punch, and then clouding your brain like moonshine.
And about Royal Street, which runs parallel to Bourbon:
Royal Street runs paralell to the infamous Bourbon Street. It's something to note, that as crazy and wild as Boubon Street is, Royal Street is equally as elegant and peaceful. Royal Street is the place to go if you are looking to take a peaceful stroll on a pretty street on a sunny afternoon, especially if window shopping is your game.
While Bourbon Street is littered with beer bottles Royal Street is crammed with art galleries, many exhibiting paintings and artwork featuring things "New Orleans" like jazz musicians playing saxophones on street corners and green plants raining down from black iron balconies. The color that jumps out from these works of art is fierce...all bolds and no hint of whimsy pastels on these canvases. Art lovers will also find shops specializing in antiques and glass.
Royal Street has some of the prettiest buildings in New Orleans...ones done in beautiful pastel colors, sunny yellows, salmon pinks, and many with the famous New Orleans black iron balconies. As I before-mentioned, many have ferns and other green plants raining down towards the street, and these homes and hotels can make for great picture taking places.
For those that appreciate street performers, it is on Royal Street that you can find them as well. From the slow wail of a saxophone from a parapalegic musician, to the men who stand on soapboxes, frozen until someone drops them a dollar, at which time they move, playing music or miming for the crowds, to the delight of young and old alike. Look for one man dressed in an Uncle Sam red white and blue suit who is walking a dog. You will find him not far from Jackson Square on Royal, walking his dog across the street, frozen in mid-stride. It's really something else.
I can only hope that New Orleans will begin to recover soon, and to help, I'm doing this, and maybe you will too: