Rob grew up in New Orleans and ever since we met, we talked about going there but then Hurricane Katrina hit and Rob didn't want to see the devastation of his childhood home city. Now enough years have passed and we finally made the trip. I've never been to New Orleans and thankfully Rob was willing to be a tourist with me so it only seemed appropriate to spend our first day in the French Quarter. This photo really makes it look like a European City, but don't be fooled, New Orleans is such a mash-up of different cultures, it's really a country unto itself.
Midnight in the garden of good and evil
We stayed with Rob's friends who live on Bayou St. John, just a few blocks from City Park, 1,300 acres of majestic oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss, canals, grass lawns, sculpture gardens and more.
Most of New Orleans seems to have recovered well from Katrina but we were curious to find any lingering signs of the devastation. It didn't feel right for us to take a Katrina tour so we explored on our own. The Presbytere Museum had a comprehensive exhibit on Katrina where this actual garage door with triage markings (left) was on display. We visited the public art sculpture "Scrap House" (center) by New Orleans artist Sally Heller, across the street from the Convention Center, where many refugees lived after their homes were destroyed. As we walked around the city, we noticed several "Evacuspots" (right), one of the post-Katrina improvements to facilitate transportation during a mandatory evacuation in advance of a Category three or higher hurricane. We drove through the 9th Ward, ground zero for the levee breaches. I couldn't bring myself to photograph the large neighborhood blocks that had been scraped clean and now were dotted with a few very nice houses built by Brad Pitt's Build It Right Foundation; I felt too sad imagining if that was my neighborhood, knowing that most of it is now gone.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the bright purple berries on this bush. I've since learned that it goes by the common names of American Beautyberry and French Mulberry. A member of the Verbena family, its Latin name is Callicarpa americana. Beautyberry is native to the southern United States although I never saw it in any wild landscapes while we were there.
You've probably been to cities where the street names are stamped into the concrete sidewalks at intersections. Some of the older neighborhoods in New Orleans have their street names set in tile, like Magazine Street in the Garden District (right). Putting in ADA compliant ramps on the street corners has caused some tile casualties but the locals found a way to make it right with a sharpie marker (left)
I was really taken by the colors of this cottage and matching landscaping in Algiers, across the river from downtown New Orleans
It feels like everyone in New Orleans is a fan of their NFL Football team, The Saints. Evidence of this is everywhere from black and gold t-shirts, hats, and flags hanging in front of people's houses. I even found Saints themed flowers left at a grave site in one of the historic graveyards and a Saints themed yard art sculpture in the Garden District.
Every region of the country has their own name for shaved ice with flavored syrup and in New Orleans they are called snoballs. Rob had fond memories of them as a kid and when we went back to visit his old neighborhood, he was amazed to find the corner snoball shop, Van's, still in business. But sadly the snoballs weren't as good as Rob remembered, prompting us to seek out the legendary ones at Hansen's Sno-Bliz - they were much better and really hit the spot on a hot day.
Ever wonder what people do with all those Mardi Gras beads? Well if you are student at Tulane University, you throw them up into this tree.
"Be Nice or Leave" is a simple statement that encapsulates the spirit of many New Orleans venues, so a painted placard or sign with this phrase can be found in many po-boy shops, dive bars and neighborhood restaurants. Two local artists, Dr. Bob and Simon are known for their painted signs featuring this statement in addition to others such as "Ain't Nothing A Po-Boy Can't Fix" and "Shalom Y'all."
Sunset on the Mississippi River with downtown New Orleans and the Crescent City Connection Bridge (upper left) as seen from Crescent Park. I was thoroughly charmed by New Orleans and could have shared 100s more photographs - hope you've enjoyed this small selection.
Thank you for taking the time to check out my photo essay!