Since I'm a New Orleans native, when I go back to visit, I rarely do the tourist thing because I'd rather spend as much time as I can with family and friends, just hanging out and being part of their day-to-day lives for a while. That means I rarely have pictures that would be of any interest to anyone outside of my family, which makes for a boring post about my trip to New Orleans.
So this time I took a few extra shots as I was driving around (my driving while taking pictures skills are improving!). I took these on the day I went downtown to pick up my adorable niece from her rather glamorous and exciting job at one of the big hotels. I-10 runs from the 'burbs into town and that's where I took pictures of 2 tourist attractions.
This is one of the "cities of the dead" that New Orleans is famous for. all of the white things you see are thousands of above ground tombs. This is just a tiny portion of one of the larger cemetaries, which covers several city blocks.
This is the Superdome and the new arena where I believe they play basketball and arena football. I can't imagine what kind of crack the architect was smoking when he or she decided that the arena should look like a gigantic Andes mint with the chocolate sucked off. It's like they had a contest to see which professional sports complex would win the "Fugliest Building" contest.
Here's part of the city skyline. The vast majority of commerce for the city is the tourist industry these days and most of the skyscrapers these days are hotels, not office buildings.
Then I was on Canal Street, in the heart of downtown. Canal Street is the original outdoor shopping mall in New Orleans. I remember many wonderful outings to Canal Street with my mother and grandmothers as a child, before the malls had been built in the 'burbs. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best clothes to go shopping. We'd park in the French Quarter, have lunch at a wonderful resturant, like Acme Oyster House or Tony's and then go shop till we dropped. Canal Street was always so beautifully dressed up for Christmas. Because the lighting was lousy, you can't really see it, but all of the light poles and palm trees have garlands and lights. It brought back so many cherished memories.
Most of the big department stores with their magical window displays and luminous light displays are gone now, but it made me laugh out loud to see that Blue Dog is rockin' the window display of this hotel.
In New Orleans, the palms take the place of evergreens so they have to be decorated as well. There were lights and big snowflakes in all of them. I thought they were so cute!
One of my favorite places to hang out in the city is Magazine Street. It's several miles of unique shopping, bohemian neighborhoods brushing shoulders with exquisite mansions, great places to eat and fascinating people to watch. My niece took me to one of her favorite spots, Sucre, a mecca of eye candy which has beautiful cupcakes and to-die-for gelato.
It's also home to the Garden District Needlework knitting shop. This was my first visit there and it was quite an experience. The owner has done nothing to artificially enhance the shop's decor (which is in an old building that has the original exposed brick walls, rafters, floors, etc.). The place is charmingly shabby and overall has a very funky feel to it. It's authentically New Orleans. I was surprised that they carried as much wool as they did (I'd have guessed they'd have more cotton, linen, silk and bamboo) and they had an over-abundance of synthetic and novelty yarns (I am pausing to shudder as I write this). Their inventory was low, since it was right after the holidays, and I was starting to worry that I wouldn't be able to do my part to boost the local economy.
But there was a room packed full of sale items that were all 50% off, so I picked up some lonely single balls of Mission Falls 1812 merino yarn, Noro Kureyon (in the exact colorway I needed to match in order to make a project for my North Carolina niece) and 2 pairs of Lantern Moons, which I have been dying to try. They must have had at least 50 pairs each in only 4 sizes: 7, 9, 13 and 15. Whoever did the buying on that order must have been smoking from the same crack pipe as the arena architect. But I shouldn't complain. I've started a project with the 9's and I can totally understand the degree of needle-worship Lantern Moon inspires. I adore those sharp little points and the silky-smooth glide. Now I want more!more!more! But unless I run into another sale, these will be it for a while.
Speaking of knitting, my 11 1/2 year old niece asked me to teach her to crochet, which delighted me no end. I learned to crochet from my favorite grandmother and think of her often when I'm doing needlework. Tragically, I realized that since my niece is left-handed, and I am not, that I was just confusing the poor girl. So I found her an instructional video on YouTube to show her how instead. I'll have to send her some luscious yarn and some hooks and then maybe she'll think of me when she crochets in the future.
One of the coolest comments I heard during the trip came from my 16 year old nephew, as I was trying to teach my niece to crochet left-handed (before we gave up). He said "V, just don't start knitting at parties like all of the high school girls do, ok?" My teeth about fell out of my head...I asked him to tell me more. Apparently knitting is a very popular activity with a large number of the junior and senior high school girls in their little corner of New Orleans suburbia, so much so that they bring their knitting with them everywhere, even to parties! Now these are young women who have their heads on straight, if you ask me. There is hope for the future! If only knitting would have been this hot when I was in high school and college....I wouldn't have gotten into nearly as much trouble, and would no doubt have had much more fun!
On a different day, Mr. C and I drove across Lake Ponchartrain via the twinspan bridges on the eastern edge of New Orleans. New Orleans East was a thriving and rapidly expanding community before katrina struck. There were very upscale neighborhoods, miles of apartments and condos, numerous old fishing villages and modern waterfront communities covering what used to be marshes and wetlands. It was virtually destroyed and wiped out. The media didn't give any coverage to this part of town after the hurricane, so when we drove through on this trip, we were astonished at the destruction, as well as the overall lack of rebuilding. It's creepy, like you're driving through a modern day ghost town.
Shopping centers, medical offices, schools, libraries and even the hospital (seen in the background) all remain deserted.
Apartment buildings and homes have been deserted. It's a city of ruins.
The amusement park, only a few years old when Katrina struck, now in ruins. It would be a great site to film a post-apocalypse movie.
So my poor, beautiful and beaten-up city is still here, but struggling. The people who have stayed are like pioneers - they're tough, determined and are not going to give up. When you read the history of the city, it's a testimonial to the staying power of it's people that there have been plagues, fires, wars, and hurricanes that have destroyed large parts of the city over the years, but the people stay and rebuild and don't give up. And after all the hard work, it's time to have a good party. Food, music, family and friends, all together, celebrating the joy of getting through the day and being alive. It's the spirit of New Orleans. It is unique and it is what makes people fall in love with the place. I am proud to come from such strong people and I am reminded of that every time I go back home.