It’s great to have another Super Bowl fast approaching, in one of America’s greatest cities. On February 3rd, 2013, the Baltimore Ravens will square off with the San Francisco 49ers in America’s biggest sporting event (fun fact: the Monday following the Super Bowl is the day most Americans call out from work “sick”). And as much as I would have loved to see the New England Patriots lose another heart breaker, I’m just glad they’ll be traveling to the golf course rather than the Big Easy this year. I’m a Buffalo Bills fan by the way (as is Bell by default), unfortunately.
It would have been great if the Saints had made it to play in front of their home fans as that has never happened in the 47 year history of this event. Regardless, residents of New Orleans can take pride that the nation will be focused on all the fantastic things about their city leading up to the big game.
New Orleans is wonderful for its architecture, food, jazz, art and of course partying with a hurricane (the drink) on Bourbon Street. The amazing Creole food options make the city, hands down, one of the very best places to eat in America. With awesome jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, po’ boys, muffalettas (pretty much the most amazing sandwich you’ll ever eat), beignet donuts and a steamed pile of un shelled mud mugs- you’ll be extremely occupied trying local delicacies for days. So if you’re lucky enough to be visiting New Orleans anytime soon, perhaps wait to eat chicken wings at Hooters until you get home.
Bell and I loved going to the art galleries on Royal Street. They are phenomenal, it’s like going to an art museum, for free. And for artwork that can cost in the tens of thousands, the shops certainly don’t expect you to buy anything when browsing. They leave you be, if you’re interested in something you can ask them about it. Unfortunately Bell and I didn’t have a spare $10,000 on us.
Royal St. is a refreshing break from Bourbon Street, which isn’t so pretty during the day, and can be too crazy at night. If you’re going to the upcoming Mardi Gras, be prepared to have some difficulty just moving on Bourbon St, as you’ll be packed like a sardine, no exaggeration. I went to Mardi Gras in 2000 while I was in college, and it’s fun to do once, but I prefer New Orleans on a normal day, when it’s a great time with less hassle.
Steeped in Victorian architecture, New Orleans has an old world European charm, and at times feels like you’ve stepped back into the 1950’s. I did find the “yes sir” and “no sir” replies I often received from older black gentlemen in the service industry to be unsettling though. Yes it’s polite, but the tone often seemed too subservient. Even in New Orleans, the problems of the deep south are evident.
And New Orleans, which has fought hard to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, still grapples with economic and crime problems. Sadly, like too many American cities, you have to be careful not to walk down the wrong streets at night. In 2006, a year and half after Katrina, we stayed at a struggling and dilapidated hotel called the La Salle on Canal Street, which was just 2 blocks away from the Ritz Carlton. The street corner right outside was a gang haven and the hotel itself was turning into a flop house. It was frightening to walk past that corner at night. We had no idea prior to booking.
On our last trip to New Orleans in 2009, I walked by the La Salle hotel to find the front door chained shut and a “condemned” sign out the front. When I went back to our hotel I immediately googled the La Salle and found out that someone was found dead in one of the rooms just a few days prior. For anybody who thinks Bell and I have traveled the world because we are wealthy, read that article. Yup, we stayed at that place in 2006 before it lost its hotel license and became a squatters haven.
On our 2006 trip we also toured the lower 9th Ward neighborhood, and a year and half after Hurricane Katrina, we were shocked at the condition of the area. Houses were still marked with the number of dead found, an entire shopping center and gas station sat collapsed, and a whole amusement park rotted away like something out of Scooby Doo.
We did not visit the Lower 9th Ward again in 2009, but we were impressed by how far the city center had come in 2 and 1/2 years. I could see New Orleans returning to its former glory, like the city I saw in 2000. This is a city that deserves to triumph and shine because with all of its problems, it’s undoubtedly one of American’s greatest, and one of Bell and I’s absolute favorites. I’m looking forward to watching the game from afar, in Ireland, and reminiscing about our good times in the Big Easy. I’m thrilled New Orleans is hosting this event again, because no other American city throws as good of a party.