Dear New Orleans,
I love you. I know we’ve only just met, and I’m still getting to know you, but I definitely want to discover more. Firstly, you look amazing. Your architecture is so varied and I just love the Spanish colonial architecture in the French Quarter and beyond. Walking around some of the backstreets you could easily think you were in Haiti or Havana, Kingston or Cali.
I know that some days and in some places you can look a bit of a mess and that some visitors say you look ‘dirty’, but I love your relaxed demeanour and that you don’t really care what anyone thinks about you.
I love America’s big cities like New York, Chicago and Miami, but they love themselves a bit too much for my liking. You are so unpretentious and I love your myriad of quirky, cool independent shops, bars and restaurants in the centre of town. You would find it difficult to avoid multi-national chains in parts of Africa these days, but you seem to have avoided the homogenous tendencies of the rest of the world.
You also sound brilliant. Day and night there are any number of performers on the streets and in bars playing everything from blues to jazz, gospel to rock and roll and everything in between. One guy performing next to the famous Café Du Monde was playing a hunters harp from Mali. I never saw one of those when I was in Mali. From notorious venues like Preservation Hall and the Three Muses, to backstreet bars and random street corners – music is everywhere.
The tastes and smells of the food are just as varied. The beignets in the coffee shops are to die for, while Jambalaya and the various crawfish combinations have a distinct taste about them. It’s not just burgers, fries and fast food.
Drinkers are well catered for too. Bars can open for 24 hours should they choose, while you can walk around the streets with a beer in your hand. The puritans on the East and West coast have ensured most public places are smoke-free these days, but you still permit smoking in bars. I’m not a smoker, but it says so much about you – you’re laissez-faire, Bohemian attitude to life.
You’ve recently been voted the ‘best city in the USA to be single’, but you are so much more than that. Sure, New Orleans is a great city for a wild weekend, but you don’t have to be downing shots, enjoying happy hours and having fun and frolics in the French Quarter until 6am to make the most of the city. A short stroll from the tourist hubs and a more tranquil taste of the nightlife is easy to find. New Orleans is a people watching paradise with a wonderful mix of ages, races, shapes and sizes. There’s plenty of celebrities too.
You’re known as ‘Hollywood South’, partly because so many movies are filmed in New Orleans. Many ‘A-listers’ choose to have a home there because people don’t bother them. Prince or pauper – it seems to matter for little.
And to think what you’ve been through? Hurricane Katrina killed at least 1,800 of your people, devastated large parts of the city and broke your heart. The scars remain, but your recovery says so much about your spirit and appetite for life. It seems fitting that seven years on from that awful tragedy, you will now host America’s biggest sporting event – the Superbowl, and in the same week you will host arguably America’s biggest party – Mardis Gras and Carnival.
Preparations for both have been underway for some while – shops are smartening up their fronts, the airport is undergoing a massive renovation and taxi drivers are now legally bound to provide receipts to avoid visitors being ripped off. Every detail has been thought of. February is going to be quite some party. I know you have plenty of admirers, and I don’t want to sound over-keen, but I desperately want to be with you that week. Maybe it could be our second date?