Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NOLA Part 1: The City

The kids and I just got back from visiting my sister in New Orleans. Even though she moved there a year ago, it was our first time visiting her there, as well as our first visit to the city.

My impression of New Orleans was that it is a city with incredibly obvious dichotomies. The over priced and opulent sits directly next to the ramshackle and dilapidated. I was shocked at the distinct differences, made only more noticeable by their close proximity.

When we first got there and began walking around the streets, I was surprised that many of the people on the streets did not say hello as we walked by. In fact, many people didn't seem to acknowledge our existence. I thought that perhaps there was still a bit of racial animosity left over from Katrina, as most of the people we passed on the street were black, and we are white. But that wasn't the case. As I met more people, I realized that there didn't seem to be any racial animosity. I met people of all races that were incredibly pleasant , friendly, and helpful, and an equal number of people that were cold and distant. However, I met few people that were in between.

The houses were equally dichotomous. A beautifully restored 200 year old mansion stood next to boarded by houses that could barely stand under their own weight. The houseing situation was even worse in the areas hit hardest be Katrina (I did not see the 9th ward, and cannot speak to its current condition). Some of the houses that had been flooded were fully restored and occupied, but I saw a few homes that still bore Katrina body counts.

The famous magazine street was also a surprise. I was familiar with many of the high end shops that called magazine home, through online shopping. I expected the exteriors of these shops to be as opulent as the inside. Instead, I found them distinctly shabby and run down.
I don't want to give the wrong impression, however. Overall, I found the city, beautiful, friendly, and most of all comfortable. I could see how such a city could survive a disaster like Katrina, why many people were reluctant to leave before the storm, and why the cities inhabitants are so proud of it - it feels like home. I felt welcome there, and even as a tourist I didn't feel out of place.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures of things around the city.

Mardi Gras beads in trees.
"Graffiti" as art. Tree size bougainvillea.
Inside a cafe on Magazine.
Beautiful home detail in uptown.
Lawn Ornament.
One of the many iron fences around yards.
Crape Myrtle.
Surprisingly tropical foliage (we also saw banana trees in fruit).
Part 2: My sister's new digs

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