During a special online discussion last Tuesday, the Travel section staff fielded questions on the impact of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, we asked chatters for their fondest travel memories of New Orleans, prompting a barrage of recollections, both touching and funny. Here's an edited selection of the responses.
New Orleans is the city of my heart -- my parents met there and spent the first years of their married life there, and my brother was born there. I still promote Mardi Gras here in NYC -- I order a King Cake from Gambino's and share it with the office. I took my boyfriend there last March, and as we rode through the Quarter he said, "It's incredible, it's like we've stepped back in time."
As soon as the first bar reopens in the Quarter, as soon as the Cafe du Monde comes back, I will be there to give them my money. God, what an achingly lovely city.
I went to New Orleans on July 28 to celebrate my 27th birthday. I'd only been there before as a 9-year-old with my parents. Going as an adult, with a friend who was about to move to England, was fantastic. Favorite memories: Walking Magazine Street in the rain and seeing the shift in neighborhoods from the Warehouse District to the Lower Garden to the Garden. Taste-testing Pimms Cups. The lesson I learned is that trips are always worth it for me -- they are experiences that can't be taken away. Memories always stay.
I was born in New Orleans, but having moved away when I was 11/2 years old, I didn't have a memory of the place. So in 2001, I had plans to finally get back to "see it again for the first time." I was scheduled to fly out of National on Sept. 14, 2001. Then 9/11 occurred and I had to postpone my trip. I did make it down there in March 2002 and had an absolute blast. I had one of the best meals of my life at Mr. B's Bistro in the Quarter. I walked the French Quarter and the Garden District. I rode a streetcar. It really is a terrific city and I am very glad I went when I did.
In the early '80s my professional association had its convention there, ending the first day of Mardi Gras. Some of us stayed on. This was a group of computer programmers who were also college professors, and thus two-ply double-dyed nerds who usually worked all night and slept all day. Can't do that in New Orleans. We all went out and partied three nights in a row. People who never stood up except to get more Jolt cola actually danced with beers in their hands. Canadians let their backbones slip, right there in public. At least one marriage had its genesis in those three days of Mardi Gras.
It is truly one of my favorite cities in the United States. As soon as New Orleans opens its doors, my friends and I are going there immediately to show our support for those that are rebuilding, to spend our money on masks, beads, drinks, music, hotels and everything else one expects from the Big Easy.
After getting married, we scraped up enough money for a week-long honeymoon to New Orleans. I'll never forget sitting in a cafe in the French Quarter, eating my first oyster po'boy and listening to jazz on the local public radio station with my new husband. We were poor as can be, but I realized that for once in my life I was perfectly happy. I was exactly where I wanted to be in this world and my life was exactly the way I wanted it. I wouldn't have changed a thing.
I enjoyed a short holiday in New Orleans the week before the hurricane hit. My friend and I marveled at the warmth of the people we met and the general sense of joy that we found. My most poignant memory was of an artist who sold wooden crosses behind the cathedral; each cross had a virtue painted across its horizontal plane ("love," "hope," "faith," etc.). I hope that such virtues prevail over the horrors that those in New Orleans are now experiencing.
I've been to New Orleans three times -- once for Mardi Gras while in college, once for work and once for a short vacation. I have to say my fondest memories are of the trip I made to New Orleans with my co-workers. How I loved eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde, walking around the Garden District, finding the Anne Rice house with the creepy iron gate surrounding the property, admiring the aquatic life in the aquarium -- and dancing on a rather large stage in front of several thousand people with a collegue and singing along with the zydeco band. Ah, New Orleans.
My friends and I first went to New Orleans for New Year's 2002. We had a fantastic time. My most recent trip was three weekends ago, just before Katrina hit, with the same group. All of those memories have been running through my head for the past week and a half, from the overwhelming heat and smell waiting for a cab at the airport to the wonderful feeling of the air flowing through the streetcar while traveling past all of the lovely houses. On the way home, I was already making a list of the things and places I wanted to go back to see. I won't discard that list, and I hope that someday I will be able to return.
I had never set foot in New Orleans until June 2004. My now-husband is from New Orleans and invited me to attend a family member's wedding. Since this maiden visit, we've been back together three times, the most recent being our wedding in April. New Orleans is indeed a special place. The hospitality, like most of the South, is amazing.
I was just in New Orleans for a conference, so I can vividly imagine the landmarks mentioned on the news and remember clearly seeing the levees that kept Lake Pontchartrain out of the city. I now regret that I spent so much time in meetings and not seeing more of the city, but I will particularly remember an excellent Italian restaurant in the Warehouse District called Lake Pontchartrain, as well as a restaurant called Mother's on Poydras Street that seemed like it had not changed since it opened in the 1930s. I hope both reopen.
I couldn't even begin to share my favorite memory of New Orleans. As a college student at Tulane, as an adult living and working Uptown and planning my wedding, and later as a tourist who has only missed one Jazz Fest since starting college in 1991. Crawfish at Frankie & Johnny's, cheese fries at Cooter's, burgers at Port of Call?! Kermit playing at Joe's, Rebirth at the Maple Leaf?! This week has been painful beyond belief.
I hope that people, especially tourists who provide the lifeblood of this city, will not give up on New Orleans. New Orleans will need our tourism, our dollars, our support over the next several years.
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