Its hard to talk about New Orleans without mentioning Hurricane Katrina. Luckily, this story is a good one! Last time I went down to New Orleans I went with my church to work with Habitat For Humanity and help re-build homes. It seems like such a long time ago now, but the images of the devastation are still fresh in my memory.
Fast forward a handful of years and my boss sent me on a last minute trip to New Orleans. I was really excited to visit, I have heard so much about the culture, music and food. I had to work, but I decided to go exploring after hours with my camera, and see a few of the sites. I also decided to take a trip down memory lane…..
Flying to New Orleans for work was very last minute, I booked everything the day before and the trip got off to a rocky start. I drove down to San Diego airport and the parking lot at the airport was full, which made me have to go searching for another long term parking lot.
Usually I roll with the punches of life pretty easily but I was cutting time for my flight pretty short. My flight ended up being delayed so I easily made it, but I didn’t land in New Orleans until 12:00 midnight and then my rental car that was booked was apparently given to someone else ( I hope they enjoyed it). Long story short, I didn’t get to my hotel until 1:45am and had to be up going to work at 6am.
Despite how tired I was on my first full day in New Orleans I still took my camera and went exploring. I started off near the waterfront, to take a gander at the beautiful Mississippi river.
Walking around the New Orleans river front, I started to see little signs of the side of New Orleans I had only heard stories of. Nothing crazy was going on, but I was seeing tourists who were clearly drinking alcoholic beverages just walking down the river path. Now I do not know the legalities of it at the river front, but I thought it was only bourbon street which you could carry open containers around.
Next stop was the beautiful Jackson Square in the French Quarter:
I really didn’t have an agenda while I was in New Orleans, I only had a few hours each day and never really made a plan. I just walked around and explored with my camera. What I loved most about New Orleans was the beautiful architecture of the buildings in the French Quarter, and you would have never guessed that a Hurricane came through and destroyed this city.
As I explored the city I soon found myself on the infamous Bourbon Street. It was around dusk on a Wednesday night, so it wasn’t to wild and crazy yet and I felt comfortable walking around with my camera gear. Walking around it reminded me a little of Vegas. Yet comparing Bourbon Street to Vegas just doesn’t seem right at all, like its almost demeaning. The sites of all the lights and sounds, people walking down the streets sipping beer; it all gave me flashbacks to Vegas but it was different.
New Orleans has a cultural identity that Vegas will never have. People from New Orleans are proud to be from there, and are excited to share, its food music and culture. The only cultural identity Vegas has is, “What ever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Shows and performers go to Vegas to entertain, while on the other hand jazz was born in New Orleans, and its soul is felt everywhere.
At this pint i was pretty hungry and wanted a bite to eat with some music, but not the craziness of Bourbon Street. I was able to find a little oasis on Bourbon Street called, Musical Legends Park. The music caught my ear, and it was an outdoor setting which is a must for me!
While visiting New Orleans you must try a Beignet at some point. I ordered a plate of them at Musical Legends Park and they were fantastic! Basically its a fried doughnut with powdered sugar on top! It was awesome!
After my second day of work, I decided to take that trip down memory lane and visit Musicians Village. Those pictures I started out this blog post with were pictures I took while working with habitat for Humanity on an awesome project called Musicians Village:
Musicians’ Village (New Orleans, Louisiana) is a neighborhood located in the Upper Ninth Ward in New Orleans, Louisiana. Musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis teamed up with Habitat for Humanity International and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to create the village for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. –Wikipedia
It was the middle of the summer, about a year after the Hurricane Katrina when we were there, laying foundations, building roofs, and painting houses. It was an experience I will never forget.
Here I was 11 or 12 years later sitting in traffic driving back to Musicians Village. As I pulled off the highway, and drove toward the village it all looked so different. The 9th ward was active, there were people living here again and I didn’t recognize anything.
As I turned one last corner, I finally saw something I recognized, the bright colored homes of Musicians Village. I parked my car and stepped out to take a stroll along the block, and it was amazing to me to see it all complete.
Last time I was walking down these street there were literally black hawk helicopters circling above. Now it was a quite neighborhood, with a beautiful playground.
I brought my nice camera with me when I went back to Musicians Village but I didn’t take it out of my backpack. I only snapped a few quick pictures with my cell phone. I ddint think it was right to be setting up a tri-pod in the middle of the street to take pictures of peoples residences. I cant really describe it, but it felt great seeing the houses I helped build years ago were occupied my families living their lives after Katrina.
Before retreating back to my hotel room for the night, I stopped back at Jackson Square to play with a little night photography. There is a great spot across the street from Jackson Square that is elevated and is perfect for taking pictures down into the square at night. There was also a storm in the distance, but I could not time the lightning right to get a strike in the background. This was my best shot of Jackson Square at night:
I also took a couple quick pictures facing the river before jumping in my car for the night.
The third day was my last night in New Orleans, and there were a couple of places I wanted to see and grab a drink and not worry about my nice camera. So I left my nice camera in my hotel room and went out for a few drinks.
I first stopped at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which is the oldest continually running bar in the United States! Its a pretty nifty place, built in the 18th century in the French/Spanish colony! Everything I read said to go early, because it gets crowded quick, so I stopped by for a drink (Cash Only Bar). Also I heard they do not have a lot of lights so it can get kind of dark at night. If you are in New Orleans this is a must stop place.
After some drinks and a quick stop for dinner at the Ritz…. I went back toward Frenchman Street. Frenchman Street is the little less known brother to Bourbon Street. When people think of New Orleans they usually think of Bourbon Street, but the next most famous street is Frenchman Street, and if you are a musical fan like myself, Frenchman Street is absolute heaven.
Frenchman Street is lined up and down the street with some of the best jazz clubs in the world. I stopped into the Spotted Cat one of the best and got to see the Washboard Chaz Trio, which was fantastic!
Unfortunately it was a quick trip for work and I didn’t have a whole lot of free time to explore, but I made the most of my limited time. If your ever in New Orleans or are looking for a little vacation filled with music and good times, go check out Frenchman Street and enjoy the sounds of Louisiana!