For our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I returned to New Orleans where we honeymooned in 1990. We visited the Crescent City multiple times in the ’90s and early 2000s to do travel stories for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
It was during those times that I began to lose the love I had first developed for NOLA during the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. The seediness and rampant crime were tarnishing the city’s image.
In 2005, I was embedded with the Nevada National Guard at Louie Armstrong New Orleans International Airport during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The airport that welcomed passengers from all over the world had become the landing spot for Hueys arriving with evacuees rescued off rooftops in St. Bernard Parish.
I vowed to return to celebrate Mardi Gras in 2006. One memory that is etched in my mind during those festivities is the day we sat in the St. Charles Tavern sharing a table with a New Orleans policeman and his wife. The husband said that we should not have come because the city wasn’t ready. His wife, on the other hand, thanked us for supporting the city and its residents.
We didn’t return to New Orleans until 2015 and found the city refreshing. We stayed in Bywater, a neighborhood 15 minutes east of the French Quarter that has been described by some people as “contemporary bohemianism.”
Most of our commute was on rental bicycles. We were told, “The thieves can’t catch you on bikes,” but, in truth, New Orleans is a very bike-friendly city. One evening, we pedaled over to Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits, at the far end of the Bywater. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in the backyard bistro while we listened to the soothing jazz tunes of a string trio. From there, we rode over to Vaughan’s Lounge, a neighborhood dive bar where we danced to the raucous music of Corey Henry & the Treme Funktet.
Although many of the locals were not happy with the changes that occurred after Katrina, I found new life in the city in the way of trendy coffee shops, art galleries and museums. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is a must. We took the advice from the museum host and drank a Sazerac while learning about the food, drink and the related culture of throughout South.