I love New Orleans. I had a chance to go there just pre-Katrina. Maybe two years before. I've talked about it before because for me, it was one of those places that you go and feel and instant connection. I'd wanted to go since I was about 14, so when I finally got the chance to go to the RWA National Conference I grabbed it.
New Orleans is exactly everything you've ever heard about the city. The good and the bad. There has never been a city that had more of an apocalyptic, party-til-the-end-of-our-days, kind of feel quite like New Orleans. And I wasn't even there during Mardi Gras.
They call it the Crescent City because of the way it curves, caressing the edges of the Mississippi river. Flying into the airport is an experience. The plane descends endlessly over trailing bayous, crisscrossed by intersections of sparking river roadways. Here and there you can spot houses dotted among the dense foliage, stacked on poles and seeming far from civilization.
Once the plane landed I took the shuttle to the hotel. It was set on the edge of the French Quarter. It was a fine hotel, very commercial and efficient (except for two elevators and a couple thousand women trying to get to their rooms to go to the bathroom). Our room overlooked Riverwalk area and the place where the steamboats dock. But the great part about the hotel was that all I had to do was cross over the street and down one and I was on Decatur Street. The edge of the French Quarter. I spent several days traipsing those streets. I've gotten grief and a lot of assumption that I must have spent a fair amount of time drinking in the bars. But in fact, I did a lot of walking and looking and observing. After all, I am a writer.
One of the streets just across the from the hotel held antique shops. It was so interesting to look in the windows and see what other people's pasts looked like. We also found the best place to eat breakfast on that street. The Tally Ho restaurant had a fantastic Jambalaya omelet that was spicy to the tongue. All the streets of the French Quarter lead toward Jackson Square. Some are much more commercial (some downright obscene). There was one shop where if you looked just right in the doorway there was a strategically placed mirror to showcase the whomever was dancing on stage. I loved the hotels that I saw right in the Quarter. The ones that had balcony's iced in French lace railings. And, to this day I imagine what it would be like to stay there. My friend Diane and I ate at Pat O'Brien's in the patio area. It was squeezed between the high brick buildings on each side and cast with the sound of the waterfall at the back of the garden. We had fancy drinks as we sat there and watched tiny bird dive bomb the tables around us.
Another day I went to Marie Laveau's shop. The walls were filled to capacity with all things strange and exciting. I had beignets at the Cafe Dumond and enjoyed the Irish music and the sadly, now-defunct, much missed, O'Flaherty's Pub.
When I left, it was with a heavy heart. I felt as if I were leaving a large part of me behind. It's no wonder that the Crescent City continues to call to me. It looks very likely that it will be the setting of my next book. I tried placing the brassy, objectionable GiGi Sterling in another place, but she wasn't happy. So, it looks like I'll be traipsing the French Quarter once again, at least in my mind and heart.
May she live on forever...
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