There is nothing like air travel to make you wish more people were fans of TLC's "What not to Wear." You know how they call those lower-back tattoos that girl's get "tramp stamps"? Well, I think the air travel equivalent is the Victoria's Secret Pink collection sweat pants. You know the type, where regardless of brand, it looks like they rolled out of bed, slid into their Uggs and threw their hair in a pony tail? Whether their ass says Victoria's Secret, Juicy, or something else, the message is the same, "I don't care what I look like right now, I'm just being crammed like a piece of cattle into a steel tube for 6 hours, don't talk to me."
I flew to New Orleans for a meeting this weekend and I must say there is nothing like the red eye to bring out the best in public displays of pajama wear. I had the misfortune to be routed through Houston. Now that's an airport I dread. We landed 5 minutes after my next flight began boarding. And Houston isn't one of the big airports that has made it easy to get around. Instead I'm sprinting through the airport avoiding the people who should have to pass a test before being allowed to drive wheeled luggage, don't understand what the phrase "walk left, stand right" means on the moving walkways, and generally desired to get wherever they were going without acknowledging the presence of any other humans along the way because otherwise they would have to realize that they are standing around in public in their pajamas.
By the time I arrived in New Orleans I was wasted. The red-eye always does that to me. The last time I was in NOLA it was the Saint Patty's Day before Katrina. The french-quarter has come back rather well, but the area to the East of town is still hard-hit. A friend of mine who has lived in NOLA his whole life and who has traveled the world with me took me out for dinner. K-Paul was the restaurant. Chef Paul Prudhomme is the 2nd most famous NOLA chef to Emeril, but the best cook (according to my local friend who has all of both of their cookbooks anyway). I ordered all traditional local food which was both fresh and delicious. I avoided the traditional alcohol choices after my long flight and went with an Old Fashioned instead. The gumbo was dark and delicious and the seafood topped veal was to die for. I highly recommend it.
The next day was my meeting, which ended 3 hours before my return flight, not leaving a ton of time to look around. You can walk most of the french quarter in about an hour and get a good feel of what all is there. Having already been there once I didn't feel the need to go out at night and "experience NOLA." I've already seen enough co-eds, green barf, beads, and female-impersonators to get the sense of that part of town. I've also seen the art museum, historical neighborhoods, graveyards, the super dome, and driven the surrounding area, so a quick walking tour was enough to give me the sense of the place again. I was tempted to skip my walking tour and go to the Nine West shoe outlet instead, because really, shopping in Alaska stinks, but I resisted the temptation.
The best way to see NOLA is definitely on foot. Stroll along, admire the iron work, buildings, have a few drinks and soak in the environment around you. Then come back at night and watch how everything transforms. Here is my quick walking map that takes about an hour at a slow stroll and takes you down Chartres (pronounced Charters), over to the waterfront, down past the artists set up around the Cathedral and then back through the heart of the action along Bourbon Street. Here is a map of a few places I saw and a short 1 hour walk. There are tons more places to go so Google the tourism bureau before you go, or better yet, try and get a local to show you around.