Just saying the name of the city brings to mind images of Mardi Gras, drunken parties, graveyards, bare-breasted women, voodoo, and in recent years; destruction, poverty, and a slow rebirth.
I’ve been to New Orleans, Louisiana dozens of times and each trip brings a new experience. I’ve yet to lose my awe of the city. You can cite murder rates, homelessness, graft, and point to examples of a city with a dichotomy between tourist fantasy and resident misery and still–New Orleans resists being placed in the “cynicism” category of my mind’s attitude.
Last weekend, my wife and I started our 10-day Christmas vacation with a pre-anniversary celebration trip to our favorite city. The giddiness we still feel as we approach the city still amazes me. And then, no sooner than we park the car, the total relaxation that sweeps over me is likened to a drug. I breathe more deeply, smile more broadly and a spring is in my step as I put my feet down on the pavement of the French Quarter.
But this trip was to be different. I was celebrating history itself in the historic “Big Easy”. I had been married 25 years. This was our second honeymoon. Yes, we had talked about a hundred places over the years to celebrate this occasion, but in the end, we chose our reliable, comfortable, New Orleans.
Christmas in New Orleans is special. Along Canal Street, Christmas decorations hung from the old lampposts. The Street Cars were clad in garland and wreaths. The shops were decorated in Christmas regalia along with the gaudy mix of Mardi Gras-inspired colors.
In The Quarter, speakers blared from the various stores and bars with traditional Christmas tunes, rock and roll, blues, and Christmas songs done with a Zydeco mix.
Along Royal Street, the street performers sang carols and played “Silent Night” on old trumpets and trombones. Your senses were bombarded as you are transported from a Victorian Dickens-esqe scene on one block and then swept back to present day as a street hawker invites you to come in to a bar and see the “beautiful ladies on stage”. Of course, maybe that same street hawker lived a past life just down from Ebeneezer Scrooge’s Counting House and barked those same words to Bob Cratchitt as he strolled home.
If you wanted a White Christmas, you would have been a week late. Prior to this particular weekend, New Orleans had received some rare snowfall of a few inches. But now, the weather was overcast and warm. Not the humid, sweaty heat of a “Big Easy” summer, but the kind of warm that people living in Michigan or Connecticut in the winter might envy. The temperature was around 70 degrees and a cool breeze blew through the alleyways. It was the kind of breeze that elicited an involuntary “ahhh” as it blew past you.
My next few entries here at “On The Road With Dave” will divulge more details of my Christmas In New Orleans. I hope you will join me as I re-live what my wife called our “perfect weekend”.