I was reading yesterday's "Escapes" section in the New York Times this morning and saw a very encouraging article about the revitalization of New Orleans.
The article stated that not only are the usual tourist areas attracting a lot of out-of-town visitors, but that new, vibrant sites are being created.
"There are several new galleries, some wailing new music clubs and more than a dozen new restaurants - always a big draw in New Orleans. Even in parts of the city still in recovery there are new showcases for chefs, artists and musicians who continue to find that New Orleans inspires them in a way no other place can."
A new neighborhood, "The Musicians' Village," has been created with the help of Habitat for Humanity, an effort that was spearheaded by Louisiana natives Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.
The purpose of the village is to provide housing for displaced musicians, and create a "community within a community" that focuses on music. Eventually it will include the "Ellis Marsalis Center for Music," an additional attraction for the area.
Another interesting site, on Chartres Street, is the Williams Research Center. In existence since 1996, the center, which holds a large collection of historical documents, recently built a new facility on the site of an old hotel. The building is a recreation of the hotel, which was built in the late 19th century. In excavating for the building, layers of archeological artificats were uncovered, including some that may date to the old brothel (destroyed by fire in 1822), the "House of the Rising Sun," celebrated in the old folksong that the Animals made famous. (Go to link to hear and see them perform it).
There is also a new "St. Claude Arts District" springing up in an area that is still in need of renovation, a harbinger of yet another recovery taking place.
In addition there are numerous new restaurants that all sound fantastic, serving New Orleans cuisine that may be literally to die for (how about "duck debris" po-boys - made from the scrapings from the pot the duck was roasted in - imagine the amount of fat in that? But I bet it's delicious!).
The response (or lack thereof) by the Federal Government at the time of the Katrina disaster was horrendous. But it is probably best that the actual restoration and rehabilitation of the city is being conducted by grass roots efforts, by the artists, chefs and residents of New Orleans, who will work to retain the character of this unique city.
Imagine how the Federal Government might have conducted a rebuilding effort here: massive destruction of neighborhoods, replacement with cookie-cutter, ugly public housing projects, no thought to historic preservation or character.
I think, in the end, New Orleans will be back as good, or better, than ever. And I'm heartily glad of it. Now if only they can ensure that all those who were left homeless and scattered around the country could be returned to their true home in the Crescent City, it would be ideal.
New Orleans coming back
Po-boys, beignets and music
Jazz songs fill the streets.