The Suitcase Lady


April 13, 2010, 11:49 pm

My husband and I do not chase fire trucks to watch buildings burn. If we can’t be useful, we stay out of the way. That’s why it took us over five years to revisit a city we both love, New Orleans.

A few months ago, we simultaneously arrived at the same conclusion: the time was right to return. Our decision was not made without trepidation. We knew we could end up with a bad case of the post-Katrina blues.

But after three days of walking and driving to every corner of NOLA, we are definitely not feeling lachrymose. More than ever, I feel the National Trust for Historic Preservation should simply put the entire town on the Register of Historic Places. Every neighborhood in New Orleans is steeped in architectural and cultural riches. I was appalled after the flood when some Americans wanted New Orleans to just “go away”. That kind of frontier mentality has no respect for personal or national history.

The French Quarter and Uptown were not ravaged by the floodwaters. A trip on the St. Charles Streetcar confirmed that The Garden District remains one of the most ambient neighborhoods in America. The azaleas in full bloom were the icing on the architectural cake.

Esplanade Avenue runs on the eastern side of the Quarter through Tremé and Mid-City. It retains its stately alley of live oaks and lavishly porticoed homes. The lovely family home where the painter, Edgar Degas, stayed when he visited his mother’s relatives in 1872-1873 still graces the Avenue.

City Park at the apex of Esplanade is once again green. The Art Museum in the park, however, appears naked, bereft of its ancient trees. New trees have been planted, but a few generations will pass before they become giants.

The inundated Lakeview neighborhood along Lake Pontchartrain is now awash in new and rehabbed homes. Sorting out the new construction from the refurbished is often difficult, a welcome and unexpected surprise.

Evidence of the flood is obvious in Gentilly and the Lower Ninth. Yet even in these hardest hit areas, new homes are popping up like mushrooms in the bayou. Of course, Herculean work remains. I saw a bumper sticker that perfectly sums up the city’s condition. It read: New Orleans – Proud to Crawl Back.

Below are photos taken at random all over town. I could have taken a thousand more.

Degas House

Degas House

3 Comments for this entry

  • Daun Martin

    Ah but the bread and coffee and cruellers. Did you have those? I’m glad you were enlivened by your visit. Daun

  • Mary

    Daun! We did two things in Nola. We looked at the architecture, and we ate. We ate a lot. Every one of our favorite restaurants has reopened. Only one of them is in the Quarter. All the rest are scattered all over town in the neighborhoods. All are reasonably priced. I feel that food is so important to this town that it deserves a separate blog. I could write a blog about Mandina’s alone. This will happen in future blogs.

    I should add this story. One of the employees at the NO airport was teasing me about my small amount of luggage. I told him that I came to see if the city was getting back on its feet and to eat. A big smile broke across his face, and he said to me, “Don’t worry, we will always feed you.” This was a priceless moment because I knew that this total stranger really meant it.

  • Jen

    How awesome. I was quite proud to be a member of the ALA when a year after Katrina the convention was held in NO. Such an awesome city. I have some terrific memories of it from many stages of my life- from voodoo fears to fighting tigers to late slightly inebriated musical adventures. No place like it. Suddenly, I’m feeling hungry. Travel plans may be in order!