Lovely, lovely French Quarter in New Orleans–where walking down the street is like taking a trip through the looking glass. One of the very few neighborhoods in New Orleans built above sea level–which was either a stroke of blind good luck or really, really good planning–the Quarter survived Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed. Aside from a few closed businesses here and there, it’s as gorgeous as it always was.
Everyone wants to know what the city looks like; as for the Quarter, it’s great. The tourist crowds are smaller than normal, but people are definitely returning–and you can get fantastic deals on hotels, tables at the best restaurants, all that good stuff. A few tips:
• Don’t bother with anything on Canal Street, which is a wasteland of post-flooding garbage and vacant lots. Fret not, there are lots of hotels in the French Quarter, both chains and independent bed-and-breadfast places.
• Ask for a room away from the street, since the buildings are right up to the sidewalk, and front rooms are noisy.
• The smaller crowds right now means parking on the street is easy to find. So feel free to rent a car, a choice you would never make otherwise. Enjoy it while it lasts.
• Walking with your friends won’t protect you from getting mugged. A gun can point at 5 people just as easy as it can point at one. Don’t walk down dark streets at night. Ever. Take cabs, even if just a few blocks; everyone I spoke to had a mugging story of some sort.