I had limited time to wander around the French Quarter when I was in New Orleans this week. But I did get out for quick walks first thing, at noon and in the evening. On each walk, I took a shot of the St. Louis Cathedral from the Mississippi levee across Jackson Square.
At around 7:48 a.m., Tuesday, things were quiet along Decatur Street. A street-cleaner machine had been along recently and left parts of the street glistening wet. There were just a few people wandering past. Those of us who were out were focused on beignet with cafe-o-lait.
At 12:54 p.m., the road was dry and there were more people and cars around. Though not too many. New Orleans is somewhat quieter than I remember it from a few pre-Katrina visits. There's not much damage in the French Quarter or in the main business district, but if you know what you are looking for you can see some. What struck me most was the fact that the bustle of the city was reduced by about one third.
At about 6:15 p.m., things were quieting down again. The streets around Jackson Square were emptying even as Bourbon Street, two blocks beyond the Cathedral, was starting to fill up. Decatur Street was wet again. The shadows were creeping across the square.
Up on Bourbon Street, I was struck by a sign offering a balcony for rent for special events like Mardi Gras. And there are quiet streets just a few blocks away, where you find pocket gardens and peaceful courtyards.
New Orleans is worth a visit. Folks there will tell you that tourists and business travelers are a key part of their recovery. The French Quarter is still fascinating and beautiful. The food is great. And the music and culture have not died out.