From an easy flight to the easy and cheap ($15.00) shuttle ride to the hotel, New Orleans has indeed been easy. When I remarked to the hotel staff on check-in how remarkably easy everything has been so far, her face lit up with a big smile and she said, “Welcome to the Big Easy.” I had forgotten that the city is called that.
As soon as I hustled my bags to my room, I dashed out into the warm embrace of the afternoon to re-discover the city. From prior visits I had a general idea where the French Quarter was relative to the hotel. I strolled past the tawdry sex shops and the bars on Bourbon Street peeking into the side streets. I turned onto one where the balconies were invitingly loaded with flowers. Walking generally toward the levee, I poked into shops, watched street performers, read enticing dinner menus posted outside restaurants and got my bearings for the next 3 days. The city is beautiful just like I remembered it. I see no damage from the storm but let’s remember it did not affect the French Quarter. The one thing I did perceive lacking were the tourists or at least the streets were remarkably un-crowded. I would even say people are few and far between, where I remember the streets being full of shoppers and drunks. It’s a shame really. But it was mid-afternoon.
It is also easy to get around in New Orleans. I took the Canal line streetcar to the end of the line--City Park-- to do some birding. The streetcars are wooden open air gems. Everyone takes them from kids going to school, to tourists, to everyday folks. At only $1.25 it is a bargain. Although “Desire” has been retired since right after Tennessee Williams made it famous, I confess to thinking about it as we clattered along. After walking around the park for a couple hours and seeing lots of waterbirds: egrets, nightherons, ibises, terns, swans, ducks, and a few passarines; I got back on the streetcar and came back to the hotel. It was not all play time, I was in New Orleans to work.