Saturday, June 7, 2008

Restoration and devastation side by side, the old city is a study in contrasts

HIGHWAYS OF ESCAPE. Our drive from Meridian, Mississippi into the New Orleans area didn't take too long. We drove southwest on Interstate 59, one of the highways that was an all-northbound escape route for those fortunate enough to get out of the city before Hurricane Katrina hit nearly 3 years ago. It was gut-wrenching to see evidence of the near complete devastation inland areas suffered in Katrina. Roofs tarped or caved in, windows blown out, siding ripped away, flora stripped bare. Even though much of the region is rebuilt and on the rebound, a lot remains as it was the day after the hurricane. Restoration and devastation stand side by side.

WALKING THE FRENCH QUARTER. We checked into our hotel around noon and walked into the heart of old New Orleans and the French Quarter. We strolled to historic Jackson Square, spent time on the Mississippi riverfront, visited the great cathedral and the Cabildo--the site where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. We ate a lunch of po boys and jambalaya in the French Market area. Almost everyone at least sampled the crayfish. Some of us returned to the French Market in the evening to get some "beignets" and Cafe au Latte. Beignets (pronounced "ben-yays") are a French pastry akin to donuts...very tasty!

CONTRASTING SPIRITUALITIES. New Orleans seems to be interested in spiritual things, though it would be a stretch to say that its interest is primarily in Christian spirituality. We passed by many voodoo shops, and, just outside the great cathedral, astrologists, tarot card and palm readers set up tables offering to tell people their fortunes. But they didn't have the fortune to make money on us!

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