Telling the tale of how New Orleans bounced back

Telling the tale of how New Orleans bounced back
September 20, 2011
y Camilla Cornell
The Vancouver Sun

"Do you hear that?" asks Treme character Davis, as the brass instruments of a second line parade make their way down a New Orleans street in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "That sounds like rebirth to me."

Treme, HBO's gritty TV series now in its second season, documents the city's slow climb back from the storm, and many of the images are not pretty. But the indomitable spirit of the City that Care Forgot comes through loud and clear. And it turns out Davis was right. The latest tourism figures indicate New Orleans has almost completely regained its pre-Katrina momentum, attracting 8.3 million visitors in 2010, compared to the pre-Katrina height of 8.5 million. Despite the BP oil spill and the ongoing recession in the U.S., the city made Travel + Leisure's most recent list of the Top 10 Cities in the U.S. and Canada. Here are six ways to tell that the N'Awlins is back!

1. You can get there again easily

After Katrina, air service to the city basically shut down. Among the casualties was Air Canada's daily non-stop flight from Toronto to New Orleans. It wasn't until last fall that the airline resumed its service. You can fly daily direct from Toronto in less than three hours.

2. The streets are hopping

New Orleans was ranked No. 1 internationally for nightlife according to TripAdvisor's most recent Travelers' Choice Destinations Awards. Grab yourself a to-go cup of Huge Ass Beer (yep, you're allowed to drink on the streets!) for $6 and just take in the wildlife on Bourbon Street, packed with an array of half-snapped businessmen, buxom, throw-beadbedecked women, raunchy strip bars, elegant restaurants and always the wail of music.

3. Café du Monde

That iconic French Market purveyor of beignets (basically Cajun doughnuts) and café au lait continues to pump them out. The place opened its doors again just six weeks after Katrina brought the city to its knees (inspiring a raucous second-line parade in celebration). And at just $2.45 for three of the powdered-sugarencrusted, still sizzling fritters, they continue to be one of the best deals in the city.

4. The music lives on

The low inventory of housing in Nawlins post-Katrina, combined with the marginal earnings of the average musician, made it tough for some to return to the city. Concerned about the survival of the Big Easy's celebrated music scene, jazz notables Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to help fund and build homes for hard-hit music-makers. A team of volunteers broke ground on the Musician's Village project in March 2006 and today, 72 single-family shotgun style homes and a children's park have been built on a former school site.

5. You'll find some great fall deals

The temperature and humidity have usually dropped by September, but prices remain low. As of press time, Expedia. ca was offering the old-world charm of the three-star Lafayette Hotel for $67 per night (Sunday through Thursday) and the lovely four-star Pavillon Hotel for as little as $88 per night (both in the Warehouse District).

6. The city is finally able to look back

The Louisiana State Museum's permanent exhibit "Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond," commemorates the heroism and losses resulting from the storm in the form of interactive displays, collections of artifacts, first-hand accounts from survivors, and explanations of what happened. There's a pair of blue jeans worn by a survivor and inscribed with his name, his blood type and his wife's name, in case he perished in the flood waters. And there's the defiant filmed assertion from one New Orleans resident in the face of widespread pessimism about rebuilding a city so prone to disaster: "We're here and we're not going anywhere!"

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