NEW ORLEANS – After Atlanta, my home turf, the first major city I got to know well was New Orleans, which has a variety of pronunciations and nicknames. “New Or-leans” is commonplace as is New “Or-lee-uns.” Doesn’t matter how you say it, a party image comes sauntering to the forefront of your mind when the city is mentioned. “Nawlins, NOLA, the Crescent City,” all suggest that the birthplace of jazz is the place to be when you covet a festive occasion.
Just don’t come here when it is raining or when it is bitterly cold, if you can help it. New Orleans is a walking city best enjoyed on a sunny day. In 1968 when Georgia played Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, the weather that week was not much different than what you might expect in Nome, Alaska.
At a party for the two teams the night before the game, Georgia President Fred Davison almost caused Vince Dooley to suffer apoplexy when he jokingly said, “With the temperatures dropping, tomorrow ought to be a good day for a hog killing.” Not sure if Vince ever forgave Davison since Arkansas played a peak game while the Bulldogs were about as lethargic as they have ever been in a bowl game, losing 16-2.
“Way down yonder in New Orleans,” reminds you of the French Quarter, Satchmo, the mighty Mississippi, unparalleled dining options, meandering bayous, voodoo practitioners, graves above ground, tug boats and ocean liners—like the tide—coming in or going out.
I first came here during my college days to participate in a cross country race, a five mile trek up Canal Street. Whenever the Southeastern Conference held its annual meetings in New Orleans, there was a spike in attendance.
Before learning a smattering of the city’s charming history, I would walk the French Quarter and read the street signs. I would say out loud the names on the street signs, wondering if I had gotten them right: Bienville, Carondelet, Chartres, Dauphine, Freret, Iberville, Gravier, Pontchartrain.
Even the aforementioned country boy knew that when it came to names, Canal Street was as out of place in the foregoing list as an evangelist showing up at Chris Owens' night club, unless it was Jimmy Swaggart doing mission work.
Tourism has long been significant to the city’s economy. The latest statistics confirm that nearly 18 million visitors come to New Orleans annually and generate more than $8.7 billion dollars while they are here.
If you take respite in the Crescent City and enjoy the sights and sounds that are uniquely New Orleans, bring money. New Orleans is not cheap, but is there any place out there that could be considered a traveler’s bargain—unless it is Chitlin’switch!
Nothing could be more exciting than to spend a week in New Orleans with an unlimited expense account. Everywhere you go, there are white tablecloths, a signature dish, seductive ambience and a casual pace that reminds you of how the French treat mealtime—an unhurried experience to be savored.
Breakfast at Brenan’s is about as good of a way to start your day as there could be. Bloody Mary’s and milk punches to get your heart to beating but it is best not to linger since you have signature mealtime options at noon and sundown.
Local’s prefer Galatoire’s which does not take reservations, which means you may stand in line for a long time which seems not to bring about business deterrence although it would fit Yogi Berra’s description of a popular New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
For a while, a good friend, Vernon Brinson, lived in an apartment virtually next door to Commander’s Palace. Owned by the famous Brennan family, there are times during the week, when 25 cent martinis heighten the elbow-bending and binging about morning after regrets.
Potato puffs still resonate at Antoine’s, shrimp arnaud at Anaud’s—which I learned about from the late Dan Magill, whose connection with Arnaud’s came from his wife Rosemary, a New Orleans native. Shrimp arnaud would be great for a pre-game meal.
Raw oysters at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar are still in demand. Nothing like bellying up to the oyster bar at Felix's and ordering, along with a dozen oysters, a Dixie Beer, which was originated in 1907. For sports junkies there is Manning’s, a watering hole where you will likely find the proprietor, Archie Manning, hanging out.
War, hurricanes, jazz, fine cuisine, Tabasco sauce, Cajun accents, have been comingled for years to give New Orleans a mystic flavor that takes one back again and again. I am grateful encores are still taking place.