New Orleans’ French Quarter rocks more now than ever

By John Toth
Bulletin Publisher

I’m on the rooftop of the Westin Hotel in New Orlean’s French Quarter, looking down at the Mississippi River.
There is a pleasant late summer breeze, plenty of sunshine – the start of a perfect day.
I see several joggers on the Riverwalk as I look over to Jackson Square. It’s time to go down and join the morning people. And, I want to walk to the famous Cafe Du Monde before the lines get too long. But, it’s hard to get going after a night on Bourbon Street.
I spent my honeymoon here almost 30 years ago, and came back in 1984 for the World Exposition. I flew in for a business lunch a year later, and have not been here since. I’m back now, though, and I am impressed.
Hurricane Katrina punched this city out in 2005. New Orleans was on its knees, and it has not fully recovered.
But the city’s party place, the French Quarter, is far better than I remember. And, I am spending plenty of time here to make sure that my observations are accurate – you know, researching.
Bourbon Street is still raunchy, but it is also safe, and a lot of fun. Pat O’Brien hurricanes and the hand grenades are the popular drinks. Rock ‘n’ roll or football game play-by-play are blasting out of the bars.
Police motorcycles, patrol cars and cops on horseback are everywhere. They are visible, but not intrusive.
They even join in the party, allowing tourists to have their pictures taken on the police motorcycles.
This city knows that the French Quarter equates to tourist dollars. It’s clean money from elsewhere, spent here, where it turns over numerous times, enhancing the local economy.
One waitress is letting us know about the attractions nearby. The service is excellent everywhere we go.
Thousands of people of all ages (although a lot of them are college kids) congregate on the street for a long night of partying and bar hopping. The party doesn’t stop until dawn. Then the streets are cleaned, and by mid-morning, the party atmosphere starts again.
I’m not worrying about drinking and driving. The Westin is four blocks away. It’s a pleasant, late evening walk.
I’m enjoying the fading sounds of Bourbon Street in the background as I make my way back to the hotel.
There are dozens of hotels within walking distance of party central. My son, Bobby, booked ours at the last minute for a very good price. I realized it was fancy when I found out that the hotel lobby is on the 11th floor.
Our room is on the 17th floor, river view. I find myself just staring at the scenery. We decide to take a tour of the hotel. I follow the signs to the rooftop pool. It’s being renovated, but I ask the workers if I can briefly look around.
Finally, an unfriendly person. The painter is having a bad morning. He is grumpy, but he agrees to let us have a look.
I inch up to the railing and look down – way down. You got to get used to this. The view is beautiful. It’s picture taking time.
I’m making my way down to Cafe Du Monde, where I had a honeymoon breakfast 29 years ago. The take-out line winds around the block already, but I’ll wait.
Established in 1862, this is the original French Market coffee stand, where you can dine 24/7 on beignets (donuts) covered in powdered sugar and drink some home-brewed coffee while watching dozens of people waiting for a table.
The beignets are greasy and plain- tasting. The bottom of the bag is filled with powdered sugar, but the place is historic, so I’m not sweating it. I even got a commemorative coffee cup. Cafe Du Monde, I am disappointed, for the first time all weekend.
Cafe Du Monde gets a C-. New Orleans cops get an A, and the alligator burger and the Bourbon Street scene each get an A+.
New Orleans, I am here, and I’ll be back for more.