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We recently returned from a business trip to New Orleans (and before everyone asks – no, it wasn’t during Mardi Gras!), which was host to the international convention for Keller Williams Realty International. The trip yielded many new ideas and philosophies for our business, but I won’t bore you with that right now. Instead, we want to share with you our five favorite things about The Big Easy.
5) Everything but Bourbon Street – We got to our hotel at about 1:00am on Friday night, and while our initial intention was to find a blues club and a glass of wine, I thought our late arrival would surely shelve these plans. One of our friends had arrived earlier, and in waiting for us, had brewed himself a pot of coffee, and there wasn’t any way he was going to let us go to bed without a quick walk down Bourbon Street. Our hotel was two blocks from Bourbon Street, so within a couple of minutes we were introduced to New Orlean’s most renowned destination.
I won’t get into everything we saw, smelled, or stepped on, but we all left a little wide-eyed. The street is woven in debauchery, and the seams are stitched with alcohol and waste. If you’ve been to Bourbon Street, I don’t need to describe it. If you haven’t been to Bourbon Street, you probably don’t want me to. I’m thankful that we were in New Orleans for several more nights, and that our experience of the city wasn’t defined by this one late night walk.
4) Architecture – Bourbon Street is located in a neighborhood called the French Quarter, and if you go on either side of Bourbon Street, the appeal of New Orleans grows considerably. The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, although not necessarily the most well-built. Most buildings share a wall with the neighboring building, and they don’t necessarily match in size, color, or style – which makes for an interesting study in contrast. Many walls aren’t square, nor are their floors level – but the exacting nature of the engineering is not what generates the appeal. These buildings give visitors a sense of history, and begins to impart a silent understanding of the city to its visitors. This city is resilient, as are its people.
3) Music - I told everyone that asked me about my upcoming trip to New Orleans that I was most excited about finding a blues club and enjoying the music with a glass of wine and a smoking cigar. Many of the clubs on Bourbon Street did have live bands, but they weren’t what I was hoping for. I thought for sure that off of Bourbon there had to be a place where I would recognize a familiar riff off a steel guitar, the warble of a harmonica, or the haunting melody of an organ. On Monday night, despite my exhaustion, Andy and Dennis talked me into delaying sleep to continue our search, and it resulted in the most memorable night of the trip.
We ended up on Bourbon Street, right at its start, at a watering hole called “The Blues Club.” We had had our doubts on previous visits, but when we walked in on this night, it was obvious that more locals than tourists were there, and they had come to hear “Rooster and the Chicken Hawks.” I don’t know anything about Rooster, and the club was dark, but I’m guessing he’s no younger than 75, and he was dressed to the 9’s in a powder blue, pinstriped, luminescent suit and pristine white leather ankle-high disco boots. My wine might have been in a plastic cup that night, but we were drinking the blues from a hose. If you’re ever in New Orleans, “Rooster and the Chicken Hawks” rock The Blues Club most Sunday and Monday nights.
2) Food - Andy should probably write this paragraph Andy is about 150 lbs and eats more than anyone I’ve ever seen. This was never more obvious than when we were in New Orleans. We ate gator sausage and crawfish remoulade at “The Gumbo Shop” (although a couple in our attendance have had better gumbo elsewhere), we drank coffee and ate beignets at “Cafe Beignet“, filet blange and bananas foster at “Brennan’s“, pizza and calzones at “Angeli’s on Decatur“, and key-lime pie at “Crescent City Brewhouse.” All in all – the food here is decadent, and worth every one of the three-plus pounds we’ll all have to wrestle off at the gym.
1) The best part of New Orleans – the people. I have to think that the average living wage in New Orleans is far less than that of Seattle, but you can’t tell it from the faces of the inhabitants. There are exceptions of course, but the people of New Orleans are either well-medicated or genuinely happy. There’s a sense of community here that we haven’t seen in other large cities – even more than what we’ve seen in most small towns. The cabbies all wave to each other, and you can’t walk down the street without seeing “Who Dat?” on a t-shirt or as graffiti on the wall. I have to imagine that enduring through an event like Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath will give an entire town perspective, and that a collective celebration of a recent Super Bowl victory might bring that same town some unity, but I think that what this town and its people share transcends an event or two.
Thank you New Orleans for being such gracious hosts to a bunch of real estate agents. Who dat?!