Heading Back to New Orleans a Decade After Katrina

NOLA Music
Photo: Andrew Nguyen

It feels like an eternity since my last airport visit, as the summer endured an abundance of road travel. Nevertheless, this weekend called for a special visit to New Orleans for a birthday celebration. With a quaint French Quarter cottage rented through AirBnb, the days were filled with delectable meals, drinks, music, and more eating.

It's approaching eight years since I've last visited the area, and my circumstances were drastically different.

I was still at Boston University and joined forces with about nine high school classmates to help with Hurricane Katrina relief. We drove 23 hours to Moss Point, Mississippi to help rebuild the home of a local community leader. During the week there, we decided to observe the conditions of the neighboring zones and visited Biloxi, completely untouchable and ridden with sorrow, and New Orleans. The streets of New Orleans were desolate and echos of tragedy filled the air, like ghosts in the night. My dreams would haunt me weeks and months thereafter, violated by vivid scenes of the aftermath.

Hurricane Katrina Relief, 2006
Photo: Betsy Katz

Biloxi, MS 2006
Photo: Olivia Christine

Biloxi, MS 2006
Photo: Olivia Christine

This time would be different.

I was to see the city in all its glory. Music. Vibrancy. Laughter. Life.  

We spent our time awaiting our flight in the Delta airlines airport bar. I was pleasantly surprised to see the recent renovations of the terminal in Laguardua airport. I dined on wine and flatbread bruschetta and checked my email on one of the bar iPads. Though we flew with a connection, a standard nonstop flight to New Orleans is a little over three hours; we landed that evening, accosted by a curtain of humid air the moment the exit doors opened. I ran back inside, ill-prepared for my hair's fate.

Friends picked us up, greeting us with warm NOLA hugs and kisses, and taxied us to our new cottage rental. We arrived quickly and I anxiously headed to the lockbox to retrieve the key. It's always a little unnerving when booking an Airbnb away from home... are the photos accurate; is the neighborhood decent? No matter how much research you do, when you are booking on behalf of others, you want to make sure everything is perfect.

And it was. Despite an initial ten minutes of panic when I realized the provided lockbox code was incorrect and I couldn't get in touch with the host, she eventually got back to me, provided the new code and voila! Home, Sweet, Home.

St. Philip Street, French Quarter
Photo: Andrew Nguyen

Creepy Wooden Figurine Photp: Andrew Nguyen

Creepy Wooden Figurine
Photp: Andrew Nguyen

Standing on St. Philip, keys in hand, we opened green shutter doors to a beautiful dark wood entry, with a set of spiral stairs ascending to a lofted sleeping area.

Opening another set of doors beyond the dining area and stairs, we were welcomed by a grand living room, with a peculiar set of wooden figurines along a mantle; dolls that would later be turned to the wall in a drunken stupor. A lovely master bedroom followed, with a paired bathroom featuring a full wall mirror and classic clawfoot bathtub.

My shoulders relaxed and tension eased. Everyone seemed pleased with our new home.