I could enthuse all day about how much I liked New Orleans, but I'll limit myself to a few favorites for brevity's sake.
In no particular order, New Orleans rocks because of:
1. Ignatius Reilly in bronze form!
Inky and I have both read and loved John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, and we practically clapped our hands in glee when we saw him standing in front of the old Holmes' Deparment Store building in all his bronze glory. That the city would put such a dubiously heroic character on one of their main thoroughfares warms my little dented can heart to the core.
2. St. Louis Cemetery Number 1
I have a thing for reading tombstones. This is probably a creepy turnoff to many people, but I promise that this is the only activity I enjoy within cemetery walls. There were some gorgeous old tombs here, and a lot of the French names in the inscriptions were sheer poetry. And, of course, it is also the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen. Good stuff all around.
3. Sweet potato fries!!!!!
The best I think I've ever had. They were part of the vegetarian platter at Sammy's on Bourbon Street. The food was good, and they had a gas fireplace that was perfect for warming up on a raw February afternoon. Yum.
(GHASTLY CONFESSION TIME: I also had an oyster po'boy while I was in town. Seafood is my last great temptation, and I caved hard on this trip. I'm back on the wagon now, bolstered by the fact that fried oysters weren't as good as I remembered them. I will remind myself of this fact the next time I'm tempted to eat an underwater creature. So anyway, pile on the "pescetarian!" jeers if you so desire - I richly deserve it).
4. General gorgeousness
The pictures speak for themselves.
5. Decorative soymilk
Quite possibly the prettiest soymilk box I've ever seen. These were on the shelf at the Cafe Beignet restaurant on Royal Street.
6. Beads on street signs
I'm not sure if they were there on purpose or left over from a parade, but these were all over the power lines and traffic signals on Canal Street.
7. Friendly locals
I know, that's a statue of St. Jude in the garden by the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on Ramparts Street. I didn't take any shots of the real locals because I was so busy marvelling at how incredibly NICE they all are. Seriously - people would stop to help lost tourists with maps, guys would stop to lean into Bean's stroller and pinch her cheek, people in shops would drop everything to answer questions about reasonable places to rent around town, everyone had something genuinely kind to say to us. I even had a guy help me lug the stroller across two busy intersections. I have never been in a city where everyone was so sweet to visitors (edit: with the possible exception of Dublin, Ireland, which is also ludicrously nice to tourists). That was part of the reason I'm dreaming of buying an imaginary condo.
Since all we had was three days in town, we didn't get to do everything we wanted or go everywhere of interest. I didn't see any of the areas that are still heavily damaged from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, although there are a fair amount of places near the downtown area that still have blue tarp roofs and battered walls. I would say that this will wait for another trip, but I hope to God that by the time I make it to New Orleans again that most of the wasted parts will be long rebuilt.
And to aid this effort, everyone with the means should help. Go to New Orleans and leave a little money there :)