It’s now 11:11pm on Thursday. I’ve been home for about 30 minutes now and got the car (and all the souveniers) unloaded – the drive took a bit longer than expected since we stopped for (yet another) celebratory dinner en route to the house.
I guess the way to tell this tale is from the beginning, so I’ll tell you of our entire trip to New Orleans even though this thread is strictly to inform you about how the great lady looks 6 months after her devastation. We left home at 9:30pm Monday night since I couldn’t get to sleep early. Our original plan was to leave about 2am Tuesday. The drive down was uneventful, and eerily quiet – no traffic to speak of the entire way from Shreveport to Lafayette down I49. We cut to I10 and crossed Baton Rouge, and began our turn southward to the Big Easy. It’s now 2am and we’re an hour away from our destination. There is zero traffic.
Now for those of you who’ve been to New Orleans you’ll understand the signifigance of the traffic situation. For those who have not, I’ll expand a bit – New Orleans pre-Katrina was a 24/7 traffic nightmare, with near bumper to bumper traffic doing 80 miles an hour down the highway from the I55/I10 interchange all the way to the French Quarter. To reiterate, the time mattered not, the traffic was tough.
The near deserted highway stretched in front of us and we cruised comfortably and easily, taking in as many sights as the 3:00am darkness would allow. We passed Metarie, a city absorbed by New Orleans and site of the flood from the breach in the 17th street canal levee. We saw little damage – a few missing roofs, a collapsed building or two, a damaged sign here and there. We pressed onward and got to our exit and entered the French Quarter.
Now the French Quarter got a little water but wasn’t flooded too badly. The damage to the buildings was mostly from looting, and several large business were closed, with sheets of plywood covering their entire store fronts. Tower Records, Virgin Megastore, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and even Hooters were boarded up just to name a few.
We crossed Canal street and entered Bourbon (our hotel, the Royal Sonesta, is on Bourbon street at Rue Bienville) and found our hotel. The valet parks us, and we journey to the desk clerk who informs us it’s still too early to check in, and that she can have a room available by 7:30.
No problem at all. The lights and all night parties on Bourbon are still in full swing – most businesses there don’t close until 6am, then reopen at 7. We enter afoot into the quarter.
The first thing we notice is that the crowds, although still around, are vastly thinner. Tourism has obviously dropped severely in the quarter. The second thing we see is all the Help Wanted signs in virtually every window. We find a nice Irish pub and enter for a beer (and coffee for Mrs|ce). The only people there are us, the bartender, the off-duty titty dancer, the bar owner, and another club owner from elsewhere in the quarter. They all join in the conversation (except the dancer who’s on her way out the door) and I’m told that since there’s such a housing shortage in New Orleans, there’s not enough people to fill the jobs. The club owner tells me that he’s paying some bum off the street 9 bucks an hour to stand out front and wave a flag (sandwich man!) to invite people inside. He also tells me that the pay is through the roof – his bartender’s making over 30 dollars per hour (nearly 15 quid/hr to you brit types). We’re then informed that applications are normally not necessary other than to get a person’s personal info – name, address, phone number, social for taxes, and no references or job histories are being checked – it’s an employee’s market and they’re paying top dollar for warm bodies. If you know anyone who needs a job and can either find living space or provide their own, there’s gold in New Orleans right now.
We get back to the hotel at 6, intending to get a bit of breakfast in the unGodly overpriced hotel restaurant while waiting on our room. We’re informed by the clerk that she’d called in someone early and had a room ready for us, but that they didn’t have a reservation. Oops.
We have her call my attorney, who’s made reservations and prepaid the entire stay. He lives 45 minutes away and isn’t pleased. We take seats in the lobby and listen as the drama unfolds. The hotel manager is paged.
15 minutes later we’re given a very sincere apology for the loss of our reservation, told that Hotels.com has taken care of the problem, and as an apology from them would we like a room with a nice balcony overlooking Bourbon street at no additional charge (those rooms rent at $520 a night in the off season btw, and over $2500 a night during Mardi Gras – the room the attorney had for us was an inside room at $129) Needless to say the balcony room was wonderful and a good time was had by all. The concierge escorts us to our room, which has been pre-turned down by housekeeping, and delivers our luggage in fine form, and is duly tipped and dismissed. After exploring our wonderful corner room with balcony (corner of Bienville and Bourbon!, balcony’s 8feet wide! room has a mini-bar!!!) we wearily turn to our bed. It’s 7:30 am. We meet with our attorney at noon.
More in next post…
Written by l3lacklce