My wife Patricia and I arrived from San Francisco to Louis Armstrong International Airport around 9 pm. The airport looked exactly as it had the many times I had been there before, except a damp and dingy smell that lingered throughout the terminals and an air of emptiness caused by the closed vendors and newstands.
The walk down the terminal was quite familiar. It was my 9th trek in 10 years to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival - one of my favorite weekend of the year. However, this year's visit to New Orleans held a lot of uncertainty due to our questions about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the spirit of the city and the mood of the Jazz Fest. However, this year more than any other, we felt like we needed to be there and to support the businesses and people of this great city. Our goal was to balance enjoying the festival and city with touring the affected parts of the city and speaking with the remaining people about the recovery.
Thursday night, night one of our three night trip, was a solo night for Patricia and I as our other 4 companions would be arriving on Friday. We hurried from the airport to the Country Inn & Suites, just off Canal Street. Typically we have stayed at the great French Quarter Courtyard Hotel (a very authentic, no frills joint outside the FQ), but they were not open to the public as they are still housing relief workers and displaced families. We certainly knew we would miss the great bar, ice cold "pool" and scary balcony.
The Country Inn was perfectly average. Clean. Well appointed. Fresh baked cookies in the lobby. But no New Orleans personality in its design or staff. More to come soon....