I guess the first time I visited New Orleans was about 12 years ago, before Katrina changed its face and heart and soul. I’ve been several times since, once for Jazz Fest, other times for work–most recently last week–and it reminded me of some photos I shot on my last visit in 2010 when I arrived in the city the morning after Mardi Gras.

NOLA is the only city in the U.S. that makes me ask: How is it I never lived here?

I am a sucker for the French Quarter’s architecture–a jambalaya of Spanish, French, and Caribbean influences. I walk the Quarter and can’t believe I’m still in the States. Follow every entranceway to a hidden courtyard where it feels as though each brick still clings to every conversation held there in the past two centuries.

Then there’s the food. On this last trip, some colleagues and I had an exquisite meal at Tableau, by Jefferson Square. Highly, highly recommended, and sit on the balcony if you can for some great people-watching. Catty-corner to Tableau is, of course, Cafe Du Monde, which is a must for me on every trip. Fried. Dough. And. Powdered. Sugar.

Hell yes.

Then there’s the mystery, the underbelly, the voodoo that they do so well. Yes, it’s a party town, but nothing feels truly safe there, especially since Katrina.

Anyway, I had to go to NOLA for work in March 2010, touching down the day after Mardi Gras. If I could’ve gone to experience the party the night before I would have, but it was all good. The morning after was a city-wide hangover–colorful, alive, pained. And just in case a soul had slept too late to attend mass, there were sidewalk priests ready to spread some ash on a forehead and absolve anyone of sin.

What a fucking great city. I wish the nation cared about it more.

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