I just arrived in New Orleans for the National Lutheran Youth Gathering. For the next few days, I'll try to upload some thoughts, photos, and news from the event - from the perspective of an older, but new pastor attending for the first time. This should be interesting!
First of all - how did we get here? We started out months ago, 6 of us planning to make the trip. By the time we were ready to leave, we were down to 4. Many issues played a part in this, but this is the reality we are dealing with. We drove - about a 14 hour adventure. The good news - it was uneventful. The bad news - I am so tired I can't seem to settle down to sleep.
When we arrived and checked into our hotel, it was to find things not quite like we thought they were. Of course, over my many years of business travel, I have many, many horror stories about hotels and this one in comparison is pretty mild. We have rooms, they are reasonably clean, and mostly quiet. We'll survive.
We went for a walk - no one else in our group has ever been to New Orleans. We strolled down Decatur (where we are staying), up St. Peter, then down Bourbon St. to Canal St., down Canal to Decatur and back to our hotel. My first impressions is that the French Quarter seems to be well on the road to recovery after Katrina. This is my first visit since before the hurricane and while there are many changes, most of the business spaces seem to have shops/restaurants, etc. which are open for business. The only down side I see is that Bourbon Street seems to have slipped from where it was - less restaurants and music - more bars and adult entertainment. What used to be a street where the adult side of things could be ignored or giggled at is now more in-your-face. That is a shame. As well, one of my favorite restaurants which always had a good Dixie-land group playing seems to be gone. Of course, businesses do change - even without a Katrina to help - but I mourn the loss of businesses that were more family-oriented and their replacement by adult-only businesses.
The upside of our walk tonight - I saw several familiar faces as we walked about the French Quarter. I am looking forward to seeing many old friends over the next few days - as well as making some new ones.