We visited New Orleans for a family Christmas and New Year in 2014-15 and what an interesting experience it was: the culture, food and music....and the in-your-face inequality. It's a very pleasant city and we enjoyed some exceptional restaurants at all price ranges, a jazz concert and random jazz on the street several times. Highlights which we would recommend were trips to beautiful and serene bayous and swamps and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, which appears a few times in the gallery. The historic district / French Quarter is full of charming buildings with wrap-around terraces and classic French architecture.
The inequality was odd though. Every country and city of course has inequality, and when you compare, say, Vienna with Mumbai, it's of course a stunning difference. However, inequality is often 'out of sight, out of mind' in high-income nations with it not being so obvious in the city centre of touristy cities....but not so here. With near 100% of all restaurant patrons white, and near 100% of all servers and waiters in the same establishments black (with white people appearing only when it involved handling cash), it was hard not to focus on it. Louisiana has had a difficult history with race and it appeared in many other different ways during our trip, but on the positive side we were fortunate enough to be there soon after the opening of the first slavery museum in the United States in December 2014. Yes you read that right: the first slavery museum in American opened in 2014. Amazing. The Whitney Plantation Historic District teaches specifically about the lives of the enslaved people who lived there. The contrast was quite stark after visiting another local plantation, which from what we heard is fairly representative: "Wow look at the beautiful house! What nice lives the masters had! Here is some information about what their rich daughters and sons did". A little tone deaf. So it's easy to say that many people including ourselves are grateful to the founder John Cummings (a local trial lawyer) and the director of research Ibrahima Seck (a Senegalese scholar) to creating this tribute.
You can read about the museum here: http://whitneyplantation.com/ and
What made the trip especially special were the old friends of the family, a friend who went with Elizabeth's sister to the same college and were and are best of friends. She and her husband were and are exceptionally warm and welcoming, showing us sides of New Orleans and the area which we wouldn't have seen nor known about. This included a visit to an old gentleman's club which was great fun and a totally new experience. The reasons why a male-only club will be disliked by some are obvious, but spending an evening there helped to understand those who would hate to see this sort of institution die. An eclectic set of men with varying backgrounds, rich and poor alike, chatting into the night about motorbikes, politics and home-renovation ideas with an obligatory whisky sour in hand....simple as that. The area around NOLA is picturesque, such as Lake Pontchartrain and the little towns and villages which surround it. We were lent a family SUV to drive around in the not-too-cold weather, and they invited us to even spend a weekend by ourselves in Bay St Louis, another recommended visit if you enjoy calm and peaceful seafront towns. Idyllic!
Finally, it can't go without saying that so many experiences on this trip - and how we got there - were generous gifts from family as we had more limited means then, so thank you so much to our American and Japanese family, and their great friends in New Orleans.
Please enjoy the gallery of photographs by clicking the photo above or visiting:
P.S. For any photography enthusiasts or professionals reading: I use a Panasonic G5 (micro four-thirds), a 20mm f1.7 pancake and 42.5mm f1.7 portrait lens (40mm 1.7 FF and 85mm 1.7 FF equivalent respectively). Previously, from 2013-2017, I mostly used a 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens and a 45-200mm f4-5.6 OIS (FF equivalent 28-84mm and 90-400mm respectively). It was in early 2017 when I replaced the kit lens with the much faster 20mm prime, and due to weight and size I left the telescopic behind with friends in Penang in 2018 when I added the portrait lens with its razor thin depth of field. The best camera (and lens!) is the one you have with you!