Honestly, New Orleans should just make that part of their travel branding. Stepping out of the car at the hotel last weekend, we realized we might not be prepared for the heat and the humidity after nearly two years away. Except we didn’t really care. We were just happy to be back in one of our favorite places.

Even with the smell.

For our first non-parental trip, James and I decided to take off last Friday and have a long weekend in New Orleans. Or perhaps a long-enough weekend in New Orleans. Besides, we knew what we were getting into. NOLA is nothing if not hot and humid. And like good little Boy Scouts, we made sure to pack accordingly. Two outfits for every day, plus one spare. Necessary for a city where clothing will stick to you the minute you set foot outdoors.

We were ready, and New Orleans did not disappoint.

After being away for so long, we were curious to see how the city and the French Quarter had endured. Friends had gone a few months back when businesses weren’t quite open, so we really didn’t know what to expect. Turns out New Orleans felt like New Orleans. In spite of the pandemic – or perhaps to spite the pandemic – nothing much seemed to have changed.

The pace was the same – slow. Each time we visit I have to remind myself that people there are on their own time. No one is in a hurry. Hard to remember that on the first day when you’re waiting to eat. However, it’s also a nice reminder that if you’re on vacation, you shouldn’t be in a hurry either.

Jackson Square was the same. Artists hawking their paintings in the shade between the Pontalba buildings and the Square. Tarot readers telling fortunes directly across from St. Louis Cathedral. And horse-drawn carriages lining Decatur waiting to take tourists around the Quarter.

We were relieved to see a lot of our favorite restaurants were still serving, although we did have one disappointment. The Vietnamese restaurant a block away from the hotel had shuttered their doors. The one place we had found to get good vegan food was no more. And after eating somewhat poorly (although what we ate was really good), we realized we’d have to find a new place for Labor Day or we might not survive.

We did our usual gallery hopping down Royal even though Sunday turned our hotter than blue blazes. The kind of heat where you sweat in places you didn’t know you could sweat. And I think every gallery was still kicking, along with some new ones that had opened during the pandemic. One new gallery owner opened his doors in the middle of last year, selling every piece of art in the first 30 days. Pretty brave move in a pandemic.

And of course, I cannot mention being in New Orleans without talking about popping into our favorite bars to cool down after wandering the streets for an hour or two. Nice to know they survived, especially given that we know which ones have the good air conditioning. Had you stopped into Cafe Lafitte’s you would have found us bogarting the vent on the first floor across from the bar. Happy to chat with whoever came by, but not giving an inch from where we were sitting.

I will admit we were ready to come home Monday morning. For this first time foray, a long weekend turned out to be just enough. Enough to remind us of what we’ve missed, and how happy we were that so much had not changed.

Not the heat, the humidty, or the smell.