After spending a few days with the Cajuns in the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and seeing it from the sky, eating from its waters, and walking through her streets, I encourage everyone to make a visit. The people all seem to be gifted story-tellers, the seafood was delicious, and in New Orleans especially, the spirit of resilience is palpable.
As I bit into a shrimp po'boy at lunch I asked Kelly Gustafson from the Houma area visitors bureau what makes this area of the country different? "Our product is really our people," she said. "You can just stop and chat with anyone." And that welcoming connection was what I found myself enjoying the most - though being with the media might have made it slightly more challenging.
I was last in New Orleans (and the nearby wetlands) a few months prior to Katrina, so I wasn't sure what I'd see going back. The last five years in the region brought Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike as well as this year's BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster. The repeated images of disaster from the news had been burned into my mind (and I imagine many others'). But to my delight, it's not like that at all.
Yes, the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans was devastated, but they are rebuilding using sustainable materials. Yes, the wetlands are disappearing, but groups like The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium are around to help scientists find solutions. Sure, there are fewer Gold band oysters available from Louisiana because of closed fishing areas, but they are still shipping out thousands daily. But don't take my word for it, go and taste it for yourself.
I hope you'll enjoy some pictures from my trip.