We loved it. It’s the ultimate melting pot of diverse cultures and backgrounds. A little of this and a little of that, all blended together. Much like the seasonings in the area’s fabulous cuisine, the end result is so much more than the sum of its parts.
It is also very much a study in contrasts. This was illustrated over and over, but perhaps nowhere better than in the area surrounding the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, where we stayed.
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the entrance to the Bourbon Orleans is in the middle of the block. Leaving the hotel, if you turn to the right, in half a block you’re on Bourbon Street.
My husband and I walked along the infamous street many times during our vacation, both in the daytime and at night. There were some things we didn’t care for, of course, but also a lot we enjoyed. And I doubt there are very many places more fascinating for a writer to people-watch than Bourbon Street!
Before our trip we had heard and read advice regarding safety concerns in that area. We took reasonable precautions, stayed aware of our surroundings and didn’t go traipsing down dark alleys or anything like that. But we never felt unsafe—no matter what the hour. In fact, the only incident that caused a slight momentary concern happened on our first visit to Bourbon Street. It was about two in the morning—an hour or so after we had arrived at our hotel from the airport. I had my little point-and-shoot camera with me and snapped a photo of a rather large gentleman as he sat in the cart of a bicycle pedicab waiting for a tour. I heard him call out, “Lady, did you take my picture?” I turned, ready to apologize for having done so when he threw his arms wide and said, “Take another one!” So I did. (Unfortunately those photos did not turn out.)
As one who is, by nature, a cautious person, I was a little surprised by my lack of nervousness. This was due, in part, to the very visible police presence in the area. The mounted officers, in particular, serve not only as a deterrent to crime but also as goodwill ambassadors since people are attracted to the horses.
When the officers were a bit farther away, there was the safety-in-numbers factor. There were always plenty of people around. In spite of varying levels of inebriation, most of the folks were friendly—even polite. I have no doubt that some of them would have intervened had anything been amiss.
But the main reason I felt safe relates to the symbolism of what is located at the other end of the street.
Remember I said that, upon leaving the hotel, Bourbon Street was half a block to the right? Well, in what may be the ultimate in contrasts, this is half a block in the other direction:
This statue of Jesus is at the back of the St. Louis Cathedral. Here is a close up of it:
If you look closely, you’ll see it is missing parts of the forefinger and thumb on the left hand. These were lost in Hurricane Katrina. Some of the local people say that Jesus “flicked” the worst of the storm away from that area (the French Quarter suffered far less damage from the hurricane than other parts of the city.)
Although the statue holds no power over a hangnail, much less a hurricane, I love the symbolism involved.
Each time we arrived at or left our hotel, I was struck by this beautiful marble likeness and the masterful lighting angle that casts such a huge shadow of it on the back of the cathedral. It reminds me that we are safe in His care. Of course, safety in Him does not always mean the absence of trouble, but it does mean we can trust Him to watch over us. We can rest in the shadow of His presence.
No matter where we are.
No matter what our circumstances.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.