After the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, we flew down to New Orleans to visit my friend Whitney Stewart who is the author of 'Becoming Buddha', which I illustrated in 2005. Whitney and I met at my very first SCBWI Conference in Paris in 1999 and became great friends even though we have only met up three times since then. Next year we will have another picture book published on meditation for children.
Whitney gave us a tour of the French quarter where we stopped at the famous Cafe du Monde and had beignets with cafes au lait, then proceeded to the equally famous Madame Laveau's House of Voodoo where I bought WAY too much voodoo stuff to take home. But hey, everybody loves voodoo, right? If you need a love potion, magic crystals or simply a doll to stick pins in, I'm your gal.
Later we drove through areas that had been devastated by the floods following Hurricane Katrina where all that remained of many houses were the concrete steps that had lead up to their front doors. They were a desolate sight and reminded me of the brick chimney places that were left in the blackened landscapes after the Black Saturday fires. We saw the housing projects that Brad Pitt has funded to try to rebuild some of the poorer flood-affected areas of New Orleans (just in case you weren't already enough in love with Ms Jolie's husband). Unfortunately though many people who were evacuated haven't returned, either because they have settled elsewhere or don't have the money to get back, so despite some signs of life, the area still felt sad and empty.
Lastly, a visit to New Orleans wouldn't be complete without live music. On our last night we found one of the fabulous Marsalis brothers, Delfeayo, playing at a very groovy little bar called Snug Harbour with a full orchestra and we were in jazz heaven.
Gumbo, jazz and voodoo - what more could you want from a city? Especially if you could live in a house like this:
Sigh. There is much to love in New Orleans.
Next... New York!