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If there was any doubt I was back in the city where I grew up but as a hayseed tourist this time, it was made clear in my very first steps onto Bourbon St.
“I can tell you where you got your shoes,” a tall, African American man said walking straight up to me. Still possessing the sting of having lost $10 on this scam some thirty years ago on a Mardi Gras visit to New Orleans, I was ready for it this time.
It’s not overstating it to suggest a visit to New Orleans is a great tune up for an extended trip to Europe. Parts of the city come closest to the look and feel of Europe that no other city in the United States can muster. New Orleans is unique, I think, among American cities in that way. European cities of comparable size all seem to come with a charm, grace, pace and architectural beauty that is at once nostalgically Old World, yet eminently livable by every modern measure. European cities are as much playground as centers of commerce. They clang, ring, chime and clatter. Cafes spill cheerful patrons onto sidewalks and along cobbled squares. They effuse joie de vie, gemütlichkeit and la bella vita. They invite walking, if not pure wandering.