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The Big Easy is Back

It takes hard work, a positive attitude and dedication to overcome an adversity. Just ask anyone in New Orleans. The determination, love and spirit of its people have brought New Orleans back from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation to its place as one of America’s most unique and exciting cities.

New Orleans has retained its charm, and textile care professionals coming to Clean ’09 June 18-21 will see the city’s fresh, clean look immediately. The famous French Quarter, the Central Business District, and the Arts/Warehouse District where the Morial Convention Center is located are all restored to their original beauty. While visiting the city for the upcoming Convention, be sure to take advantage of all it has to offer from its colorful history to its diverse and interesting culture.

A bit of New Orleans’ history sets the stage for its charm. Virtually isolated from the mainland for nearly 200 years by the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and vast oak-cypress swamplands, the city became a haven for émigrés from Europe, the West Indies and elsewhere, creating a unique melting pot of cultures.

Originally established as a French colony on the Mississippi River -- the main thoroughfare for commerce -- in the 1690s, the territory was sold to the Spanish. Then it was sold back to the French before the 1803 Louisiana Purchase by the United States. Canal Street was built by the French and Spanish Creoles to separate the French Quarter from the Americans, which is why street names change when crossing Canal Street. It is the Spanish influence that is most evident in the architecture of the French Quarter. The colorful Cajuns, originally Acadians from Nova Scotia, developed their own French-derived dialect to enhance the city’s cosmopolitan flavor.

A WALKING CITY
New Orleans is a walking city. Streets are narrow, and parking is scarce and expensive. Pass up the rental counters at the airport and take a taxi or shuttle to your hotel. The 20- to 30-minute cab ride downtown will cost a flat $30 plus tip for one or two people. An airport shuttle is $13 a person one way (look for a discount coupon on the Clean Show Web site).

All Clean Show hotels are located in the Arts/Warehouse District, the Central Business District or the French Quarter within a mile and a half of the Morial Convention Center. Complimentary shuttle bus service will be provided, with stops at official hotels or within two short blocks unless the hotel is within a short walk from the convention center.

THE FRENCH QUARTER
A “must” for New Orleans visitors is a trip to the French Quarter. The French Quarter’s name is Vieux Carre, which translates to “old square,” the name given when the city was originally incorporated by the French in 1718.

Here is where you find the city’s characteristic two-story houses trimmed with fanciful wrought iron balconies, and sidewalks built higher than street level to protect homes and ladies’ gowns from mud and high water. Great restaurants and bistros, nightclubs, honky-tonks and bars, seamy trinket shops, and fine antique stores and boutiques all seem to coexist happily in a place that never seems to rest. Gone are the dirt and odors visitors may remember from the past. The new company contracted to clean the Quarter’s streets has done such a good job that its owner has become one of the city’s greatest celebrities.

Walking through the French Quarter’s narrow streets, there often is reason to pause for impromptu entertainment by the street performers who abound in the Quarter. A word of advice: tipping the performers is encouraged. Handouts to street people are not. Bourbon Street is an active area for entertainment. It is closed to vehicles at night to accommodate non-stop fun. You can stop at many of the jazz and blues clubs for a drink, eat at one of its world famous restaurants, or just mingle with other Clean Show attendees. In contrast, Royal Street – just a block away – is where you will find New Orleans’ sophisticated antique shops.

On the east side of the Quarter is the French Market and open-air Flea Market. Here shoppers can browse and bargain for a mindboggling array of goods, native and imported, for as long as endurance and wallet will allow. Vendors are happy to tell stories about heir wares, be they native ‘gator heads, African artifacts or bounteous collections of T-shirts and Mardi Gras souvenirs.

In the heart of the French Quarter is renowned Jackson Square, an eclectic enclave of artists and musicians, horse-drawn carriages, and visitors from around the world. They gather at the fences around St. Louis Cathedral, said to be the oldest active cathedral in the U.S., and the statue of Andrew Jackson that gives the square its name. Nearby is historic Jax Brewery, now home to a multitude of shops and restaurants.

THE ARTS/WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
Famous chef Emeril Lagasse was truly foresighted when he opened his first restaurant, Emeril’s, in what was then a somewhat rundown Warehouse District. Anchored by Harrah’s Casino, among the largest in the country, that area near the convention center has had a resurgence that brought new hotels, restaurants, galleries, shops and condos. Old world charm is assured by a city ordinance that requires buildings in the historic district to retain at least one original exterior wall. Here you will find one of the city’s most moving experiences — the National D-Day museum.

MUSIC ABOUNDS
Music permeates throughout New Orleans almost around the clock. You may find legendary clarinetist Pete Fountain at one of his occasional appearances at Harrah’s Casino, or dance the Cajun two-step at Mulate’s while dining on its famous red beans and rice. Sit on the backstraining benches at Preservation Hall to enjoy authentic New Orleans jazz, or visit the House of Blues. Beyond the street performers, every style of music can be found at the city’s restaurants and clubs.

A TREAT FOR YOUR TASTE BUDS
The diversity of the people of New Orleans and their music is more than matched by the fare at its many eateries. From sophisticated Creole to stick-to-your-ribs Cajun, the cuisine is unrivaled and takes advantage of the plentiful seafood of the region: shrimp, redfish, crawfish, catfish and oysters. No visit to New Orleans is complete without a sampling of such local staples as red beans and rice, the various gumbos and etouffees, jambalaya, sausages, shrimp remoulade, and of course sugary-sweet pralines.

New Orleans boasts some of the world’s oldest and most famous fine dining restaurants. Dinner at Antoine’s, established in 1840, is a tradition. Equally famous are Arnaud’s, Commander’s Palace, Court of Two Sisters, Galatoire’s, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, and Mr. B’s Bistro to name just a few. Not to be missed are some of the more recent additions: Nola, Palace Café, GW Fins, Drago, and many more.

Breakfast at Brennan’s, where Bananas Foster was made famous, is another tradition, but be ready to savor it over two hours or more. For lighter morning fare, a “must” is café au lait (Cajun coffee with milk) and beignets (square sugary doughnuts) at the original Café du Monde in the French Market. They have been served there since 1862, and are available 24 hours a day. Mother’s is the place to find locals having their power breakfast.

For a quick and hearty meal, try an original muffuletta sandwich where it was invented, at the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. Mulate’s, across the street from the convention center, offers fine Cajun food, music and dancing. And be sure to stand at the raw bar at Felix’s or Acme Oyster House to sample plump and delicious oysters. They tell us “R” months don’t count with farmed oysters.

VENTURING OUT
New Orleans is more than French Quarter, music and great food, and a good way to see it is by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). It boasts the oldest continuously operated street railway system in the world, and streetcar tours are attractions in themselves. Fares are reasonable -- just $1.25. Passes -- $5 for one day, $12 for three days – are good on RTA streetcars and buses, and enable visitors to get on and off to explore at will.
Take the Riverfront trolley along the river from the convention center to the French Market. The St. Charles streetcar is the favored way to tour the lush Garden District with its magnificent mansions that hold so many secrets, the campuses of Loyola and Tulane universities, the “cities of the dead” above ground cemeteries, and the Audubon Zoo. Rest at City Park where you can see Spanish moss hanging gracefully from a 100-year-old live oak tree; or visit the New Orleans Museum of Art, one of the Gulf South’s finest art museums and sculpture gardens, featuring an outstanding collection of world art and an expansive Faberge gallery.

The fascinating story of New Orleans unfolds on concise markers at convenient intervals describing how the city was swapped between the French and Spanish during the 18th century wars and politics, of Thomas Jefferson’s historic Louisiana Purchase, and of the influx of people from over the globe that gives New Orleans its unique culture.

At Riverwalk, adjacent to Morial Convention Center where Clean ’09 will be held, visitors can stroll along the crescent-shaped bend in the Mississippi that gives the city its other nickname: the Crescent City. The promenade offers broad vistas of the waterborne commerce that makes New Orleans one of the nation’s leading ports. You can sit outside the shops and restaurants of Riverwalk Marketplace and watch the ships come and go. Or you can take a short Mississippi cruise on the riverboat casino moored there. The Aquarium of the Americans, among the nation’s best, is there also.

Another attraction on many “must see” lists includes the Louisiana Super Dome. Across the street from it are two of the few remnants of Katrina that are visible to most visitors – the Hyatt Regency hotel and the now-closed New Orleans Center Mall.

For those who wish to see how far the city has come since Katrina, take a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward or the Lakeview area, which are still in recovery. These were the hardest hit areas when the 17th Street Levy breached flooding 60 percent of the city. Some homes were saved, others totally washed away. The process is slow because the entire infrastructure was destroyed, but many projects are under way to rebuild the areas and to memorialize those who were lost.

WORDS TO THE WISE
The warm welcome extended by New Orleans will likely be matched by the weather. It will be balmy, though evening breezes may moderate temperatures somewhat. Dress comfortably in light clothing and avoid overexertion. Air-conditioned havens, in the form of cafes, bars and coffee shops offer respite. And by all means, wear comfortable shoes – both for sightseeing and for the exhibit floor.

BE READY FOR LAGNIAPPE
A word frequently heard in New Orleans is lagniappe (pronounced lanyap), which means a little bit more, an extra, something thrown in for good measure. That’s what visitors to Clean ’09 will find – not only the largest industry show with products and education sessions to boost their business, but also that little bit more, the excitement that comes from visiting New Orleans. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to combine business with sightseeing and fun. As the Cajuns say, “laissiz les bon temps rouler”: let the good times roll!

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

G&K Fined By U.S. Attorney’s Office

MINNETONKA, Minn. — G&K Services, Inc., was recently fined $450,000 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, G&K discharged too much oil and grease into wastewater at one of their facilities. G&K is headquartered in Minnesota and the facility that was fined is located in Iowa.