By: Cheré Coen
I was enjoying the delicious sunshine while overlooking the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico when news of Barry surfaced. Early last week, with a sky devoid of clouds, you’d have never known a storm was brewing. It was my first trek to Ship Island off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi, since my father brought me there as a child. Away from the issue of fresh water diversion from the Mississippi River at New Orleans, which forced some coastal beaches to close due to an algae bloom, and a low pressure building near the Florida Panhandle, the island’s waters offered a clean, cool respite from the heat.
The boat to Ship Island was packed with sun worshipers, which pleased Anna Roy, public relations manager for Coastal Mississippi, the region’s tourism arm. She’d been dealing with the national media for days, some who chose dramatics over facts to the algae bloom found close to shore. Tourism numbers were down, even though beaches were open (not for swimming), restaurants were pulling seafood from deeper waters and the coast offered great attractions, restaurants, shopping and more.
It reminded me of the aftermath of hurricanes, when photos used on national television caused people to cancel vacation plans, even though the area they had hoped to visit were fine and open for business. Or the time of the BP oil spill, when visitors refused to eat crawfish, even though the crustacean grows in fresh water far from the Gulf.
This week, the problem was Tropical Storm Barry. Friends saw Bourbon Street filled with water days before the storm arrived and asked me if New Orleans was under water. When a levee overflowed in Plaquemines Parish, my phone lit up with questions asking if the city was impacted.
Not to belittle the impact of this storm, which caused damage, but cancelling vacation plans may not be the answer. There’s so much fun to be had in our Bayou State that visitors will never lack for something unique and awesome to do.
Take St. Tammany Parish, for example. Barry pushed Lake Pontchartrain waters into homes and businesses lining the lakefront, images of this flooding seen repeatedly on national television. We feel for those who were impacted during the storm but remind readers that this damage affected only a small portion of the parish. For those planning a visit to the area 40 minutes north of New Orleans, you can still enjoy a tour through Abita Brewery, bike up the Tammany Trace, enjoy award-winning cuisine at Covington restaurants or tube, fish and kayak the parish’s many back waterways.
Visiting after storms also helps local economies get back on their feet. A drop in summer tourism following a storm is like a double dose of rotten luck.
And what’s coming to Louisiana, anyway, without a great meal? No rain ever stops us from serving up fabulous.
Here’s a case in point: Nolé Restaurant, where New Orleans and Latin American cuisine meet, will celebrate National Tequila Day July 24 with a limited seating, four-course tequila pairing dinner that includes an interactive Margarita 101 session with a Patrón Tequila representative and a unique welcome cocktail. For the dinner, Chef Chris Lusk will prepare blue crab street corn paired with Roca Patrón Silver, barbecue shrimp and grits with Roca Patrón Reposado, chicken tinga taco and Roca Patrón Anejo and olive oil chocolate cake served with Patrón XO Café.
“This dinner will be a fun way to spend a hot summer night doing what New Orleanians do best… spending time with family and friends, relaxing and enjoying the company,” said restauranteur Al Copeland Jr.
Tickets to the dinner cost $60 (tax and gratuity included) and can be purchased online here.
So, if you’re on the fence about visiting Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, please come. One photo in the media does not a region make. We’re still dealing with water issues, but there’s so much more to Louisiana, A visit here, in any weather, will be a certified good time.
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