Today the traditional "Mardi Gras", or Fat Tuesday, is held in New Orleans. This must be the best and worst time in the year to visit the city.
I have been in New Orleans twice while I lived in the US in the 90's, although these visits were in the summer and not in February. Both times I had an incredible stay. New Orleans, together with Las Vegas, are my two favorite American cities. The two couldn't be more different from each other and I guess therein lies the allure, as I like them for different reasons.
While Las Vegas is a place like no other, a fantasy playground, where anything can happen (and to me a very American city), New Orleans always struck me as exotic yet so very European in some ways. The French influences are very apparent, particularly in the architecture.
When I visited The Big Easy the second time in 1996, I did something I never did before or since. I willingly posed for a street portrait artist. She drew a large black and white portrait using charcoal only. I like to believe the finished piece is a reflection of how the artist saw me, even though the likeness between me and the girl in the picture is pretty much non-existent. It took her 2 hours to finish the drawing and although I suffered greatly and had to endure stares and comments from all the onlookers, I am very happy I did this. This piece of genuine art is one of my precious possessions to this day, as it is a very unique souvenir.