The French Quarter is a bustling happy place on this Saturday morning.

A river boat calliope chirping out the melody “Happy Days Are Here Again” set my gait for a morning walk through the French Quarter during a break from conference business.  I’ve visited the familiar neighborhoods of the Vieux Carre as long as I can remember, but this morning, up and down the sidewalks teeming with cheerful tourists, I realized I have never seen the old City look and feel so good, pre-Katrina or post.

Maybe it was the early spring weather.  Maybe it’s the after-glow of winning the Superbowl (Lots of “Who dat” banners hanging from balconies all over the Quarter).  Maybe it’s that Ray Nagin is a lame duck mayor.

Whatever, the old Queen City of the South is feeling her oats.  I was particularly impressed with the tourists: you can bring your family here!  Young couples with broods in tow were common, some pushing baby carriages and toting diaper bags.  Lots of middle-aged Boomer and senior types, too: dapper-looking decent folks, descending on the Big Easy from all points of the compass (You can tell by the place names on the caps and sweatshirts).

The streets smelled fresh, spic and span after their early-morning pressure-washing (in spite of the extensive, into-the-night Friday  parties.  Ten years ago, the leftover litter and stench from Friday night would have appalled the senses!).  The portraitists and painters (preferable to the tawdry Tarot Card readers) have returned to Jackson Square.   The energetic crowds are back.  The place just feels re-born.

Of course, come nightfall, the raucous foolishness will recommence.  We know the party-hardy will have their sway after the sun goes down on Bourbon Street.  But I can avoid Bourbon Street.  Meanwhile,  so long as he sun shines, so does New Orleans: She’s better than ever.

Our conference hotel, the historic Monteleone, was bursting at the seems with conferees and tourists.