Just like French literature, the plot of a city often lies in the women who live and work in that particular place.
It was Alexandre Dumas who first counseled readers to “cherchez la femme” (look for the woman), and literary critics often use the same approach for revealing the heart of a novel or film.
I also find it to be a good guiding principle for travel: Cherchez la femme! Visit any place in the world and converse with the first five women you meet: You’ll learn far more about the everyday truth of that destination than any guidebook could ever show you.
Outside of English, many languages assign gender to cities, countries, oceans, mountains, rivers, and places. I have traveled to Mother Russia and Mother India, I have sunk my ankles into the hot sands of Le Sahara (masculine), and I have sailed across the Atlantic (feminine). Reflecting on this, as far as place-names go, the world is overwhelmingly feminine, including “Earth” itself.
After only two weeks adventuring through her wild city streets, I will be so presumptuous as to declare that New Orleans is most definitely a woman. Anyone who’s been here would likely come to the same conclusion.
As I wrap up this terrific urban journey that I have been on, I can remember all the women I met here–all of the fabulous women who make up this entirely unique city. To them I say thank you and, in a gentlemanly gesture, I tip my (rented) black velvet top hat to all of them.
Dame New Orleans appreciates good manners.