Issue #2 December 2004

Red Hat Summit: Bringing the Heat to the Big Easy

Linux in the Heart of Town

There will be plenty of great reasons to join Red Hat at our first annual Summit: great keynote speakers, previews of "the next big thing," high-powered technical sessions, and the chance to chat with community luminaries over po-boys and Dixie.

It would be pretty foolish, though, to pretend that New Orleans itself isn't one of the biggest stars of this show. Summit 2005 will be held in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, right in the heart of one of the world's great tourist cities. When the day's sessions end, the city has its own sessions for you, and you'll want to hit as many of them as you can. Of course, there are a truly impressive number of online resources available to visitors who want to do their own tourist-y homework — but the way we figure, it can't hurt to start people off in the right direction.

Summit 2005 will be held in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, right in the heart of one of the world's great tourist cities.

Making Your Way in the Crescent City

First, a little bit of friendly advice. Fly into Louis Armstrong airport (yes, that's Louis Armstrong) and take the cab ride into the city. Don't bring your car, and don't rent one when you arrive. In New Orleans, you walk. If you don't walk, you take the streetcar (and don't call it a trolley). If you get caught Uptown after the streetcars stop running, you can call a cab, of which there are plenty available at any hour of the day or night. Just don't bring a car. Really.

Next, a basic primer on directions in New Orleans. One of the first things a visitor learns about New Orleans is that the compass doesn't matter, because in New Orleans, the river is all around you, and you're either going towards it or you're not. New Orleans is also strongly defined by its neighborhoods, and the Riverfront Hilton is at the nexus of two of its brightest: the Central Business District and the French Quarter. There are lots of other neighborhoods, some good and some not so good, but the CBD and the Quarter are right outside the front door, and the perfect places to start exploring. Go through the hotel doors and head for Canal Street, which is the broadest street in the United States. Looking up Canal Street, the CBD is to your left, and the French Quarter is to your right.

Once you get a basic handle on where you are, it's time to start looking for trouble. There are a handful of experiences in New Orleans that you just shouldn't miss. When you say, "I went to the Red Hat Summit in New Orleans," your friends will say "great, where did you go?" You should have some good answers for them. Fortunately, we've got some ideas to help you out.

Once you get a basic handle on where you are, it's time to start looking for trouble.

The Original Music City

The nice folks of Nashville may call their hometown "The Music City," but the citizens of New Orleans know better. Any city that names its airport after a jazzman is serious about its music. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and the legends of jazz, and people in the city take that identity to heart. There are performances nightly in great venues all over town. If you leave New Orleans without attending at least one live jazz performance, you'll only have yourself to blame. Opportunities of particular note:

Preservation Hall, 726 Saint Peter, 11 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Royal, left on Saint Peter. This is the home of serious, New Orleans-style jazz, and a visit here is akin to a pilgrimage. Doors open nightly at 8 p.m., and the 35-minute sets begin promptly at 8:15 p.m. No food, no drinks except bottled water, no smoking. Get there at 7:30 and you might find a chair, but don't count on it. Sit, or stand, and marvel at men who were playing jazz music before your mother was born.
Funky Butt, 714 N. Rampart, 16 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Rampart. (Pay attention as you make your way to this club, as it's close to a rough neighborhood; crossing Rampart is not such a good idea.) "It's tight... it's cozy... it's tucked away." So the proprietors claim, and so it is. For those who like more funk in their jazz, the shows here start later, run longer, and shake harder. And you can actually drink here, which gives it an immediate advantage over Preservation Hall in the eyes of some.
House of Blues, 225 Decatur, 5 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Decatur. Okay, so maybe it's not as "authentic" as some other joints — but just because it was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that doesn't mean that it doesn't swing. Consistently excellent acts, good food, and plenty of space make this a great venue for music fans who aren't all fussy about history.
Tipitina's, 501 Napoleon, many blocks from the Summit.
Tell the cabbie "Tipitina's" and he'll get you there. If he asks you which one, just snort and say "would I be asking for a cab ride into the Quarter from here?" The original Tipitina's was built to be Professor Longhair's retirement home (it's named after one of his most popular songs). It's been one of the best music venues in New Orleans ever since.

"Eat as Much as You Possibly Can..."

"...and then go out and eat some more." That's Harry Connick Jr.'s advice. It's good advice. If epicurean adventures are "your thing," then you'll be within blocks of some of the finest restaurants on planet Earth. Or, if fancy dining rooms make you nervous, there's an abundance of "lowbrow" fare that's still better than most of what you'll eat at home, wherever that is. The fancy places are well-documented, and if you want to go dine at Emeril's or Commander's Palace or Brennan's, you won't have any trouble finding them. If, however, you're saving your money for that new flat panel, we've got a few tips for you.

Cajun Style Jambalaya
Figure 1. Cajun Style Jambalaya
Acme Oyster House, 724 Iberville, 7 blocks from the summit.
Up Canal, right on Royal, left on Iberville. Like oysters? Acme's got 'em. Not so sure? Have a shrimp po-boy instead. Acme Oyster House is a Quarter fixture, the food is tasty, plentiful and cheap, and it's close enough to the summit to make it worthwhile to stop by for lunch. If you hustle, that is.
Central Grocery, 923 Decatur, 11 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Decatur. Ever heard of a muffaletta? Take a huge round loaf of seeded bread, almost a foot in diameter, and then slice it like a gigantic hamburger bun, and then fill it with ham and salami and cheese and olive paste. And then eat it — or share it with six of your closest friends. It's one of tastiest ways ever to eat yourself into a coma. They close the doors at 5:30 p.m., so you'll want to make this a special lunch trip.
Mother's, 401 Poydras, 4 blocks from the Summit.
Straight up Poydras. Po-boys are awesome, but you'll stand a little while outside and wait to get in. That's all right, since they move folks right along. Get in, get your food, get out. Perfect for a midday break between sessions.
Croissant D'Or, 617 Ursulines, 15 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Chartres, left on Ursulines. A French patisserie, with a truly astounding combination of perfect pastries and cheap prices. Eat breakfast here once and you'll never forget it. It's too good to be believed — in fact, probably best to forget we even mentioned it. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Late Nights and Early Mornings

Just about everyone who visits New Orleans makes their way to Bourbon Street. It's simple to find; head up Canal Street and turn right when it gets loud. Some people love the chaos that is Bourbon Street; others make one trip down its length and never look back. Either way, the open container law and the number of bars throughout the Quarter provide lots of opportunities for late night revelry in New Orleans.

When the clubs and bars close, though, sometimes you don't want to head back to the hotel right away. That's fine; there are plenty of great places to spend your time (or money) while waiting for night to turn back into day again. We'll look at a few of them.

Cafe Du Monde, 1039 Decatur, 11 blocks from the Summit.
Up Canal, right on Decatur. Even at 4 a.m. in the middle of winter, people are sitting under the big green and white striped awning, drinking coffee and eating the fried powdered sugar bombs also known as beignets. How good are beignets? Ask Krispy Kreme; they tried to set up shop across Jackson Square and closed their doors within a year.
Huey's 24/7 Diner, 200 Magazine, 5 blocks from the Summit.
Up Poydras, right on Magazine. Hungry for some good diner food? After drinking that much, you ought to be, and Huey's got what you need. If you think that guy in that booth over there looks like Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, that's probably because it's Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. Keep it to yourself, though; he's just trying to enjoy his breakfast. Oh, and they also have free wireless, if you can't resist the urge to play Half Life 2 in the middle of the night.
Harrah's.
You can't possibly miss it, since it takes up the entire block between the hotel and Canal Street. You'll be walking past it several times a day, so you might as well go in once. It's open all the time — as in, they don't put locks on the doors because it's open all the time. If you want an all-night game of Texas Hold'Em, this is the place for you. Just don't come crying when you lose all your money.

So Much to Do, So Little Time

So, there it is. If the thought of technical, hands-on sessions with Red Hat's finest, deep discussions about kernel optimizations, and chats on how to shape the open source industry isn't enough to lure you to the Summit, perhaps this article has at least inspired you to join us for some good, old-fashioned, cajun style fun. Be sure to register for the Summit soon, and as they say in the Big Easy, "Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler."

About the Author

Greg DeKoenigsberg is the Community Relations Manager for Red Hat. He and his wife travel to New Orleans every chance they get, and still haven't seen most of what they want to see.