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Sentimental Journey 

Looking through Orleans Embrace with The Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre (Morgana Press, $50) is like taking a long, sentimental journey through the beauty that is New Orleans' French Quarter, past and present. The 378 photographs in the book, taken by Roy F. Guste Jr., Glade Bilby II and Louis Sahuc Photo Works, make it a coffee table book that can keep you entertained for hours as you look at views you might pass every day but fail to fully appreciate until they are captured in their solitude.

"This is no ordinary place," TJ Fisher writes in the book. "This uncanny city of vignettes challenges our expectations and assumptions about everything. She fuses the past and present, known and unknown into something that impels our deepest emotions."

The beauty and value of the book has been heralded by such celebrities (and sometimes residents) as Francis Ford Coppola, Nicolas Cage, Jimmy Buffett, Patricia Clarkson and Harry Anderson, whose comments are included in the first few pages. All proclaim a special love for the French Quarter and its aesthetic and historic value. In the words of director Taylor Hackford and actress Helen Mirren: "Living in the Vieux Carre trumps all other neighborhood experiences. The Quarter constantly astonishes, and this book reveals many of its delicious secrets."

The publisher is donating 100 percent of its profits to French Quarter preservation.

The book is separated into three parts. The Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre — The Historic French Quarter of New Orleans, originally published by Roy F. Guste Jr. in 1993, comprises the center portion. It provides an often-unseen view of the beautiful private spaces behind gates and doors of the French Quarter. The bookend sections, written by TJ Fisher with photographs by Louis Sahuc Photo Works, celebrate the spirit and love New Orleanians have for the city and their fortitude in trying to restore it to its pre-Katrina majesty. There also is discussion of failures to protect the city and its people from the disaster that the storm brought and the need to preserve and protect New Orleans and particularly the French Quarter.

Fisher writes: "Despite the great epic tragedy that overwhelmed New Orleans and her people, the world continues to celebrate and cherish what Katrina and her floodwaters did not take from us; the ancient heart and soul of New Orleans — the Vieux Carre. "

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