NEW ORLEANS – President Bush got a taste of some of New Orleans' finest attractions Monday in an effort to showcase progress in a hurricane-battered city.
The president dined at a French Quarter (search) restaurant before spending the night in a famed luxury hotel.
The president's effort to show New Orleans is making progress came even as much of the city remains in ruins.
The historic French Quarter was mostly spared by the storm and is showing increasing signs of normalcy with lights back on and establishments re-opened.
Still, many of New Orleans' stores andnhabitable, even if mostly dry.
The president, accompanied by wife Laura, saw little of that, instead choosing to shine a spotlight on the improvements.
Over dinner at Ralph Brennan's Bacco (search), Bush discussed the city's rebuilding with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and some of the business owners, church leaders and others that he has appointed to a Commission for the Future of New Orleans (search).
On his only other overnight in the city, Bush had to bunk on the USS Iwo Jima (search), which had been docked near downtown.
This time, a month later, he was able to stay in a hotel, and he chose the luxury hotel, the Windsor Court.
Upon arrival, Bush also met with political leaders and law enforcement officials from Plaquemines Parish, a major seafood producer and home for oil refinineries southeast of New Orleans that took a double hit from Katrina and then Hurricane Rita a month later.
"The American people have their arms out," Bush told the officials, according to his spokesman, Trent Duffy.
The two-day trip — Bush's eighth to the storm zone and fifth to New Orleans since Katrina struck on Aug. 29 — marked the president's public return to the hurricane recovery.
It was nearly two weeks ago, during a Sept. 27 visit to towns in Louisiana and Texas slammed by Rita, that he last held an event devoted to the storms.
"The president promised that he would be a partner as the Gulf Coast recovers and rebuilds itself," Duffy said.
The administration's ineffective response to Katrina cut into the public's image of Bush as strong leader, built after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
He initially responded to the criticism of the storm response by making frequent visits to affected areas, committing the government to spending billions of dollars on the recovery in hopes of regaining lost ground.
More recently, the president has pivoted his focus to the Supreme Court, Iraq and, particularly, terrorism — delivering three speeches in three weeks on the campaign against terrorism.
He has also been talking about two new crises: fears that an Asian bird flu will develop into a worldwide human killer and the deadly earthquake that struck South Asia over the weekend.
The president's trip continues Tuesday, when Bush is pitching in at a site in Covington, La., just north of New Orleans, where the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity (search) is building new homes for storm victims.
That stop allows the president to focus on an issue he said last week was a less-than-stellar piece of the federal government's continuing response to Katrina — temporary housing for the hundreds of thousands of homeless.
Bush has said everyone being housed in shelters should be in apartments, trailers or, in some cases, hotels by mid-October as they look for permanent housing.
Down from the high of 250,000 in shelters just after the hurricane hit, the government said more than 32,000 evacuees from Katrina and Rita still remained in 468 shelters as of last weekend.
From Covington on Tuesday, Bush is to fly to the coastal Mississippi town of Pass Christian (search) to attend the reopening of an elementary school.