The city of New Orleans, Louisiana may not seem like the ultimate choice as a City Break city but my, it is bursting with culture, the greatest street Jazz my ears will ever have the privilege of hearing and well the food, is super flaming Creole.
Most of us know New Orleans to be associated with Mardi Gras, the late winter carnival famed for its boisterous costumed parades and parties in the streets, which have featured in many films, for me the one I always remember is the 007 movie, Live and Let Die! But in actual fact it really isn’t just all about the Mardis Gras, this is a city I feel should be branded for what it is, which is why I’d like to take the opportunity to showcase what the city has to offer year round!
THE FRENCH QUARTER
Also known as the Vieux Carré or ‘Quarter’ to the locals, sits proud on a crescent in the Mississippi River in New Orleans. It is classed as the city’s vibrant cultural hub, but the community here is very welcoming to tourists and visitors and is a real reflection of the people of New Orleans. Meander among the French styled streets and pretty boutique shop faҫades and try a Beignet in one of the many chic cafes. If you have a keen eye for antiques, you will be in antique heaven with many quirky dealers to tempt you.
This is the French Quarter’s heart and soul, boasting a statue of Andrew Jackson at it’s centre and a ragtag ensemble of street entertainers, artists and fortune tellers generously peppered around its perimeter.
At the Square’s crown are three 18th-century architectural glories: the Cabildo, a former city hall where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803; St. Louis Cathedral; and the Presbytère. The onetime courthouse is now the flagship of the Louisiana State Museum, showcasing Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond, a fascinating exhibition on the infamous storm.
Stretching from Bayou St. John to Lake Pontchartrain, the 1,300-acre New Orleans City Park is one of Orleans Parish’s two green jewels. (The other is Audubon Park in Uptown.) The entire city united to restore the park after Hurricane Katrina shredded its landscaping, downing many of its 600-year-old live oaks. The cleanup is transcendent, with new walking and biking paths, a great lawn for concerts, and a revival of beloved attractions, such as Story Land and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park that have entertained children since 1906.
Many a visitor’s love affair with New Orleans begins after a bite of these crusty hero sandwiches often made from fresh French bread slathered with mayonnaise and crammed with fried Gulf oysters or shrimp. Locals have their favorite shop, and hours are spent debating the relative merits of the po-boys at the Parkway Bakery & Tavern versus those at Domilise’s. Go try them for yourself!
THE STEAMBOAT NATCHEZ
In my opinion, a visit to New Orleans is just not complete without an authentic Mississippi cruise in the steamboat Natchez. It leaves from the banks of the historic French Quarter and the two-hour cruise transports you back into time when cotton truly prospered. Ensure aboard you visit the museum quality engine room to learn how steam powers this boat through the Mighty Mississipi. You can also accompany your cruise with an optional creole meal whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the surroundings.
Bourbon Street and the surrounds in the French Quarter are a great hangout for live music, whether it’s on the streets or the bars. However the bars were a little rowdy after dark so we hit the streets. The street jazz for me was second to none and the best sounds came from a bunch of under-privileged and talented teens who have been firmly etched into my memory!
Oak trees amd wrought iron, pillars, are some of the aristocratic details of the Garden District, a neighbourhood of spectacular 19th-century mansions built in styles ranging from Greek Revival to Gothic. Accessible from downtown via the St. Charles line streetcar, the Garden District is made for exploring. Take time to tour Lafayette Cemetery #1, quite possibly the most photogenic necropolis on the planet. Then make a reservation to dine at local favourite Commander’s Palace.
Royal Street, and its antique shops, may still tempt some locals into the Quarter. But it’s along Magazine Street—from the Lower Garden District to Audubon Park in Uptown—that New Orleanians prefer to do their window-shopping. Stores to explore include Derby Pottery for its handmade tiles and Crescent City water meter clocks; Hemline for its local fashion sense and sensibility; Dirty Coast for localized, graphic T-shirts; Mignon Faget for unique, Louisiana-inspired jewelry.
The best tour in New Orleans is only $1.25—the price of an adult fare on the city’s two major streetcar lines. (The shorter Riverfront line takes passengers along the river to the Quarter’s French Market.) The green cars of the St. Charles line head Uptown, trundling along that avenue’s “neutral ground,” the name for the landscaped medians that divide the traffic on the city’s grandest streets. Red cars on the Canal Street line terminate at historic cemeteries, like Metairie Cemetery.
ST LOUIS I CEMETRY
This is the oldest Roman catholic cemetry in New Orleans and still has the odd burial every year. You will need to purchase tickets for the cemetry but it does contain 5 very important tombs which you may want to know about!
SURR£Y’S JUICE BAR
No better place to go than Surrey’s on Magazine Street for a traditional New Orleans brekkie of eggs and Grits (similar to porridge but lots more tastier and obviously naughtier)!
Fantastic seafood, Po-boys and general Creole fare with a fantastic location for people watching of you manage to get there early enough to grab a table in the windows. Great place to start the evening off!
Walk in and grab a quick lunch in on eof many garden cafés that you;ll come across just strolling through the streets of New Orleans. Don’t forget to sample the famous Louisiana Strawberry Lemonade or the Creole Prawns.
New Orleans kindly gave us alcoholic beverages in the form of the Sazerac, the Obituary Cocktail, and the Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s only good manners to return the generosity by sampling the city’s myriad drinking establishments.
Make sure you go where the locals go, like Cure, an upscale cocktail bar set on reviving the mixologist’s art; French 75, part of Arnaud’s Restaurant in the Quarter, where famed concoctionist Chris Hannah stirs and shakes; or the Carousel to sip your “Sazzie” (Sazerac) at the Hotel Monteleone’s famed revolving bar
Photo Courtesy: Carousel Bar
If you fancy making a night of it, a lot of teh bar scene is focussed around Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of the city. If you can ignore the antics of frat parties then you’ll be able to hangout at the many bars that host fine jazz music and serve Bourbon and many other alcoholic temptations into the small hours of the morning.
The famous Tabasco pepper, vinegar and salt sauce was first produced in 1868 on Avery Island, which is a couple of hours drive from New Orleans. Dat trips are bookable from most hotels and tour agents in the city to visit the Tabasco factory. However if it’s Tabasco Sauce hat you want to buy, you can pick up lots of the stuff and Tabasco branded photos, kitchen objects and even T-shirts from The Tabasco shop just on the perimeters of Jackson Square.
If you love the market scene, then you will absolutely adore the French style quirky artefacts on sale at the French Market. Anything from cool trilby, (heck mine out from earlier in this post) to Parisienne styled tea pots! And if you fancy a bite too eat after all that perusing make sure you grab a crepe or more traditional Louisiana dish at the surrounding cafés.
So you see, if you don’t make it to New Orleans for th emArdi Gras, there’s still plenty to do and plenty more to discover. If you do make the Mardi Gras then you lucky devils. I was in town for a conference so had limited time but if I had more time, I’d have taken a tour of the cotton plantations around Louisiana.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve experienced New Orleans or if it’s a city on your list of places to visit in the USA.
Until the next time…
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