If you think New Orleans is only alcohol and food, you are wrong. There is so much more to New Orleans! There is Jazz, Blues, street performers, history, architecture, warmth, creativity, culture and much more.
Once you arrive in New Orleans, you already can feel a change in the atmosphere. It is almost like you are in another country. They advertise themselves as the Europe without Euros. Hum… I would say pour into a hurricane glass with ice, 1/4 oz of Ireland, a dash of German, 1 oz of Spain, 1oz of Africa, and equal parts of Creole and French and you get New Orleans! It is true they offer you drink everywhere, any time of the day, in various shapes and forms, from breakfast mimosa to the hurricane cocktails. Many restaurants and bars have a “drink to go” window. Amazing! You can drink on the go. (walking not driving)
At the French Quarters, you will see the street names written in French and in Spanish. This is all because New Orleans was “given” to Spain after the Treaty of Paris was signed between France, Spain and Great Britain until 1803 when it went back to French control. The architecture that survived is mainly from the Spanish times. The French Quarters –the French side (Vieux Carré – Old Square in French) is the area between Canal Street and Esplanade and from the Mississippi River to Rampart.
The most fun is at Bourbon Street and Royal. You also must visit Jackson Square to see local painters, live music and maybe find out what Tarot cards will say about your future… and don’t forget to visit The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. From there, you can go for a stroll along the Mississippi River…
Business District – Once you cross Canal St. you will be on the Business District (the American side), there you will notice the difference in the architecture and the streets names change. To confuse everyone they have Jackson Square on “the French side” and the Lafayette Square on “the American side” where you may enjoy free concerts, find the home to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra – The Orpheum and numerous smaller theaters and cabarets come to life for nighttime performances.
New Orleans has not yet completely recovered from Katrina and Rita. There are many abandoned buildings, missing street signs and some people are yet homeless; despite of all this, you will not find a sad face on the streets. We went to a Jazz concert at Preservation Hall. During the show, I was thinking why people do it? Why do they stay here hurricane after hurricane?… I could see the answer to this question in the face of each musician: their passion for music is their roots here. The importance of doing what they love to do. Their home is where their hearts are – New Orleans, Louisiana. This doesn’t resume to Jazz players, you can see it in each street performer, in each painting made by local artists, in the people who shampoo the streets every morning, signing “This is how we do it…La ra ra ra ra ra…”
Did you know that Jazz is somewhat an evolution of blues? You must visit Louis Armstrong Park.
Taste of New Orleans –
Don’t eat all in one place and most important don’t eat anywhere. You must choose a good restaurant in order to get the right taste of New Orleans. New Orleans has many fine restaurants – you must dress nicely to visit them. A few restaurants you will need a credit card to enter and another to get out but they are worth it.
The New Orleans cuisine is Creole. Cajun food is from another part of Louisiana. Since tourists somehow confused Creole with Cajun, some restaurants included the word Cajun to their menu just to make money, others truly offers Cajun food. The Creole cuisine base is celery, onions, and carrots to add some sweetness to the dish. Some restaurants switch the carrots to roasted bell peppers to give a more Spanish flavor, others use both at the same time. You cannot diet in New Orleans, their food is to die for. Here are the dishes you must try:
- Turtle soup
- Crawfish étoufée
- Red beans over rice with alligator sausage
- Shrimp Creole
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Banana foster
- Beignets with café au lait New Orleans Style (Coffee mixed with chicory*)
- Bread pudding
Places to eat and drink:
There are many good places to eat and drink in New Orleans, below are our favorites places:
- Café du Monde
- Commander’s Palace
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
- Johnny’s Po-Boys
- The Famous Gumbo Pot
- French Market – you may choose between many vendors for fresh seafood and also buy some souvenirs.
The swamp –
it is outside New Orleans and you will see little more than alligators. There will learn the History of the Cajun people and the mysteries involving Mrs. Julia Brown and the Hurricane of 1915. Mrs. Brown was a self proclaimed Voodoo woman who promised that the day she died she would take to whole village with her. And so she did. On the following day after her death, a hurricane wiped off the earth 3 villages. If you visit the swamp, look out for her grave. She was buried separated from the other villagers. Also please remember to keep your hands in the boat as alligators love handouts 😉
The beauty of New Orleans is that you can feel it, you can eat it, you can drink it, you can listen to it, you can see it, you can dance it and for sure you will miss it.
*during the Civil War coffee beans were scarce so they mixed coffee with ground roasted chicory to make it last.
Photos by Paulo Dasilva Photography