Our main holiday this year is in the US. We love travelling this vast country and after earlier trips to New York & Canada, California, Florida and the North West we are heading for the South this time. After a quick stop at Atlanta we headed straight for New Orleans.
New Orleans is the city of jazz music of course and creole culture. If you have no idea what creole means, it basicially stands for all the people that used to live here before Louisiana (the state in which New Orleans resides) before the Louisiana land purchase. Napoleon sold the whole of the south with New Orleans as the main draw card for a bargain price to the US. This was despite the fact that the small US at that time didn’t actually have the cash to pay for it, so they borrowed it from the UK. Of course Napoleon used the money from the land sale to fight the English. We all know that the english won in the end, so no harm done and I’m sure they made quite a bit of money in the process!
The buildings you see above are all from the French quarter. Luckily all of these houses have been preserved after they were almost demolished in the 1920s. Today it’s a thriving, and in some areas very touristy, district full of art galleries, cafes, shops and bars.
There is plenty of music but for the best jazz it’s now best to head on over to Frenchmen street where the jazz is still authentic. Traditional Bourbon street is best to be avoided.
New Orleans is still referred to as the Big Easy and people certainly are very relaxed here. According to numerous people I spoke it’s all about the food and drink here.
There are plenty of horse carriages in the city that take tourists around the French quarter. They quite suit the area. Although I personally did not take a ride in them, they may not be such a bad option as the guides talk a lot about the quarter and its history.
Dressing in the streets is extremely casual, often to the point where I hoped people would make a bit more effort. Although there is nothing wrong with casual, it’s still important to make it appealing. This couple got it right.
There are quite a few interesting graveyards in New Orleans. The Spanish introduced the principle of burying people above the ground which has resulted in many fabulous tombs.
A visit to New Orleans is not complete without visiting the swamps. Appearantly there is more than 70,000 acres of swamp area around New Orleans and they are inested with alligators. They are beautiful to navigate with boats.
There are even a few houses there.
Of course many of them got destroyed by hurricane Katrina.
Another interesting area of New Orleans is the Treme neighborhood, which many of you may know from the HBO series of the same name. At the base of Treme is the Louis Armstrong Park. Below is a statue of the African-American tradition of dressing up or Mardi Gras in suits influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel.
Of course there is a statue of jazz hero Louis Armstrong too.
The Treme neighborhood is colourful and appealing.
It’s rather devastating to see that after 8 years there are still many deserted houses that have not been restored and are are deserted. Only 70% of residents have returned to the city and the effects of Katrina are still very clearly visible in the poorer areas of the city.
Every now and then we we don’t mind doing the touristy things, like taking a boat trip on the Mississipi accompanied by a live jazz band.
The flavor this night was dixieland jazz. I especially loved the trombone player who was a great inspiration for my son, who plays the trombone as well.
It was interesting to be on a traditional steamboat where the wheels were still 100% driven by steam.
Here is a view of New Orleans from the boat.
2 more tips to enjoy your stay in New Orleans:
- I really enjoyed the Country Inn & Suites Hotel in central New Orleans. One of the most unique hotels I’ve been to and very affordable too. I’ve never experienced a staff this nice and helpful and the free homemade cookies were great too!
- We took the City and Hurricane Katrina tour with the Greyline bus which was fantastic and a great introduction into the city. This was largely due to the 60+ African American guide who talked non-stop and with so much enthusiasm about life in New Orleans, it was infectious and brought a big smile on my face for the whole day.
New Orleans is a vibrant and beautiful city where people take it easy and enjoy life. I loved the quaint neighborhoods, dynamic jazz scene and the friendly people. The devastation of Katrina is still clear in some areas and I do hope that in time the city will fully recover. New Orleans spirit is still there though and you should definitely pay the the city a visit.