My love affair with New Orleans began in 2001 when I attended a business conference and stayed a couple of extra days to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with my brother-in-law, Phil. Since that time, I’ve returned to the New Orleans area every year and this year was no exception. As a side note: the title of this post “The City of New Orleans” always reminds me of the Steve Goodman song by the same title first recorded by Arlo Guthrie, later by Willie Nelson and sung by numerous artists around the world.
So what is it about New Orleans that attracts me year after year? Ok, first there is the food, it’s very, very hard to find bad food in New Orleans. Need I say; shrimp or crawfish etoufee, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, muffulettas, beignets and my all time favorite, crawfish monica. Maybe you can get good cajun, creole, and southern foods other places but for some reason it just tastes better in New Orleans! On our recent trip after setting up camp, we headed over to Northlake Seafood for our first fix of boiled shrimp and sausage with a couple of boiled potatoes and an ear of corn. Add a cold beer and some cocktail sauce and you have a meal that can’t be beat!
And for a great breakfast or lunch, try out Liz’s Where Y’at Diner across Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville. I heard they have the best shrimp and grits (I wouldn’t know since I’m not a grits fan but the shrimp sounds great) and I do recommend a piece of the hummingbird cake. Get there early because there’s always a line.
Staying on the food theme, I think the best muffuletta in this whole wide world is made at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. My mouth is watering now as I think of this tasty Italian sandwich with olive salad, salami, ham, cheeses on that special bread. And don’t forget the Rolaids for dessert!
Just down the street from Central Grocery is the world famous Cafe Du Monde. This open air coffee shop is known for it’s chicory blend coffees, cafe au lait and beignets, those soft square donut like pastries loaded with powdered sugar. A word of advice: don’t wear dark clothing while eating beignets, the sugar will be all over you but folks it’s worth it! Another hint: there’s always a line at the French Quarter Cafe Du Monde, check out some of their other locations in the greater New Orleans area for a faster sugar high!
There are cafes and restaurants all over the city, the photo below is at the corner of Madison and Decatur. No special reason for this photo, just that it included our town, Madison!
Then there’s the architecture especially in the old parts of town like the French Quarter, the Garden District, the old majestic homes, or the plantation mansions. The area has a variety of architectural styles, reflecting it’s varied history and multicultural roots. One can see French, Spanish, Greek, Roman and other styles depending on who settled where. Visitors are often seen walking around gawking at the homes and businesses with their unique features. Here’s a photo from the edge of the French Quarter showing the balconies that are so prevalent in this area.
Every year, we stop at the outdoor, undercover French Market on the edge of the French Quarter to check out the latest kitschy souvenirs and buy our annual supply of Cajun and Creole spices.
I also look for Oscar, the wearable art pin maker, for additions to my JazzFest hat. This year I bought this beauty. As luck would have it, Oscar was staffing the booth himself and I could resist taking a photo of him and Donna.
Jackson Square is one of the great public places in the US. It was here that Louisiana became US territory as a result of the Louisiana Purchase in 1903. Next to Jackson Square is the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France more commonly referred to as St. Louis Cathedral. Designated in 1789, it is the oldest cathedral in the United States and considered a minor basilica. The second photo in this series is of the statue of Major General Andrew Jackson who defended New Orleans against an invasion by the British during the War of 1812 helping to make him a national hero and later on the 7th President of the United States. Somehow the two bottom photos remind me of the legacy of Jackson, you fill in the blanks!
Around Jackson Square artists and musicians ply their trade. Many a well respected and known musicians got their start busking for change on Jackson Square and the French Quarter. Artists not only sell their art around Jackson Square, they also create it there. Here’s an example.
And Jackson Square is a lovely place to relax, especially early in the day when the tourists are still sleeping off their previous night’s escapades! This guy looks like he is enjoying the spectacular people watching opportunities that his perch provides.
The third reason why I love New Orleans is the music, It’s everywhere and it’s all kinds, of course jazz, blues, zydeco, rock, and hip hop. Watch for my post next week where I’ll devote a whole article to the music scene in New Orleans.
But I think the real reason I love New Orleans is the people and their outlook on life. While the rest of us are going 100 miles an hour, the people of New Orleans are living in the moment. I couldn’t put my finger on it until a friend, Jeanne, a fellow follower of all things New Orleans, gave me the book titled “Nine Lives” by Dan Baum. In this book, Baum suggests that because of their history, New Orleanians have mastered “the lost art of living in the moment.” For example, time is a future concept so they are often late or maybe don’t show at all because something like good food, great friends, and lively music is more important than rushing off. Or their attitude toward money, yes, its nice to have some but time with family, friends and their community are more important than their personal achievement and pursuit of the almighty dollar, enough is enough as they say! We can argue all day about the negatives of this view of the world but hey it’s their view and it works for them! We just get to enjoy it from time to time.
Well that’s it for this week, a quick peek at the City of New Orleans. There goes that song again!
Til next week, travel safe.