A place or city is more than just a location on map. Every city encompasses its unique flavor. For travel, you always want to visit cities that are distinctive in terms of their culture, architecture, historic influences, etc. New Orleans in Louisiana is one such city that spells it for you. It was my first time there and I found myself wondering what is the culture of New Orleans? Is it French, Spanish, Creole, Cajun or American? The city was established by French colonists then ceded to the Spanish Empire and finally bought by the United States. It is a melting pot of cultures and you will find the influences in its food, music and architecture.
New Orleans is popular mostly for the ‘Madri Gras’ festival which started off as a celebration before lent. Today it is marked by parades, dancing, costumes, drinking, music, etc. But New Orleans offers much more. Here I share my guide to spending few relaxing days in vibrant NOLA.
The French Quarter is the heart and soul of the city. You cannot miss Jackson Square located on Decatur St. in front of the St. Louis Cathedral and the statute of Andrew Jackson in the middle of the square. It makes a beautiful shot. The square is filled with artists displaying their work, tarot card readers and street performers.
The French Market is in the vicinity on N Peters St. and is open daily (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The market has everything from food, jewellery, clothes, hats, souvenirs, street music, etc. The legendary Cafe Du Monde (800 Decatur St.) is very close to the market. But be aware, there is mad rush during the mornings. I had to give it a miss this time as the caffeine deficiency kicked in. Next time for sure. Instead, I had breakfast at Pere Antoine (741 Royal St.) that offers a quiet and relaxed setting in the bustling French Quarter.
I stayed on Carondelet St. at the AC Marriott Hotel in the French Quarter. Every street in French Quarter has its own flavor and spending time there is an experience in itself. You will find Canal St. filled with pedestrians, horse drawn carriages and the Canal street car.
Walk down Bourbon St. and its like a mega outdoor party. Lots of bars with loud music on every corner and people dancing sums up Bourbon St.
If you are like me who prefer the quieter places, go to Royal St. one block from Bourbon St. It is elegant and sophisticated with its eclectic boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, regal hotels and restaurants. Here you will find the classic New Orleans architecture – a mix of colonial French and Spanish influence, the cast iron balconies adorned with flowers, colorful walls and doors (a personal obsession), beautiful courtyards and tucked away alleys. Royal St. is a favorite spot for photography. There is live music bursting from every corner of New Orleans and Royal St. is no exception. No wonder locals and tourists flock this street every day.
New Orleans being the birthplace of jazz, you cannot miss Frenchman St. The street is not glittery as the other streets but you will find authentic soulful live music here. Amidst the live music you will also find the Frenchman Art Market open at night Thursday-Monday. It is a low key market with local merchants selling interesting stuff like bow ties, glass jewellery, hand painted wood figurines, mashup art, etc. It is a pleasant setting with soft music on play, sky lit up with string lights and quirky pieces turned into art/furniture. I was blown away by all the creativity around me. If you are looking for dining options at Frenchman St, I recommend Mona’s Cafe for authentic Middle Eastern delicacies.
- Avoid areas that are less crowded at night.
- Ditch the car in French Quarter as parking is expensive. Take the street car instead.
Next day, visit the quiet Garden District popular for its opulent homes. Take the St. Charles street car to St. Charles Avenue and spend few hours strolling down the street. Riding on the street car is agreat way to see the city. But my favourite place in the Garden District has to be the Audoben Park located on the St. Charles street line. It is a beautiful oasis with the massive oak tress, fountains and ducks in the lake. For shopping head to Magazine St. (Eat at: Suko Thai.)
At night I went to the City Park which is having its annual holiday lights festival called Celebration in the Oaks. A section of the park is decorated with light displays, trees draped in twinkling lights and walkways lined with Christmas trees. Visit the park during the day and you have many attractions like the Botanical Garden, Storyland, Scuplture Garden…
- Streetcars in New Orleans offer $1.25 per ride and and $3 for a day pass. Keep exact change when you board.
New Orleans is a place to indulge in the music, the food, elegant streets and its cool vibe. There is so much color and beauty around the city and clearly I went overboard with my camera. Basically, this place made me feel cozy and I hope this post has left you daydreaming of NOLA.