Mar22

New Orleans

In August 2005, the world watched in terror as the hurricane Katrina caused severe devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. New Orleans was, as we all know, hit hard. By August 31, 80% of the city was flooded.

This will, of course, be in our minds as we visit New Orleans. And - like there is a NYC before and after 9/11, there’s probably a big difference between New Orleans before and after Katrina. But hopefully, we’ll still be able to feel the jazzy soul of the Big Easy.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest is taking place during the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May every year. We plan to arrive on Monday May 7th, which is one day late for this years festival. Not that we’re really sad for missing out on packed hotels, cramped restaurants and bars, crowded streets and concerts, but let’s hope the hordes leave a little bit more than their litter for us.

We won’t have much time in New Orleans (either), but here are some of the must-sees and might-sees:

The French Quarter
The French Quarter, or “Vieux Carre” is the oldest and most famous part of New Orleans, and is the area around which the city was originally centered. This is where the tourists gather, and we’ll probably join the other troops. Among the attractions are famous Bourbon Street, Royal Street, Jackson Square and Preservation Hall:

Street sign in Bourbon Street, courtesy of Neil Cooler
Street sign in Bourbon Street, courtesy of Neil Cooler

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street runs the length of the French Quarter, and is one of the main attractions in the area. The street was named after the duke of Bourbon, not after the liquor, but still you’ll have a fair chance of drying your thirst in one of the many bars there. The street is also filled with restaurants, souvenir shops - and strip clubs. The strip joints are mainly located at the upper end towards the Canal Street, while the part from from the intersection of St. Ann Street and further north east caters to New Orleans’ gay community. Expect to see us running in opposite directions…
Royal Street
One block away form Bourbon street is Royal Street, with art galleries, antique stores and specialty shops. The stores are surrounded by French and Spanish colonial architecture, with the traditional wrought-iron balconies and fences. We’ll probably not spend much of our budget antique shopping, but the street might be worth a visit nonetheless.
Jackson Square
Jackson Square is the old town square, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans and named after the 7th president, Andrew Jackson. A statue of Jackson is standing in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the US - and a truly beautiful building dominating the park. Also located here is the Cabildo, the old city hall which has been turned into a museum. The square is often stage to live music, and other tourist trap specialties like painters and tarot readers frequents the area.
Across Decatur Street from Jackson square is a brick walking path along the Mississippi River by the curious name “Moon Walk”. No, it’s not named after Michael Jackson’s famous dance, but after former New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu.
Preservation Hall
Preservation Hall is located at 726 St. Peter Street in the French Quarter, in what was originally built as a private resident in the 1750s. It was opened in 1961 by Sandra and Allan Jaffe as a sanctuary to preserve the traditional New Orleans jazz. For $8 you can enjoy the music of quality jazz bands all night from 8pm to midnight, but it’s so popular that you’d better be prepared to stand in line to get in.
The Garden District
The Garden District in Uptown New Orleans is known more for its architecture than the gardens, as the district is filled with beautiful mansions in many architectural styles. Within the area is the Lafayette Cemetery # 1, which looks pretty creepy. The author Anne Rice, who owns several houses in the area, frequently uses the cemetery for locations in her stories (and a scene from Interview with the Vampire was shot here). Check out iNeTours.com for a pretty detailed walk-through of the Garden District.

Lafayette Cemetery #1, courtesy of MoxyJane
Lafayette Cemetery #1, courtesy of MoxyJane

St. Charles Streetcar
A streetcar named St. Charles might not be as fun as the one named Desire, but it’s nevertheless declared a moving national historic landmark. The St. Charles Streetcar is supposedly a great way to take a self guided tour of the Garden District, so we might grab ourselves a VisiTour pass an get on for a ride! Except.. rumor has it that some parts of the line is being renovated, and won’t be reopened until later in 2007…
Voodoo in New Orleans
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is located at 724 Dumaine St., close to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Voodoo is the Haitian folk religion, and spread from Haiti to New Orleans in the wake of the Haitian slave revolt at the end of the 18th century. Voodoo in New Orleans is closely connected to the legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau, who lived and practiced in the eighteen hundreds. The Marie Laveau House of Voodoo is a shop located at 714 Bourbon Street, and is supposedly a great place to pick up nicknacks to place at ol’ Marie Laveau’s tomb. You might even take a tour to the tomb.
Faubourg Marigny
The Faubourg Marigny is today what the French Quarter used to be before it was “destroyed” by tourism. It’s the new hip neighborhood - centered around Washington park, just a few blocks northeast of the French Quarter (but supposedly the area in between is somewhat scary). In this area you’ll find good restaurants and neat music venues, as well as a few small hotels and many bed-and-breakfasts. Some of the most popular bars with live music is located within two blocks of Frenchmen Street.
Den norske sj√łmannskirken/The Norwegian Church
The Norwegian Church in New Orleans is located at 1772 Prytania Street, and one of Selmas co-workers actually grew up there as his father worked as a minister there for some years. Not only is this a great place for traveling Norwegians to get a wholesome Norwegian meal (and waffles), they also offer sleeping arrangements.

What others say about New Orleans:

Got tips? Comments? Do tell!