If you’ve never before traveled to New Orleans, I envy you the thrill of experiencing the city for the first time. It’s unlike any other place you’ve visited, and I’ll tell you now: It’s a love or hate kind of encounter.
The town, with its rich history, culture and sensory stimuli, can’t help but inspire strong reactions in its guests. It’s hard to imagine anyone resisting its charms, but if you’re not yet an admirer, this article will point you toward some of the most enchanting sights, sounds and tastes of N’awlins.
Join us in the Crescent City for the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, and you’ll not only partake in the best education and exhibits the industry has to offer, you’ll enjoy one of the nation’s most culturally lush and alluring locales. Whether you’re interested in history, music, cuisine, nightlife, architecture, art or the supernatural, you will not be disappointed!
When people think about “The City That Care Forgot,” it’s generally the French Quarter that comes to mind. While the city has much more to offer than Vieux Carré (pronounced voo cah-RAY or voh care-eh, depending on who you ask), let’s begin with this traditional New Orleans temptation.
The Quarter comprises 78 square blocks, stretching from the Mississippi River over to Rampart Street, from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue. Immediate surrounding neighborhoods include Faubourg Marigny, the Central Business District, Iberville and Treme (now the theme of a popular HBO television show). You can easily walk from one end of the Quarter to the other―providing you have comfortable shoes―but be careful of uneven cobblestone in the streets. “Main drags” include Decatur and, of course, Bourbon Street. Here are a few key places, landmarks and tourist traps to check out:
- Jackson Square―Originally called the Place d’Armes and renamed after General Andrew Jackson after the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. Here you can view the equestrian statue of Jackson and walk the lovely garden. Immediately outside the square, you can hop on a horse-drawn carriage tour, buy local art, or have your fortune told.
- Pirate Alley—The focus of much historical speculation and the current home of the Pirates Alley Café (a personal favorite). The lamppost at the intersection with Cabildo Alley is one of the most photographed in the city.
- Café du Monde―Home of the best darn coffee you ever tasted as well as sugar-coated, steaming-hot beignets (pronounced ben-yays), which are similar to a donut, but much, much better.
- Bourbon Street―Party central. ‘Nuff said. Tends to carry a pungent aroma from the beer and lord knows what else that has spilled in the street. Don’t let this deter you, however; you’ll be so distracted by the sights and sounds, you won’t notice the tang after the first 20 or so paces.
- French Market―This six-block, outdoor, riverside bazaar features goods of all types as well as great food and live music. The perfect place to pick up souvenirs.
- Carousel Bar―Nestled on the ground floor of the Hotel Monteleone, this is possibly one of the loveliest bars in the city, with a wild circus motif. Just don’t be thrown off guard―the bar does revolve.
- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop―Now a tavern at the corner of Bourbon and Philip Street, this building was constructed before 1772 and is one of the oldest standing structures in the city. According to legend, it was once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte.
Creole and Cajun Cuisine
Attempting to sum up the best of New Orleans cuisine is a ludicrous enterprise. The city is renowned for its cookery, and for good reason. If you’re a foodie, the local restaurants will do nothing short of blow your mind (and your taste buds). That said, below are a handful of gastronomical suggestions based on popular reviews and personal experience.
- Commander’s Palace―Don’t miss this Garden District delight if you can help it; it’s simply superb. Make a reservation and request a table the Garden Room. The trip won’t be light on the wallet (boys, wear a jacket), but the turtle soup will make it all worthwhile.
- Bayona―My husband and I discovered this gem during our honeymoon. Chef Susan Spicer is nothing short of a magician. If you go, order the “Goat Cheese Crouton With Mushrooms in Madeira Cream,” and whatever you do, do not attempt to share it.
- Central Grocery―Home of the popular Muffuletta sandwich. (If you don’t know what this is, and you like Italian food, prepare for a piece of heaven.) Warning: These sandwiches are massive, so order a quarter to start.
- Po’ Boy Sandwiches―New Orleans is famous for these, and you can get them just about anywhere, made with shrimp, crawfish, oysters, etc. Positively dreamy. A few places I’ve had excellent versions include Café Maspero, Chartres House Café and Napoleon House Bar & Cafe.
- Antoine’s Restaurant (www.antoines.com)
- Brennan’s Restaurant (www.brennansneworleans.com)
- Mother’s Restaurant (www.mothersrestaurant.net)
- Galatoire’s Restaurant (www.galatoires.com)
Seriously ... If you’re looking for something fantastic to eat, go out in the street and toss a pebble in any direction. There’ll be something delectable waiting for you where it lands nine times out of 10. Eateries are abundant in this city, and sometimes the best meal of your life is waiting at some obscure joint.