New Orleans - The irrepressible soul of the Big Easy is Caribbean, African, French, and American (31 May)

Interesting Facts about New Orleans

LIKE THE GUMBO SERVED across the city, New Orleans is a delicious mix of ingredients: European, Caribbean, and African influences all have a robust presence. You can hear it in the jazz that was born here, taste it in the rich spicy creole cooking, and experience it in the bacchanal of Mardi Gras. Founded by the French in 1718, the Gulf Coast settlement is one of the most spirited, resilient, historic cities in the American South.
New Orleans isn’t a museum piece or a tarted-up tourist attraction. The world saw its mettle in 2005 when the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina swept away levees and flooded the city. In a matter of days, it began to rebuild, and today a visitor might never know how close we came to losing this treasure.
To experience the city, visitors should hop on the St. Charles Streetcar line, which has clanged across town since 1835. The route passes through the Garden District, a 19th-century neighborhood of graceful Victorian gingerbread homes and mansions built by the city’s elite, and still home to many of them.
It’s also where to find Commander’s Palace, one of the nation’s most famous restaurants, known for its jazz brunch and dishes like crawfish étouffée and bananas foster, a caramelized dessert made tableside. For others, the city means Bourbon Street, the avenue originally named for the French dynasty, where for centuries liquor has flowed and inhibitions evaporated. However, the French Quarter isn’t just for partying and imbibing. Around the corner at Preservation Hall, every night there is jazz, a music that developed on these streets and spread across the globe. A perfect end to the night is an amble down to Café du Monde, a 24-hour spot famous for café au lait and beignets, sugar-dusted fried doughnuts.
Another essential stop is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city’s oldest burial ground and the final resting place of New Orleans leaders, scoundrels, and legends like Marie Laveau, its famed voodoo priestess. The elaborate mausoleums stand like landmarks in a city of the dead. But, above all, the Crescent City is about embracing life, which is always on display at places like Tipitina’s. For more than a quarter century, the performance hall—named for a song by bluesman Professor Longhair—has hosted a Sunday night Cajun dance party called a fais-dodo. Couples of all ages take to the floor, swinging and dipping their way across the room to the infectious sounds of accordion and fiddle. Watching the scene, it’s clear the city embraces its unofficial French motto: “Laissez les bons temps rouler—Let the good times roll.”