There is a untold story in New Orleans. Everyone who visits this city finds their own. Decadent Bohemia, wild parties, centenary recipes and the sound of jazz are part of it. Here we are going to tell you one of those stories, surrounded by legends and crazy nights, that happen to those lucky enough to visit New Orleans.
The European Lady of the Mississippi
Life in downtown New Orleans happens among beautiful streets of European inspiration. Sometimes you walk through Paris and sometimes through London. In some alley, the charm of Spanish architecture arises and in every corner you find a postcard to put in a frame. Colonial, creole, multiracial charm are a feast for the senses. That´s the way the city of sin and redemption is.
So much beauty is concentrated in a French neighborhood but doesn´t hide its past of voodoo, ghosts and struggles for freedom. In some of these so aesthetic buildings the echo of slavery still sounds. The city turns 300 years old and possesses the charm of a mature woman who belongs all and none at the same time.
The history of that fascinating New Orleans has been written since Jean-Baptiste Le Moine de Bienville found a safe place beyond the Mississippi delta where the waters couldn´t destroy their precious homes.
In 1763, the French crown rewarded Spain for its help in the fight against its British rivals. The Spaniards had lost Havana and Manila for a brief period of time and were compensated with the French jewel in America: Louisiana.
Despite the opposition of the locals, the Spaniards left their mark on the city. They rebuilt the French Quarter, in ruins after a fire, banned slavery and rebuilt its spectacular cathedral in 1793. It is now a basilica and the oldest cathedral in the United States.
Napoleon decided to recover the city but the French did not take long to sell it to the flourishing United States. Then came the times of the Civil War, the Dry Law and the flowering of an eternal rhythm that has changed the history of music.
Jazz, the Noise of New Orleans
It does not matter wherever you are. Jumping verses attack your ears. Jazz lives on every tile in the city and all its inhabitants carry it inside. Children making music with paint boats or dancing claque ennoble an idyllic setting in the streets. Jazz was born there and in fact all black music.
Many tourists visit City Park which is twice the Central Park size. Big mistake. The best way to start writing your story in New Orleans is to honor jazz by visiting the Louis Amstrong Park. Inside is Congo Square.
In the square, people trafficked with slaves from Africa who came to the New World with a unknown sound. Back in the eighteenth century, they began to meet every Saturday in the square to play their instruments and sing their sorrows. From that, a musical day was established and jazz was born.
A few meters away is a giant statue of the great Louis Armstrong. After admiring it and his immortal smile, getting lost in the streets of the French Quarter is a pleasure that transports us to that colonial past that bequeathed us with suffering, music and architectural beauty.
Under these premises a city full of legends and crossings of cultures has been built. Voodoo is the fruit of it and its stores and stories reveal other fascinating darkness. Also, jazz.
In those streets with balconies, flowers and colors, it seems that time stops. It is a visual high on the edge of Stendhal Syndrome. And in the middle of a trance appears Frenchmen Street.
This charming street has the most bohemian jazz clubs in the city. Some as fascinating as the Spotted Cat Jazz Club, which gives shelter to the best of the Dixieland Jazz of the city with a lot of authenticity. The nocturnal howls of the place intermingle with their neighbor on the opposite sidewalk, the d.b.a. This club has a dreamy aesthetic although its access is paid.
At this point the spell of the city won´t let you escape. A market next to the Spotted Cat shows the coolest street art in New Orleans in an environment of graffiti and sophistication that seems taken from Paris.
The street does not let up and the Blue Nile waits a few meters away. The night becomes more colorful. Its graffiti and its brewing variety at a reasonable price are the prelude to more alternative urban jazz. Many of their bands also play in the streets and you will find them putting a soundtrack to Bourbon Street.
The most sophisticated jazz club in New Orleans is located far away, in Iberville Bourbon corner. The 21st Amendment recreates the era of Prohibition with its 20s decor, its Thompson machine guns presiding over the bar, its vintage cocktails and jazz bands. In it we found a Chet Baker reborn and a band with a sound to fall in love even more with the city. The 21st Amendment will always taste like a Double Barell Manhattan on my lips.
Cajun, The Most Unusual and Tasty Gastronomy in the World
Drinking the night in this city is pure pleasure. Although, hedonism is not only unleashed in the glass but also on the plate. The cuisine of New Orleans is one of the most tasty in the world. Its spiciness is a symphony of flavors that excite your palate and conquer your tongue with pleasure without the shrillness of other cuisines famous for their spicy.
The nights of the French Quarter enjoy the irreverence of Deja Vu. You will return again and again to its flavors as if it were an authentic Deja Vu.
Its aligator croquettes and spices have a supernatural flavor. Seafood Gumbo, a spicy but incredibly tasty soup that includes seafood, rice and all the flavor of Cajun cuisine, can not be missing from your side. Indescribable.
Deja Vu is a good place to taste Jambalaya. This sausage rice is a myth of the city consumed with devotion during Mardi Grass, the New Orleans carnival. It’s a descendent of the Spanish, who determined to create a paella with the ingredients of Louisiana, they found with a tasty rice unique in the world.
Since 1833 all the roads of the city lead to a terrace of the French Market. In its chairs under a colorful green-and-white canopy you can feel the aroma of Casablanca or any point of colonial France. Its menu only includes one reference that has become the flavor of New Orleans.
Welcome to the Café Du Monde. Its beignets will make you come back again and again to its creamy puff pastry coated with icing sugar that will make you fall in love with the passion of the first love. There is no better foodie trip than to recreate in your mouth the devilish textures of the original beignet. Voodoo in puff pastry, totally addictive.
When the sun draws the balconies of the French Quarter a radiant gastronomy vindicates a way of life. Beyond Harrah’s Casino where you can enjoy leaving the money on its tables, you will find the custodian of the old Louisiana kitchen recipes.
Mulate’s is a tour of the Creole kitchens, the different cultures of Louisiana and the Mississippi. Its western saloon appearance anticipates delights from other times. A centenary culinary knowledge that is summarized in a single dish: Cajun Sampler.
This copious culinary miracle includes frog legs, aligator, tilapia, squid, shrimp, meat pies, and unique surprises sprinkled with the sacred spices of Louisiana. The palate smiles. The dessert is a hit of this place with its glass of Oreo Cake ideal to close a peak moment.
In the vicinity of Jackson Square, next to the former residence of the Spanish Cabildo, is a luxurious but affordable restaurant of breathtaking beauty. It is inevitable to feel as a colonial gentleman in the wooden tables and the exquisite decoration of Tableau. Its courtyard where two Cupids play around a fountain and under a vertical garden is the most heavenly place in the city.
At the table two plates ask your papilla for action. The Turtle Soup exhibits a strange and powerful attraction. The Seafood Gumbo justifies a visit to this delicious restaurant with a sublime wine and spirits list.
After a drink, the most exquisite boulangerie opens its doors a few meters away. Leah’s is a classic since 1944. Its pralines recreate the fine textures of the best Parisian chocolates with an exotic point. Its diversity fascinates highlighting its rum pralines and the traditional, but you can find ingredients such as orange, hazelnut, walnut and even bacon. A guilty pleasure that deserves a truce with the scale.
A Night at Bourbon St
The night falls. Bourbon Street begins to boil about seven. On its sidewalks swarm preachers, street dancers, homeless with stories, musicians, many tourists and fascinating locals. There is no dresscode and the people of the area confers a wonderful exoticism, incredible hairstyles and a feminine style that is a show in itself.
A frozen cocktail has the key to the night. We look for perdition in the Hand Grenade, the most aphrodisiac and powerful cocktail in the city. To him we entrust our steps. The diverse Tropical Isle offer these wonders and its colorful bottle is a passport with which you can enter almost every club in Bourbon Street.
However, the night starts at the oldest club in the state, the Old Absinthe House. Since 1807 it serves the best absences in the world and its flames create a purifying moment to entrust us to New Orleans. A drink at Fritzel’s is always necessary to honor one of the most renowned jazz clubs of the beautiful Creole city.
Despite its aesthetics and the proximity of the public with the bands, it is a place reserved for tourists. The Musical Legends Park is another good tourist choice to, in this case, enjoy good jazz outdoors, although none has the charm of the Preservation Hall, despite the cost of entry.
The night breaks through as our neurons dance to the sound of Bourbon Street stimulated by the power of the Hand Grenade. A pilgrimage begins on the premises of this street, which has become a myth of the night. The Cats Meaw is fun and has a balcony with incredible views but their karaoke nights and their shots are not the New Orleans that a real dandy awaits. That dreamed New Orleans is in The Balcony.
This barely-traveled place is only reserved for the true lovers of the night. Its clandestine club aesthetic and its access through a narrow staircase hides a track where black music reigns. An R&B that escapes through the terrace that offers spicy views of Bourbon presided by the Hustler Club.
The R & B and the Funk are patrimony of the 544 Funky Club. This delightful has shameless MCs, bands with a celestial sound and a dedicated audience. A few meters from the 544 the funny figure of Razzoo emerges. There, you will discover the difference between live music and show. Bands that drive the public crazy, dancing in unison with synchronized movements, from the wildest rock to the most danceable hip hop. Pure New Orleans.
The most radical R & B spends the nights at the Bandstand. Urban rhythms, MCs wanting to make noise and a lot of twerk in the audience and on stage. An experience that will lead you towards the wildest dawn of your life. Between sip and dance hunger makes its way and before surrendering to Morpheus it is good to enjoy Ali Baba.
This Lebanese is run by a former boxer intimate friend of Bill Clinton, as attested by the photos and stories of the local. Su Shawarma is the final touch to the night. It is also worth trying the legendary Lucky Dogs, whose sausage-shaped street trolley is a classic in the area.
Bourbon Street is fun in its purest form, the street takes you from bar to bar, confusing you among people of all races and cultures. It does not matter where you come from or what you have. That is its charm. Although, the locals always advise to go out by the zone located between Jackson Square and Frenchmen Street, where eclectic bars crowd with less tourists and more interesting proposals.
French Quarter is a concatenation of endless architectural beauties. It’s surpresing that the street signs remember their names in Spanish as gratitude for the construction work of their former owners. On Royal Street, some of the most chic buildings and art galleries that link indigenous and African traditions, the United States, Paris, London and Spain are hidden from the crazy New Orleans nights.
Europe walks through New Orleans and becomes global in the French Market. A golden statue of Joan of Arc indicates the beginning of a gigantic market. Souvenirs, fashion and gastronomy come together in this place since the beginning of the 19th century. Eating aligator tamales, turtle, oysters, Spanish cheese and any of the delights of Louisiana is possible in this neighbor of the irresistible Café du Monde.
The French Market connects with Jackson Square. This square lives its days in the shadow of the St. Louis Cathedral, the former residence of the Spanish Cabildo and some colonial buildings that extract you from the United States and take you away, perhaps to South America, perhaps to distant times.
The equestrian statue of Major Jackson precedes an obligatory visit to the basilica, which impresses its frescoes. Its marble angels and its architecture designed by an Andalusian whose headstone reminds us of his work.
In the square there is a very symptomatic diversity of the city: street jazz bands, fortune tellers, Asian masseurs and, of course, many tourists.
Beyond this unique place, the Mississippi makes its way with its majestic flow and its beautiful Steamboats. These steamboats seem to come from a good Western and parties and river cruises are still organized inside. The most demanded Steamboats are the Creole Queen and the Natchez.
Far from the French Quarter, another New Orleans was born as a result of the bourgeois expansion of the 19th century, where wealthy plantation owners installed their lavish mansions. The inhabitants of the Garden District decided to reside eternally in the cemetery of Lafayette. This place inspired the books of Anne Rice and it has been a movie set in films like Interview with the Vampire. Besides, it’s an immortal example of southern gothic. A good excuse to travel in the old trams of the city that connect the French Quarter with the area.
Its spectacular tombstones challenge since 1833 over time, abandonment for decades and even Katrina. Its avenues full of pantheons are as scary as they are fascinating. Like Lafayette, the cemetery of Saint Louis contains a host of stories and gives shelter to mythical characters such as Marie Laveau, the Queen of Voodoo. Its pantheons are part of that New Orleans that beats in the gloom of time.
Beyond New Orleans: Plantations, Alligators …
Louisiana is a gigantic jungle with swamps that no one would dare to cross. Aligators and reptiles of all kinds await the boats who go through their secrets for the tourists’ enjoyment, including visits to farms where they feed the reptiles with their own hands.
It is inevitable to visit the exquisite plantations that are located about 100km from the city. Laura or Oak Alley tell the sad story of hundreds of slaves who crowded into wooden houses while their masters enjoyed the opulence of colonial style houses that surprise for their fragile beauty.
A few kilometers to the west of these plantations is a very fertile area where French expelled from Canada settled bringing with them the Boudin gastronomy. Their exquisite way of spicing sausages resulted in a type of cuisine that evolved the rest of Louisiana in the kitchen. Places as authentic as Billy’s, on the route to Texas, are a place of pilgrimage to try boudin balls, rollups, or pies which are fille with spicy meat or crawfish.
Despite undertaking your return trip, you will never finish leaving this city. When leaving New Orleans you will see a huge cemetery bordering the highway where the souls of those who gave their lives to New Orleans rest. A feeling of empathy will invade you. Like them, a part of you will stay in that city.
A spell takes over you. It has been the ruin of many poor kids. And I know, I’m one. As The Animals song fades, a voice in your mind will tell you: I’ll be back.