New Orleans is truly a fascinating city, with exciting yet dark history. After being colonized by the Spanish, the French, the Cajuns, the presence of slavery, and people travelling on the Mississippi during its time as a major trade route, New Orleans created one strange melting pot of cultures.
Interesting fact: Cajuns are originally a group of people from Acadia, Canada, who were exiled to Louisiana after the French and Indian War.
Café Du Monde: Our first stop was Café Du Monde, the famous bakery that sells the most delicious beignets, which is a kind of doughnut like pastry. Café Du Monde is also famous for their frozen café au lait. This isn’t your typical iced coffee, it is kind of like a coffee slushy, and it is so good! The Café was packed, with a line down the block of tourists waiting to be seated. Luckily, I was with my NOLA local, Savannah, who told me that there are actually no hosts who seat people; tourists just tend to get confused and line up. This means that there are always an unexpectedly large amount of tables available inside the café, so there is no need to wait.
Café Du Monde originally opened in 1862, and their famous menu is attributed to the fusion of both Creole and Cajun foods. The French first brought coffee to Louisiana when colonizing New Orleans, but during the Civil War coffee became scarce, so they began blending coffee with a plant called Chicory, thanks to the Cajuns. The beignet was brought to Louisiana by the Acadians (Cajuns). Today, Café Du Monde still serves chicory coffee and classic Acadian beignets.
Jackson Square: Jackson Square, named after Andrew Jackson, military leader who won The Battle of New Orleans in The War of 1812 and later became president, is a historic park in the center of the French Quarter. At the center, there is the Saint Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest Cathedral in the United States! While the English Protestants were colonizing the eastern seaboard of the US, the Spanish and French Catholics were colonizing New Orleans.
The French Quarter: The French Quarter is so quaint, and kind of feels like Disneyland’s “New Orleans Square.” The most picturesque buildings in the French Quarter are down the quieter streets and away from the crowds. Near Jackson Square, it just feels like everything is for show, but when you walk down the more residential streets, it is awesome to see all these beautiful little apartments that people actually live in.
Savannah, my NOLA local, took me on a short walking tour of the French Quarter. What really stood out to me was the very dark history of the French Quarter. Between the weird voodoo, slavery, fires, diseases and disasters in New Orleans, there are some strange stories. It seems like there are a million and one “haunted houses.” In fact doing Haunted History tours is very popular in New Orleans, although I did not join. Savannah pointed out to me the Jackson hotel, which is apparently up on the list of 50 most haunted places in the world. What I found most amusing, was that walking through the French Quarter there would be signs advertising apartments for rent, and some of the would actually say “not haunted.” I thought this was hilarious. New Orleans must be the only place in the world that advertises for apartments not being haunted. Savannah and I debated whether they put the “not haunted” words up there as a joke, or if they were serious.
And of course, there is Bourbon Street. I’m not huge on crowds, or gross smells so it was a little overwhelming for me.
On Bourbon Street, there is a bar St. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It is believed that this is the oldest continually operating bar in America, and legend has it that it is used to operate as pirate Jean Lafitte’s headquarters, where the pirates would pose as blacksmiths to hide their goods plundered while at sea.
We spent one evening visiting Preservation Hall (we had to wait in line for 45 minutes to get a spot). I am not normally that into jazz music, but the live band here is phenomenal; definitely worth visiting. It inspired me to start listening to jazz.
The Garden District: The Garden District is full of beautiful, well preserved southern mansions. Building on more interesting history, the Garden District was settled and developed by Americans after the Louisiana Purchase. Due to tensions and language barriers between the Americans and the Creole’s, the Americans settled upriver from the French Quarter in what is now the Garden District.
These houses are all so beautiful and have interesting architecture. One of the strange things we saw was the house where Jefferson Davis died. I say this was strange because of the plaque outside honoring his memory from “United Daughters of the Confederacy.” Daughters of the Confederacy sounds like a treasonous and racist version of Daughters of the American Revolution.
Food: This was my first real experience with southern food (other than Chick Fil A). Savannah took me to Jacques-Imo’s (yes, that is how it is spelled) and we had alligator cheesecake, and fried chicken, which was soooo good.
We also went to a Crawfish boil at a local restaurant. Let me tell you, people in NOLA love their crawfish. They didn’t have quite enough to go around and one girl threw a fit, and said she would never be returning to their establishment. The owners were like DGAF.