New Orleans, the eccentric gem at the Mississipi river, where voodoo & superstitions are equally alive like Jazz music. A place, where different languages & rhythms have merged into an eclectic outburst of culture: The “Big & Easy” feeds the spirit with Southern Soul Food, vibrant art & architecture, but the best thing about New Orleans are its people! There is no place like New Orleans, that is probably the best way to describe this magical city, you just have to experience it on your own! (Image left by Mathieu Bitton, image bottom right by Sara Essex Bradley)
There is no place like New Orleans. Its got the best food, its got the best music. Its got the best people.
-Its got the most fun to do.
Mural by “BMIKE” of Buddy Bolden & his band at South Rampart Street
The Birthplace of Jazz
New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz. A living Museum of music, where the sounds of riverboats from the Mississippi River blend with blasting trombones from brass bands. Jazz is alive in New Orleans as becomes evident for every visitor with the first foot set on Louis Armstrong International Airport. It was at 400 th block of South Rampart Street, the stomping ground of early Jazz, that Buddy Bolden, the first “King of Jazz”, made his early mark. Today, a larger-than-life mural in the Central Business District pays tribute to the legendary cornet player. Only a stone`s throw away, at the histroic EAGLE SALOON, first Jazz pioneers like Louis Armstrong wrote vivid history and helped to bring the sound of New Orleans to a worldwide audience.
Jazz pioneers brought the sound of New Orleans to a worldwide audience.
“U Need A Biscuit?”
Not far from the historic Eagle Saloon, the industrial-chic bakery & restaurant Willa Jean invites for delicious Southern-style brunch with homemade, biscuits & pastries (whose sticky buns are to die for!). Even Beyonce has eaten at the airy feel-good restaurant with her family, signs that this is a true New Orleans hip spot!
New Orleans – A State of Mind
For many, New Orleans is more than a place, it is a state of mind. Dozens and dozens of festivals each year are celebrating the funky & liberating spirit of NOLA. From the Jazz Festival, to the Essence Festival or the French Quarter Festival, there is a celebration for everything and everyone. The citys annual highlight is Mardi Gras Carnival, where vibrant parades and marching bands are taking over the streets in a blaze of colours. “We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large, and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.”, local author Chris Rose summed up the spirit of New Orleans.
Tracing their roots back to a time when American Indians helped shield runaway slaves, the Mardi Gras Indians are among the most colorful and mysterious of New Orleans’ cultural phenomen . (Picture by Chris Graythen /Getty Images)
“A Celebration of the
liberating spirit of NOLA.”
Hansens Sno Bliz famous colorful snowballs are an institution since 1939 and Gene`s Curbside Daquiris, a 24-hour neighborhood spot, is loved for its frozen alcoholic beverages. To the right, a colorful “Shotgun” home in Bywater, which is a typical New Orleans architectural style, bearing strong resemblance to Caribbean houses.
Lush Gardens & Mansions at St. Charles Avenue
One of the best ways to start experiencing New Orleans is by the historic streetcar. Certainly not the fastest, but the 19th century technology is still working today, embarking onto a time journey back in history. For 1.25$ (3$ a day pass) the trolley takes you along St. Charles Avenue, the Jewel of Americas Grand Avenues, whose superb historic mansions are lined by southern live oaks. Countless colorful Mardi Gras beads are tangling from treetops, spreading the mystical flair of New Orleans.
With a rattling noise, the streetcar passes the noble Garden District. Lush gardens & green areas have given the prosperous neighborhood its name, where historical gems like the Pontchartrain Hotel are situated. The unique ambiance of the luxe hotel brings back 40s glamour – and a divine rooftop bar unveils views over the entire city! Only a few blocks away, Avenue Pub offers NOLA-style relaxation with a beautiful balcony overlooking St.Charles Avenue and one of the citys most impressive craft beer selections.
Historical Gem with 40s Glamour
The Pontchartrain Hotel, a gem of original New Orleans flair (Photo by Christian Horan)
Southern El Dorado for Food Lovers
Essentially an island between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, the “Crescent City” has direct access to the Gulf of Mexico and some of the freshest seafood. It comes at no surprise that New Orleans cultural diversity & geography have created an El Dorado for food lovers with culinary delights in abundance.
“Like a big pot of gumbo!”
Different cultures of Spanish, French, West African influence have merged to the Creole cuisine of Lousiana. Like a big pot of gumbo, the richly-flavored stew that represents New Orleans cuisine best, everybody brought their special ingredients with a good amount of spice. Leah Chase, the “queen of creole cuisine” has nourished the stomachs & spirits of US presidents and civil rights leaders at Dooky Chase`s. Her acclaimed Southern Soul Food has been a safe haven for blacks, whites, natives and neighbors, including key figures like Dr. Martin Luther King. “I like to think we changed the course of America in this restaurant over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken”, the 94-year old Leah Chase said in a recent TED talk.
Exotic Local Specialties
There are some dishes made in Louisiana that tourists like me (and even some locals) might give a glance at and shutter. I definitely needed some guts to crack my first crawfish at Big Fisherman. The local fish shop on Magazine street is a popular pick up for fresh seafood. I sceptically glanced at the big polystyrene box with Cajun flavored crustaceans, potatoes & corn, but Big Fisherman kindly explained to me the eating technique and cultivation of crawfish. It took me a second or two (and reptile heads in shop windows) to grasp that “alligator” on the menu in New Orleans is not a pun. The “fried alligator” at COCHON turned out to be just as delicious as the wood fired pork and any Southern Cajun dish served at the rustic & contemporary restaurant – probably one of the best things you can eat in New Orleans!
New Orleans is known for its grand restaurants but for more humble fare the Po’ Boy is very popular. The sandwich filled with meat, roastbeef or fried seafood is a food of simple people, that like in many cases, has turned into a local specialty. One theory claims that during a strike at a streetcar company, the sandwich was given to the workers for free, hence the name “poor boy”.
IN NEW ORLEANS IS A GOOD IDEA!”
Six-mile long Magazine Street represents the endless possibilities of New Orleans, as funky colorful Victorian cottages alternate with chic porches, and residential areas blend into lively shopping districts. The diverse array of shops, restaurants & galleries has turned into one of my favorite places in the city!
At Bouligny Tavern, a small atmospheric restaurant & bar, I made friends for life. Another day, I stumbled into Coquette to discover an upcoming restaurant, where I ended up having the most delcious shrimps at a bar with French bistro flair. I accidentally walked into Shaya, a restaurant that is acclaimed for its wonderful modern Israeli cuisine. And I finally started to understand the famous Bob Dylan quote “Everything in New Orleans is a good idea.
I never left Lionheart Prints without being inspired by the hand-lettered greeting cards and prints by local artist Liz Maute Cooke. With a sparkle of humor & heart, the accessories & gift shop is celebrating the brave, the kind & the fun – just like NOLA!
One of the friendly shop assistants at Trashy Diva, the vintage shop on magazine street takes you back to a different era with splendid outfits & accessories from the 40s and 50s.
Sundayshop on Magazine Street
“Americas Most Haunted City”
Cavan in the Garden District enchants with its unique ambience (Picture by Sara Essex Bradley)
On the corner of a picturesque block on Magazine Street, the restaurant & bar Cavan is located. The historic mansion with splendid chandeliers & pink velvet chairs is spreading atmospheric vintage feel. At the upstairs cocktail bar, one of the friendly bartenders, Amanda, tells us that the house is haunted by a ghost and strange things have happened since the opening of the restaurant. “Americas most haunted city” is a town steeped in ghost stories. In New Orleans the dead refuse to rest and spirits still linger in above-ground cemeteries & voodoo shops. It seems that the dark history of slavery, prostitution, piracy and murder is haunting New Orleans, whose mystical séance is kept alive by the superstitions of different cultures.
From Sazerac to Hurricane-The Spiritual Home of the Cocktail
Cavan Bar & Restaurant at Magazine Street (Pictures Sara Essex Bradley )
Along with its vibrant culture & nightlife, New Orleans is home to some of America’s great cocktails. From Sazerac to Hurricane (which were created here), you can get a good drink almost everywhere! In the spiritual home of the cocktail, skilled bartenders take pride in their work, being ready to pour you a glass of New Orleans charm!
Historical French Quarter
At Café Du Monde you can have a sweet taste of the Big & Easy. The city`s famous beignets are best enjoyed warm & fresh!
The architecture of the French Quarter, the citys oldest neighborhood, is a lively portray of New Orleans multicultural history. Founded by the French, later under a 40-year Spanish rule, the streets of New Orleans crown Jewel are adorned by creole townhouses with tropical colors & Iberian touches, joining the spirits of the Old and New World.
Around Jackson Square, designed after the famous 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris, art blends into reality. The bells of carriages mix with the click-clack of young tap-dancers on sidewalks. During Katrina, the French Quarter was affected least, because buried lines of electricity were under the ground. Today, little reminds of the natural catastrophy at the well frequented French Market or bustling Café Du Monde, where visitors from all over the world are waiting in line for “beignets”, the famous doughnuts topped with icing sugar.
A place where art blends into reality.
New Orleans and arts are living in a symbiotic relationship. The eclectic life of the city is a magnet for artists, like Rene Perez Lopez, one of the Official Artists of Jackson Square, who came to New Orleans as a place for inspiration, as he told me working on his vibrant canvas.
THE HEARTBEAT OF NEW ORLEANS
Some consider New Orleans “the soul of Amercia” and the soul unarguably comes from the streets! Music is alive in this city, where brass bands and spontaneous street dancing are part of everyday life. On Frenchmen Street, 7 days a week, first-class live bands are playing anything from traditional Jazz, to blues, reggae and funky punk-rock, turning bars & streets into a bustling center of music! At countless venues like Snug Harbor, D.B.A., The Spotted Cat or Blue Nile, you can feel the heartbeat & history of New Orleans music – mostly for free!
The soul comes from the streets.
The Dream of a Young Generation
Life in the Big & Easy isn`t all sugar, more than half of New Orleans’ 152, 700 households are struggling to get by and music has saved the one or other kids life. Children grow up in New Orleans with dreams of being a jazz musician rather than anything else in the world. The trumpet is regarded as a sexy instrument and members of high school marching bands have the hero status of football players. Local musicians like Trombone Shorty, Rebirth Brass Band or The Hot 8 Brass Band are celebrated like pop stars, whose success is feeding the dreams of an entire young generation!
Bywater-Official Hipster Spot
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, four-fifths of New Orleans were under water. One of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of the United States wiped away entire neighborhoods. The damage was unprecedently big, but the resiliency of New Orleans people was bigger! Alexis from Sneaky Pickle, a funky vegan restaurant in the uprising district Bywater, told me that the neighborhood has changed since Katrina, but it is hard to tell if for the good or bad. She didn`t want to name it gentrification, but the hip flair that has arrived with new spots like Pizza Delicious, Satsuma Café or the funky, retro-style record shop Euclid Records is apparent. Bywater has turned into an official New Orleans hipster spot with plenty of cool places to discover.
A Center of Creative Arts
It is hard to tell if culture flourishes despite or because of existing fractions & frictions in New Orleans. No matter if resiliency or inspiration, the city provides nourishing soil for creatives of all kind. It is not just the artists at Jackson Square that “color” the city, art in all of its forms plays a significant role in New Orleans. The New Orleans Center of Creative Arts (NOCCA) is a representation of the region’s burgeoning young talent, where students of music, theatre, filmmaking, creative writing and culinary arts are trained to be future professionals.
Only one block away from NOCCA, a monumental graffiti of a girl with widely openeded arms glances from the yellow painted corrugated at Studio Be. The giant girl, surrounded by warehouse buildings and powerful streetart, is wearing a necklace, whose letters are saying “light”. There is no better description of the unique art gallery by NOLA native artist Brandan “BMike” Odums, whose powerful larger-than-life murals of African-American icons like Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King Jr. address issues at the heartbeat of our society with timeless relevance. The exhibition is an enlightening & empowering experience that I can only recommend to see!
But the Best Thing…
New Orleans is a magical place. Somehow, the city has managed to preserve its very own cosmos, where music, art & culture are celebrated in a one of a kind way! But who would be surprised, culture is made up by people – and people in New Orleans are knowlingly the best!
Where to stay?
Moxy Hotel reflects the vibrant spirit of the city with its bold design concept. The Hotel located in the New Orleans Downtown area, is in walking distance from lively Canal Street & Bourbon Street. A free welcome drink & caraoke nights are the start of good times in New Orleans. (Rates are starting at 80 $)
When to go?
The weather is warm all year round in New Orleans, but you should try to avoid the hot summer months July-Aug.The most popular time to visit New Orleans is during the spring. The mild weather, combined with a number of special events make it a great time to vacation in the city. As far as special events, there is the Mardi Gras season, January through March.
More Food & Drinks
Monkeyboard Rooftop Bar
Elizabeth`s Traditional Southern Breakfast /Brunch
Jaque Imos Funky NOLA restaurant & bar
Pêche Fine Fish Restaurant
Drago`s Chargrilled Oysters
Baccanhal Wine Bar with beautiful backyard
Delachaise Neat Bar with charm at a corner of St. Charles Avenue
Wille Mae`s Scotch House Best Fried Chicken
Commander`s Palace Fine Dining
Live Music & Fun
Maple Leaf Bar (Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesdays)
Jazz Preservation Hall
Blue Nile, D.B.A, The Spotted Cat – And Any music venue on Frenchmen Street