A stroll along Royal Street and Chartres Street provided a perfect introduction to the city. The French Quarter abounds with beautiful buildings. Whether hotels, shops or residences, they sport multi-level balconies festooned with flowers, statues and flags.
A detour down Ursulines Avenue led us to Decatur Sreet and the French Market, a farmers and flea market covering about six blocks. Rather than explore the stalls, we whiled away some time listening to some live jazz at the adjacent Market Cafe. Now we really felt we were in New Orleans.
At the other end of the French Market is the Old U.S. Mint which is now part of the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park and features a fascinating collection of photos ranging from 1900 to present day of musicians performing in New Orleans.
Back on Chartres Street we came to Jackson Square, a neat small park which offers a welcome respite from the bustle of the nearby streets. The iron railings surrounding the square are covered with vibrant pictures of both the city and musicians by local artists and at least one street performance can be found on the perimeter at any time.
Dominating the square is the huge facade of the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic Cathedral in continous use in the United States which overlooks the statue of General Andew Jackson for whom the square is named.
Given every other building seems to be a restaurant it can be hard to choose where to eat. We settled for the outdoor courtyard of Pat O'Brien's on Bourbon Street where I had my first taste of Red Beans and Rice - it won't be my last! Not sure I can say the same about visiting Bourbon Street - with the music literally blasting from every establishment and the crowds, many with drinks in hand, staggering about the street, it was more akin to an adult theme park than a city street and not a particularly pleasant experience. (And that was just in the afternoon! I can't imagine what it's like in the evening - certainly not my idea of fun.)
Our next stop was Louis Armstrong Park to the north of the French Quarter in the Treme District.
Louis Armstrong was born in the city and the park is both dedicated to him and the city's tradition of jazz. Featuring a performance center and a lake, the park is a pleasant place to hang out. On Sundays there are often free concerts.
|One of my favorite statues|
Verdict: With the exception of Bourbon Street, our first day wanderings showed us a New Orleans which offers a chance to step back in time to a more gracious era and still enjoy a relaxed but vibrant atmosphere.