New Or-leans. New Orlins. N’Awlins. No matter how you pronounce it, this is one cool city. Tennessee Williams famously said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everything else is Cleveland.” We loved the Big Apple, we haven’t been to San Francisco (yet!), but we did love New Orleans! Street performers, Cajun food, the French Quarter, and the riverfront all combined for a great time in the Big Easy.
Our first night in the French Quarter we saw a popular street band with the very Southern name “Yes Ma’am” totally owning the crowd on Royal Street, a dramatically view-changing one block off of Bourbon Street. Bridger said, “There’s so much music here, it feels like my life has a soundtrack!” Indeed. Besides the various street performers, we visited the House of Blues, heard endless songs streaming from open doors and windows, and saw a wedding party parade led by a small brass band dancing down the middle of Bourbon Street.
Oddly enough, jazz band parades are also the local funeral tradition. The recently departed are escorted in festive fashion to the mausoleum-style cemeteries that dot the city. Since the water table is so high (and the city is largely below sea level), the traditional “six feet under” doesn’t work well, especially during heavy rains and flooding. What that means for tourists and residents alike is a great variety of beautiful, historic mazes of brick and cement resting places that tell their own tale of the life of this city. We explored the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District and found burial dates as early as the 1700s!
Did we mention food? Mark Twain said, “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin,” and we put that theory to the test. We ate delicious powdered sugar covered beignets at The Beignet Cafe, fried crawfish tails with seafood gumbo and jambalaya at the French Market, and ended our trip with even better beignets at Cafe du Monde on Jackson Square. Surprisingly enough, some of the best Cajun food we had was in Baton Rouge. We stopped there for a wonderful visit with my cousin Marianne and her family and took the opportunity to head to Parrain’s one night down by LSU. Excellent! I could go on but that would just be mean.
I will add that early on in the trip John Cauffman sent me a couple of invaluable “Best of…” lists that we’ve used all across the country to find outstanding local places for food and drinks. Thanks, John! We still have all of the Rockies and the West Coast to go before we finally get back to Oregon – we welcome suggestions anyone else might have for us!