New Orleans is a city for the senses, intoxicating in the best of ways. Like a spell, it casts its charm over unsuspecting travellers, from the street corner to the dinner table and into the early hours of the morning. It’s no wonder authors have long found inspiration in the city’s colourful complexity and cultural melange, from Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway to Ann Rice. No other city in the USA can compare. So go taste, hear and see it for yourself.
Taste the signature flavours...
Unlike other US cities, in New Orleans you can close your eyes while eating and still know exactly where you are. Signature Creole and rustic Cajun flavours were born and raised to fame here, thanks to a melting pot of cultural influences spanning French, Spanish, German, Italian, African and the Caribbean. Conscious eaters can dine happy knowing that the farm-to-table movement comes naturally here, and for those not fond of cutlery, eating with your hands is rarely frowned upon and often essential, thanks to the finger-lickin’ feasts on offer. Spicy, southern comfort food has never tasted so good.
Tips: Gumbo, crawfish etouffee, po-boys, jambalaya, couche-couche and fried chicken are all musts on the eat-inerary, as well as red beans and rice, shrimb creole and oysters Rockefeller. Top it off with something sweet, like a trusty beignet doughnut, a slice of layered doberge cake or else, in the stifling heat of summer, a sweet syrup-flavoured sno-ball.
Hear the beats...
A city that swings to its own beat, you can count on New Orleans to deliver a soul-moving soiree of beats. Music is a way of life here. Brass bands roll through the streets every Sunday during the cooler months, children can be heard practicing instruments in their homes, and every night of the week, music legends and upcoming talents belt out their best live sets long into the night, seven nights a week. The birthplace of jazz, you’ll also hear blues, zydeco, opera, Cajun music and many other musical styles vibrating in the air from every direction. It all comes to a lyrical climax in the colourful festivals that take over the city and draw out the effervescent locals, with a new celebration practically every week.
Tips: Renowned jazz bands and soloists regularly hit the stage at clubs like The Blue Nile, Snug Harbor, All-Ways Lounge and Maple Leaf Bar – plus many more – while some restaurants also host their own catchy tunes late into the night. Famous festivals to catch the action at its best include Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras.
See history come alive...
This is a city that feels lived in and which warmly welcomes visitors without false pretence. There is no front; New Orleans wears centuries of living history on its sleeve – a visual testament to the melting pot of cultures that gave the city life. From enchanting walled courtyards to old cobblestone streets and grand historic homes adorned with wrought-iron gates and balconies, there’s an enchanting fusion of well-worn Spanish, French, Creole and American styles. Colourful doorways, neon signs and green hanging plants add a novel touch, while grand squares, plazas and green parks offer scenic respite from the streets bustling with people ‘til all hours.
Tips: Ground zero of the city’s historical centre is the atmospheric French Quarter, impressive for both its old-world allure and sheer size, but just as charming is the lush Garden District, beautiful Esplanade Ridge and the relaxed and artsy Bywater. A fabulous way to take in the architectural graces is to ride another slice of history – the historic streetcars that still ramble through the various districts.
Did you know?
Cocktail culture was born in New Orleans when it created America’s very first cocktail: the Sazerac, a blend of rye whiskey, bitters, sugar, absinthe or pastis and a twist of lemon. The iconic place to try it is the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. Another famous local cocktail is the ‘Death in the Afternoon’, invented by Hemingway and named after his 1932 classic, best enjoyed at the literary-themed Backspace Bar and Kitchen.
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