Recently I traveled to Louisiana to visit family who lives in a nearby city. This wasn’t my first trip the Big Easy, but it was my first to see it with a “local.” We began our journey in St. Tammany Parrish, just north of New Orleans. To get there, we had to travel the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway – the world’s longest bridge measuring 24 miles long. A small toll is collected on the North Shore (Mandeville) side of the bridge.
Exiting the Causeway
After arriving near the heart of the city, we barely found a parking space. Fortunately, we were able to find one near the famous French Quarter.
Art in the French Quarter
The French Quarter began as French territory in 1718, but then was taken over by the Spanish until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. If you look closely you will see evidence of the Spanish influence in some of the architecture, street names, and courtyards.
There were a few places that I knew I wanted to visit and experience while visiting the Crescent City. One of them was St. Louis Cathedral. The 18th-century cathedral fronts Jackson Square, which was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson Three Roman Catholic churches have stood on that spot since 1718. The first was a wooden structure that was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788 (856 out of 1,100 structures were destroyed in the event). The second church was going to be enlarged to accommodate a growing congregation. During the expansion, it was determined that rather than leaving the lateral walls and a lower portion, everything would have to be demolished. The third is what we see today.
Not only has Roman Catholicism a part of New Orleans since the 1700’s, but so has voodoo. According to early census reports, there were nearly 2 enslaved Africans to each European settler. Many of the slaves preserved their West African culture, including their religious beliefs rooted in spirit and ancestor worship.
There are several voodoo shops in the city. I went into Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. The shop contains religious artifacts and souvenirs from around the world. I would have loved to have taken some photos and share them with you, but out of respect, I put my camera down while in the store.
Speaking of cameras – did you know that over 200 films have been shot in New Orleans? In 2013, more films were produced in Louisiana than in California. The street scene below reminds me of old New York.
Louisiana native George Rodrigue (1944 – 2013) is notable for his Blue Dog paintings. I didn’t have to look far to spot a mural of the famed creature.
Of course, no trip to New Orleans and the French Quarter would be complete without a stop at Cafe Du Monde. Established in 1862 in the French Quarter, the cafe is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It closes only on Christmas and when the occasional hurricane gets too close to New Orleans. It is a traditional coffee shop serving coffee, hot chocolate, fresh squeezed orange juice, and the famed beignet. (Beignets are French-style square doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. Be sure not to inhale when you take a bite!)
There are so many things to see and do in New Orleans. We only spent a few hours but could have easily spent a few days exploring all of the streets and alleys.
If you visit New Orleans, be prepared to search for a good parking spot. Parking will run $16 – $20, so find a spot that will enable you to walk to multiple points of interest.
New Orleans Weather
The weather is hot and humid. I went in early-to-mid October and the temperature was in the mid 80’s and we had light showers off and on the day we were in the city. (Before you go, be sure to check the weather forecast. You can visit the Weather Channel by clicking here.)
Most of all, if you visit New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps roulez – Let the good times roll!