New Orleans the famous city on The Mississippi River in the State of Louisiana. ‘The Big Easy’ known for its vibrant live music scene and its lively nightlife! Notably Bourbon Street the famous street with bars aplenty. Anything goes in the evenings, people dressed to go ‘out out’ as well as those who’ve clearly been out all day and had a few drinks along the way!
The heart of the city is the historic French Quarter. You can see the influence in the architecture. There’s some beautiful streets to wander round and take in the city, obviously there are many bars for you to hop in and out of as you go!
Mardi Gras – the most notable of its history and celebrations is a late winter festival famed for street parties, parades and costumes.
The more I’ve looked into the history of New Orleans the more intriguing I consider the place. I can’t do all the history justice in such a brief blog but I’ll do best at a whistle stop of highlights!
Indigenous people inhabited New Orleans for the same reasons that would later attract European settlers, an abundance of natural resources and a convenient network that could be used for transport in the local rivers.
Claimed for the French crown in the early 1700’s and later ceded to the Spanish, the influence of both nations is still evident. Architecture, wrought iron balconies, patios and courtyards; language, religion, customs, road and area names and of course food!
In 1800 the Spanish retroceded Louisiana back to France. Napoleon then sold the entire Louisiana colony including New Orleans back to The United States as part of the $15 million Louisiana purchase finalised in 1803.
Definitely head for a walk along the river whilst your there to take in the traditional paddle boats! New Orleans utilised the river network through history to transport agricultural goods like wheat, corn and potatoes.
The flow of goods between the Gulf of Mexico and the port of New Orleans attracted many pirates and smugglers. Jean and Pierre Lafitte were the most famous. Lafittes blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street is still a popular bar, said to be the oldest structure housing a bar in the US. Also said to be the pirates base back in the day. It’s a picturesque bar with a colonial architecture, you can feel the history in the place.
Rumoured to be haunted by both the ghost of Jean Lafitte, and a girl who committed suicide upstairs. The structure is also said to be built on the site of an old hospital where many people died from diseases that struck the area. A storm weakened the structure, and eventually its said to have burned down.
The city of New Orleans was the largest slave market in The US. As a result of the French and Spanish heritage slaves brought in by traders were predominantly from Senegal, The Bight of Benin and The Congo region. This differed to the local states of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee where the enslaved were culturally African-American having resided in The United States for at least 2 generations.
The constitution of 1864 abolished slavery and disposed of Louisiana’s old order of rule by planters and merchants. Though African Americans were not given voting rights until much later.
Also known as Vieux Carré is the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans. The historic heart of the city the French Quarter is famed for its vibrant nightlife and colourful buildings with iron balconies. It’s known for it’s traditional style hotels often with a courtyard patio.
Many of the buildings were constructed in the late 18th century when the city was under Spanish rule. The district as a whole has been designated a national historic landmark. It’s a prime tourist destination in the city and also attracts locals.
It suffered relatively light damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 compared to other areas of the city and region. Partly due to the distant from where the flood banks breached and in part due to the relative height and strength of its nearest flood banks.
Cathedral Square is one of the most famous sites in New Orleans. Housing St Louis Cathedral in a beautiful square. It’s the oldest cathedral in continuous use in The United States and was founded in 1720.
I stayed in Place D’Armes hotel. A great location in the French Quarter within walking distance of plenty of the key sites and bars.
Two words come to mind in terms of food when you think of New Orleans – Cajun and Creole. They are two distinct ethnic groups with their own unique history, traditions and culture. Both have made significant contributions to both New Orleans and The State of Louisiana from cuisine to architecture, as well as language and culture.
Cajun is defined by most historians as Acadian descent. Acadians are French settlers who made their way to Canada. They were eventually exiled and made their way to lower Louisiana in the late 1700’s. Still distinguishable today with their Cajun-French accents and known for vibrant music and dancing, and of course, Cajun cuisine.
Creole is more difficult to define, the term is highly debated and holds no official definition. Historians have defined Creole as meaning anything from an ethnic group consisting of individuals with European and African, Caribbean or Hispanic descent to individuals born in New Orleans with Spanish or French ancestry. However someone defines it, it’s clear that Creole culture and heritage has made its mark on New Orleans through its impact on history, art and food.
Cajun meals often have lots of smoked meats, or one pot dishes such as jambalaya. Creole often with tomatoes or rich tomato based sauces and the prominent use of seafood caught locally. Both tend to have chopped green peppers, onions and celery. Both types of cuisine are delicious and worth a try whilst visiting! There are restaurants and bars all over the area bursting with fresh food and flavours.
It felt like there was music everywhere! Lots of bars have live bands, and locals play throughout the streets!
Many famous musicians are also from New Orleans including Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint and Fats Domino.
Known as the birthplace of jazz, and famed for gospel music. Mardi Gras Indians inspired what is today known as hip hop and rap.
Local people care deeply about traditions, family, faith and food, but most importantly making joyful noise! Music is used in celebration of life and death, and everything in between!
Music is life itself.Louis Armstrong
There’s a few famous local cocktails but they are strong! Be warned! You might want to share one! Here’s the details of a few:
Hand Grenade also known as a green grenade and easily recognisable as it’s usually sold in a bright green yard cup! It’s melon flavour with a blend of liqueurs and some secret ingredients. Sold frozen or on the rocks through a handful of licenced bars and clubs on Bourbon Street.
Hurricane another strong one.. ingredients consist of 3 different types of rum, a bit of passion fruit syrup and a drop of lemon, lime and / or orange juice.
Purple Daiquiri also called a Voodoo Daiquiri is the signature cocktail of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It’s a grape flavour frozen daiquiri, spiked with bourbon and Everclear. Be warned everclear has a reputation as a very high alcohol content spirit!
Voodoo, Vampires and Witchcraft
Voodoo first came to New Orleans with enslaved West African who merged their religious rituals and practices with those of the local Catholic population.
Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is the most infamous icon for this religion. She was the illegitimate daughter of plantation owner Charles Laveaux and his Haitian slave mistress. She’s known as a hairdresser and practitioner of elaborate voodoo rituals. Her final resting place is in St Louis cemetery no. 1. Though it is believed she materialises to lead voodoo rituals.
New Orleans Voodoo is a religion connected to nature, spirits and ancestors. The core belief is that one God does not interfere in daily lives but spirits do. Connection with these spirits can be obtained through rituals including dance, music, chanting and snakes.
Dolls, potions and talismans are found in shops and homes throughout the city. A reminder of the New Orleans fascination with spirits magic and mystery. Readings, prayers, spiritual baths and ceremonies are used to help with anxiety, depression and ill health.
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is in the French Quarter and a great stop to learn more about the rituals and artefacts, and the historic influence on New Orleans today.
During the 1930’s brothers John and Wayne Carter were executed for committing multiple murders. About a dozen bodies were drained of their blood. The Carters bodies mysteriously vanished from the family vault. Sightings of the brothers are still reported today.
New Orleans has always respected the dead, many burials are above ground. The burial plots have to be shallow as the water table is so high. Dig a few feet deep and the graves become soggy filling with water, the casket would literally float away. The wall vault system that was popular in Spain was adopted to overcome the issue.
There are a number of buildings with a reputation for being haunted. So many strange sightings and stories mean there is no shortage of urban legends or attraction for fans of the macabre.
Visit New Orleans!
There is so much more I could write about but this is just a whistle stop tour! I hope I’ve captured the history correctly from where I’ve researched and discovered.
Whatever your interests, there is something for everyone in New Orleans – I can’t recommend a visit highly enough! Enjoy and I hope this blog has been of interest!
For more photos follow me on Instagram http://instagram.com/mysolofootprints/