Everyone is a fan of Las Vegas … until they’ve been to New Orleans and seen for themselves just how amazing the Big Easy actually is. New Orleans is “known” for Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras and being a 24/7 party destination but in truth, it’s so much more than that.
I’ve visited New Orleans several times now – once before the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and four times following. Those four visits happened in the space of 14 months – a testament to just how appealing the city is. Rather than talking about the N’awlins of old, I’d like to share my thoughts on what the city has become and the attractions it holds for visitors today.
The biggest attraction in New Orleans is easily Mardi Gras – a celebration that lasts for the two weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Catholic Calendar) and by day you can watch the parades and floats, while at night celebrate in the famous French Quarter. The parades are well worth watching (though it’s worth noting it was raining on the day I went to the parade) but the true action of Mardi Gras happens after dark.
The most famous street in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street and it’s definitely the centre of excitement. Bars and restaurants, all featuring live music, cheap cocktails and balconies line the street, revellers with beads are stationed on the balconies and throw them to female party-goers in return for a quick flash of their breasts.
It’s worth noting the French Quarter isn’t just Bourbon Street… this district of New Orleans is the cultural hub, filled with amazing restaurants, museums, markets and other attractions. Walking through the French Quarter you can equally and easily find an amazing Jambalaya and also a store to stock up on your Voodoo supplies.
On the edge of the French Quarter is Cafe du Mondé and the French Market and it’s here you’re going to want to try some of the amazing food New Orleans has to offer.
New Orleans has some of the most amazing food you’ll ever find in the world – Gumbo, Jumbalaya, Alligator Po-Boys, Bananas Foster, Beignets … there is nothing not worth sampling. One of the most famous chef’s to come out of New Orleans is Emeril Lagasse, who has 4 restaurants in the city.
My favourite and I’ve now eaten there 4 times is “Nola” located in the French Quarter. If you ever get a chance to try my fried chicken, rest assured, it’s Emeril’s recipe that I mastered after only ordering the Fried Chicken every visit and gradually working out how to make it.
Whether at one of Emeril’s restaurants, or any of the hundreds of other restaurants in the French Quarter, you won’t regret immersing yourself in the range of Creole and Cajun foods available for offer.
At the edge of the French Quarter, near Cafe du Mondé is Jackson Square. This park is filled with street artists selling their works, jazz musicians busking, and dominating the landscape, St Louis Cathedral.
New Orleans is also famous for cemeteries, bayous, and historic plantations. If you’re thinking that New Orleans sounds like a fun weekend away in the French Quarter, my advice is to give yourself more time. Explore the countryside, visit the cemeteries, dine at a plantation home, and adventure into the swamps and bayous.
Once you’re there, you’ll understand why it is one of my favourite cities in the world.