Why you should visit New Orleans

Tuesday, April 02, 2013
We just returned from our second visit to New Orleans in six months, and came home without one mardi gras bead hanging around our necks.

While New Orleans might be known for Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, Katrina and Jazz, there is more to the city than that- and it is a city I think everyone should visit at least once.

Yes, the surrounding area is steeped in history- not all of it good. While we did visit a couple plantations during our visits it was difficult to not feel a little creepy about it, especially since the revisionist history told to visitors is how nice the slave owners were and how much their slaves loved them and stayed on after emancipation. Never mind that the south was decimated after the war and people, even those newly freed, probably had no alternative than to find work and shelter where they could.

Still, it is a hauntingly beautiful place- full of mystery and wonder and ...history. Good and bad.

(Left- Exterior St. Joseph's Plantation)

While I am not a world traveler I have been privileged to visit a few cities in the world that have a lot of history to them- but no where on earth has the past been preserved like the French Quarter in New Orleans. Even in London or Dublin or Munich- you can find a block or two of preserved historical buildings surrounded by newly built apartments or high rises. In the French Quarter- there are blocks and blocks of sidewalks, roads and buildings that remain much as they were in their beginnings. When visiting, the locals didn't share my appreciation for their 'run down' town- but all I could see was history- beauty- detail- pride. I could feel the worn cobblestones beneath my feet and imagine pirates and plantation owners and slaves walking over them. The only place I've been that struck me so keenly with its history was when I visited Hampton Court Palace (home of Henry the VIII).

There are dark, creepy places. Little hole in the wall pubs and restaurants. We had some amazing food, some fresh off the boat seafood. While we paid good money for dinner at Emeril's (disappointing) the best meals we had were in Jean Lafitte City down where the shrimp boats bring in fresh shrimp - we ate at a little hole in the wall on the side of the road that was awesome - and eating a hamburger at Yo Mama's bar on St. Peters street right off Bourbon. Dark and sketchy looking on the outside- we were all surprisingly happy with the amazing burgers they turn out there. And, according to my friend, their sex on the beach is awesome!

(Left- Madpoet at Emeril's New Orleans)

There is music everywhere- good and not so good. We heard some wonderful street musicians, some who had seen better days. There is Bourbon Street- and you can't miss the distinct party vibe there- but surrounding that one street are many others- where people live and work and carve out a life for themselves- and have been doing exactly that in exactly those same buildings for two hundred years.

You should go. Go to the high end restaurants and the creepy pubs. To the sprawling plantation homes and the two hundred year old houses. You should go to the bayou and see nutria and alligators and learn about how they live. You should go and listen to street musicians and jazz groups play. You should take your hard earned dollars down there and let the people of this resilient city know how much you appreciate their art, their music, and their determination to survive. Skip Bourbon Street if you want- we didn't spend much time at all there, sort of a short pass through like a ride at Disneyland. But don't skip the French Quarter or the side streets. Don't skip the architecture or the wonderful iron work. Don't skip the history. It's our history, too. Good and bad.

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