Bourbon St. Is Just The Beginning: A Guide To New Orleans, LA
With a colorful and tragic history dating back nearly three hundred years, New Orleans is one of the United State’s most beloved cities. Among other notable duties, New Orleans continues to serve as a cultural hub for an incredibly diverse population of people from all over the globe. Just a mention of the city conjures thoughts of Mardi Gras, drunken craziness, and, unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina. Yet the city that loves to party has always maintained a positive spirit regardless of the circumstances, now more so than ever. A trip to the Big Easy might inspire you to travel to Europe or switch your major to Jazz Performance. New Orleans might also inspire you to become a chef or even a Voodoo Queen. Whatever the case might be, understand that Bourbon Street is just the beginning of what this magical city has to offer.
The famous French Quarter is home to dozens of attractions and you could easily spend several days exploring just this one relatively small area. Because it is loaded with famous restaurants, bars, and music venues, Bourbon Street is a must-see for newcomers even if you do not enjoy the party atmosphere. You can have your fun but remember there is a whole city out there beyond Bourbon that awaits your exploration.
Take a morning stroll down to the lower part, or heart, of the French Quarter and fulfill your touristic responsibilities by indulging in some beignets and a café con leche at Café Du Monde. Once your system is loaded with enough powdered sugar and caffeine to last a week, head over a few blocks to the French Market located between North Peters Street and French Market Place. Even if shopping is not high on your list, you could effortlessly lose yourself rummaging through the used books and various collectibles sold by a variety of vendors. Everything from prehistoric cassette tapes to specialty hot sauces is available at the French Market, making it a great place to buy a souvenir.
A Statue And A Cathedral
When you get your fill of shopping, take the short walk over to picture friendly Jackson Square where you can strike your best pose in front of the large statue of Andrew Jackson backed by the Saint Louis Cathedral. When your photo session is complete, take a minute to reverently enjoy the inside of the Cathedral and the no-expense-spared mentality evident in its opulence. Even if you are not Catholic or religious at all, a glimpse inside the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States is awe inspiring. Probably not inspiring enough to make you avoid a night of partying in New Orleans; you might be back tomorrow afternoon to confess some sins.
For the time being, take your saint-like conscience and stroll down Pirate’s Alley next to the Cathedral. Although this passage is short and somewhat uneventful to the non-history lover, Pirate’s Alley is steeped in tales varying from serious pirate business of the eighteenth century to being the inspiration for writer William Faulkner. The alleyway looks much the same as it did during New Orleans’ early years with the streets and gutters paved with cobblestones. Pirate’s Alley serves as a reminder of how old the city is yet brings into context how young the United States is as compared to other nations.
Tour Of Tombs
Other attractions that tell of New Orleans’ age in addition to the Big Easy’s high water table are its cemeteries, or “cities of the dead.” You can see the famous aboveground tombs in person by either walking through the cemeteries yourself or taking a guided tour. As is the case in all large urban centers, crime is unfortunately an issue in New Orleans and some of the cemeteries are in areas that can be unsafe. Will you have a problem? Probably not, but bring those street smarts with you on the road trip and do not take any chances.
Luckily, one of the most popular cemeteries, Saint Louis Cemetery Number One, is very close to the top of the French Quarter and only open during limited daylight hours. You have the option of exploring this graveyard by yourself, but the safest and most informative way is to take a guided tour for a nominal fee. Your guide will give you a history lesson about a variety of interesting topics not limited strictly to the cemetery itself. You will also pass the tomb of legendary Voodoo (or Voudou, depending on who you ask) Queen, Marie Laveau. Note the strange ceremonial adornments surrounding her tomb such as pennies, candy wrappers, or the random triple x symbols. Your tour guide will explain.
In all of this, we have completely forgotten about Bourbon Street. When the stars come out, though, New Orleans starts to party and all bets of reason and rationality can easily be lost. Enjoy the city however you want, but know that a trip to New Orleans does not have to be solely about drunken craziness. Bourbon Street is just the beginning to what the Big Easy has to offer.
By: Gordon Alford