New Orleans, the Crescent City, is a party city known for its annual Mardi Gras celebration.
The krewes are working on their costumes and floats. The bands are practicing for their march down the French Quarter. The bakeries are busying baking king cakes with trinkets inside.
In 1699, people were busy getting ready for the very first Mardi Gras in Louisiana.
“On March 3 of 1699, Iberville had set up a camp on the west bank of the river about 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today. This was the day Mardi Gras was being celebrated in France. In honor of this important day, Iberville named the site Point du Mardi Gras.” East Jefferson Parish http://www.eastjeffersonparish.com/culture/MARDIGRA/HISTORY/history.htm
When I hear the phrase “the Crescent City” used to describe New Orleans, I don’t think about the shape of the city or the Mississippi River.
I think of crescent-shaped croissants. Okay, I think of enjoying a croissant and a café au lait while a street performer plays jazz nearby.
Why? New Orleans is a historic town, and a foodie town that has retained its French flavor with the architecture of the French Quarter, food and customs that celebrate joie de vive.
As I think about the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration, I remember my visit to the Crescent City.
I remember waking up in the city and having an early morning breakfast at the Market Café that is located near the Mississippi River. I watch the people on their way to work as I eat my Eggs Creole and New Orleans Roast coffee, a blend of French Roast and chicory.
Then it’s time for me to venture over to the Farmer’s Market to look at the local produce and seafood before moving on to the French Market’s Community Flea Market. I visit to the flea market before hitting the French Market and the French Quarter. The Flea Market is filled with tables and stalls of different vendors and lots of local art, Mardi Gras masks, and voodoo dolls for the budget shopper with negotiable prices.
The French Quarter and French Market are filled with antique shops, art galleries, and stores. Some classic Quarter souvenirs are voodoo dolls, Mardi Gras masks and gargoyles. The symbol of New Orleans if the fleur-de-lis, the music is jazz and zydeco—Cajun dance music; and the dog of New Orleans is blue. Yep, the bright blue dog appears in sought after artwork by Cajun artist, George Rodrique. I enjoy going to his gallery to see the blue dog. I buy some pralines at one of the candy stores.
The Quarter has been popular place to tourist destination for centuries. In the 1800’s, US President Andrew Jackson liked the town so much that he wanted to purchase it from France.
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, decided to sell New Orleans and the entire Louisiana Territory to Jackson for $15 million.
“On Saturday, April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and Barbé Marbois in Paris. Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people on July 4… France turned New Orleans over on December 20, 1803 at The Cabildo.” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Purchase
I begin my self-created history and architecture walking tour of the French Quarter where the deal went down and the transaction took place–Cabildo. The Cabildo, one of the Lousiana State Museum’s five French Quarter properties, offers exhibits on the history of New Orleans, Louisiana and special exhibits like one on the steamboat trade. The other Louisiana State Museum’s historical sites are stop offs on my tour–the Presbytere, 1850 House, Old U.S. Mint and Madame John’s Legacy.
My tour takes me to St. Louis Cathedral–with free music concerts and a popular venue for weddings and graduations; St. Anthony’s Garden—to relax and watch the artists paint and draw; and a leisurely break for café au lait and beignets at the Café DuMonde.
The last stop on my informal history tour is the National World War II Museum. The enormity of war becomes apparent to me as I walk towards the entrance to the museum. There are bricks outside of the museum that are inscribed with the names of men and women who served and sacrificed in World War II that are too many for me to count.
The museum provides a compelling, insightful look at an important time period in world history with live shows and interactive exhibits that allow me to read and hear stories of service men and women writing homes, the USO shows and war bonds, 40’s swing music, and videos.
I learn about Rosie the Riveter and the multitude of women working in manufacturing plants to produce equipment and support the war effort. Did you know that people lived on ration cards and collected salvage during a time of economic hardship when gas, coffee, eggs and meat were considered luxuries?
I continue my outdoor adventure at the City Park with the Botanical and Sculpture Garden, Art Museum Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland.
During the day, the French Quarter is welcoming to individuals, groups and families—with street performers, shops, and historic sites. At night, it’s adults only. Visitors should be aware of potential crime that happens in a crowded, city with lots of nightlife of bars, music, and more.
New Orleans is truly a foodie city. I have tried the shrimp po boys; muffalettas, etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, andouille sausage, gator and duck; and the Voodoo beer. It’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in the city, with so many pubs, cafes, diners and restaurants too choose from.
If I had more time, I would have visited the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Mardi Gras World, and Avery Island. I would take an airboat tour of the bayou and speed through swamps looking for alligators..
I’ll have to wait for my next visit to New Orleans. Laisser Le Bon Temps Roule New Orleans!