What’s a visit to New Orleans without stopping in the French Quarter?
It’s not really a visit, not if you haven’t eaten a plate of Cafe du Monde’s famous beignets or listened to live jazz as you stroll through this historic center of town.
I love the French Quarter for its history, unique architecture styles, the food, the laid-back vibe, and, of course, the fact that you can always count on live jazz music. Who doesn’t like a little live music as they sit under shade next to the Mississippi River in tropical levels of humidity? I’d say the jazz music sets the tone and pace of life here, just as much as the heat and humidity: slow with a bit of creole pizazz .
Before I jump fully into my visit, here are some basic facts about the area:
- New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718, with the French Quarter originally being the “old square” the city was based around. It’s the oldest neighborhood in the city.
- The French Quarter, as a whole, is a National Historic Landmark.
- The Mississippi River borders the French Quarter to the east, and the French Quarter has a 1 foot elevation. Hence the massive levy system.
- New Orleans has French, Spanish, and American influence, given that the city has been controlled by these 3 different nations.
The very first thing I did on arriving in the French Quarter was beeline for Cafe du Monde. Cafe du Monde is famous, but if you don’t know what it is, allow me to explain. Founded in 1862 as the original open-air coffee shop of the French Quarter, it serves a very simple menu of different types of chicory coffee and plates of 3 beignets heaped with powdered sugar. I know it doesn’t sound fancy, but it’s addictive! The shop is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and only accepts cash payment.
I always get an order of beignets with coffee. If it’s hot outside, I get the frozen cafe au lait. If it’s cool outside, I get a regular cup of cafe au lait. I actually do enjoy the flavor of chicory coffee, so this is yummy treat for me!
I’ve been to New Orleans a few times, but I feel like there’s always something new for me to do. After I had my coffee and beignet fix, I crossed the street and walked through Jackson Square. If you’ve ever seen a photo of New Orleans, it’s probably the iconic images of Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral as the backdrop. It’s a cute little square with pretty landscaping, shade, and relaxing benches in the heart of the French Quarter. This isn’t the kind of square where kids play, but instead people read a newspaper or book, walking lazily through, or enjoy the sounds of the city under the shade of a palm tree. This was actually my first time getting into Jackson Square. For some reason, all the other times I visited the city had it gated off. It was nice to peek inside and finally walk up close to the Andrew Jackson statue. I also really enjoyed the view of the historical buildings that surround Jackson Square on 3 sides. If you enjoy history and architecture, you’ll want to spend an hour or two just walking around the square.
My final stop was at a location that I’ve been keen to see since learning about it: one of America’s oldest operating bars! Having been opened sometime around 1775, and being one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Orleans, the bar is not just a piece of history, but a legend. Its early history is also the stuff of legends – who knows what is really true. I stepped inside and bought a drink, but the lighting was too old-school-colonial-tavern dark to really get any good photos. But I’ll say this about the ambiance. If I hadn’t known I was in New Orleans, I would have expected Paul Revere to step out from the back room!
Watch out for my next post, because I’ll be covering New Orleans food!