For over a century, artists, nomads, and travelers alike have been going to New Orleans, Louisiana seeking to satisfy their cravings. We all go to New Orleans seeking passion and how you experience it lies at the heart of your desires, wherever that may be. Like no other place, New Orleans has perfected the art of branding, selling and distributing the idea that an entire city can exist entirely in your unique perception of it. A place where you can seek out what you most desire and indulge in its pleasures. Therefore, what follows is a description of my New Orleans. I share with you in case you don’t have your longings clear in your mind and heart yet. But I promise you… follow your heart down to the “Big Easy”, and you will soon discover what those are.
- The Locals: Being raised in Miami, I am partial to melting-pot cultures in which differences are not only tolerated but encouraged. And, unlike any other place I have ever been, New Orleans has infused French and African-American culture to perfection. This is most evident when talking to the locals. They speak with a twang and their demeanor is cool. They almost walk to their own tune and everything they do is admirably rhythmic you can’t help but feel mesmerized by their character. I was so impressed by the warm virtual welcome I received from the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation who lovingly retweet and commented with suggestions to every post. Even in person, everyone from the bartender at Erin Rose Bar to the waiters at The Camellia Grill was so downright hospitable, I truly did not want to leave.
- History: Sometimes we go places seeking new things, sometimes we are looking to forget the mistakes from our past. The truth is, no embraces their past quite like New Orleans. There are some regrettable parts of our history which can be explored like plantation homes and slave treatment but there are also some truly amazing parts of our history that have remained immaculate up until the present.
The William Faulkner House: Being the undercover writer that I am, I have a deep love and appreciation and equal loathing for the art of revision. On the walls of what once was the house of William Faulkner, and is now a bookstore, you will not only find letters penned by the author but actual editing of his work. Reminding me, once again, that revision is the
St. Charles Streetcar: It took everything I had not to yell out “Stellaaaaa” while embarking on this most historic cable car. Feeling like a total Blanche, being broke and in my thirties seeking something more in the French Quarter, there was definitely nothing more to solidify my presence there than by riding the St. Charles streetcar.
Louis Armstrong Park: Just a few blocks and walking distance from the French Quarter is a park with an entrance as iconic as the musician it is named after. Once you’ve felt the liveliness of the French Quarter, you might find that what you truly crave is peace. The moment you walk into this park you’ll find ponds and open spaces which will put you in a trance. The free jazz on special occasions will only heighten the effect this park can have on you.
- Visual Art: As eclectic as the French based patois you might hear from some locals, is the art you will experience. Everywhere you go in the French Quarter you will see art. Whether it be the art galleries of local artists or on the streets of Jackson Square or behind the French Market you can indulge in visual art as varied as the culture itself.
New Orleans Museum of Art: Perhaps my favorite place to indulge in both the history and art of New Orleans was at the NOMA. It is the oldest institution of fine art, centuries old, and its three floors houses an impressive art collection from almost every period. In a way it houses the art that tells the story of how all the cultures came together in New Orleans. Nothing compares to its five-acre Sculpture Garden which besides being a great backdrop for pictures is a museum of art in its own right.
Architecture: While strolling down the streets of the French Quarter, don’t forget to look up. To the balconies that is. There remains enough original architecture to give you a physical, tangible connection to the artists that came before you.
- Street Performers: The rhythmic heartbeat of the French Quarter are the sounds produced by its street performers. Whether your passion is bluegrass, opera, or poetry you will find a talented and eager artist willing to perform it for the price of an order of beignets. Take it slow, this ain’t New York City, amble through the streets and treat yourself to a bit of soul. Being the modern, bohemian performers that they are, don’t expect them to be on any type of schedule and be sure to carry cash.
Cubs the Poet: Requiring no more than a few words and a few minutes, this poet for hire will type a poem for you or your true love. While you wait, pet his puppy, Toulouse and enjoy the music permeating the streets.
The New Orleans Opera Guy: With the St. Louis cathedral as a backdrop, and “in the business of winning hearts and minds”, he will belt out your requests in Jackson Square. With influences the like of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, is it no wonder he can bring your heart to skip a beat to the tune of the church bells?
- Flavors: I have, of course, saved this very sweet pleasure for last. There is nothing as decadent as the flavors of the New Orleans cuisine. Suffice to say, of all the guilty indulgences you’ll find in New Orleans, the food falls short of sin. Whether you’re on your second or third helping of beignets at Café Du Monde, shrimp Po-Boys at Guys, or Vietnamese Phở at Namese you cannot go wrong.
The balance between sweet and savory you will find in the history, art, music, and flavors will teach you the basic premise of everything that is right in New Orleans: that there can be beauty in contradictions. That is exactly where this girl in her thirties found herself in New Orleans and in life, at the juxtaposition of the defilement and the sacred; at the perfect balance between right and wrong. That is my New Orleans, will you follow yours?