New Orleans, U.S.A
I think I have to begin any discussion about New Orleans by saying that it’s possibly my favorite city in the U.S. It is an extraordinary place, quite unlike any other. I remember the first time I went there, many years ago, I was working in Alabama and we had a 3-day weekend so a few of us rented a car and drove to New Orleans. We parked the car and walked into the first bar we saw. A few minutes later I had an Abita beer and baked oysters sitting in front of me with some great music playing and I realized that even though I’d never been here before, I’d finally come home.
I’m not going to go into the history of New Orleans, you can read that yourself on Wikipedia, and read it you should as it’s fascinating stuff, but the way the people of this city joined forces with local Indians, Kentuckians, farmers, tradesmen, pirates and any able-bodied man or woman that could wield a weapon of some kind and then took on the mighty Royal Navy, arguably the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, and gave them a thrashing they would never forget, says a lot about who these people are and what makes this city so special.
That battle kind of sums up what this city, and the people that populate it, are all about. The different cultures that make up this true melting pot, be they Cajun, Creole, West Indian, African, European or whatever, are all vital components to the make-up of the city. It’s the birthplace of Jazz, so that says something. It has the best live music, the best food, the best drink, the best just about everything in America. If you can’t have a good time in this city then you need to take a long look in the mirror.
The French Quarter is of course the most famous area and is an essential port of call for any visitor but it is full to the brim with drunk people and tourists and all the usual hustlers, miscreants and rogues that feed on them, worth a quick visit but keep moving and head on to the Warehouse/Arts district for some very good galleries and wonderful restaurants, or the Garden District just to look at the most beautiful houses and neighborhoods or my personal favorite, The Marigny. Watch yourself walking around this area, especially when the sun goes down, but I love it here. There’s some great bars, ‘Mimi’s’ is my go to bar of choice - http://mimismarigny.com/ or the ‘R Bar’ http://www.royalstreetinn.com/ is also a winner. There’s a certain thing in the air here, it reminds me of Notting Hill in London before it got all gentrified and posh, a bit edgy and a little dangerous but full of life and people looking for a good time, ‘Laissez le bon temps rouler’ as they say around here.
Another notable thing about N’Orleans is the lack of inhibition that the general populace has, and the fact that people here don’t seem to have that desperate need to appear cool or sophisticated, that sort of nonsense just doesn’t fly here, which is a rare treat.
Spend an evening at the world famous Tipitinas - http://www.tipitinas.com/ or the Maple Leaf Tavern - https://www.mapleleafbar.com/ or any one of the countless other watering-holes and get ready for some the best music, dancing and ‘bon temps’ you’ll ever have.
If you’re one of those people that worries about your weight, cholesterol or any of those other western ailments then you may be in for a shock. These guys eat like they really mean it. Pork, nose to tail, seafood, butter, cream, rich sauces, muffaletta sandwiches, ‘po boys to die for, Jambalaya, ettoufe, gumbo, remoulade, and oysters, oh the oysters. New Orleans has some of the best eating in the country with chefs like John Besh, Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link, Leah Chase and many others that have embraced the local cuisine and shaped it into what is today, absolutely delicious.
One morning, after the night before, I was not feeling my best and a very dear friend took me to a small café down a little side street somewhere for a smoked oyster omelet. If you’re ever in need of a cure for the kind of hangover that makes you question your religious beliefs, then I strongly recommend this particular remedy, plenty of tabasco and a Bloody Mary, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
I happened to be here for Thanksgiving a few years ago. Wondering what to do with myself a friendly waiter recommended a day at the races. It appears that Thanksgiving is the opening day of the season for horse racing. I’ve never really been one for the ‘sport of kings’ but with an open mind and nothing to lose but the cash in my pocket I set off for the Fairgrounds and ended up having yet another great time. In true Big Easy style there was live music, lots to eat and drink, people all dressed up and having fun and I only lost about $60! I love New Orleans. I can’t wait to go back.