“America only has three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” – Tennessee Williams
“Everything in New Orleans is a good idea” – Bob Dylan
A CITY ON DEATH ROW, like an aged rock star who will continue to be beautiful and talented long after their skin has turned to leather and their voice has given out, the realities of New Orleans are not the realities. Because it’s not the impressive stink or the horrifying crime rates or the tourists that stay with you, it’s not the centuries of death and violence and tragedy that have cursed this town that touches your soul, it’s the music and the magic, the food, the freedom and that something in the air that makes your spine tingle. Unlike other old cities that can make you feel inferior in the face of their experience, like you are an unworthy guest in a place shaped by those more deserving, New Orleans makes you feel like you are a part of the never-ending story. It invites you in and tells you to make yourself at home in its glittering decrepitude.
It strikes me as a uniquely paradoxical place, oozing that lazy-Sunday-morning vibe that is so unique to the American South, combined with a feverish sense of life and celebration that turns every day into a party. It’s a city so full of amazing history, ranging from the good to the bad and the quirky as hell.
Garden District – Mostly residential area, quieter and more relaxed than the French Quarter. It was developed in 1832 for the “nouveau riche” Americans who wanted to separate themselves from the Creoles in the FQ. Gorgeous neighbourhood of elegant houses, and in typical New Orleans style there’s a 19th century cemetery planted right in the middle of it.
Magazine Street – Great place for a wander, running from the FQ down to the Zoo. Lots going on, from antique shops and hipster galleries, to hot dog stands and artisanal bakeries.
Recommendation: The scenic streetcar that runs like clockwork along St Charles Street is surprisingly still the best way to get around that part of the city. At $3 for a 24hr pass, it’s insanely cheap as well as being completely adorable; a must see!
French Quarter – Oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans, founded in 1718. Home to the infamous Bourbon St and the oldest Cathedral in America (St. Louis) as well as the oldest bar and the most haunted house. In the most predictably tourist-y way, this is my favourite part of the city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s busy and messy and full to the brim of tourists wanting to see the exact same things as you, but it’s got a wonderful welcoming atmosphere and there is always always something going on.
Recommendation: Free Tours by Foot.
NB- -The typical American “no open container rule” doesn’t apply in the Big Easy, thus drinking on the street is not only acceptable, it’s also easy and encouraged by bars themselves, most places serve drinks in plastic cups so you can pop in to pick one up on your walk-about, or take anything you don’t finish with you to-go. But be warned, the caveat to the rule is no glass!
LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – One of the oldest bars in America, it was allegedly owned by famous pirate Jean Lafitte in the 1800s. Although I’m sure the choice of candles over electric lighting was a tactical and financial one, it certainly lends legitimacy and a great atmosphere. There is also a wonderful piano player who works on requests and he can play anything (like seriously, I requested the Little Mermaid and he did it). However, given its fame it does have slightly more expensive “tourist-hub” prices ($6 for a gin and tonic compared to the standard $4).
GLUTEN FREE ADVENTURES
Theo’s Neighbourhood Pizza: It’s a little out of the typical tourist way being at the far end of Magazine Street, but it’s well worth the trek. GF crust is the best I’ve had so far.
Juan’s Flying Burritos: While there are no explicitly GF options listed on the menu, once you go with a corn tortilla instead of flour it’s all fair game. Tasty and well-priced Mexican option.
Evangeline: Simple and tasty southern cooking, they only have a couple of GF options but are also very accommodating to it, I had a burger and they made it for me without the bun, no problems at all.
FARE Food Apothecary: Specialising in gluten and dairy free baked goods I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I found this place on Magazine Street. However, with the extra effort of no-added sugar, I was slightly let down by the flavour of my cupcake.
Although I couldn’t actually eat any of this stuff because of intolerances, they came highly recommended, and my friends thoroughly enjoyed the lot!
Magazine Po-boy Shop
Café du Monde
Salon by Sucré
Felix’s Oyster House