New Orleans Overview
- Historic architectural gumbo
- City life
- Laissez les bons temps rouler
A soulful southern grand dame known for its good times, second lines and haunting history, New Orleans is as resilient as it is rapturous, capturing the affections of authors, artists, filmmakers and playwrights…
Spend time exploring some of the Big Easy’s diverse districts, the soul of the city: the French Quarter (aka Vieux Carré) where the streets are paved with Mardi Gras beads; jazz club-packed Frenchmen Street in Faubourg Marginy, the artsy Warehouse District; the verdant Garden and Lower Garden Districts; stylish Uptown; and historic Tremé. As you wander, notice conversation-starting architecture – ornate wrought iron swirls bedecking wraparound balconies, imposing columns and steep pitched roofs – setting it apart from the any other city in the US. A renowned music scene, festivals, and fried, spiced, hot-sauce-lashed food lure revelers. Even if you're not in town for mighty Mardi Gras the party continues. Music, holy days, the dearly departed: Nola’s citizens celebrate everything. See a second line (an impromptu jazz parade) coming your way? Join in. If you do nothing else, eat, preferably while listening to a brass band. Cajun and Creole cuisine can be found simmering on a stove in the most humble dining dens off a cobbled alleyway – with a queue snaking down the street – as well as in one of the many Michelin-star-worthy kitchens. Visitors leave satiated, a bit hungover and hopelessly magicked and it’s not just the voodoo. It doesn't take a reading with a psychic priestess to know once you’ve experienced the bewitching Big Easy, you’ll be back.
Naturally New OrleansNola's famous Mardi Gras fête, in all its purple, green and golden glory (symbolising justice, faith and power, respectively), envelopes the city each year starting in early January, reaching a fever pitch in mid-February. Celebrations continue for weeks with masquerades, food festivals and street-packing parades. Krewes (parade organisers), represented with crest-emblazoned flags and colourful costumes rule the party-people-lined streets from atop elaborate floats: tossing beads, doubloons and toys.
- It’s easy to flag a cab on the street if you’re downtown or in the French Quarter. In less-frequented hoods or to pre-book, call United Cabs Co (+1 504 522 9771; www.unitedcabs.com).
- Tipping culture
- The standard 20 per cent works; double the tax if you’re in a rush.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops shut around 6pm. Locals head to dinner on the early side, straight after work, meeting up around 6 or 7pm. Most dining dens close around 9pm, so make reservations before 8.45pm. The festivities continue late into the night for partygoers, with bars and clubs closing at 3am or 4am.
- Packing tips
- Forget the jewellery, you’ll be covered in iridescent purple and green-beaded necklaces caught from a Mardi Gras float, and found throughout the city all year round.
- Recommended reads
- A tale of family drama, class struggles and city life, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire is a dark classic. The Pulitzer Prize-winning tome, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, paints an insider portrait of the city in the early Sixties; Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire will have you looking over your shoulder on a late-night in the French Quarter; Study the class struggles plaguing turn-of-the-century Louisiana in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.
- Days could be dedicated to sampling New Orleans cuisine. Started with a chicken or seafood roux, and laced with vegetables, tomatoes, seafood and sausage, gumbo, a thick stew, is a Creole and Cajun classic. We love Galatoire’s version at 209 Bourbon Street. It’s less liquidy relative, jamblaya blends chicken and Andouille sausage with tomatoes, peppers, onions, celery, and classic Creole spices and rice.
- Regional specialities
- Piquant spices, creamy butter and rich batters cover seafood and every conceivable carb fashioning it a tastier albeit diet-unfriendly version of itself. Po’ boys, a sandwich made with crisp-fried seafood, shrimp, crawfish or oysters – even crocodile – topped with mayo, lettuce and tomato, is served on Louisiana-style French bread and lashed with Tabasco. Our favourite can be found at the self-proclaimed oldest po’ boy spot in the city, Johnny’s Po-Boys on St Louis Street (www.johnnyspoboy.com).
- US Dollar ($).
- Time zone
- GMT -6 (Central time US)
- Dialling codes
- US country code: +1; area code for New Orleans: 504
- Do go/don't go
- Although this Southern city stays warm throughout the year, the mildest months are February through April and September through November. From June to August be prepared for sticky, humid heat. Keep an eye on weather reports starting in August, when hurricane season begins.
Don't go home without...
checking out some live music. Even if you can’t catch the acclaimed Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesday nights at the Maple Leaf Bar, there are performances every night (+1 504 866 9359; mapleleafbar.com). The two blocks of Frenchman Street in Marigny offer live bands, free admission, and casual bars: the perfect antidote to Bourbon Street.