Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Orleans - that voodoo you do

New Orleans is just one of those cities that you have to go to at least once. For me, I'm up to 3 times (2 pre-Katrina, 1 post-Katrina) and I find myself longing to go back again.

It's a city in which voodoo is an active part for many people's lives. Not just the "I don't like my boss, so I'm going to stick him with a pin" voodoo, but voodoo also is for finding love, gaining strength, and other more mundane things as well. It's fascinating to watch people explain it and wild to take a night-time (sponsored and guided) tour of above-ground cemeteries with a voodoo-themed tour.

There is so much more to do than see the French Quarter, but you have to see the Quarter, especially on your first trip. And of course, if you're in the Quarter, you have to see Bourbon Street at night. Bourbon Street is a non-stop party, pretty much 365 days a year it seems. I have been there twice in May and once in October and you would not believe the atmosphere. I shudder to think what it is like during Mardi Gras.

The French Quarter is worth seeing just for the architecture. The balconies overlooking the streets, the prevalence of wrought iron, the color schemes, the courtyards tucked in to the majority of the all adds up to a style that you can not find anywhere else in the United States.

And the food. My love of Cajun and cooking Cajun came from my very first trip to N'awlins back during my 21st birthday in 1997. There are so many amazing restaurants down there, too numerous to name, but if you want a very affordable representative taste of New Orleans, I recommend The Gumbo Shop. It has all the major dishes -- gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish dishes, red beans and rice -- within a characteristically old structure with a courtyard.

Mulate's is another great place, although outside the Quarter closer to the Convention Center, but they feature great live zydeco music on the weekends in addition to the fantastic food.

You can not swing a dead cat without hitting a fun bar and/or a bar that features great live music (rock, zydeco, jazz) but I highly recommend Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on the edge of the French Quarter. Lafitte was a infamous pirate during his day and this once-functional blacksmith shop bears his name as an attempt at legitimate business. At night, the place does not have any lights, just candlelight.

But if you are in New Orleans, you have to try the Hurricane drink, a wicked concoction of rum and fruit juices served in its own distinctive glass. The touchstone for this drink is Pat O'Brien's. If you have 2, you will feel no pain. 3 and you may want to cancel breakfast plans the next day. 4 and you will be traveling through time.

This is going to be one of those topics that I will make multiple posts about, as there is just so much more about N'awlins that I would like to share. Consider this the appetizer, the cup of gumbo if you will, to the rest of my thoughts about this great American city.

Gumbo Shop -
Mulate's -
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop -

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