The first rule of Cajun cooking is that no matter what ingredients you throw into the pot, all you have to do is add the right spices and let it simmer long enough and the result will be a dish that leaves its mark
New Orleans is that dish, a cultural gumbo that has simmered for hundreds of years in relative isolation, combining African heritage, Caribbean flare, Spanish style, Cajun fire, Creole vitality, French tradition, and Haitian magic to create a taste so unique it makes you want to kiss the cook in jubilant celebration.
New Orleanians love to celebrate, and they will celebrate every chance they get. Through the streets where the cool night breezes sing backup to the soft jazz drifting from bar windows, around the countless restaurants and outdoor cafes where corks leap out of wine bottles with gusto and the flame of a café brÃ»lot illuminates the night, it’s easy to enjoy the Big Easy, and easier still to, as the locals say, laissez les bons temps rouler, let the good times roll!
Whether you plan to stroll around the Garden District or get swept away at the Jazz & Heritage Festival, start your parade route from the office of a trusted travel agent. Travel agents know the best times to visit and the best sections of the city to set up base, leaving you with only enjoyable decisions to make.
Start your day in the French Quarter with a café au lait and beignet at Café du Monde on Jackson Square, where lovers stroll arm-in-arm on their way to the waterfront to peek into courtyards, galleries, and antique shops. Listen to the tall tales of a puckish tour guide during a mule-drawn carriage ride before filling your belly with a bucket of spicy shrimp on Bourbon Street. Just remember that the world-famous Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s are called Hurricanes and not Light Summer Breezes for a reason.
Outside the Quarter you will find legendary districts, each with its own book of stories that read like extraordinary fiction. These locales include Uptown, a heavily populated neighborhood where even the schools are architectural wonders; the Warehouse Arts District, where Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant has been feeding the masses for years; and the historic Garden District, where you might bump into author Anne Rice on these mansion-lined streets framed by lush gardens.
Each district takes great pride in the many festivals that invade the city each year. While the big blowouts like the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day and the Jazz & Heritage Festival are bashes to boast about, the smaller festivals, like the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the Spring Fiesta, flush out the true nature of the city.
Mardi Gras may be just a tourism ploy to bring hordes of adventure-seekers into town to try New Orleans’ true treat, its tasty cuisine. A concoction of Creole and Cajun, New Orleans cooking captures fresh seafood from the Gulf and the spicy combination of its cultures for a taste to become passionate about. In fact, when giving directions, a native New Orleanian uses well-known restaurants and cafes as landmarks instead of streets.
Visitors are not allowed to leave the city without tasting such culinary classics as a po’boy sandwich from Mother’s on Poydras Street, oysters on the half shell with a cold bottle of Dixie beer while standing up at The Acme Oyster Bar, jambalaya, and gumbo with plenty of pepper, spicy crawfish you eat with your hands (with a good scrubbing with hot water and lemon afterward), and finally Bananas Foster at Brennan’s where it originated.
Big and Easy it is, and the one thing travel agents recommend is to be flexible with your schedule. Simply walk in the general direction of someplace you want to visit and then stop and enjoy every distraction along the way. Unpredictable and beautiful, New Orleans is a delicious destination that will be savored in your memories for years to come.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic — January Battle of New Orleans Celebration — January O’Houligan’s Ball — February Mardi Gras — February Louisiana Crawfish Festival — March Children’s World Fair — February Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival — February New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — April Satchmo Summerfest — August Swamp Festival — October Bridge City Gumbo Festival — October