By Magalí Zaslabsky
New Orleans has always been among the cities that I wanted to visit. The first time I visited this city two years ago it confirmed all my predictions: it’s a city full of life and very photogenic. I love photogenic cities! And believe it or not, it’s not that easy to find those types of cities in the U.S. Of course, you have all the important ones… L.A., New York, Las Vegas… but think about how many cities the fifty states have, and how few of them are as aesthetic as New Orleans.
Today I want to share with you five reasons why I love going to New Orleans, and some other curiosities in case you want to visit this Southern beauty.
Let’s start with the main reason this city vibrates… music! Music and art are two of the main features of New Orleans. As you probably know, the history of jazz is linked to the city, which is considered to be the birthplace of the genre. New Orleans was once French, then Spanish and finally American. The city has been inhabited by Italians, English, Irish, French, Spanish and blacks from Africa and the Caribbean. This cultural context generated the perfect environment to contribute to the origin of jazz.
My favorite place for a jazz concert is Preservation Hall situated in the French Quarter. This place (almost in shambles) takes you back in time to the origins of jazz. There you can hear the traditional New Orleans Jazz almost every night of the year.
Music is a must in this city! And if you don’t have the time or money to go to a concert, don’t worry. You will definitely have the opportunity to experience music in every corner of this city. Not a day went by when I couldn’t see a great band playing in Jackson Square or any of the streets around the Historic District.
And let’s not forget about art. It’s not as important as music, but you will definitely experience it everywhere there. From elegant galleries where you can buy expensive and exclusive painting or photos to all the street art and artists congregated around Jackson Square, art is one of the main features of New Orleans.
This takes me to the second reason I love to visit the city: colors. I love colorful cities. The artwork all over the city definitely contributes to the colorfulness of NOLA (New Orleans’ nickname). But color is everywhere, from doors to plants, color won’t go unnoticed.
And you’ve probably heard about Marti Gras, the New Orleans’ carnival, whose colors are gold, purple and green. You’ll see them all over the French Quarter.
The third reason I love this city is the food. I am not a big foodie, I would even say that I am a little picky with food. But there are always a couple of things that I am looking forward to eating when I am visiting New Orleans: beignets and po’boys.
Beignets are a fried pastry covered with powdered sugar that the French brought to New Orleans in the 18thcentury and that became part of the Creole cuisine with some variations. My favorite: banana. The most popular place in New Orleans to eat beignets with traditional coffee for breakfast is Café Du Monde, but I am loyal to the ‘Banana Foster Beignet Fries’ from Pere Antoine. The second thing I love to eat are po’boys, especially the beef po’boy. There are many great places to get them. And if you like seafood, you must try the shrimp po’boy, jambalaya and gumbo.
The fourth reason why I love visiting NOLA is because whenever I am there I feel like I am in a movie set. Walking around the French Quarter it feels like time hasn’t gone by. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the Historic District to feel that, because very close to the city are the famous cotton plantations: San Francisco Plantation, Laura Plantation, Houmas House Plantation and the splendid Oak Alley Plantation (you can easily recognize this from the photos, it’s very famous). Here are some famous music videos and movies located in New Orleans -which if you visit, you’ll know what I mean about feeling like you just walked onto a movie set-:
–Karma Chameleon from Culture Club and the steamship: which wasn’t even filmed in the U.S. but has the old Mississippi River ambience (don’t miss the opportunity to take a boat trip along the Mississippi River, it’s a wonderful experience).
– Interview with the Vampire: this one was actually set in the city and at Oak Plantation Alley.
– “Run Forrest, run!”- Forrest Gump (which was actually located in Savannah, Georgia, but it feels like the same style).
–Steel Magnolias, filmed in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
And many more…
And finally, the fifth reason that makes me love this city is the cultural mixing. It is a very unique place because of the different cultures and traditions that have mixed throughout the years. As I mentioned before, Louisiana was French, and you’ll see ‘fleur-de-lis’ everywhere. Food, street names, even the name of the historic area, French Quarter and the cemetery, the French culture is strong there. Then, there’s the Spanish, probably less relevant than the French, but as a Spanish speaker it makes me smile every time I read the name of the streets and it feels like you are in Spain. There are also the Creoles, an ethnic group including anyone born in New Orleans from French and Spanish ancestry to those who descended from African or Caribbean heritage. And of course, you are going to see American culture everywhere. I love when cities preserve all the elements from the cultures that once lived there. It makes it a very unique place where you can eat French food, read Spanish streets, listen to Creole music, go to the Voodoo museum, Catholic church and you are still in the United States.