NEW ORLEANS I have dreamed of visiting Deep South of America since I was a kid. I wanted to discover New Orleans because its history full of voodoo mysteries, rhythmic melody of Jazz and cultural melting-pot had always fascinated me. So we left Chicago on an airplane ahead to Louisiana.
We land at Louis Armstrong Airport late in the evening. From the glass of a shuttle-bus we observe the signs that illuminate Canal St, the spacious main artery of the city. Just checked in at the Lamothe Hotel, an ancient dwelling dated 1839 located a few steps from the Faubourg Marigny, we collapsed from exhaustion and withhold curiosity until the following day.
The next morning we look out of the window and into the small courtyard of the hotel there is a beautiful pool and lush plants framed by the typical balconies of wrought iron. But the French Quarter awaits us out there, so we rush into the street. The shotgun houses in wood are shaded by old trees and the sun heats the asphalt while the silence pervades the neighborhood – still asleep after partying in Bourbon St – and awakens slowly.
Looking for a place to have breakfast we enter the French Market, the old bazaar shopping in New Orleans where there are trinkets and food in a local and relaxing atmosphere. The specialty of the Cajun cuisine? Alligator. We shudder at the very thought and go on. The smell of alcohol mixed with wet asphalt makes the atmosphere a little ‘muddy but the bright colors, the enthusiasm of the people and the retro architecture gives the French Quarter a captivating elegance of another era.
We get to Jackson Square dominated by St. Louis Cathedral, dated 1794, and beside which stand the Cabildo and the Presbytère two identical buildings from the same period. Nearby there is a crowd of tourists, fortune tellers, idlers and street musicians who improvise jazz. Inside the Cabildo is hosted an exhibition that illustrates the complex history of the city during the rule of the French and Spanish, until it was sold to the United States in 1803.
A little farther on, across the road and the rails of the tramway, we arrive at the banks of the Mississippi where the water floats placidly warmed by the sun. Meanwhile, we get lost among the narrow streets of Julia Street and its gallery, cross the financial district and relax in the bright greenery of Lafayette Sq. Despite the passage of Katrina, New Orleans has not lost heart and the city seems to be evolving. It’s 13PM and so we eat a refreshing Strawberry Salad and drink a glass of Coke at Antoine’s bistro.
In the afternoon we step onto the oldest tram of the United States, the St. Charles with direction Garden District. We got off and we find ourselves in the elegant suburbs of the city where many enchanted colonial houses looking out onto the street. We stumble on the famous Creole restaurant Commander’s Palace and the LaFayette Cemetery which even if it is closed allow us to see a sea of tombstones through its gates. Once arrived in Magazine Street we get lost among the stores of clothing, furniture and objects.
Before it is too late, we head back to the bank of the Mississippi to see the sunset. On the steamboat musicians play jazz while the engines are warmed up for a ride in the river. In the evening we have dinner in Magazine St. at Coquette, an elegant restaurant which serves a delicious culinary mix. Before going to bed we walk through Bourbon Street crowded with locals and tourists.
The following day we visit the Louis Armstrong Park which is not too far from our hotel and then continue towards the Cemetery #1, known to be the most magical of the cemeteries of the city and now home of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Even if a bit far, we go to the City Park, one of the largest in the country. The park extends for 4km, has a lush flora and nearby flows the Bayou St.Jhon. The majestic ancient trees shade on the fishermen and visitors in an atmosphere of total relaxation. Magazine Street impressed us with its twist of contemporary style and vintage mood so for dinner we choose another of its restaurants and order burgers and fries at District’s.
The sky fades in cool colors of the night to make room for the stars. We enjoy the last hours in the city walking through the small little streets of the French Quarter, in an unique atmosphere looking old as time. The lanterns are lit at the entrance of the house and on the terraces, the fan blades move with the wind and the roaring water that soaks into the lush plants pours on the road as New Orleans prepares for a new fun night of alcohol, joy and music.
We allow ourselves to be lulled by the nearby street soundtracks and in the morning we are ready to leave for the last stop of our trip in U.S.A.: Los Angeles, California.
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