Strolling the City on Cinco de Mayo
Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
52Trip End Sep 05, 2010
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On Wednesday, the sun burned brightly again and we set out to explore the French Quarter, the heart and origin of Nouvelle Orléans. The Quarter's layout is simple grid that has remained the identical since its early days in 1721. While there is a definite French flavour, most of the architecture is Spanish Colonial. The streets are full of life but are worn by time and tribulation – in a charming way though.
We walked along the Mississippi waterfront on a boardwalk called the Moonwalk. The heat was smothering – especially since we only left the Great White North about 5 days ago and haven’t really acclimatized – so we stopped often in the shade and sipped water often. We wandered a bit through Woldenberg Park and gazed at the striking Holocaust Memorial, which transforms kaleidoscopically as you circle it any view the piece from different angles.
We checked out Jackson Square, a lush park in the park in the middle of the Quarter that was once the Place D’Armes, a town square for meetings and also executions (!). Standing guard over the Square is the St Louis Cathedral, the oldest continuously active church in America, flanked by the Cabildo and the Presbytère. The Cabildo was once the seat of the Spanish colonial government and is now a part of the Louisiana State Museum. Its matching bookend the Presbytère was designed as a rectory but eventually used as a courthouse, and is now the Mardi Gras Museum. We walked inside the stunning Cathedral and snapped a few photos (and lit a candle mum and dad!) but did not go inside the museums since we wanted to stay outside and see more of the town.
We took Chartres Street to Esplanade, a lovely, shady street with majestic trees lining the road and growing right out of the median, gracefully dipping past the old houses and leaning over the passing traffic. We turned back east on Bourbon and got a sense of the quieter side – both on terms of geography and time of day - of the street once known as Calle de Borbon. The western half of the street, from Esplanade to about Ste Anne, feels much more elegant, with beautiful old homes behind lacy all wrought iron gates. This corner of town is mostly residential, inhabited by old local families, nouveau condo-owners and the gay community.
My Favourite Blacksmith Shop Ever
A little further long, we dropped into a great bar, the Jean Lafitte Blacksmith Shop, on the north side of Bourbon. Jean Lafitte is a name plastered all over New Orleans – and indeed the South of Louisiana in general – but paradoxically it seems not much is known about the privateer or "Gentleman Pirate" who supplied Andrew Jackson with pirates to bolster his unlikely victorious army in the War of 1812. Lafitte’s “Blacksmith Shop” was apparently a front for his many illicit bootlegging operations. Plenty of rumours swirl around his legacy, and it seems most details of his actual life are hazy – as intended by Lafitte himself. In any case, the Shop is a terrific bar and a cold Blue Moon with a slice of orange on a hot Louisiana day fit just right.