This past March, I attended a National Geographic Photography workshop in New Orleans. The workshop was fantastic and I am glad I attended. I had not been there before and my conversations with people who had visited were a mixed bag from ,“its great” to “it’s awful & a cesspool”. My conclusion is that it is great and I had a blast. I can’t wait to go back.
New Orleans is known for its key role in American history, the partying and nightlife of Bourbon Street (especially Mardi Gras), a vibrant music scene and great cuisine that reflects its history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures. I stayed in the French Quarter, which is very walkable and used the streetcars, which gave me good access to most of the city.
New Orleans holds a key place in American history. Founded in 1718 by the French, it was ceded to the Spanish in 1763 and later came back under French control before it was sold, by Napoleon, to the United States in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase. In the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, General Andrew Jackson decisively defeated the British with a rag-tag group of regular military and sailors, Choctaw Indians, free men of color and privateers and pirates (led by Jean Lafitte).
So what are my highlights of New Orleans:
At the heart of the French Quarter is Jackson Square, a former military plaza renamed after General Jackson after his decisive victory in 1815. This area is a gathering place with many vendors and street performers as well as shops lining the sides of the square. I found myself visiting the square and the surrounding area several times during my stay and it is a must see if visiting the city.
You have to visit Bourbon Street at least once, especially on a Friday or Saturday afternoon and evening, when the area is pedestrianized and a sea of people. Have a huge ass beer or a Hurricane if you please. This area is not for everyone but I think you need to visit at least once to people watch.
Take the St Charles Street streetcar and ride out to Audubon Park near Tulane University. The ride is a treat and the park and its surroundings are beautiful and include many old southern mansions.
Take a cemetery tour. We visited Saint Louis Cemetery Number One. It is necessary to take a tour because, due to previous vandalism, the city has restricted access to only organized tours. Because of the water table (and the fact that the city is under sea level) all of the graves are in above ground mausoleums.
Bring your appetite! Oysters (raw and fried), shrimp po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya and crawfish. You need to start your day with café au lait and beignets from Café du Monde. They have a shop between Jackson Square and the river and have been serving these delights since the Civil War.
Ride a paddle wheeler on the mighty Mississippi. I had a free afternoon after the workshop ended and decided to book a ride on the Natchez. It was a warm sunny day and, accompanied by a “Cajun Bloody Mary”, I spent an enjoyable afternoon on the river.
On my next visit I will certainly do many of the same things (especially sampling the food) but would like to do a “voodoo tour”. Voodoo is a big part of the city’s past and it would be interesting to get that “take” on the city. I would also like to spend some time on Frenchman Street and its vibrant music scene.
I thought New Orleans was great and perfect for a long weekend. I hope you enjoy my photographs and thank you for visiting