Monday, April 12, 2010

French Quarter Festival!

I just got back from a few days in New Orleans after enjoying the sights and sounds of the French Quarter festival. You may have wondered where I have been for the past week, and truth be told I took a break from blogging to soak up the jazz and Creole cuisine down in the Big Easy. My wife and I had a great time wandering the streets and hanging out around Jackson Square.

Here’s my quick plug for the city, if you haven’t been. Try the French Quarter festival in the spring, it’s free and features local musicians only. Unlike the crowded Jazz festival that takes place two weeks later or the craziness of Mardi Gras in February, the French Quarter festival gives you more of a local flavor. You can peruse the shops on Royal Street or sip café au lait with a beignet at the Café du Monde near the riverfront. It’s a great walking town and has classic streetcars that run up and down St. Charles Avenue if you wish to wander further afield. The plantation style homes in the Garden District look reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, and are second only to the iron balustrades and Creole architecture of the French Quarter across town. Great museums abound, including the growing World War II exhibits, which rival anything in Washington D.C. You can also take a riverboat ride on the Mississippi or eat out at any of the endlessly impressive Cajun and Creole restaurants. I admit, I did just about all of these over the last few days, and each was well worth it.

Of course, there are things to watch out for when in New Orleans. Drunks abound and crime is high in certain areas. But you just have to use good judgment and common sense when wandering about. Stay in the more touristy areas for the most part, around the French Quarter, Warehouse, and Garden Districts, as the cops keep these areas fairly regularly patrolled. Also, just as New Orleans usually has something for everyone, it also usually has something that you definitely won’t like. I for one, wasn’t crazy about Bourbon Street itself, it’s pretty raunchy and frankly the debauchery on that particular street I’d rather leave out of print. But I found every other avenue within the French Quarter to be totally awesome, especially Royal Street, Chartes Street, Pirate Alley, Jackson Square, and the French Market.

The best thing about New Orleans is you never know what you’re going to find. One day we came across this little street band that played some awesome jazz. We bought their CD on the spot. We also met some friendly locals who pointed us towards their favorite eating spots. And famous people abound as well; many homes in the Garden District belong to movie stars, writers, actors, etc. Oddly enough, we actually spotted the comedian Jeff Foxworthy on the street and in the museums, twice! Like I said, you never know what you’ll find from one day to the next. So go checkout the Big Easy for yourself, and as they say in New Orleans…“Laissez les bon temps roulez”…let the good times roll!