New Orleans in a Nutshell

I’ve come to realize that all large cities in the US have their own personality. Some more than others. New Orleans is one of these cities that has quite a big personality. It takes a certain type of person to live in New Orleans (trust me, I met some real characters here). When I think of New Orleans, I think of rich architecture, French influence, extreme poverty, extreme wealth, natural disasters, fine cuisine, jazz, above-ground graves, parades, big parties, and of course, beads.

My first visit to New Orleans was at the tender age of eight. My world-traveler grandmother took me. I saw my first drag queen. I heard live jazz music for the first time. And I loved it. I returned in college for a school competition and ventured out a little more. However, as the saying goes, the third time was the charm. It was a blast! Here are some highlights from our visit:

1. Cafe du Monde:
Cafe du Monde is home to the infamous beignets and chicory coffee. Beignets are a fried piece of dough covered (and I mean covered!) in powdered sugar.

2. French Quarter Architecture:
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans.

3. St. Louis Cathedral & Jackson Square
The St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.

4. A night out on Bourbon St:
Bourbon St. runs through the heart of the French Quarter and is party central during Mardi Gras. However, you don’t have to be present on Mardi Gras to get a taste of how wild it gets.

5. Riding the St. Charles Streetcar:
Riding any streetcar in New Orleans is an enjoyable experience, but if you ride the St. Charles line, you’ll find a street lined with mansions and get a glimpse at the Garden District.

6. Jazz Music:
Watch street performers or go to Frenchmen Street and catch great live music.

7. Saints game in the backyard:
My CS host’s neighbor had stadium seating and a giant screen in his backyard so the neighborhood could gather for Saints games. This is quite possibly one of the most fantastic ideas ever! Oh, and did I mention there was a rope swing too and an old cemetery right behind their backyard?

8. Cemeteries:
New Orleans cemeteries are unique with their above-ground vaults. Most were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

9. In search of beads:
The city of New Orleans is covered in beads. Wandering through the city, you’re bound to find beads in unexpected places.

10. The Lower Ninth Ward:
I’ve saved the best for last. The number one thing I wanted to see while I was in New Orleans was the scars from Hurricane Katrina and the Lower Ninth Ward. While in school, I did a fictitious design project based in the Lower Ninth Ward. It’s an area that is stricken with poverty and had the greatest devastation from Hurricane Katrina. It’s funny- I stopped in the tourism office on Jackson Square and inquired about going to the Lower Ninth Ward. The nice lady behind the desk told me that it had all been cleaned up and the best way to see it was to go to the museum up the street. When I asked my host about it that evening, he told me that was blasphemy and that he’d take me between classes the next day.

As we got in to the area, we got our first reminder of Hurricane Katrina: an elementary school damaged by the storm with its message board still intact. I wonder why, in six years, it hadn’t been repaired or demolished.

We drove in to the Lower Ninth Ward and no one could deny the damage still present (yes, I should send these photos to the lady in the tourism office). Homes still boarded up… homes that have been repaired but still have the home markings from the hurricane displaying the date, hazards, and how many victims were found in the house… homes that must be condemned but still have inhabitants.

One part of our visit that was really inspiring, were the homes built by Brad Pitt and his foundation Make It Right.

That sums up our stop in New Orleans! We also took a bike ride through part of the city and visited Algiers Point. Have you been to NOLA?

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