New Orleans: Carnival, Jazz and Voodoo

The French Quarter is the epicenter of the transgressive culture of one of the most interesting cities in the United States

Marie Laveau’s tomb barely occupies a small corner of the old New Orleans Cemetery. And yet, it’s America’s second most visited grave after the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Laveau was born in this corner of the American South when the place was still part of the Spanish Empire. The daughter of a rich merchant of French origin and a mulatto, Marie became interested in the dark arts of Voodoo, the religion of the West African tribes that came to this land as baggage that was tied to slavery.

And she became the most famous of the priestesses of this cult. A vestige of French colonialism that was filled with new contributions, sums and details of all who passed through these lands of the Mississippi Delta. A cultural salad bowl that illustrates the city of New Orleans as one of its most genuine centers of irradiation.

New Orleans. French first, and Spanish later. The footprint of the first settlers is still fresh in the French Quarter or Old Corner, as they were informally baptized the Gauls who arrived here in the early eighteenth century. Then, by chance of international politics, the city and all of Louisiana passed into Spanish hands, and slowly transformed into one of the most beautiful cities in America.

In 1803, the French crown, just regaining sovereignty over the area, sold these lands to the newborn United States and completed the list of ingredients with the massive arrival of black slaves who finished shaping the local culture.

WHAT TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS

The French Quarter Visitor Center (Address: Decatur St, 419, Tel: (+1) 504 589 2636; Hours: MS 9.00 – 16.00) is a good way to experience the local idiosyncrasy.The restless traveler will discover that the French chose the place because of its easy access to the Gulf of Mexico. That the primitive French city of wood was remade into stone by the Spanish is no coincidence.

The contribution and influence of the arrival of millions of African slaves can be seen in the kitchen and, above all, in the music. Jazz, Cajun French, Blues and Zydeco all were borne out of the years of whip, slavery and exploitation black people faced for hundreds of years. Music everywhere springs from the bars that populate the famous Bourbon Street, heart of the French quarter, and it is not strange to run into bands of authentic virtuosos who play in the street in exchange for a couple of dollars. And if one wants to get out of the places threshed by tourism does not have to go too far.

 

A few steps from the heart of the French Quarter is one of the city’s most famous live music venues: the Funky Butt (Address: North Ramport Street, 714, Tel: (+1) 504 588 0872). The venue is right in front of Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans’ favorite son and one of the founding fathers of jazz, and only a couple of streets away from the must-see Voodoo Museum (Address: Dumaine Street, 724; Tel: (+1) 504 680 0128; Hours: LD 10.00 – 18.00).  Magic, music, brazenness. That’s New Orleans.

An impressive heritage

Music or voodoo are the logical consequences of mixing so many different cultures. Villages that left behind a trail in the form of beliefs, creative or musical manifestations that crystallized in the syncretic New Orleans of our days. But the passage of French and, above all, Spaniards, formed a historical center in which they abound the imposing houses, the balconies and the stones with pedigree.

Like any Hispanic city that respects religious and civil power, they gathered around the Plaza de Armas. St. Louis Cathedral (C / Pere Antoine Alley, 615, Tel: (+1) 504 525 9585; Hours: LD 8.30 – 4.00; E-mail: cathedral@arch-no.org) presides over Jackson Square and has the Privilege of being the oldest still-used Catholic cathedral in the United States. Right in the heart of the Old Town (Address: C / Chartres Street, 701, Tel: (+1) 504 568 6968; Hours: MD 10.00 – 16.30), former headquarters of the Spanish government in the area and now very interesting museum dedicated To the history of Louisiana.

But beyond plans or routes, the best way to discover the secrets of the French Quarter is to let go of the intuition, and to explore the beautiful city by interacting with its residents.  A little guidance may help: the Bourbon, Chartres and Royal streets are the ways in which the houses and palaces with the oldest floor of the ‘Old Corner’ are grouped together.

  • Like the ones that make up the Historic New Orleans Collection (Address: Royal Street, 533; Tel: (+1) 504 523 4662; Hours: MS 9.30 – 16.30 and D 10.30 – 16.30) and that allow to see inside the neighborhood.
  • Another place that you shouldn’t miss is the Old French Market (Address: N Peters Street, 1008; Tel: (+1) 504 522 2621; Hours: LD 10.00 – 18.00; E-mail: info@frencmarket.org). A cultural and artisan center where food, shops and fruit and vegetable stalls are alternated. Worth seeing.
  • If you are traveling with children, a good option to ‘rest’ from so much walking and keep them interested is to get up to the Mississippi River to visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (Address: C / Canal Street, 504 565 3033; MD 10.00 – 17.00) which, among other attractions, has an impressive reproduction of the Caribbean reef and the largest sample of shark species in the world.

Curious about the abundance of multicolored bead necklaces that appear everywhere as souvenirs, hanging from the gates, in restaurants and houses? The origin of this tradition has to do with ‘Mardi Gras’ (greasy Tuesday), or carnival, the most important and multitudinous party of the city. As tradition dictates, in exchange for one of these necklaces, the entertainer or entertainer must see some part of the body usually covered during the rest of the year(aka women lift up their shirts), a transaction that, according to locals, ensures 365 days of good luck.

The parades of the different associations (the carriages become true works of art) follow one another in a continuum of festivity, music and excesses that continues throughout the week preceding Ash Wednesday and on Tuesday, Carnival Explodes to its most exuberant degree.

When Are The Best Times to travel to New Orleans?

You can travel to the city of the Mississippi Delta throughout the year. The climate is mild and ranges from 50 degrees in the winter months to a maximum of 80 in the summer. Of course, it rains all year round but not too much (the rainy months are July and August). One of the best times to travel is during the Carnival or Mardi Gras festivities (February 28, 2017), the main festival of the city.

Another highlight is during the celebration of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival which is held every year in the months of April and May. It is one of the most important music festivals in the United States and is usually the world’s leading music figures.

The best bars and live music clubs in the city.

  • Tipitina’s (C / Napoleon Avenue, 501; Tel: (+1) 504 895 8477; E-mail: info@tipitinas.com)
  • Maple Leaf (C / Oak, 8316; Tel: (+1) 504 866 9359)
  • Rock N’Bowl (South Carrollton Avenue, 4133; Tel: (+1) 504 861 1700)
  • Le Bon Temps Roule (C / Magazine, 4801; Tel: (+1) 504 895 8117)
  • Snug Harbor (C / Frenchmen, 626; Tel: (+1) 504 949 0696; E-mail: info@snugjazz.com )
  • The Blue Nile (C / Frenchmen, 532, Tel: (+1) 504 948 2583), Twi-Ro-Po (C / Tchoupitoulas, 1544; Tel: (+1) 504 587 3777)
  • Vaughan’s (C / Lesseps, 800; Tel: (+1) 504 947 5562), Funky Butt! (C / North Ramport Street, 714; Tel: (+1) 504 588 0872).