The Travelling Boomer is off to New Orleans! It’s time to get away from winter for a few days, and if I had to pick just one U.S. city to do it in, it would be the Big Easy. This is a city with more history, culture, art and sheer enjoyment than two or three other cities combined.
If there’s one word to describe New Orleans, it’s unique. That’s partly because of the amazing number of influences that have swept through the city over the past 300 years. Founded by the French, given to the Spanish, claimed by the Americans, inhabited by African slaves, Cajuns from French Canada, traders from the Caribbean — it’s a place with a flavour all its own.
The food, the music, the architecture, the customs – even New Orleans’ cemeteries are like nowhere else in North America. The old-fashioned St. Charles streetcars still rumble across town (remember the Streetcar Named Desire?), and the riverboats still ply the Mississippi, with bands playing the music that was born in this city – jazz.
Of course, we can’t forget Mardi Gras, which busts out in the Big Easy like nowhere else on earth. The really big Carnival may be in Rio De Janeiro, but Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a whole different spectacle, with the local “Krewes” showering beads and gold coins on the crowds from fanciful floats along the parade routes.
Mardi Gras is Feb. 28 this year, so I’m arriving a bit early in order to avoid the crazy prices and huge crowds that Fat Tuesday brings. But I’ll still be able to see a couple of the famous Mardi Gras parades before I leave. And I’ll be able to stroll down Bourbon Street, listen to the music pouring out of doorways all over the French Quarter, sample some jambalaya – maybe even do a haunted house tour.
I’m travelling with my nephew — a musician himself — who’s never seen New Orleans before. For him, it’ll be a great adventure: you never forget your first trip to New Orleans. For me, it’ll be a long-awaited return, after an absence of 15 years. I planned visits in both 2015 and 2016, but neither went ahead. Now I’ll be back, to renew an old acquaintance and see how the city has changed.
Sadly, New Orleans has changed. I haven’t been back since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and I’m told the damage is still visible in parts of the city. But happily, the French Quarter – the jewel in the crown – was relatively unscathed, and I look forward to seeing it again.
I also look forward to seeing some of the amazing country around New Orleans: – the river delta, the dark, brooding bayous, the grand plantation houses along river road. Who knows where we may end up going?
Our plane leaves today, if we survive the widely predicted ice storm. But one way or another, we’re going to New Orleans. And with any luck, I’ll be writing my next post while enjoying some coffee and beignets (that’s French for sugar-dusted doughnuts) in the Café du Monde. So, let the good times roll — or as they say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!