In this post I want to start writing about some favorite places I have seen on my travels. I want to separate them though into different categories and start at first with culture. When I think of a place that gave me one of the best cultural experiences, I think of New Orleans. New Orleans brims with culture and my favorite thing about New Orleans? The music. Music seems to be everywhere you go, from small, impromptu groups of musicians playing at a neighborhood park or square to the many wonderful jazz clubs throughout the city. Even the National Park employees have their own jazz band at the local jazz museum. Probably the most famous venue is Preservation Hall, founded in 1961 in the French Quarter to preserve and promote New Orleans jazz. Concerts are held every night in a tiny venue where most people will not be lucky to snag one of the few available seats and will have to stand for the performance. But the performers are legendary and so talented that it makes standing worthwhile.
One of the most fun evenings I have experienced is when one of my new friends from the tour group I was traveling with and I went “club hopping,” attending several jazz clubs. It really hit home that New Orleans had a special affinity for music when I used the bathroom in one of the clubs and in the bathroom was a piano! This gave me quite a chuckle!
New Orleans is known for not only music but great food which I was able to experience as well. There were a number of favorite foods on my trip including Dooky Chase’s legendary Creole Restaurant, a bowl of gumbo soup at “Gumbo Shop,” the amazing pork sandwich at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, our delicious meal at the New Orleans School of Cooking, the Bananas Foster French Toast (see below) and the many praline candy stores around the city. I have a real sweet tooth and couldn’t get enough of this delicious candy. See the picture below of the pralines we got to see made and then taste at at the cooking school.
While at New Orleans I learned about the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians, a fascinating history here in the city. We ate at a restaurant owned by a Mardi Gras Indian who created and made his own costume each year for the Mardi Gras parade and festival. The costumes or suits are influenced by Native American ceremonial apparel and very elaborate in design. Our host displayed all of his suits at the restaurant and tried on a few for us to see during his presentation. In the picture below I am standing next to one of the suits.
The culture of New Orleans is about enjoying life and expressing this with fun, frivolity, dance and outrageous attire. This woman was a joy to watch on Bourbon Street. She knew how to kick up her heels!
As we plan our routes of exploration across the country in this new nomadic life, New Orleans is one place I definitely want to return to for a visit. In fact, I want to see as much of Louisiana as possible. The jazz music of New Orleans and Cajun songs of Louisiana are calling to me!