New Orleans: where the ghosts of history and the spirit of the present live in harmony
Story and photo album by Dwight Casimere
NEW ORLEANS—Few places reverberate with the voice of history, as does the City of New Orleans. Walking the cobble stoned streets of the French Quarter in the pre-dawn hours, when the only other sound is the distant clip-clop of a mule drawn carriage, one can almost hear the faint whispers emanating from its time worn walls. As dawn casts its golden spell from the depths of the Mississippi River across Canal Street, the restlessness of time shrugs the sleepy shoulders of this gracious old Southern Belle and sends her groggily down Bourbon Street, sidestepping half-spilled bottles of Arbita Ale and shattered Hurricane glasses, the dregs of the previous night’s revelry.
New Orleans is history’s museum come to life. Each wayward turn down a rain-slicked alley or peek behind a flower encrusted garden fence is a window into its past and a looking-glass view of its present and future.
A streetcar trundles down Canal Street towards the New Orleans Museum of Art, now celebrating its centennial. Friday evenings, “Where Y’Art” is a series of live music performances, family activities, gallery walk throughs, impromptu theatre performances and speeches.
The nearby Warehouse District is bursting at the seams with new restaurants and museums. The National World War II Museum has both, in the form of a 4D movie and exhibit that traces the course of the war, recalling images of the courage and sacrifice of those who served.
Chef John Besh’s new restaurant, The American Sector, adjacent to the museum, celebrates New Orleans and American cuisine, circa the1940s with a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, complete with southern comfort foods and a USO-inspired floorshow complete with Andrews Sisters look and sound-alikes.
Contemporary Arts Center offerings spill out into the street with examples of cutting-edge art dominating the nearby parks and street corners. Next fall, the CAC will mark its 35th anniversary with its Art for Art’s Sake street fair market, expected to bring out thousands of art lovers from around the world.
Fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans. The gardens seem to vibrate with color. Many restaurants feature garden spaces for casual dining, It’s a great way to enjoy the chef’s dazzling creations and sample the city’s myriad culinary treasures that span everything from classic Cajun and Creole to Latin, Mediterranean and New Orleans fusion.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and nowhere is that more evident than in the clubs along Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street. Just stray a bit north of the main part of the Quarter and you’ll stumble upon Snug Harbor, the restaurant and cabaret where music legend Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the Marsalis music dynasty, holds forth with weekly jam sessions that often include the likes of local and international superstars Aaron Neville and Allen Toussaint. The upcoming free sixth annual Blues and BBQ Festival, October 14-16 is a perfect opportunity to catch up with these music legends.
The soul and spirit of “Joie de Vivre” lives and breathes in New Orleans.