A Gumbo of Pleasures in America’s Most Un-American City
N’Awlins is a fascinating city of contradictions, a sultry melting pot of indigenous French, Spanish, Creole, and Southern styles that perfectly blends decadence and elegance, Old South conservatism and rowdy debauchery, extroversion and sleepiness, gentility and tawdriness.
It’s hard to imagine a more impulsive or seductive city (this is where Rhett Butler brought Scarlett O’Hara for their honeymoon) or a more palatable one – the food scene is one of the country’s most remarkable (see restaurant entry that follows) and music is everywhere.
The myriad pleasures of the Big Easy are jam-packed within the lively grid of streets that make up the Vieux Carré (French Quarter), the heavily touristed yet also heavily residential heart of the city, a compact ninety-square-block neighborhood of narrow cobbled streets first laid out by the French and Spanish in the 1720s.
Gloriously faded 18th- and 19th-century landmark buildings house swanky stores selling museum-quality antiques, alongside others hawking alligator paté and voodoo paraphernalia all hours of the day.
Out on the streets you’ll risk sensory overload from the musicians, magicians, psychics, human sculptures, and tap dancers (who use bottle caps on their shoes). Jackson Square, facing the Mississippi River, is the epicenter of activity – you can take it all in from the alfresco, twenty-four-hour Café du Monde on the square’s shady edge, famous for its beignets (deep-fried doughnuts dusted in powdered sugar) and chicory-charged coffee, a curious custom left over from Civil War days.