New Orleans: a city of music and mystery

There’s so much to tell you about this city – the architecture, the music, the people, the food. New Orleans is unique and full of charm. You never run out of things to see – whether it’s the countless galleries, the intimate antiques shops or the bustlings bars and music venues.

After the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans became a place that relentlessly fought back and it continues to embrace the challenge of rebuilding itself. The thing that stands out the most is the unstoppable spirit and the love that the residents have for their city. They will do anything they can to assist it’s recovery. New Orleanians aren’t quitters.

When I was in New Orleans, I kept this quote from a Newspaper as I couldn’t agree more.

New Orleans is magical

It’s hard to explain, but everywhere you go, there’s an energy that feels electric. Magic and mysticism are a real part of New Orleans’ culture.The French Quarter is thriving with psychics, tarot readers, tea readers, palm readers, voodoo temples and shrines.

We visited a place called “Bottom of the Cup,” a famous tea room open since 1929 which offers psychic readings. It was a quaint little room with a choice of over 100 different teas – I chose the the lavender Earl Grey with honey and it was simply divine. You sit and drink your tea at the front of the shop and you can then choose to go for a reading (either tarot, tea leaves or palm reading) in the curtained rooms at the back.

My tarot reader was a sweet old southern lady who was full of wisdom and positivity. She told me a lot of interesting things about my trip and the people I’d meet, and then left me with some advice. These are some of the things that stuck with me:

The sins of this world are not the things you do, it’s the things you don’t do.”

Don’t doubt yourself…ever. At least give it your best try, and your best try might be magnificent.”

All you have to have is the idea and the desire – and when you know you can do something, you can’t fail.”

Her final words were: “I think you’re going to do fabulous. You have so much going for you honey, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

What lovely words…

The spooky side to New Orleans

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a ghost hunter, you’ll love that paranormal element of New Orleans. The city is notorious for its hauntings and there are several different ghost tours you can go on. Our hotel (Le Pavillon) embraced its haunted history and even had a brochure detailing the paranormal activity reported on each floor.

My friend Kate was brave enough to read the paranormal report before we went to bed but I was far too spooked out, especially when Kate teased me with information such as: “oh my…! There have been hauntings in the ROOM NEXT DOOR.” Apparently people have seen all sorts of things from apparitions of figures standing at the foot of the bed to an aristocratic middle aged couple.

Here is a sample page from the paranormal report.

I googled stories about the hotel (after we left) and read that a man had visited for a conference and had woken up to see a grey haired old woman sitting on his bed. He felt her cold hand touch his face and she muttered the words: “I will never leave you.” I’m so glad I read that after we left the hotel. Luckily there were no spooky occurrences when I was there and it was an incredibly beautiful place to stay.

New Orleans and its culinary legacy

This is a city known for it’s cuisine. It’s a wonderful experience walking down the buzzing streets with the intoxicating scent of spicy cajun food drifting through the air as you listen to the sweet sound of music playing everywhere you go.

Some of the most traditional dishes are:

Beignets – sometimes known as a “french doughnut,” a crispy dough pillow covered with powdered sugar.

Gumbo – a mix of okra, stock, onions and celery served over rice, with either meat or seafood.

Jambalaya – a classic New Orleans stew with sausage, vegetables, spices, seafood and long grain rice.

Po-boy – a huge sandwich piled high with a deli meat and topped with a special gravy.

Shrimp Creole – shrimp mixed with peppers, onions, tomatoes, celery and spices.

Sadly, when we got to New Orleans, we were fighting pretty bad cases of the flu so our appetites refused to let us appreciate the full extent of New Orleans culinary magic. I know I’ll definitely go back one day, and perhaps I’ll go on a food tour so I can play catch up with the things I didn’t try.

New Orleans is MUSIC

Wherever you walk, you can hear music, it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Every corner, you hear the vibrations of guitar strings or the beat of a drum. The French Quarter is the cultural epicentre of this city as well as one of the oldest neighbourhoods. Bourban Street is the place to find jazz bars, street performers, and countess live music venues for every taste.

Here are a couple of talented street performers we came across giving a unique rendition of Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are.” 

We were lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival (JazzFest) so got an extraordinary taste of the different music this city has to offer. JazzFest had everything from jazz, to blues, to gospel, to folk, to latin to cajun music.

One of our favourite acts at JazzFest was Bobby Rush – a 76 year old crooner who seemed to have a fascination with a certain part of a woman’s anatomy. He even revealed that in his eyes: “the bigger a woman’s underwear is, the more attractive she is.” You can watch this clip 100 times and not get fed up of it – he is hilarious! 

New Orleans is all about the people

The thing that makes New Orleans special is the people – they are so warm and welcoming. Asking a policeman if I was heading the right way to get to the taxi rank…I got the response: “Yeah you are baby…” Baby? A policeman calling me baby? I like it. 

…but it wasn’t just the policeman. It was all part of the Southern charm. 

On the train to New Orleans, the waitress in the restaurant cart greeted me by saying: “Well hello there baby, I’m going to save you a chocolate brownie for later, you gotta have some dessert.” There’s definitely a reason why the phrase ‘Southern hospitality’ was invented. 

New Orleans was a great place to relax, let your hair down, listen to the music and feel part of the action. There’s always something to do – even if it’s simply strolling down the streets and admiring the stunning creole cottages, colourful 18th century townhouses and the elegant mansions. Four nights was not enough time; I yearned to see more, to taste the food, to listen to more music and to experience the thriving nightlife.

So if anyone is planning to go to New Orleans in the future, take me with you…I still need to experience more of this magical and enchanting place.