Road Warrior’s Journal: Jazzing up New Orleans

Today I would like to tell you about my Labor Day weekend trip to the City that Care Forgot. Are you confused? Let me clear it up for you. I am talking about New Orleans. This magnificent city goes by different names: Crescent City, Big Easy, Birthplace of Jazz, and the most famous nickname, NOLA. And while Labor Day weekend was two months ago, I am just now getting around to posting the photos I have taken during my trip. Hope that this delay was worth it and that you do enjoy the photos even if they are two months old.

This city brings out a range of emotions from people who visit it. One might hate New Orleans while someone else would absolutely love it. After spending some time in New Orleans, I can conclude that I fall into the category of people who view the city in favorable light. I find New Orleans to be a very unique city with incredible history behind every corner. The city is older than the United States itself and it has been under control of both France and Spain before being acquired by the US. There are so many fascinating stories associated with New Orleans that I would recommend to get a guide and go on a tour.

My girlfriend and I got lucky and got an extremely knowledgeable guy as our tour guide. He talked about New Orleans and its history non stop for full two hours. We couldn't even get a comment in because he would tell us one story after another in order to get us familiar with the events of the past. We did not object to that, as we could barely walk around, let alone speak. You see, we were staying near the biggest casino in New Orleans. And it just so happened that the night before the tour, we ended up drinking and gambling till the middle of the night. It is worth saying that our tour started at 10AM, so you can only imagine the condition we were in. It was all worth it, however, as I have learned a handful of captivating and fascinating stories about the Big Easy. So let me share few interesting facts about the city with you, courtesy of the walking Wikipedia I had for a guide.

The most shocking piece of information to me was the fact that French Quarter was not actually built by the French. All of the original buildings that have been built by the French were destroyed by two huge fires that happened within a decade of each other. Because the city management under France did not enforce any sort of building standards, the French build their houses out of wood and placed the said houses wherever they wanted. No wonder when the first fire started, the lack of architectural organization and the flammable material led to majority of the French Quarter being destroyed. French Quarter as seen today was mostly re-built by Spanish immigrants.

You are probably asking what Spain has to do with New Orleans… Let me clarify this. When France lost yet another war against its archenemy England, the French king knew that he would have to forfeit some of the land to the victor. He did not want to give such a vast piece of land away to its sworn enemy, however, as such the king of France gifted Louisiana territory to his cousin, the king of Spain. That way, the king of France could politely inform his English counterpart that Louisiana territory is non-negotiable as it is under Spain’s control. Naturally, England would not want to risk going to war with Spain over some land located on the other side of the world. And that is how Spanish settlers appeared in New Orleans. I am actually glad that French Quarter was rebuilt by Spanish immigrants and almost none of the original buildings remained. Our guide showed us a couple of French-era buildings that survived the fire and I must say that they are pretty ugly and unoriginal compared to the architecture create by the Spaniards.

Another fact that I did not know as well is that New Orleans is considered to be one of the most criminal cities in the United States. Locals are joking that it is due to the city`s historically criminal legacy. Some of the very first settlers who came to this land were criminals and pirates. French government released criminals from jails allowing them to go free under a condition that they will settle the distant lands of Louisiana. To take care of the population issue, French government also rounded up local ladies of the night and sent them along with the ex-criminals to New Orleans. Funny fact is that while there were about fifty or sixty male criminals that were sent to New Orleans, the number of females that were sent along with them was almost double the number of men. Must have been pretty nice to be one of the early male settlers of New Orleans.

Now, would you want to take a wild guess as to what these settlers did as soon as they got to New Orleans? They went back to their beloved lifestyle that landed them in jail to begin with. Our guide told us that when European powers built port cities in the colonies they would follow general architecture and city planning rules in order for visitors to be able to identify if the city is a colony of a European country or a city of locals. This general set of rules included first building the church on the designated “main square” area, thus the colonists would first build a place of worship. In New Orleans church was only the third building to be constructed. The first two buildings were a gambling house and a brothel.

The overall atmosphere in the city is quite unique and special. You hear jazz music everywhere including in the cafes, on the streets and even in the bars. It almost makes you feel like you have a soundtrack that has been added to your life in order to make it more interesting. The crowd is colorful and represents a whole spectrum of humankind. You are surrounded by other tourists, local artists, musicians, magicians, street performers, fortune tellers and voodoo priests. The culture of voodoo has a very strong presence in New Orleans. As told by our tour guide, voodoo was brought to the city by black slaves more than a century ago. Interesting fact is that Voodoo is actually a religion. Even more surprisingly it is very similar to the Catholic branch of Christianity. It was falsely interpreted by Protestant settlers who came to settle New Orleans after Louisiana became part of the United States to be some sort of dark magic.

I want to dedicate a separate section of my blog post to the national World War II museum located in New Orleans. We decided to visit this museum in the morning before departing back home. I was naively thinking that one and a half hour in the museum would be enough for us to get a good understanding of what it is about. Boy, was I wrong. The museum is huge and offers a number of interesting activities. Due to the lack of time, we had to forego all of the documentary movies and focus solely on the exhibition parts. Museum is broken into two major parts: European and Pacific amphitheaters. We spent two hours going through the exhibitions as we would watch different documentary segments on TVs and read at least some of the articles.

Museum does a fantastic job of placing you into the war surrounding with flashing lights and sounds of shooting machine guns. Even though you know these effects are fake it made me uncomfortable rather fast. I cannot even imagine having to be in this sort of situation in real life. I liked the way this World War II museum delivered the content and how they were able to encompass both parts of the war under one building providing enough details and facts in order to broaden your knowledge about the events of the last world war. What I liked even more is the fact that even though it was Sunday morning, there were already a lot of adults and kids who came to visit the museum. I am a believer that it is highly important to remember and honor the events of the past and keep the sacrifice of these great soldiers in your mind. I would definitely recommend this museum to anyone visiting New Orleans regardless of age.

I really enjoyed my stay in New Orleans because I was able to experience a multidimensional fun. I gambled and drank at Harrah’s Casino, I explored and learned about the history of the city, I visited a World War II museum, and finally ate amazing cajun food. I am definitely coming back to this city as three days were not enough to cover all the things that New Orleans has to offer. Therefore I will be back, City that Care Forgot, you just wait and see!