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Eat a Delicious Beignet after Strolling the Old Streets of New Orleans' Famed French Quarter

Published by Kristin Cowles, Editor-in-Chief

Country: United States

The Experience

A visit to New Orleans doesn't have to coincide with Mardi Gras in order for you to enjoy the city's savory character. In fact, many of New Orleans’ most enduring charms can be enjoyed with a simple stroll through the famous French Quarter.

The French Quarter is the oldest district in New Orleans, Louisiana. Founded in 1718 by the French, it is known by locals as Vieux Carre (old square) as it reflects the art and architecture of the Spanish era. Descending down the world famous Bourbon Street with beads around our necks, we caught an energetic rendition of the Rocky theme song wafting out from a nearby karaoke bar. As the sun began its journey into the darkness, we decided to make room in our tummies for the famed beignets from the Café du Monde. At the north end of the French Market, Café du Monde is a pillar in the heart of the French Quarter. Established in 1862, Café du Monde is known far and wide for its chicory blended coffee, smooth café au lait and French-style beignets.

Further along the promenade in the courtyard of St. Anthony’s Garden, our eyes grew wide as a statue of Jesus Christ lengthened its grand shadow along the backdrop of the St. Louis Cathedral. Located on Chartes Street, St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest operating cathedral in the United States, and is flanked by other historic buildings on the edge of the Jackson Square. These include the Cabildo (the old city hall) and Presbytère (an old court house), now both of which are museums.

Walking alongside St. Louis Cathedral and down the dimly lit Pirates Alley, the sun had now set fully and the history of the French Quarter takes on a more ghostly and spectral identity. Pirates Alley leads into the main breadth of the historic Jackson Square where local restaurants emit a palpable odour of creole and cajun seasoning that consumes the night air. Here, you can watch tarot card readers tell fortunes or local artisans bring to life their surroundings. Horse and carriage rides pass by close to the pavement, and the spirited crowds of pedestrians carry plastic cups filled with cocktails.

Crossing over Decatur Street, which runs parallel to the Mississippi River, you can catch the faint glimpses of local Cajun, Zydeco, Jazz, and Blues music. Street performers line the walkway, and from the top of the embankment you can sit on a bench and star-gaze out over the great Mississippi River. A suitable end to a sensory-stuffed stroll.

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When to Go to French Quarter

The best time to visit the French Quarter in New Orleans is anytime when the heat and humidity are at their lowest. If you can’t take the heat, then it is not advisable go in July or August as temperatures range from around 90°F (and the added humidity makes it feel over 100°F). The best time of year in which to comfortably enjoy the French Quarter is during the early spring and mid-to-late fall seasons when temperatures range from 60°–80°F.

The best time to visit the French Quarter from a party perspective is during a festival or a holiday season, such as: Mardi Gras, Halloween, New Year, Jazz Festival, Voo Doo Festival, etc. Scheduling a bachelor or bachelorette party in the French Quarter would also be an unforgettable and legendary experience.

Odds n' Ends

The French Quarter is a popular destination within New Orleans. It’s home to the world famous Bourbon Street, which features restaurants, bars, balconies, burlesque clubs, souvenir shopping, and sex shops. These main attractions are situated in a surprisingly small area consisting of only eight street blocks. Despite the racy adult theme of Bourbon Street, do not be surprised to see families with small children.

The one-way streets within the French Quarter are small and narrow, so there aren’t any bus tours along these streets. For an intimate historical approach to the French Quarter, a walking tour or a horse and carriage ride is your best bet. If you’re brave enough, don’t be afraid to ask your horse and carriage guide to give you a haunted history tour (and check out the ghost, voodoo, or vampire walking tours at night!).

New Orleans is the home of the cocktail, and its bar staff take their jobs very seriously. They are easily approachable and enjoy a good conversation about cocktails and the history of their bar, city or street. New Orleans is also one of the few cities in the US where you can walk along the streets with alcohol (in plastic containers); so do take advantage! They also have a few absinthe bars, which are very hard to come by.

The French Quarter is easy to stroll around, and it’s a great place to see what you can stumble upon. Don’t just peer in along its edges or only go on Bourbon St—get in there and explore it! Go antiquing along Royal Street, examine the bronze plaques on historical buildings, walk along the Mississippi River, enjoy the local art, absorb the culture, haggle over souvenirs at the French Market—and most importantly: eat your way through it.

Special thanks to our guest writers Guy and Girl Travels! www.guyandgirltravels.com.

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