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New Orleans 1

©11 The Media Desk

[NOTE: see content information below. thank you]

"New Orleans is what you expect it to be..."

-French Quarter hotel employee

New Orleans - by, for, and of... the tourists

      Face it. EVERY major city in the US is either a rotting hellhole of crime, industrial decay and despair, or a vibrant, exciting center of commerce and innovation. Whatever you are looking for, it is there. If you go into the downtown area of Chicago or Baltimore, you will find both, sometimes within a block or two. Empty warehouses and deteriorating vacant buildings occupying the same bus stop as upscale shops and urban re-vitalization. You can have long term empty spaces full of rats and unofficial 'transient' occupants right next door to high dollar boutiques and trendy nightspots, and you can have them anywhere.
      The only difference between, say, the inner city Philadelphia or Detroit and New Orleans is that you have the latter featured on hour long specials on cable news channels. And all the moreso given the double whammy of the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill debacle.
      According to the national broadcast media, New Orleans is still on life support. The town is in danger of folding up and turning off the lights and calling it quits. In spite of the "Saints" winning a major championship and the local AAA baseball Zephyrs having fireworks and other special nights, the town has had it and if you don't get there soon all you'll find is a forgotten exit off Interstate 10 that is no more lively than the closed Six Flags amusement park that is featured on a photography website as a great place to take forbidden pictures of a once great realm of entertainment and excitement.


      That is not the case at all.

      If you are looking for decay and rot and corruption and smelly alleys where the homeless crap next to a wall a block from an historic site, yeah, you'll find that. But you can also find that just off Times Square (see link to the Desk article below).
      But if you are looking for a ritzy wine and cheese tasting, it's there (see photo pages).
      If you want to see boats on the river, they're there too.
      If you want to see historic sites and stare at a topcoat worn by Jefferson Davis, that's there, complete with historically significant relics from before and after the War Between The States, WWII, and even the War of 1812, there is a reason they call it 'Jackson Square' after all.
      If you are looking for a quiet bar to have a drink in and maybe buy a souvenir or two, they're there too... and just not on Bourbon Street either. On the famous (?infamous?) Calle D Borbon almost every bar, and store, and club, and a few that defy easy categorization has music blasting loud enough to loosen your fillings. Many of those off the noted street don't.
      If you like to do some serious shopping, with a great view, and eat some good food, and ride a streetcar, and hear some of the best jazz and blues ever played by locals who play for tips dropped into their jug, this is the place to come.
      If you're looking to take hundreds of pictures of quaint buildings with amazing ironwork, gardens of flowers in arrays of explosive colors, and all the things that go with it. This is about the only place to do it.
      If you want to do a pub crawl down Bourbon Street until you're lucky to find your way back to your hotel, that's there as well. And you can do it with "three for one" drink specials as well... but more on that in the second article.

      The simple truth is that NOLA never left. Yeah, they had a rough go of it for a year or so. But the town that was founded by various Frenchmen (and assorted others of that sort) that were displaced from here and there, and that were then run by certain Spanish entities, that then went back to the French before those from 'upriver' came to town, and so on, is still here. And in some respects, it's better than ever.

      You didn't misread that, nor did the Desk commit one of it's infamous typos, if you want someplace to kick back and relax, or listen to loud, and in precious few cases- Good, music, you Can do that in the Crescent City. (The Desk is loath to use the expression 'Big Easy' because in its experience, there was damned near nothing 'easy' about it.)

      Yes, The Vieux Carre in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. is, in some respects, the 'adult playground' that Las Vegas trumpets about. It's this simple, if you want to do it, with certain given restrictions, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, you can do it. But we'll come back to that. And it will be an 'adults only' article.... ... no, we're not kidding.
      Some bars have posted signs outside that said 'no cigars' which meant the Desk wasn't going in. Others claimed they had a 'wild after hours party upstairs - for a small additional fee', well, no, sorry, not interested in that either. There were those that proclaimed that they had the 'best looking girls', or that their drinks were 'stronger' than other clubs. Sorry, the Desk swills Wild Turkey 101 from a coffee cup, you ain't topping that on a two or three for one special of rail drinks. No, sir.
      But if that is what you're looking for, with a nineteen eighties top forty cover band and some college girls who dance on the tables for drinks and tips, then you're home. And, believe it or not, you can get in some Bourbon Street bars without paying a cover charge, but you might be happier in the ones that charge people to enter, but that's up to you.

      Most tourists that come to town do tourist type things. They do the pub crawl, go shopping in the junque shops that all carry the same over-priced Chinese-made trinkets and T-shirts with dumb (and sometimes offensive) sayings that everybody carries home to give to their friends and family, and they eat at the restaurants that cater to people who have no idea how to eat a whole crawfish and get squeamish over the ingredients of dark Boudin sausage. Not only does the Desk eat crawfish, it got upset that there was no stand anywhere in the French Market that sold bulk meat including REAL blood sausage.
      That's right. According to a local source, after Katrina, the butcher never moved back into the Farmer's Market side of the French Market. There are several candy stands, a couple of shops of sauces and spices, you can get those T-shirts and sunglasses and masks, and a lunch to go, but you're not going to buy a pound or two of Boudin or Andouille sausage, or a basket of crabs or oysters or anything like real food. It just ain't happening at either of the markets along North Peters Street.
      But the Rouse's store in the Quarter does have a serviceable, if somewhat pricy, selection of locally sourced sausages and long loaves of crusty bread, so the day, and dinner, wasn't a total loss.

      The French Quarter would be called "Old City" or something like that in any other major city. That part of town is the 'Original' permanent European settlement.

Stand By For Obligatory History Lesson

      When the French built their town they centered it on what is now called Jackson Square and the St. Louis church (now Cathedral). Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville started out in Canada, for reasons we don't need to go into here he first ended up starting a colony that is now Mobile, Alabama, then later he found a bend in the Mississippi that he thought would make a town that would be at low risk from hurricanes. Oh, well. Still later he ended up beginning a settlement that is now Biloxi, Mississippi. Finally, worn out from city building and multiple terms as the local French governor, he ended up dying in Paris, France in 1767.
      New Orleans itself, and indeed, the vast majority of France's possessions in America, were swapped back and forth between France and Spain for the better part of the next century. During which it suffered a massive Good Friday fire that destroyed most of the city, several hurricanes blew through doing what hurricanes do, and there was the odd run in with Native Americans. Finally, in 1803, Emperor Napoleon unloaded the whole mess onto the young USA.
      Since then New Orleans has proven to be a key location in everything from the War of 1812 when General Andrew Jackson leading a badly outnumbered group of militia, pirates, slaves, and volunteers turned back a British force that was militarily superior in every way except one. The Americans had Andrew Jackson.
      After that war the importance of the city grew until during the War Between the States the City of New Orleans was a prime target for the Union which sent a strong navel force up the Mississippi in the spring of 1862 and captured the city with very little resistance, which spared it the fate towns like Atlanta.
      Since then, Bienville's town has grown, and spread, and faced disasters, and become equally well known as the name of a song from the seventies about a passenger train that started its run after World War Two.

END: History lesson. CUE: Musical interlude.
"Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

"Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done."

Written by Steve Goodman, first released on his self titled album, Buddah Records, 1972
Later covered by ... almost everybody.

      The name of the city itself invokes images of wrought ironwork around old European style buildings with vines and flowers glimmering in reflected light from gas lanterns. And to some degree, at least in the French Quarter with its Spanish architecture, and the Garden District off the Charles Street streetcar line and up in ... .... "?"
      Yeah, you read that right. The French Quarter isn't "French" per se. Between two great fires in 1788 and 1794, most of the 'Old City' in the French Quarter was destroyed or heavily damaged, including the area upriver and inland of what is now called Jackson Square all the way to Dauphine Street, which includes the majority of the 'touristy' area of Bourbon and Royal Streets. When it was rebuilt, it was done so under Spanish rule and in their architectural style. And once that style took root it spread throughout the city and can now be seen on new buildings constructed since Katrina.
      Which means that most of those visitors who are standing and staring at the amazingly intricate decoration on almost every building and thinking how it is so "French" didn't pay attention to their tour guide.

      Anyway, where were we? Never mind. Moving along.

      There are still artisans and craftsmen and local industry in the Quarter. But limited space, rising prices, outside competition, nightmarish traffic, and increased regulation are forcing them out. A case in point is the gaslight people at Jack's Metal Arts. They've been in the French Quarter on Decatur street, not far from the House of Blues in fact, building and restoring the iconic gas burning lamps seen throughout the city. But now, faced with all of the issues we just mentioned, they're having to move out to survive. But the owner, and one of the three master metal-smiths that practice their craft there say they will continue.
      In case you're in the mood for shopping, but perhaps aren't looking to buy an old fashioned hanging lantern for your portico, there are an array of antique shops, bookstores, quiet bars and restaurants, and all sorts of other shops throughout the area, all you have to do is walk a block or two toward the river from Bourbon Street to find them. Some links are below.

      The rest of the city is conveniently divided into those districts we've already mentioned. But the names are more of an idea than an actual physical division, with the given exception of the well defined French Quarter which has very well defined boundaries according to the historical limits of Jean-Baptiste's original settlement, and seems to be a self contained world unto itself.
      But if you visit the city and never get out of the Quarter and venture out to see the rest of it, you have done yourself a disservice, just don't try to drive, you can take a streetcar or a bus to anyplace worth going to and you'll enjoy the trip a lot more.
      New Orleans doesn't end at Canal Street, in many respects, it begins there.
      And likewise, New Orleans didn't end with the fire of 1788, or Katrina, the BP Oil Spill, or any of the endless political scandals that are as much part of the city as places that sell over-priced fried dough with powdered sugar (Beignets) and strong coffee.... No, it didn't end there, it began again, there.

To Article Page 2 Warning: Adult Theme!

To Article Page 3

To Picture Page 1

The New Orleans "Warnings and Disclaimers" Special Edition

And a page of photos best called Other Stuff

Assorted links to various New Orleans sites, all will open in a new window:

Because there is So Much to see and do, the Desk has limited itself to ONE EXAMPLE per category. For instance, there is one restaurant listed under the French Market and Jackson Square whereas if you stopped to count them you would quickly run out of fingers.

Inside the French Quarter:
Examples of the various categories of Non Bourbon Street shops: (all links will open in a new window)




Breakfast Place:

The French Market and Jackson Square:

The Market and it's great restaurant: (The Desk highly recommends their raw oysters!)

The Cathedral:

Major Attractions Outside the French Quarter:
Great view and good food at:
And, oh yeah... shopping too!

Louisiana's Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall:

The famous park and zoo:

The Streetcars may be the best way to get around AND see the town! (Just don't call it a 'trolley'!):

And (just so we don't leave Bourbon Street entirely out of the picture)-
The "blacksmith shop" as mentioned elsewhere in this series:

To Picture Page

To Article Page 2 Warning: Adult Theme!

To Article Page 3

The New Orleans "Warnings and Disclaimers" Special Edition

And a page of photos best called Other Stuff

The New York City Photo Essay as mentioned above.

[NOTE: What started out as a simple vacation turned into a week long look at the heart of the City of New Orleans by the Desk. This article and accompanying photo display pages are the results of that effort. All observations are by the Desk, all conclusions are his own, and may not represent anything in the real world from, by, or of anybody else.
    All photos were taken by either the Desk, or Mrs. Desk, who owns and controls the copyright of said images. All names and identifying marks, including the city, various buildings and businesses, and everybody and everything else are owned by their respective owners and are used here as part of this journalistic effort. If any said entity objects to their inclusion, said words and image will be removed. They may contact the Desk at: DrLeftover{!a~t!}TheMediaDesk{!d0t!}com (email scrambled due to spammer robots).
   The online presentation of this article and related photos is owned by, please see the following for further information:
    -thank you ]
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