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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe French Quarter was originally founded in 1718 and this “grid” was an area of seventy square miles. Jean Baptiste Bienville, a Canadian Naval Officer was a governor in the Indies and at the time, chose it as an area for trading and it later became a bastion community. The French Quarter of today is less than a square mile in size but full of life and culture; it reaches six blocks wide and 13 blocks long, all in one compacted area. Many people know it as The Crescent City and this is due to its unique shape, which follows the Mississippi River's curve.
Also known as Vieux Carre, which means “Old Square”, it is the oldest neighborhood in the entire city of New Orleans. With Spanish rule, the buildings were mainly built in the late 18th century and are considered historic landmarks. In fact, through the Historic Landmark Commission, there are regulations against demolishing buildings and even information on how to preserve and protect the buildings. For instance, while changes can be made to a structure, the integrity of the historic value must be maintained and there is an application that is required to be handed in as well as a proposal of what changes are be made. These proposals are thoroughly examined to insure that the changes are appropriate to the structure. This architecture is a mix of cultures and Creole, Spanish, French, and American styles are present. An example is the Spanish influence of walled courtyards or the cast iron balconies which were influenced by Baroness Pontabella, who had them on her own houses. You'll also find plenty of wrought iron fencing and intricate balconies. You'll find a myriad of styles such as shotgun houses, Creole cottages, American townhouses, California-style bungalows, and double gallery houses amongst the architecture.
In 1788 and again in 1994 there was a fire that almost destroyed the city so the single chimneys and plastered walls you see were put into place to protect the dwellings.
While Hurricane Katrina led to the devastation in parts of New Orleans in 2005, the French Quarter was fortunate enough to have not flooded due to its location. It sits at a higher elevation and only sustained little wind damage and debris.
Jackson Square in the French QuarterOne of the most popular and influential areas in the neighborhood of the French Quarter is Jackson Square. It was originally known as Place d'Armes but was renamed to honor the hero of the Battle of New Orleans , Andrew Jackson. It is the home of the oldest apartment buildings in the entire United States, the Pontalba Apartments, and you'll find many historic structures such as Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral.
Today, you'll find a bustling area full of tourists and locals. There are street musicians, artists, a plethora of restaurants with authentic New Orleans food, shopping, and you can even sit by the Mississippi River and enjoy the view or take in the Moon Walk, which is a brick walking path named after a city mayor, Moon Landrieu.
Other Areas in the French Quarter
Bourbon StreetBourbon Street is the quintessential area that most people are familiar with. Stretching eight blocks, this is the area where most people go to party. It has bars, restaurants, and even tourist traps but is the place to go for a good time whether you're visiting or a local.
Royal StreetRoyal Street is just a short walk away and while it's only one block in size, it is the place to go for art, specialty shops, and upscale antiques. It is the polar opposite of what you'll find on Bourbon Street even though it's literally a few steps away.
Things to do in the French QuarterAlthough Mardi Gras and the Jazz Fest is the time where you'll find the most visitors in the French Quarter, there are many other things to take part in during any time of the year. Tours are in abundance and allow you to see another side of the culture of the area. For instance, there are many cemetery tours and even voodoo tours. The cemeteries of the French Quarter are unique and full of history so taking a tour and learning about them is quite enlightening. There are also swamp tours, walking tours of the Garden District and many other areas including pub crawls, haunted tours, plantation tours, and more.
Restaurants in New OrleansIt's no secret that the food in New Orleans is like no other. Whether it's shrimp creole, jambalaya, gumbo, or a po-boy sandwich, you can find it all and more, in the French Quarter. What you won't find are chain restaurants but what you will discover is a blend of many cultures including African, French, Spanish, Caribbean, American Indian, Italian, Oriental, Latin American, and Yugoslavian.
There are many famous chefs who call New Orleans their home and in the French Quarter you can find names like Emeril Lagasse and others who are icons of the area. Commander's Palace is another famous restaurant that has been in the business since 1880. You will want to dress accordingly because Commander's Palace is a place that requires the men to wear closed toe shoes, ties, and jackets are preferred.
Many of the eateries in the French Quarter have been around for decades. For instance, the Acme Seafood and Oyster House on Royal Street started in 1910 and the Acme Cafe and Antoine's on St. Louis Street has been in business since 1840. You will find some newer places and some are even part of a chain like the Bayou Burger Sports Bar on Bourbon Street which features alligator and venison burgers as well as crawfish beignets as an appetizer.
And speaking of beignets, no trip to the French Quarter or New Orleans for that matter, would be complete without a trip to Cafe du Monde. The first Cafe du Monde was founded in 1862 in New Orlean's French Market and serves up beignets, which are French donuts that are square in shape, fried, and covered in powered sugar. Their coffee consists of coffee and chicory, which has a rich, almost sweet taste that is so much tastier than any other coffee you'll find. They're not only open 24 hours a day but open every day except Christmas or under hurricane conditions.
No matter what kind of food you like, everything tastes better in the French Quarter. You'll find the freshest Gulf seafood and combinations like nowhere else in the world. You will want to prepare for heaping portions though or at least have access to keep your leftovers fresh because the portions are typically huge. The costs range from reasonable to extravagant depending on where you eat but it's an experience you won't forget.
Religion in the French QuarterAlthough you'll find mainly Catholic influence in this area, you will find a mix of religious backgrounds including Voodoo, which came from its West African origins and is a combination of other influences including European, Roman, and African Catholicism. You'll find that the French Quarter embraces this practice and you can check out the various Voodoo shops and take in the history of the most famous Voodoo Queen, Marie La Veau . By the way, Louisiana Voodoo is mostly practiced in that area and is not the same as Haitian Vodou.
Things to Keep in MindParking is very difficult in New Orleans due to the narrow streets and abundance of one-way streets. Most people find it easier to take a taxi or one of the famous streetcars. If you do drive, you will also find that it is not only hard to find a parking spot but it is expensive to park as well. Even hotels will charge for parking so always ask before you book so that you are aware of the charges. For decades, there wasn't even anything available other than public transportation. You can drive now but be prepared for some difficulty.
Keep your children out of the French Quarter at night or during Mardi Gras. This is an area known for its debauchery and it's not uncommon to see girls pulling up their shirts for beads, drunk people, and hear plenty of curse words. In the daytime (not during Mardi Gras), it may be more acceptable but Bourbon Street especially, is no place for your kids. However, Jackson Square and surrounding areas offer something for everyone.
The French Quarter and New Orleans itself is like any other major city, there is crime. However, when you take into consideration how many visitors it has each day and the amount of crime, which has decreased somewhat, it may be an area that is on the top 25 of the most dangerous cities but a little common sense goes a long way. Watch your money, don't stray into areas you're not familiar with during the day or at night, keep an eye on your surroundings, and avoid areas if you feel you may be unsafe. The cemeteries are some of the most popular tourist spots and during the daytime they are usually full of other tourists and guides so they are somewhat safe to visit. However, since they do close at dusk unless there is a tour, you should not venture into them alone or at night. And while indulging in adult beverages is common on a visit to the French Quarter, don't drink so much that you are not aware of what is going on around you. Not only is that a dangerous practice, you can find yourself arrested if you do something illegal.
No matter what you decide to do in New Orleans, you're sure to have a good time in a city that is unique from every other municipality in the United States, or even the world.
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Author: Karsun. Last updated: Mar 01, 2016