Introducing New Orleans
A heady confluence of the haughty European and the boisterous third-world, New Orleans is often referred to as the northernmost Caribbean city. Precious architecture stands alongside careening overloaded junk trucks, sumptuous delicacies tickle palates while offal in the streets offends the eyes. Never be in a hurry, and any time you step outside, be ready for a meandering conversation with a total stranger.
In August 2005 New Orleans' various strata were laid bare when Hurricane Katrina lashed the city and levee breaks left residents scrambling for their lives. But even after her hardships, the town’s unofficial motto and pervading gestalt is Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll). The people of New Orleans have embraced the process of rebuilding, and though the population in town has been halved by the post-storm diaspora, the areas along the river, most-frequented by visitors, never saw flooding and are rich once again with the city’s trademark joyfulness.
New Orleans' vibrant, old-school panache lends a certain dignity to otherwise debauched activities. Revelers throw strings of beads from cast-iron balconies in appreciation of beautiful strangers passing below. The sonorous echoes of unbelievably sweet jazz, funky brass, R&B and blues beat from unexpected corners, and dancing becomes a reaction, not a choice. Meanwhile succulent restaurant aromas recall a history infused with African, Spanish, French, Italian and Caribbean cultural influences.
It’s a great city to walk around, anchored by the beguiling French Quarter and the adjoining faubourgs (originally, ‘suburbs’). Despite the city’s bawdy reputation, it’s the moment when things are quiet – late afternoon when everyone is at the hotel getting ready to go out, early morning when the light explodes on the city and work crews come out to spray away last night’s sins – that New Orleans reveals its subtler charms.
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Best places to stay in New Orleans
New Orleans city guide
New Orleans is all about experiencing the divine through mortal senses. There’s joy, from great food to the pandemonium of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, and serenity, in the shade between live oaks, or watching fireflies on Bayou St John.
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Lonely Planet has produced this article for Cash Passport. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality...
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