It’s an obligatory trip. You must visit le Vieux Carré while in New Orleans. It’s a social requirement, if not an official one. And so I did. A couple of times, in fact.
It’s the oldest neighborhood in the city. Also known as The French Quarter, New Orleans started here. Traces of its rich history lay scattered about, though often dripping in the modern day glimmer and fanfare of the Big Easy. But if you search beyond the surface-level sparkle, you find the treasure of centuries of unique culture and personality that created New Orleans.
Let’s start here, at the Cathedral of Saint Louis, King of France. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States as well as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. It is a magnificent building, though I only viewed it from the outside. There was a mass underway when I visited, so I did not go inside.
Inside, a quiet, ceremonial, structured mass. Just outside, a mass of people, song, street artists, tourists, and beautiful, colorful chaos. Jackson Square is just across the road.
Actually, I’m not sure it was a road. It could have been a courtyard. The roads in the French Quarter were confusing to me. Many are closed to vehicles because of the massive amounts of pedestrians. Others were simply overcame with pedestrians, so vehicles had a hard time pushing through.
A person can easily spend a day strolling in the French Quarter. I suggest taking advantage of the city’s streetcars, which offer an inexpensive and fun way to travel from spot to spot. I picked up the streetcar in a different district and rode it to the French Quarter and back.
If you’re there in the evening, you can take in nightlight of all types. I experienced both Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street. I didn’t care much for Bourbon Street. While I had the time of my life dancing with friends to a live band inside a bar there, everything outside the bar was far beyond my level of comfort.
I enjoyed the calmer (but still quite active) atmosphere of Frenchman Street. I almost didn’t want to write about this jewel of an area, because I don’t want it overrun with rowdy drunks the next time I visit.
A cornerstone of New Orleans’ personality, live music is every where in the city – especially in the French Quarter.
However, despite the evening festivities, my favorite time in the French Quarter was my day visit. I enjoyed walking through the neighborhoods, viewing the buildings, touching the old stone walls and taking in the rich color of the area in full spectrum. That day is kept with my most treasured of travel memories.
At the end of several hours of exploring, I made my way back to the streetcar stop on the banks of the Mississippi river and enjoyed another spectacular view.
As the sun set on my last day in New Orleans, I stepped back on the streetcar finally content that I had experienced the best of le Vieux Carré.