From April 13th to 15th, take the pulse of old New Orleans with the French Quarter Festival. On the program, many free concerts, in the streets or in bars: gospel, jazz, Latin music, classical, Cajun & Zydeco, brass band… but also a Cajun culinary festival. More than a year and a half after the Katrina disaster, New Orleans has not lost its sense of rhythm. Go for it !
The Vieux-Carré or French Quarter: the soul of New Orleans
The Vieux-Carré is the soul of New Orleans, the district where the metropolis of Louisiana draws, according to legend, its French roots. In original version, we call it “French Quarter”, that says it all! With Jackson Square at its heart and the famous Bourbon Street as its backbone, the French Quarter was certainly designed by a French architect in the XNUMXth century, but at the time of Spanish domination. And yes ! There is something Iberian about the colonial houses with their magnificent wrought iron balconies. But what does the flag matter as long as we have architectural intoxication!
While the western part of the city has always been more English, the French Quarter has long been the Creole heart of New Orleans. And, unsurprisingly, this is where jazz took off, on Bourbon Street, at the turn of the XNUMXth century. Eminently touristy today, the artery was then only a succession of jazz clubs. Nowadays, tourist bars rub shoulders with strip clubs, souvenir shops and gambling dens. But every evening there reigns a supercharged atmosphere ... For Americans, Bourbon Street has retained its sulphurous aura. One could wonder why.
You have to venture, in fact, off Bourbon Street, but without going very far. While staying in the French Quarter, one can discover incredible places like the legendary Preservation Hall, a tiny room with decrepit walls, where for 8 US $, we listen religiously, sitting on wooden benches or even standing, very great jazz. . Unforgettable !
A very gourmet music festival
Every year, on the 2nd weekend of April, the French Quarter organizes a big music festival that attracts tens of thousands of people for three days. Fifteen stages are set up in the vicinity of Jackson Square for completely free street concerts that start at 11 a.m. We hear exclusively musicians from New Orleans, with a small exception for performers of Cajun music and zydeco (Creole music inspired by Cajun harmony and rhythm & blues) who can come from all over Louisiana. .
Little more of the festival: the "Jazz Brunch", during which about sixty chefs from the region hold stalls where you can taste local specialties. Jambalaya, gumbo, po-boy, cat fish and pecan pie, we find all the delights of Cajun cuisine, a synthesis of French, Spanish and West Indian gastronomic traditions, adapted to basic Louisiana products: rice, shellfish, sausage, fish , shellfish. In short, that's good ! And, icing on the cake, a competition for the biggest praline will be organized during the weekend.
I will come back to New Orleans ...
Should we return to New Orleans a year and a half after the Katrina disaster? Obviously yes. Note that the historic heart of the city was spared by the cyclone. The damage was finally limited in the perimeter of the French Quarter. Saint-Louis Cathedral stood firm, old historic streets and jazz clubs quickly reopened. As for the many museums in the city, most of them were only slightly damaged and they are all open to the public. And prices have fallen to bring tourists back.
The real problem now is the lack of staff in hotels, restaurants and tourist sites. Indeed, nearly half of the population has left to live elsewhere or is still waiting, especially the black population, to be able to return.
The reconstruction of the most affected neighborhoods, on the outskirts, where the poorest (mostly blacks) resided, has been delayed. Should we see this as a ploy to empty New Orleans of its colored inhabitants? For the past few months, there has been an influx of Hispanic immigrants to rebuild New Orleans. The physiognomy of the city is likely to change in the years to come.
Despite the Katrina tragedy, locals intend to return New Orleans to the festive atmosphere for which it is famous. The French Quarter Festival, which celebrates the history and musical culture of this unique district, contributes in the mildness of April. So what are you waiting for to join them?
The French Quarter Festival program (in English)
New Orleans Tourism Board (in English)
Tourist Information on New Orleans (in French)
Cajun cuisine and its recipes
Preservation Hall: 726 Saint Peter St, at Royal Street. Concert from Thursday to Saturday from 20 p.m. to 23 p.m. and Sunday from 15 p.m. to 18 p.m. Two sets of one hour each, but once you've paid the US $ 8 entry fee, you can stay all night. We stay standing or we stand in line before the opening to take advantage of the few benches or small foams placed on the ground, just under the noses of the musicians. No drinks are served here and smoking is prohibited. On the other hand, you will hear great jazz. The only place in New Orleans that prefers not to use a microphone; the orchestra is left to play louder!