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French Quarter Architecture by Daylight
The narrow streets and cramped buildings can make photography difficult, so as soon as you've had your latte and beignet, wander the streets aimlessly. A full day plus some can be spend wandering the French Quarter looking at the mostly Spanish style facades with ornate ironwork. The French Street names are on the signs, but many buildings have the Spanish occupation names as well.
- Hiking and Walking
Architecture in the French Quarter
What makes the architecture so interesting in the French Quarter is that it is both distinctive and reflective of the city's history and diversity. Perhaps the area's Creole townhouses are among the easiest to recognize thanks to their famous cast-iron balconies. These were built after the great fires of 1788 and 1795, when the city decreed that bricks should be used instead of wood when building houses more than one story high. As you walk along some of the side streets, you get to discover other types of architecture, such as the smaller Creole cottages and shotgun houses that are quite typical of New Orleans. These small houses are usually very colourful and always well-preserved thanks to the efforts put in by the Vieux Carre Commission, which is in charge of preserving the architecture in this historical district. Another residence that many people are curious to see is Madame John's Legacy, located at 632 Dumaine Street. Built in 1789, this plantation-style house is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city and it's now part of the Louisiana State Museum complex. Finally, it's definitely worth walking down to Esplanade Avenue, at the very end of the French Quarter. This broad street lined with trees was home to some of New Orleans's wealthiest citizens and it features some of the best examples of 19th century townhouses and villas. There are several guided tours offered that focus on the architecture of the French Quarter, but the way we chose to do it was simply by grabbing our camera and going out for a long, free walk!
The heart of New Orleans, the French Quarter
One of the most charming (but also wildest) area in the US is located in the heart of New Orleans: "the French Quarter" also known in French as "le Vieux Carre", tthe old square (as in square shapped), a rectangular area neighbourhood that has Bourbon Street as a main axis. This landmark of New Orleans has architecture you’ll find nowhere else in the country with its little houses ornated with iron balconies, patios, hidden courtyards… Funny detail… it should really be called the "Spanish Quarter" because the city was almost completely destroyed by 2 fires in 1788 and 1794 when it was under Spanish rule. The Governor, Don Francisco Luis Hector, had it rebuilt in Spanish style and most of the buildings in the French Quarter were built at that time. Since its creation, New Orleans had a reputation of being a very tolerant city… maybe a little much for certains and you can witness it during Mardi Gras but also, every night on Bourbon Street. So… you’ve been warned. If seeing young ladies take off their shirts and bras so they can get a plastic beads from unknown guys who are having a drink on one of the balconies… if feeling like you're in a live edition of "Girls Gone Wild" is not your cup of tea, try to avoid the area during the night and especially the week-end. I think you can put that on account of the “Hurricane” the local cocktai, that you can recognize easily thanks to its red colour and it should be served in a glass that vaguely looks like a giant champagne flute.
Art Galleries Aplenty
As we traveled the streets of the French Quarter, two New Orleans art galleries particularly caught our eye:*The Angela King Gallery and *The Mann Gallery.
This stunning lucite sculpture pictured at The Angela King Gallery is a piece by Frederick Hart, who also crafted a stone sculpture for the National Cathedral and a bronze sculpture for the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial--both pieces are in Washington,DC. What a multi-talented individual! We were given a thorough background on the late artist and his place in history by art consultant, Deborah Choate.
That same afternoon, we dropped by The Mann Gallery where we spied the Impressionistic work of French artist, Luc Didier, whose oil painting, Chaussee sur la vonne a Vivonne, truly moved us (pic #2)! After being briefly schooled in his body of work, we were guided around the gallery by assistant director, Jill McGaughey.
If you have a love of art and especially enjoy galleries, go to the website below for a list of other galleries to visit while in New Orleans.
*The Angela King Gallery, 240 Royal St., New Orleans (504-858-1609); see Deborah Choate, executive art consultant
*The Mann Gallery, 305 Royal St., New Orleans (504-523-2342); see Jill McGaughey, assistant director
- Arts and Culture
Antique Shops in the French Quarter
Shop windows filled with wonderful treasures beckon visitors to come in to appreciate fine antiques in the French Quarter. Whether it's a rare King Louis the XVth regulateur clock or a one-of-a-kind crystal chandelier imported from Europe or marriage chest from the Renaissance, you'll get a kick out of visiting these merchants.
We found several of these shops enticing:
M S Rau, 630 Royal Street (opening pic)
Moss Antiques, 411 Royal Street (pic #2)
Keil's Antiques, 325 Royal Street
Whisnant Galleries, 229 Royal Street (pic #3)
These particular antique shops were all within walking distance of each other. Stop by to admire some truly fine antiques, but come with deep pockets!
- Arts and Culture
The French Quarter is the original part of the city of New Orleans. Its buidlings are all historic and it is home to most of the city's hotels and many restaurants. It is nearly impossible to drive and park here so walking is best. Spend a day or two walking the streets and visiting the many boutiques and shops, or just sit in a cafe and watch people go by while you listen to live music.
No matter what the people say French Quarter is the epicenter of New Orleans, the beautiful historic center. This is good and bad at the same time of course :) It’s a rectangular area (le Vieux Carre in French, the old square) not really big so you can easily walk from one side to the other. Most of the tourists are on Bourbon street of course but don’t miss the area around it.
During the day you can enjoy the architecture of the district, the colorful old buildings with the pastel colors, the detailed iron balconies, the tiny shops, you can check the museums of the area(Cabildo and Presbytere), the St.Louis Cathedral at Jackson square, go for a coffee at the famous café du Monde (or other more peaceful ones), Royal street is full of art shops and galleries, there are many restaurants around of course so don’t forget to taste the local food, you can go down and walk next to the Mississippi river, I think you can skip the overrated French Market, you can also catch the free ferry to other side of the river or take a cruise with a steam boat! For us it was ideal having French Quarter as a base but if you have a car you may have problem with parking, it’s rare and expensive here.
It was early in the 18th century (1718) when the France established the French Quarter but became Spanish in 1762 and most of the architecture elements (iron balconies, walled courtyards) come from that period. 2 big fires destroyed the district completely in 1788 & 1794 so most of the old building we see today are after that time.
…Then later in the night choose a jazz venue to end the day in New Orleans style. Bourbon street is nice to walk through just to see the crazy vibe on it with all the happy people going up and down the street from one club to the other.
There are some walking tour at French quarter you may interested about but as we had plenty of days there and a lot of books with information we did it alone.
- Historical Travel
historic buildings at French Quarter
It seems every building at French Quarter has a story to tell, you go to a restaurant and you are realize that the building is there from 19th century, many of them has some weird/funny stories on the walls, some of these stories may be true some just for the tourists to feel the New Orleans “haunted” vibe :)
The overrated restaurant The Court of Two Sisters(pic 1) is housed on a building (613 Royal St.) that dates from 1832 and took its name from two sisters (born in 1858&1860), they lived there with their rich Creole family and had a curio store that outfitted city’s finest women with expensive perfumes and formal gowns from Paris. They died the same year(1944) and lie side by side at St.Louis Cemetery #3.
At 417 Royal street (hm, I guess we spent hours on this street while others were having fun at Bourbon!) is Brennan’s restaurant(pic 2), it was built in 1855 by Rillieux and a sign inform us that the chess champion Paul Charles Murphy lived here.
Everyone knows Pat O’Brien pub(718 St.Peter St. pic 3) because the people go there to drink as much hurricane drinks as they can. What some people skip is that it was built in 1790 and some popular plays were played here and some claim that the first grand opera in USA was perfomed inside here!
A few steps away is Antoine’s restaurant. The building was built in 1829 and the Antoine family owns/runs this (expensive) restaurant for more than 150 years!!!
At 716 Dauphine st. you can see Le Pretre Mansion. It was built In 1836 in greek revival style and the legends wants one of the first renters was a wealthy turk with many servants and women (supposedly stolen from a sultan). As expected many rich locals were visiting the house for some “wild nights” until loud shrieks came from inside and the day after the neighbors found the turk and the girls dead lying in a pool of blood! If you go on haunted tour they’ll tell you that some nights music and shrieks still come from the house, I didn’t hear anything no matter how hard I tried but it was early in the morning when we walked by… :)
Back to Bourbon street at 941 we saw Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop(pic 4) that claim to be the oldest building in the area!!! It used to be headquarters of the pirates(Lafitte was the leader of them). In our days you can go there and enjoy a local beer, my photo was taken early in the morning when it was closed but it gets busy later in the day.
Finally, at 632 Dumaine St. is Madame John’s Legacy(pic 5) another structure that supposed to be the oldest one in the area but it seems that most of it was burnt down during the fire in 1788 but the building stood there since 1728, can you imagine? New Orleans itself was founded in 1718! It is open for tours but we didn’t have the chance to go inside as we passed by before 9.00am
- Historical Travel
People Watching in the French Quarter
In the 20 years I've been acquainted with New Orleans, I've yet to visit the French Quarter and NOT see some poor hapless idiot gripping one of those streetlamps (just like you see in the cartoon postcards), spilling his guts out onto the street.
The weird thing about drinking in New Orleans is that the alcohol feels different - instead of throwing up and reading that as a sign that the night's over, you somehow become reborn, able to rededicate yourself to more obnoxious behavior on Round #2 toward Intoxication.
Whether by day or night, you'll see street performers and mimes on the hustle, watch transsexuals catwalking down Bourbon to reach their area of town (past the 800 block), catch strippers in sleazy bar entrances (long mirrors are situated at the entrances so you can see them do their stuff - sometimes a single dancer is hired just to lie face down on the mirror), or simply observe your fellow visitor laying prone on the street or catching a few zzzzzzzs on a streetside curb, in presumably in between drinking sessions.
If you're lucky, you'll even get to watch the police holding back hecklers as the Jesus Freaks quietly picket outside an establishment, condemning the revelers to an afterlife in Hell without a get-out-of-jail pass.
When In New Orleans you have to go to the French Quarter. It is the neighbourhood where the bars and the distinctive buildings are.
It is also the oldest neighbourhood of New Orleans. This is where the city was born .
The area is authentic, not a reproduction of history. Many of the buildings here date back to the 1700's. But most of the architecture is Spanish, not French. That is because the city was destroyed by a huge fire and rebuilt in when it was in spanish hands.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is New Orleans' oldest and most lively neighborhood. This area was originally founded by the French in 1718 then taken over by Spain in 1763. Major fires burned much of the city in 1788 and 1794, making much of the old-European style architecture from the early 1800s. The oldest buildings that survive today were built in 1727; they are the old Ursuline Convent and and Madame John's Legacy.
The most famous street in New Orleans is certainly Bourbon Street with its 24/7 party atmosphere along with live jazz, strip shows, restaurants and hotels. Perhaps more impressive is Royal Street, long the most fashionable address in the French Quarter and home to countless historical structures with amazing wrought iron railings and balconies.
Music is the art of choice in the French Quarter, as this is where jazz was born. Bourbon Street has several jazz venues such as the Famous Door, the Storyville District, and Fritzels European Jazz Pub, while other musical interests can be found throughout this section of the city. Music is not the only art available as fine art and antiques can be found on Royal Street and street artists are common around Jackson Square.
What would the French Quarter be without its Creole and Cajun food? Creole is a mix of French, Spanish, and African influences and features rish dishes such as Oysters Rockefeller, Bananas Foster, and Shrimp Remoulade. For authentic Creole in a casual atmosphere try the Gumbo Shop and Napoleon House; the more formal establishments include Galatoire's and Antoine's. Cajun food is considered slightly lower class than Creole, but in my opinion it is even better offering such tasty dishes as jambalaya, andouille sausage, gumbo, etoufee, dirty rice, and crawfish boils.
Other things to do and see in the French Quarter are the Riverwalk, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Louis Armstrong Park, and the French Market.
Le Petit Theatre
Le Petit Theatre has been in operation in the French Quarter since 1916. The current residence of the theatre was built in the late 1700s. If you're a history buff this place will intrigue you beyond your imagination! They put on performances year-round so make sure to check the website while planning your trip.
Unfortunately I did not attend a performance on my first trip since I was exploring the jazz scenes but I would love to see one on my next visit.
Tickets run around $20-30 based on the performance.
You Have To See It To Believe It
This playground for adults has more to it than just bars. As one of the oldest cities in the US that has bounced from one European empire to another, it has more history concentrated in this few block area than most U.S. cities will ever have. To learn about the real New Orleans, you really must take a tour. Most tours will run you from $10-$20, but there are some free tours. Download a free Geogad French Quarter tour to your favorite MP3 player (www.geogad.com). Another free option is the free guided walking tours from the Jean Lafitte National Park (http://www.nps.gov/jela/french-quarter-site.htm), but they quickly fill up and you have to show up first thing in the morning at least half and hour before they open to reserve a place, if you are lucky. Jackson Square is a green patch among these crowded streets that is great for sunbathing. When it gets too hot, stop by the Cabildo museum to learn more about New Orleans history, and its virtual twin, the Presbytere, to view the Mardi Gras Museum. Don’t forget the free jazz concerts located near the old French Markets (http://www.nps.gov/jazz), which is like a hands-on and ears-on jazz experience that compliments the Jazz Museum, which is housed at the old U.S. Mint. Due to Hurricane Katrina, the Old Mint is closed for repairs.
But of the all the things that you have to do, the most enjoyable is sampling the local food. Food in New Orleans is respected by everyone. Almost every person raised around New Orleans has a dish that they make that they are extremely proud of. You can imagine how good the chefs have to be in a city that loves food this much. Check out great restaurants for top-of-the-line like K Paul’s for great Cajan and Creole, the Acme Oyster House for fresh oysters, the Central Grocery for huge Italian muffuletta sandwiches, and save room for coffee and beignets at that French Quarter institution, Cafe du Monde. Open 24 hours, it serves this deep fried, powered sugar-covered treats. For late night drinks, try an original Hurricane from Pat O’Briens.
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
You have to check out Royal Street.
This is where you'll find A Court of Two Sisters Restaurant. The brunch buffet is extensive and the mimosa's in the damp morning air hit the spot. The food's not the absolute greatest, but I still can't tear myself away from this old standby. We just love it.
The antiques along Royal are unrivaled. You'll never see anything like the collection you will find here.
Everyday they block off the street to car traffic, and the performers come out. It's just a great way to spend the afternoon.
One of our favorite acts frequenting Royal is Stony B. & Grampa. They have a very entertaining, gitchy show! Definitely stop and watch if you get the chance! They will keep you laughing. Stony has a raw sense of humor and a natural talent. Grampa is incredible on the harmonica! Never heard anyone like him!
- Family Travel
New Orleans - Where to Begin ?
Grab your camera, start walking and have at it. If you don't know where to go, stop in at the tourist info center at the intersection of Canal and Royal (?). Probably the most scenic city in America. The architecture is both unique and beautiful. I personally found Royal St and Decatur Streets to the the most scenic. The Natchez paddlewheeler offers a 2 hour cruise for $25 - great activity when you get tired of walking. You can catch a 30 min hansom cab ride on Decatur St for $15/pp that will take you around to the major highlights of the French Quarter. While on Decatur St, be sure to see the St. Louis Cathedral ( you can't miss it) and take a stroll through the French Quarter Market. There's always plenty of free entertainment and places to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or you favorite adult beverage : ) The St Charles Ave trolley is another must-do. Takes you right through the beautiful Garden District for a penny pinching $1.25 each way. Be sure to get off at the Washington St stop and see Lafayette Cemetary #1 (admission free). Only 1 block south of stop - be sure to walk around this beautiful neighboorhood before you go.
Oops - did I forget Bourbon St? The epicenter of New Orleans? Nope - first place we went. To be honest, it was ok - certainly not the most scenic of streets. Lots of bars, clubs and restaurants as you would expect. Not my cup of tea any more - although 30 years ago I'd have probably camped out there. Regardless of how you feel about night life, no trip to Nawlins is complete with out having at least 1 drink on Bourbon St. We got a street view table at a pub and watched the crowds and street performers. Great fun.
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
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