by Rita LuceroAs many of you know, I’m a fairly recent transplant to New Orleans. I’ve only lived here a little over a year, and though my work at Zydeco Cakes (and the occasional encounter with murder) keeps me busy, I’m having a blast exploring the city and learning more about it.
from the Piece of Cake Mystery Series
by Jacklyn Brady
Recently, I’ve had business in the French Quarter and I’ve been taking advantage of my visits to learn a bit more about that part of New Orleans. It was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Bienville, set out in a military-style grid. It changed hands in 1762 when Louis XV (who couldn’t have cared less about New Orleans) transferred ownership to his cousin, Charles III of Spain. In 1803, the land became part of the United States with the Louisiana purchase and the rest, as they say, is history.
All those beautiful wrought-iron balconies aren’t part of the French influence. They’re actually leftover from the 40-ish year history of Spanish rule. Who knew??? Certainly not me!
Until I moved to New Orleans, most of the images I’d seen of the French Quarter were taken at night. By night, the French Quarter is a raucous place. Alcohol flows freely and live XXX shows seem to be everywhere. As someone recently said to me, it’s not a place you’d want to wear sandals or flip-flops, even on the hottest and steamiest of Louisiana nights. Eeeuuuwww! By night, Bourbon Street blazes with neon signs advertising bars and businesses of all kinds, beckoning visitors to eat, drink and be merry in a variety of ways. Let’s just say that it might not be a place you’d want to take your children.
But if you go to the French Quarter in the day, you’re in for a very different experience. By day, the French Quarter has an almost sleepy quality, which really isn’t surprising considering her very active night life. A lady has to sleep sometime, right?
Gift shops and restaurants are open for business, but most of the bars and adult entertainment are dozing in buildings shuttered tightly against the daylight, showing more decorum than you might expect by hiding the fact that they even exist. I might not take small children to the Quarter by night, but I wouldn’t hesitate to walk around this interesting part of the city with them by daylight. There’s a lot to see and do, not to mention almost three centuries of history to absorb on these streets.
Be forewarned, though. It seems that everywhere you go in New Orleans these days you’ll run into some kind of construction, renovation, or cleanup effort. In a city this old it shouldn’t surprise anyone that historic buildings and neighborhoods might need a few cosmetic touch-ups, but New Orleans is also still recovering from the devastation of Katrina, so don’t be surprised to find crews hard at work and Dumpsters taking up space on the streets during your visit.
If you try to drive, be prepared to run into taxis delivering tourists to any of the many hotels scattered throughout the French Quarter. With few places to park, they frequently stop in the middle of the street to load and unload, which may slow you down and even frustrate you if you’re in a hurry (which you really shouldn’t be when you visit the Quarter). Also keep in mind that the French Quarter is almost entirely devoted to the service industry, so you’ll also encounter trucks making deliveries to the businesses. Because the streets are narrow, all this activity makes walking the best way to get around, even during the day. Or you can always take a tour on one of the many horse-drawn carriages that add color and atmosphere to your visit. I haven’t done that yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do!
There’s so much more I could share with you if I had the time and the space! If you’ve never been to New Orleans, I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour. If you have been, I’d love to hear about your experiences there!
Jacklyn Brady lives on the Gulf Coast and writes the Piece of Cake Mystery series set in New Orleans featuring cake artist and trained pastry chef, Rita Lucero. Jacklyn loves to hear from readers. Connect with her on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter
The Cakes of Wrath, book #4 in the Piece of Cake Mystery Series, is available now!