The Perennial Bonnes Temps of New Orleans

The Perennial Bonnes Temps of New Orleans

From the #foodanddrink and amazing #architecture and #culture of #NewOrleans, every day is a party. I set out to discover exactly how the #bonnestempsrouler in the Big Easy.


New Orleans is a party, and everyone’s invited. While visions of booze-soaked French Quarter nights leap to mind first (and are definitely an integral part of the Crescent City), bacchanals aren’t the only bash the city hosts. Like any big gathering, New Orleans is comprised of several sub-parties—the Garden District represents a genteel tea party, the French Quarter is a wild free-for-all, and even the small communities around the city contain a Louisiana good time. Almost by magic, Southern Louisiana never seems to run out of food, drink, or music. Truly, what all of these parties provide is the same thing the Big Easy has been doling out since before the Louisiana Purchase—the good life. Hell, even their funerals are a jazzy, lavish march to the Other Side.

  Almost by magic, Southern Louisiana never seems to run out of food, drink, or music.  

Delphine LaLaurie’s mansion

I decided I wanted to stop by for a drink (or in true New Orleans style, march around with plastic cups full of hurricanes).

If New Orleans is a party, the Garden District is Mount Olympus, home to the gods on high. Doric columns parallel whitewashed walls, while the Spanish moss of the tree-lined avenues sways with the passing breeze of the streetcars. Traditionally home to the English-speaking residents of the city, the Anglo-American influence is reflected in the ubiquitous Greek-Revival and Victorian architecture. If it looks like the home of the gods, it has the ambrosia and nectar to boot. My favorite high-end spot to eat in the Garden District is The Commander’s Palace, the teal-and-white institution across from Lafayette cemetery.

  If it looks like the home of the gods, it has the ambrosia and nectar to boot.  

I feasted on roast quail, turtle soup, gumbo, and a praline sundae while the Sazeracs kept flowing. While the Commander’s Palace is definitely a place for a splurge—like collared shirt, no-elbows-on-the-table, make a reservation weeks in advance splurge—if you’re going to live big, do it in the Big Easy. I nearly had to roll myself north to where I was staying (the Midtown Hotel New Orleans, an affordable spot with a courtyard pool).

from  $60.92

Midtown Hotel New Orleans

 3900 Tulane Ave, New Orleans, United States Of America
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Of course, the more raucous (and admittedly more tourist-heavy) good time is found under the wrought-iron wound roofs of the French Quarter. Originally named the Vieux Carré, the Quarter housed the original Creole settlers of New Orleans. It’s a party so good, some say there are New Orleanians who never take their leave. For a town renowned for its earthly pleasures, the Crescent City is remarkably preoccupied with death—voodoo shops, concrete-slab cemeteries, and ghost tours dot the landscape of the Quarter. A little bit of a supernatural buff, I decided to try the last with Haunted History’s “French Quarter Ghosts and Legends Tour” and step back in time to see the phantoms of New Orleans. Our guide spun stories of star-crossed wealthy merchants and their mistresses (the French colonial version of concubinage called plaçage, in which women, mostly those of color, entered into a social and sexual agreement usually with rich white men) and slighted pirates in eternal duels. We saw the haunting ground of lovers forever disemboweled by “Romeo-catchers” (wrought-iron spikes installed on balcony poles designed to gut intruders if they tried to climb up French Quarter mansions) and hunting ground of serial killers (the ominous gray estate of Delphine LaLaurie). I had to calm myself down with beignets and chicory coffee from Café du Monde.

  It’s a party so good, some say there are New Orleanians who never take their leave.  
from  $25

French Quarter Ghost & Legends Tour

 French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA
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Oak Alley Plantation

New Orleans live music is like Paris and the Eiffel Tower—seeing it is de rigeur, if not the main reason for the trip. A very in-tune Uber driver let me know that the real music scene was on Frenchman, not Bourbon St., so that’s where I headed. The street is crammed with jazz and blues joints, but my favorite was the Spotted Cat Music Club. Pianos jingled, brass blared, and drinks poured (in part thanks to a 2 cup minimum)—if there’s a real blues scene left in New Orleans, it’s at the Spotted Cat. I felt so mellow and at home, I uttered a soft “y'all” to the bartender—and I'm from New Jersey.

St. Louis Cathedral

Of course, New Orleans doesn’t live in a vacuum—the rich culture of the city is thanks to its status as a port between traded goods and the resources upriver on the Mississippi. I joined the Cajun Encounters “Plantation Tour” to see the homes of the people who supported the life of New Orleans—all of them. The brilliant colors of the Laura plantation match the rich history of the house; home to two wealthy Creole families, the plantation actually housed people up until the 1970s. From the big house’s living quarters, to the wine cellar, banana plants, and the humble slave quarters, every part of the estate depicted a family whose experiences shaped the world around them—both the black and white members.

Garden District Mansion

Next was Oak Alley, the world’s most magnificent former cow shed. After the sugar plantation fell from disrepair, the home was overtaken by livestock before becoming a museum. In true South Louisiana style, both homes hosted lavish parties funded by sugar cane production. As my very knowledgeable guide remarked “it took a very poor sugar farmer to equal a very rich cotton farmer.” I headed back to the city afterwards for a lunch of jambalaya and pralines from Tee-Eva’s, where I was informed the proper pronunciation is prah-line, not prae-line—the Southern drawl is almost as sweet as the pecan candies.

  the Southern drawl is almost as sweet as the pecan candies.  
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Southern hospitality and a global city’s fondness for fun have melded together in New Orleans to create a uniquely warm and welcoming environment. From the rich food culture to the stunning architecture and fascinating history, it’s so seductive, even a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee like me felt at home.

Banana plants at the Laura Plantation

No wonder their dead don’t leave. 

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