“Big Easy” New Orleans, spontaneous soul of the States

New Orleans Balcony

Throwing caution to the wind and not over-organising are certain aspects of “The Big Easy” that must be experienced spontaneously. 

When planning a holiday, it usually helps to be as organised as possible. Ensuring your flights are booked for the right day, planning your transport to the hotel, researching the local area, making a list of places to visit and double checking that you have your passport, etc, are all part of the pre-departure ritual.  And while these are all sensible things to do and what I would recommend, I would also suggest that one employs a sense of spontaneity when travelling to New Orleans. The Soul of the states. New Orleans promotes a bohemian and electric atmosphere that cannot be reduced to a formulaic list of things to ‘check off’. As a tempest of culture, there are certain destinations that are best explored with a little less planning, regardless of how intricately constructed your sightseeing itinerary is. Spontaneity can often lead to the most rewarding travel experiences and will make for an unforgettable holiday. With a name such as the ‘Soul of the States’, not the ‘Neocortex of America’; New Orleans is duly impulsive, vibrant and incredibly stimulating.

Author and New Orleans resident Tom Piazza was right when he said this: 

“One of the most important lessons that New Orleans offers: Go with what is. Use what happens.”

New Orleans is about appreciating the present, not planning the minute details of the future. As both an established Southern town and sprawling modern metropolis, the very fabric of Louisiana’s biggest city is built on an ever-evolving identity.

118 New Orleans Garden District

Echoes of the plantation era embodied in the Garden District’s grand avenues rub shoulders with the urbanised areas that claim Lil’ Wayne as their protégé . 

Bourbon Street’s twenty-four-hour partying and questionable cocktails (try a lime green Hand Grenade only if you dare) is just a short street-car ride away from the historic LaFayette Cemetery.

 

Soul Food in New Orleans

New Orleanians themselves, are a similar hybrid of cultures and histories. Founded as a French colony in 1718, waves of immigration from Spain, Ireland, Africa, Germany and within the US left the city with one of the most diverse populations in America. Following the diversity of the populace, New Orleans’ Cuisine is equally expansive. You could spend an entire week sampling the different types of African gumbo, Cajun crawfish and Italian Muffulettas and still not make time to try the French oysters, although, please make sure you do indeed sample some French Oysters.

Crawfish Boil in New Orleans

It makes sense, then that New Orleans claims to be the birthplace of jazz. Centred on spontaneity and free styling, jazz music couldn’t have come from anywhere other than The Big Easy. You can still experience the impulsiveness of the 1950s jazz club in the Jazz Playhouse which features nightly performances and cocktails.

 

Mardi Gras

The spirit of New Orleans and the mantra of the spontaneous traveller is best summed up by Mardi Gras. Originally an eighteenth century French celebration of Shrove Tuesday, the spring festival has now become one of the most flamboyant carnivals in the world and attracts hundreds of travellers each year. Featuring parades, floats, live music and costumes, the spirit of Mardi Gras is an ever-present force in New Orleans so even if you’re not in the city for the start of lent, there’s no excuse not to join in.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

 

Of course I’m not suggesting you should arrive in a foreign country with no money, accommodation or map so make sure you have the basics covered but apart from that, leave it all up to New Orleans. If the city itself can’t make up its mind about what it wants to be, let’s accept the fact that we won’t have much luck either. Let’s relish the opportunity to let go of the guide book and spend our days getting lost in the plethora of diverse experiences available in a passionate city that is unsurprisingly known as the “Soul of the States”. Let’s get lost in the French Quarter, explore the Backstreet Cultural Museum, try something we’ve never eaten before and let’s not worry if our hotel is a little rustic – we won’t be spending much time indoors on a holiday to New Orleans.