NEW OR­LEANS

Tom Ot­ley wan­ders the south­ern US city’s colour­ful French Quarter

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS -

1ST LOUIS CATHE­DRAL New Or­leans is back on its feet in a big way. Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina struck in 2005, but the fol­low­ing decade saw in­vest­ment and re­pairs, and a re­newed fo­cus on tourism. The city re­mains one of the most cul­tur­ally in­trigu­ing and vis­ually ar­rest­ing places in the US. The streets of the French Quarter have re­tained a unique blend of in­flu­ences stem­ming from its French, Span­ish and African roots.

The St Louis Cathe­dral – or the Cathe­dral-Basil­ica of Saint Louis, King of France, to give it its full name – is the stand­out build­ing. The old­est cathe­dral in the US and the third build­ing on the site, fol­low­ing ear­lier churches dat­ing back to 1718, it was re­built in 1850. It is beau­ti­ful both in­side and out, with the gal­leried in­te­rior fea­tur­ing Ro­coco dec­o­ra­tion. The cathe­dral is flanked by the Ca­bildo and the Pres­bytère, which now form part of the Louisiana State Mu­seum.

2JACKSON SQUARE The St Louis Cathe­dral stands on Jack­son Square, the high­est ground above the river (even dur­ing Ka­t­rina, it didn’t flood, al­though it suf­fered dam­age from the winds and power cuts). Un­der first the Span­ish and then the French armies, it was called the Place d’Armes/Plaza de Armas, as well as be­ing a pa­rade ground where crim­i­nals – and slaves – were ex­e­cuted. Ad­di­tional con­tro­versy comes be­cause of its name and the eques­trian statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen­eral Jack­son, a slave owner.

El­e­gant iron rail­ings sur­round the square, and the Pon­talba Build­ings on ei­ther side house lovely bou­tiques and tourist shops dat­ing back to the 1850s. They were built by Mi­caela Al­mon­ester, Baroness de Pon­talba, who had a life story so un­be­liev­able you’ll need a guide to re­count it. You can wan­der around with a travel book or app, but a guide is great for an­swer­ing ques­tions – we used nose­cret­s­tours.com

3FRENCH MAR­KET The French mar­ket orig­i­nated as a Na­tive Amer­i­can trad­ing post, and is the rea­son for New Or­leans ex­ist­ing on this site – it’s a good portage be­tween the river and Lake Pontchar­train behind. It was the home of the old­est meat mar­ket in the US, and then a fresh food mar­ket, be­fore be­ing turned into a place for tourist bou­tiques, restau­rants and cafés.

If you like jazz, walk along to French­man Street and visit the Louisiana Mu­sic Fac­tory record shop (num­ber 421) and clubs such as Bam­boula’s (516), Mai­son (508), DBA’s (618) and the Spot­ted Cat Mu­sic Club (623). french­mar­ket.org,

4THE MIS­SIS­SIPPI You may have en­coun­tered the Mis­sis­sippi else­where in the US – af­ter all, it is more than 3,200km long and passes through ten states – but it’s here that it is at its might­i­est. Whether ogling the huge cruise ships or the barges crawl­ing along the river, this is the Big Muddy as it en­ters its fi­nal miles be­fore the Gulf of Mex­ico, and the rea­son (along with Lake Pontchar­train) that the na­tive Amer­i­cans had their trad­ing post here.

You get a great view from the bank by the French Mar­ket right over to Al­giers Point. The river is 60 me­tres deep at this spot, and it’s def­i­nitely not a place for swim­ming, al­though you can go down to the river­bank and re­lax in hot weather.

5ROYAL STREET Less well known than the bars of Bour­bon Street is the in­fin­itely more lovely Royal Street. Here, you’ll find restau­rants, art gal­leries, an­tique shops and beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture, be­gin­ning at Canal Street and run­ning through the French Quarter across to the Lower Ninth Ward. It’s in the French Quarter part that you’ll spend your time, and while you won’t find bar­gains, me­men­toes of your trip are likely to be of bet­ter qual­ity and de­sign. You could spend a cou­ple of hours brows­ing here – check out Wind­sor Fine Art, the An­gela King Gallery, Sut­ton Gal­leries and Naghi’s.

6ANTOINE’S Try to make time for a meal at An­toine’s, the old­est French-Cre­ole fine-din­ing restau­rant in the city, with a 176-year-old his­tory – it’s owned and op­er­ated by fifth-gen­er­a­tion rel­a­tives of founder An­toine Al­ci­a­tore. There are 14 din­ing rooms, each of which has its own his­tory. Ask to see the Rex Room, with its walls adorned with photos of roy­alty and Mardi Gras mem­o­ra­bilia. 713 St Louis Street; tel +1 504 581 4422; an­toines.com

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