The city of New Orleans is often associated with the uninhibited fun and high time hilarity that comes with Mardi Gras, the recent athletic dominance of the Saints football team and the down-home finger- licking good food that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Before moving to the city in September 2011, from Washington DC, my perception of New Orleans was very generic and “on the surface”. I had been an avid follower of the HBO series, Treme. I was familiar and intrigued by the alluring accents and the charismatic nature of the people. I knew to stop by Bourbon Street to sample the renowned Hand Grenade. I knew what most outsiders know, that New Orleans is comfortably unique. However, my experience living here has shown me why native New Orleanians carry so much pride in their city and why people come and decide to never leave.
New Orleans boasts Southern charm but also has a sort of East coast/metropolitan flair. It’s exciting yet rooted so deeply in history and rich culture. I’ve been afforded the luxury of traveling extensively both domestically and abroad. I’ve seen what most places have to offer and so far, no place has been quite as passionately stirring as New Orleans.
Where else in the country can you walk out your front door and be greeted by a mobile party, known as a Second Line, with bands bellowing upbeat tunes down the street with a mass of hundreds of people dancing and celebrating with a few dressed in their favorite brightly covered suits and alligator printed dress shoes leading the troop? This would be seen as a disturbance of peace anywhere else in the states, but to my surprise, people join in from their porch or jump in the fun and follow the party to its end.
Where else in the country can you attend a festival for almost anything all in one city?! New Orleans festivals are dedicated to everything from music, food, performing arts and history. There’s Soul Fest, Road Food Fest, Tennessee Williams Literary Fest, French Quarter Fest, Jazz & Heritage Fest, Greek Fest, Bayou Boogaloo Fest, Essence Fest, Seafood Fest and a host of others to celebrate whatever tickles your fancy. Most even allow you to bring your lawn chair, sunshades, dancing shoes and a big appetite to take part in the festivities.
Where else can you find Mardi Gras Indians dressed in their illustrious hand crafted costumes with chants being called from the Big Chief? Where else can you find a high school marching band with as much history, respect and superstar stardom as the St. Augustine Marching 100? Where else will you hear Bounce music or travel down a street, such as Frenchmen, to find bars lined with talented brass bands? Where else can you experience architecture so significantly full of heritage and antiquity of days old? Where else can you hop on a streetcar and take in the exclusive sights on St. Charles Avenue? Where else can you eat the sacred deliciousness that is the crawfish in abundance? Where else can you get the same decadent beignets that were being served over a century ago in 1862? Where else can you take a tour through a cemetery, not to be frightened but to take in the beauty of it all? Where else can you find the perfect mixture of French, Spanish, African and American culture so beautifully blended? The answer is nowhere.
Those are just some of the things that have made my experience so captivating and irresistibly fascinating, one that you would just have to be here to fully understand. This city is full of life, resilience, vibrancy, fervor and tradition. New Orleans just has a special way of drawing people in.