New Orleans: Sensory Overload
Photo credit: Josephine Matyas
Things get a little crazy in New Orleans. We’ve been here a few times before so have managed to learn the NOLA ropes and easily navigated the line between fun and too much fun. Like all big cities, there are little-known music gems you definitely don’t want to miss, and other things you can easily bypass.
By Josephine Matyas & Craig Jones
1. Frenchmen Street. Just east of the French Market, the two-block area of Frenchmen Street is where the locals have migrated to hear the strains of authentic jazz. Clubs like Snug Harbor and The Spotted Cat host big names like Ellis Marsalis and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.
2. Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters is a calorie-rich way to taste all the classic N’awlins favourites, from turtle soup and shrimp etouffee to bread pudding and bananas foster. Brunch is served seven days a week (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) in the French Quarter’s largest courtyard, amply shaded by a 120-year-old wisteria. “The bread pudding is the one recipe we don’t let the chef tinker with,” explained our server. “It’s the owner’s grandmother’s recipe and it’s made with raisins and a whiskey sauce.” All the while, live jazz percolates across the courtyard.
5. Preservation Hall is the iconic setting for traditional New Orleans jazz. The 45-minute show is held nightly at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week (admission is first come, first served). It’s old and hot and cramped, but the music is as authentic as it gets, played by some of the city’s finest jazz artists. Sit as close as possible for the full jazz experience.
Give it a Pass
Bourbon Street. Well, maybe not a complete pass – but a quick stroll along a block or two gives you the general idea: neon signs, tacky t-shirt shops, strip clubs and lots of inebriated people. The locals remember the good ol’ days on Bourbon Street – when clubs and restaurants were filled with authentic jazz and ladies and their escorts dressed to the nines for an evening out. The good news is that one or two blocks away, streets like Royal and Chartres show off this beautiful city’s atmospheric bars, small courtyards, and stunning Colonial and Creole architecture.
Groove like a local
1. Tune in to WWOZ 90.7 FM, the city’s non-commercial jazz and heritage station.
2. Indulge in an icing sugar-drenched beignet in the shaded courtyard at the excellent Café Beignet on Royal Street or at Café du Monde in the French Market (wear white or you’ll be courting disaster). Sit at the outdoor patios and you’ll catch a whiff of the street musicians.