New Orleans is a combination of French, Spanish, Creole, and Southern styles that blend into decadence and elegance, conservatism and debauchery all packed into the Vieux Carre (French Quarter) the warren of streets between the Mississippi river on the south and Rampart Street to the north and from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue on the west and east.
The French Quarter is obviously a huge tourist destination (especially during Mardi Gras), but is also heavily residential. It is the craziest mix of high brown art galleries, voodoo stores, bars, restaurants, music clubs, and cafes you'll likely ever experience. I don't know if I'd want to live here, but it sure was fun to visit.
- Spring for a hotel in the French Quarter - it is worth it.
- If you are driving or renting a car find a hotel with secured parking (although you'll park your car and leave it - you don't need a car in the Quarter)
- Cafe Du Monde is best (least crowded) in the early morning, but they don't have the best beignets.
I stayed at two different hotels in the Quarter: Hotel Provincial and Soniat House. Soniat House is actually on THE LIST so I'll talk about it later. Hotel Provincial is clean, charming, offered parking and a continental breakfast, and is only two blocks from both Bourbon Street and Decatur, but feels miles away in terms of noise control. Even being Mardi Gras I couldn't hear the revelry on the street.
This was mid-afternoon on Fat Tuesday - JAM PACKED!
And this is about 8:30 the next morning.
Cafe Du Monde is kind of a must-do in the French Quarter, but I got a tip from a waitress that the best beignets are at Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street between Bienville and Conti (across from the Royal Sonesta Hotel).
Ironically, Pirates Alley runs past St. Louis Cathedral.
I especially loved walking the Quarter in the "early" morning when it was quiet and peaceful. It really is a beautiful collision of styles, sensibilities, and cultures.