Positively NOLA: New Orleans' French Quarter

Welcome to the French Quarter!

As I wandered the streets of the Vieux Carré (aka the French Quarter) on my recent visit I was so thankful that it had survived after Hurricane Katrina a decade ago. What a tragedy it would have been to lose all of this – this history, this architecture, this joie de vivre that is New Orleans, Louisiana (sometimes dubbed NOLA). It is not nicknamed "the Big Easy" for nothing!

Window dressing

I had been to New Orleans twice before – both times pre-Katrina. It had been too long. It seemed as if nothing has changed in since the hurricane, although I’m sure it has in ways that go far beneath the surface, but to the tourist like myself, it was still the New Orleans I had seen before and fallen in love with.

Beautiful courtyards

The Quarter is the oldest part of the city, and though it’s called the French Quarter because it was founded by French colonizers in 1718, its surviving architecture today actually has more of a Spanish colonial influence (fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed most of the original structures, and rebuilding was done when the Spanish ruled the city). 

The streets are narrow, one-way passages. European. And many of the buildings are painted in colorful pastels. I love the balconies and the courtyards of the Quarter. Wrought-iron balconies that overflow with greenery and color. Narrow walkways between buildings, leading to those private havens tucked out of sight; lush, green, peaceful islands in a landscape of concrete and brick.

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral are the centerpiece of the French Quarter. Jackson Square, originally called Place d’Armes, was renamed for General Andrew Jackson (who later became president) after the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, and in 1856 became a park. Its former purpose had been a military parade ground and occasional execution spot for criminals and runaway slaves.

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