19 August 2014

PORT OF CALL: New Orleans (Part II)

Saxophone player on the Mississippi
embankment, New Orleans, USA.
Photo: NOVCB
In his last post, Captain Rivers shared his impressions of New Orleans, and why he enjoys this Mississippi port city so much. Another reason why it’s such a great place to visit: New Orleans really is a city that never sleeps. It’s also a place that knows how to have a good time, preferably helped along with generous amounts of alcohol. In fact, New Orleans is the only city in America where you can drink alcohol just about anywhere, and since there are no closing laws you can do it 24 hours a day. The drugstore where cocktails were invented is on Royal Street; one day the proprietor mixed bitters and cognac and served the result to customers in small eggcups called coquetier in French. New Orleans is still very much a cocktail town; the native Sazerac is a mix of Bourbon, vermouth, absinth, sugar and orange, best sipped on a lacy balcony as you gaze along a street of moss-covered oaks and dilapidated mansions.
Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, New Orleans, USA.
Photo: NOVCB
On the other hand, New Orleans is also a place where beer is raucously consumed by the gallon out of plastic Go-Cups. At the heart of the celebrations, Bourbon Street is a never-ending parade of youthful party-goers who gravitate towards the cacophony of the street’s nightclubs, strip joints, music bars and bizarre novelty shops. The disapproving will notice only the tottering drunks, reverberating din, drifts of trash and permissive behaviour. True, Bourbon Street is hardly the true soul of New Orleans (although some visitors barely leave its confines), but there’s a heady excitement in the music wailing from every door and the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the street. Both revolting and exhilarating, Bourbon Street is as close as you’ll ever come to a Roman bacchanalia.
Jazz band playing Preservation Hall, New Orleans, USA.
Photo: NOVCB
Of course, music lovers will find plenty of other reasons to disembark their ship of an evening. You can’t get away from music in New Orleans, which has influenced American musical culture from rhythm & blues to gospel and rock-and-roll. Most of all, New Orleans is about jazz, which you’ll hear played by everyone from street performers to the famous ensembles that pack the city’s halls. Bourbon Street has plenty of jazz and blues bars, but they’re aimed squarely at the mainstream tourist market. For a more authentic experience, head for Preservation Hall at 726 St Peter Street. The place looks like it should be earmarked for demolition, has hard wooden benches and not even a bar, but you’ll find packed audiences and probably the best traditional jazz in town.
Other legendary jazz spots include Funky Butt (714 North Rampart), the sophisticated Snug Harbor (626 Frenchmen Street) which often features the famous Marsalis family, and the tiny jam-packed Vaughan’s (4229 Dauphine Street) where you can eat free beans and rice as you sit almost in the lap of the band. At the Palm Court Jazz CafĂ© (1204 Decatur Street) you can try Creole food to the accompaniment of some of the best live music in town, and also buy jazz memorabilia and collector’s records.
If you’ve been to New Orleans and have recommendations on its nightlife, please add your comments below. Our readers appreciate your tips and memories.

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