I grew up in the South, and I lived there until I was 53-years-old. They say that New York is a State of Mind. Well, in my opinion, the South is also a State of Mind–and New Orleans is the Greatest State of Mind. I always tell people that if they plan to visit New Orleans, they need to get a passport because they have left the USA.
I grew up close to the Mississippi River, in what was cotton country at the time, but poverty has boarded shut the area where I grew up.
I have lived in Memphis, Tennessee, a Southern city that borders the Mississippi; and I especially love the stretch of Ole Muddy further South, from Natchez to New Orleans.
The River Road that leads into New Orleans is lined with old plantations. This yellow plantation home is at the Laura Plantation, which has been owned by African Americans and Creoles for hundreds of years.
“Four generations of Laura’s family worked on this Louisiana sugar plantation. In her family were French aristocrats, war heroes, astute businesswomen, cousins who married cousins, slave-holders who were brutal as well as sensitive, hot-headed “fire-eaters,” morose introverts, and farm managers, both competent and dissolute, all subjects in her Memories and all living outside the American mainstream.” See the full article at laura.com Here
When most people think of New Orleans, they visualize Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, so we’ll start there. In New Orleans, most of the heavy partying centers around Bourbon Street.
New Orleans is situated on the Mississippi River, down at the bottom of the state of Louisiana, which is at the bottom of the Mississippi River, too. New Orleans is the place where the Mississippi River dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. At one time, the entire area was a swamp, and it was virtually uninhabitable. Because the French wanted to stake their claim on New Orleans, they shipped their prostitutes and criminals to settle it. I chuckle and say that those people are still “settling” New Orleans.
In some ways, New Orleans is a party, but She is more than that.
Bourbon Street is in a part of the French Quarter that is always wild, but the French Market and the Café du Monde are South and East of Bourbon Street, and they rest on the Mississippi River. The French Market pf New Orleans is where you go to buy French coffee all along the river there. The Café du Monde is world famous for its chicory coffee and beignets, which are little squares of fried pastry that are sprinkled with powdered sugar. Oh My Gosh! I’m making my own mouth water. I’d love to be sitting on a bench in the French Market, watching the boats pass on the Mississippi River, and eating beignets.
New Orleans is a city of iron work and verandaand Spanish moss and courtyards.
New Orleans is a crossroads. It reflects both its French and its Spanish roots, and it is where some the wildest people in this country cross the paths with some of the most religious.
It is a merger of of the old and the new.
New Orleans is a tribute to its past, some of which is still fine and sophisticated, but some of the old, fine New Orleans is gone now, and there is a seediness about much of what remains.
But the seediness somehow seems to fit–especially back in the Atchafalaya Swamp, which is actually west of New Orleans. But remember: New Orleans is not entirely a bricks and mortar place. New Orleans is more a State of Mind. The Cajuns in the Atchafalya Swamp play a large part of the myth that is woven around the city of New Orleans, and New Orleans itself was also a swamp.
Just to the west of the French Quarter and around a bend of the Mississippi, the Garden District of New Orleans is located, and it is elegant. When you are in The Garden District, it is difficult to realize that your are only a simple tram ride away from the bawdiness of Bourbon Street. I’ll talk more about the Garden District in another post.
New Orleans is a Gateway to another way of life–or I should say to several other ways of life that seem to have been tossed into a big, boiling pot of crawfish and corn on the cob and then turned them out as one big buffet.
Voodoo is still practiced in New Orleans.
And music is as much a tributary of life in New Orleans as the River that runs through it.
New Orleans is one of the few tropical parts of the United States, and the trees and the flowers bear witness to the long growing season there.
The above photo is from the plantation home at Oak Alley.
In New Orleans, flowers flourish that will not grow farther North. I miss my Southern flowers.
And alligators are quite at home around New Orleans. Remember! New Orleans was once a swamp.
In Louisiana, Live Oaks, with their long, crooked branches, crawl across the terrain,
And Spanish moss weeps from their limbs.
This is only part 1 of my virtual tour of New Orleans. I hope that you will check back in a few days and catch the next parts of this in depth look at a magnificent Southern City–one that is very dear to my heart.
My name is Jacki Kellum, and I essentially have 3 masters degrees in the arts and humanities. I have written and created visual art since I was a very young child, and I blog about a number of topics on several different blog sites. I lead a Writers Group in New Jersey. and I teach painting. I am also an avid gardener. I hope that you will browse through my categories and my YouTube playlists and see if I am writing about anything that you enjoy. I hope to see you again and again.
New Orleans has a heartbeat all of its own. When snows have imprisoned me in New Jersey and/or when I long to be nearer my family, I always hop on my computer and look for small fixer-uppers near new New Orleans. If I had just a few dollars more, I would have two homes–the one in New Jersey, which is a short drive from New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., and the one in which I’ll always hang my heart. Seediness and all, I’d love to have a home in New Orleans, and I’d let the good times roll! Laissez les bons temp rouler.
©Jacki Kellum March 31, 2016