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Apr 15, 2004

The Big Easy (continued)

New Orleans has a certain comfortable "hey neighbor" feel to it, especially to first time visitors. The combination of great home cooked food, rich in history, colorful locals that smile and greet you as you pass by and amazing architecture spread throughout the city.

It was indeed my first time, but I fell in love with this amazing city and predict that I will be returning to rediscover its richness time and time again.

For those not familiar with the Big Easy, here are some tips and perhaps highlights:

1. Stay in the french quarter, if you can. Pick a quaint, historic, yest chic hotel. The W, and the Chateau De Moyne come to mind

2. Garden District: If you want to see some amazing homes, go to the Garden District; If you're a fan of the Real World, New Orleans, the house will be easy to spot. Although now, its being renovated and has lost its MTV luster.

3. Audubon Zoo/Park: Definitely a must. Tall old trees, lush, a great place to spend an afternoon sipping iced tea.

4. Trolley rides: Why not? They are a buck twenty five and they hit all the major spots.

5. Cafe du Monde: Although a bit of atourist trap, its a great place people watch and eat a Beignet (a New Orleans must!!)

6. Bourbon Street: If you like crowds, this street in the French Quarter is packed even on non holiday weekends. Sometimes its fun to watch people get drunk and zig zag back to the hotel.

7. Cemetery tours: These you can do yourself. All of the dead are interred above ground, so the cemetery is quite a sight that may give you a bit of old New Orleans history.

8. To Go Cups: The lovely thing about the Big Easy is that you can drink and walk without getting into trouble. All you need is a plastic cup and some alcohol and alcohol is easy to find there.


New Orleans is situated about 100 miles North of where The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico which makes it a great shipping centre. It is the home and birthplace of Jazz, and millions of tourists flock there every year not only for the jazz and Mardi Gras celebrations, but also for the cities historical French Quarter. It has been described as America's Most Interesting City.

The City was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. He was governor of the French colony Louisiana. He named it New Orleans after the Duke of Orleans who ruled France for the boy King LouisXV. The French declared it the capitol of Louisiana and ruled it for forty years. Defeated in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) France was forced to cede Canada and all territories between The Appalachians and the Mississippi including Florida and the north of Louisiana to Britain.The rest of Louisiana including New Orleans was ceded to Spain who ruled for Forty One years.

New Orleans grew more under Spanish rule and the Spanish allowed Colonial and British traders to trade through New Orleans at first but revoked this in the 1770's because they feared that New Orleans was being brought more into the American orbit. But this did not stop the Anglo Saxons in West Florida from trading. They just found another route via Lakes Borgne, Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

The signing of the Declaration of American Independence in 1776 spelt the beginning of the end to Spanish rule. In 1800, Spain and France were unable to hold New Orleans against the Americans flooding into the Mississippi Valley. Napolean tried to re-establish the French Empire in Louisiana by taking over control from Spain in 1802 , but the French rule was brief. Napoleon decided to sell all of Louisiana to the Americans for 15,000,000 Dollars. Thomas Jefferson who negotiated the deal (The Louisiana Purchase), pulled off one of the greatest real estate buy's in history.

Louisiana joined the Union in 1812. During the same year British troops tried to capture New Orleans but General Andrew Jackson defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans 1815.

The Jazz Age
By 1900 the population of New Orleans was about 287,000. It was around this period that Jazz music evolved. It is the only music entirely American invented. New Orleans Jazz it is said, evolved from Ragtime as played by Scott Joplin, and of the songs of field workers before the turn of the century. It started with the likes of Buddy Bolden and Freddie Keppard although, what we know is only heresay for Bolden of whom it was said blew so hard on his cornet that he could be heard more than a mile away never recorded. If we are to beleive Bunk Johnson on his Talking Records of 1942, he says Bolden blew so hard that he blew his brain and ended his days in a mental institution. Keppard who did record, but very little, was so afraid that other cornetists would copy his fingering that he used to play with a handerchief over his hand.

The first jazz record was made in 1917 by Nick La Rocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band playing Livery Stable Blues. Although the band was not that outstanding, the record was a great success and it inspired others like Bix Beiderbecke to take up jazz. It put jazz on the world map and it paved the way for other jazz musicians to record.

By 1920 musicians such as King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong helped win worldwide recognition for New Orleans as the Birthplace and centre of Jazz.


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