Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Let the Good Times Roll.! It Couldn't Be Easier as ANNETTE LORD Experiences Life in the Big Easy

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Let the Good Times Roll.! It Couldn't Be Easier as ANNETTE LORD Experiences Life in the Big Easy

Article excerpt

ENTION New Orleans and music and Mardi Gras come to mind.

MBut are there other gems worth seeking out in this Deep South swampland city ? It's 10 years since Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc and I was keen to see what New Orleans had become.

I take a nine-hour flight to Atlanta (flying from Manchester where Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines have launched a new route) and from there it's just a short hop to New Orleans and the Le Meridien Hotel, close to the renowned French Quarter.

Fortunately, the time of year I visit means the weather is pleasantly, not stickily, warm and it isn't long before I'm strolling past the city's antique streetcars and into the Quarter, where its old buildings with little courtyards and wrought iron balconies are a surviving throwback to its Creole history.

The city was established by French colonists and strongly influenced by their European culture, evident in its French and Spanish Creole architecture.

Mardi Gras beads still hang from the trees and railings here long after the annual spectacle has passed. But it is the neon lights and strip joints of Bourbon Street that bring me back to the present.

As well as being known as the birthhplace of jazz leading to the nickname The Big Easy, I soon discover New Orleans claims to be the birthplace of the cocktail too and, although other places around the globe disagree, the idea is embraced here with gusto.

Every bar and restaurant seems to have a range of cocktails on offer, from the standard mojito to unique ones created at that very bar.

We get to find out more on a cocktail tour, which isn't as inebriating as it sounds, although we did get a different cocktail to try at each historic bar we visited.

The idea is to be introduced to the history of each building through the story of its signature drink.

We were shown some fascinating places, from the atmospheric Court of Two Sisters to upmarket old restaurants such as Antoines - which celebrates its 175th birthday this year - and Arnauds, where we were dazzled by the vintage costumes in its Mardi Gras museum.

I soon discovered that the easy-going attitude of New Orleans is reflected in its licensing laws. If you want to leave a bar you don't have to drink up!

Clutching our 'to go' cocktails in plastic cups, we walked from one establishment to the next.

It certainly fits in with New Orleans' saying 'laissez les bons temps rouler' - let the good times roll.

We rolled back to Antoines for our evening meal. It is hard to convey the size and sheer splendour of the place, except to say it has 14 unique dining rooms and the opulent surroundings made me feel like royalty.

Our party was seated in the Rex Room, which is dedicated to the Mardi Gras kings. …

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