You should walk around the French Quarter. That what you should definitely do. That’s what I do.
Frau Schmitt and I have been spending a lot of time, comparatively, in the Quarter recently. It has to do with the season. This time of year is the slow season for New Orleans’ main industry so there aren’t a lot of visitors to the city right now. There won’t be about another month and a half. Summertime is our time to go to the French Quarter. It’s so much less crowded.
You’ll meet some people who live in New Orleans and they’ll tell you they go to the Quarter all the time. I never meet those people. Unless they work in the Quarter or live in the Quarter, I don’t know anyone who goes more than once a month, if that often. People who live in the Quarter rarely leave. Everything they need is in the Quarter. It is a real neighborhood, even if it was overrun by 9.78 million visitors last year.
I said above that this is the slow season for the city’s main industry but I didn’t say what that industry is. It’s tourism. We live in a tourist economy. If you don’t come to New Orleans, a lot of people will be out of work, including your humble narrator. What are you waiting for?
One thing you should definitely do in New Orleans’ French Quarter is wander around. Like I say, that’s what I do and I enjoy doing it, especially this time of year. Other times of year, I find it less pleasant. Please don’t take any offense when I say that I enjoy the Quarter when it isn’t overrun by 9.78 million yahoos. I know all 9.78 million aren’t yahoos but it often feels that way on Bourbon Street.
Here’s a helpful tip: Not all of Bourbon Street is like Bourbon Street. When you think of Bourbon Street, you’re thinking about the part between Canal Street and, let’s say, Dumaine Street. That’s where all the strip clubs are and the cover bands blaring out Twisted Sister songs, and the guy who has his head in a baby carriage for you to take a picture with him, the overflowing gay bars with their disco infernos. It’s where you find the 3-for-1 beer deals and Huge Ass Beers and hand grenades (another type of drink) and bars stocked with frozen daiquiri machines instead of real liquor. You can to go that part, and you should, but I prefer the other end, the part of Bourbon Street closer to Esplanade Avenue.
The closer you get to Esplanade Avenue, the more beautiful and serene everything becomes; it doesn’t matter what street you are on.
As I say, I enjoy wandering the Quarter because it really is a very beautiful neighborhood. It feels lived in. This is natural. It’s been lived in for almost 300 years. It looks it. It smells like it sometimes, too. I don’t mention the smell because I don’t like it. I mention it because so many other accounts leave it out and it is one of the first thing our guests remark on. Imagine being down there 200 years ago with all the horses and without the indoor plumbing.
New Orleans, itself, is like another world. I remark on this constantly because I am reminded of this constantly. Within New Orleans, the French Quarter is another world.
When I say that I don’t go to the Quarter often, it’s because I’m not on vacation. I live in New Orleans. My list of errands rarely entails going to a strip club, getting pass out drunk, and buying a T-shirt that says “I GOT BOURBON FACED ON S*** STREET.” None of our guests do that either (to the best of my knowledge). The crowd that finds that chain of events appealing tends to stay in the hotels in the Quarter or across Canal Street in the Central Business District (CBD).
There are other things to do when you wander the Quarter. Royal Street is lined with antique stores and art galleries. Some of the art is good. Chartres Street (pronounced “charters”) has a lot of restaurants on it. Decatur Street is more tee shirt shops and souvenirs shops. Decatur isn’t one of my favorite streets unless we’re going to Tujaque’s for dinner or to Sbisa’s for a drink. In winter, we go to Molly’s at the Market for a hot buttered rum.
The side of the Quarter toward Esplanade is quieter and more residential. The side of the Quarter closer to Canal is much more commercial and busier. Burgundy and Dauphine Streets are relatively quiet for their entire lengths.
I like walking around the Quarter. You will, too, no matter what time of year it is. In fact, you, like most other people, won’t want to come to New Orleans during the slow season. I think it’s the best time of year to visit, but I’ve grown accustomed to the heat and the humidity. As long as you keep hydrated, you’ll be fine and you’ll be able to savor the city at your leisure.
What are you waiting for?
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
…where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.
July 11. 2016: Sunny, even when it’s raining.