Adventures in the Crescent City

By Kawai, Yoshitomo
In July 2006, I was on Amtrak heading all around the major cities of the United States as a backpacker. As a one of destinations, I chose New Orleans. I was looking forward to having the fun of hearing real jazz and wanted to observe what was going on there after Katrina. I would be glad if my article were used as a guide of New Orleans by anyone who has not been there.
Before I tell you about New Orleans, let me draw your attention to Amtrak. The city is served by rail via Amtrak. I was very frustrated due to a painful delay. Despite that the trip from Los Angels to New Orleans was supposed to take 48 hours, eventually it took me 72 hours. They always give priority to freight trains. Anytime a freight train passed by from the opposite way, our train had to stop and waited for the train passing even though they have two railways. Although I do not exactly know why, it was sure that I had to survive for 72 hours with expensive noodles and hot dogs on the train. I will not choose Amtrak if I head to New Orleans again.
Having mentioned Amtrak, it’s time to bring the focus back to New Orleans. It is essential to introduce the “French Quarter”, which is the favorite tourist place, when we talk about New Orleans. This neighborhood dates from the French and Spanish eras and is bounded by the Mississippi River, Rampart St, Canal St, and Esplanade Avenue. The French Quarter contains many popular hotels, bars and nightclubs, most notably around Bourbon St. New Orleans is the birthplace of not only Jazz but also Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong, also known as “Satchmo”, was a jazz trumpeter and singer. He was a charismatic, innovative performer whose improvised soloing was the main influence for a fundamental change in jazz, shifting its focus from collective improvised soloing. He is the one of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century. The French Quarter definitely would give anyone who loves jazz a most memorable night because jazz clubs are everywhere.
New Orleans is also world-renowned for its local cuisine, particularly, Louisiana Creole cuisine and Cajun cuisine. At that time, I remember I tried “Alligator” as a one of the local cuisines in a restaurant, which is along Bourbon St, and it was awesome. I recommend that you try alligator at least once. The indigenous cuisine is distinctive and influential. From centuries of amalgamation of local Creole, haute Creole, and New Orleans French cuisines, New Orleans food has developed. Local ingredients, French, Spanish, Italian, African, Native American, Cajun and a hint of Cuban traditions combine to produce a truly unique and easily recognizable Louisiana flavor. Additionally, it is necessary to keep in mind that “French Doughnut” also deserves to be tried. One of the French Cafés, named “Café du Monde”, which is by the port is well known for serving really good French Doughnuts.
Let us now turn to negative points. As I mentioned above, New Orleans was very amazing place. However, one of the not-acceptable points is crime. As far as I am concerned, I did not face any danger and risk because I was backpacker, which means a poor-looking traveler. However, I felt at risk sometimes and I saw a couple of fights. Besides, I heard a gun fire. Reportedly, although the city has lost more than 40% of its pre-Katrina population, the city has recaptured an infamous and unwanted title as the nation’s “murder capital”.
As mentioned above, New Orleans has positive and negative sides. It is no exaggeration to refer as “The most unique city in America”. Why do not you experience this amazing city for yourself?