Catch the Fighting Spirit of SurvivalNew Orleans, once described as an “inevitable city on an impossible site,” survived floods and disasters from its earliest days. Its location on a swampy patch between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain made it a vital—and vulnerable—port.
Famous for Mardi Gras revelry, Creole hospitality and the many fun places to go, New Orleans became a popular tourist destination. The Big Easy's nickname and its unofficial motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler (“Let the good times roll”), seemed to belie issues with poverty, unemployment or violent crime; even the political scandals were entertaining.
A complex system of levees, drainage canals and pumps kept the city dry but also caused it to sink below sea level. Hurricanes brought severe flooding, and experts warned that a direct hit would cripple the city. That prediction came true in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. Lake Pontchartrain's levees crumbled, leaving parts of the city under water and 1,500 people dead.
Hope emerged, though, through grass roots recovery efforts. Rebuilding homes, restoring a distinctive cultural identity and preserving and nurturing a rich musical heritage are key to the city's revival.
Streetcars once again shuttle passengers down Canal Street and the Riverfront, and the St. Charles Avenue line's cars clang and sway along their 13-mile route—at $1.25 a sightseeing bargain. The French Quarter buzzes with activity; music spills onto streets, competing with sidewalk singers, gypsy violinists, saxophonists and the Steamboat Natchez's calliope.
Residents refuse to be overwhelmed by their troubles—a spirit that harkens back to the first intrepid settlers who called the Louisiana bayous home.
Founders Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne arrived in 1699, claiming the region for France. Slavery was introduced almost immediately, with African-Americans populating the Tremé neighborhood abutting the Vieux Carré, now a historic district incorporating Louis Armstrong Park, site of a slave gathering place. African and West Indian rhythms generated there contributed to the birth of jazz in New Orleans.
In the mid-1700s France ceded the city to Spain and the French-speaking ancestors of present-day Cajuns arrived, driven from Acadia (Nova Scotia) by the British and an impending civil war.
Within a month in 1803, Louisiana's ownership passed from Spain to France and then to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. A clash of cultures commenced: The French kept to the Vieux Carré and the Americans to the Garden District.
Less than a decade later, the United States and England were at war. The invading army coveted the port and nearly captured it during the Battle of New Orleans, which pitted the British against Gen. Andrew Jackson.
Farming and a successful port made New Orleans a key Civil War target. Captured a year after fighting began, the Crescent City remained under Union rule until Reconstruction ended.
The Storyville district, created just outside the Vieux Carré to confine prostitution to one locale, flourished until 1917, and Bourbon Street's bawdy reputation arguably traces to a tolerance for promiscuous behavior. A more favorable outcome of the district was its jazz legacy—Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton practiced their music styles in Storyville bordellos.
Partying never ends in the French Quarter. Tourists still line up at Pat O'Brien's for fruity rum Hurricanes and music lovers queue outside Preservation Hall for Dixieland jazz. And traditional jazz funerals—where a brass band marches in a funeral procession, playing solemn dirges before launching into “When the Saints Go Marching In”—still take place.
New Orleans, LA
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.
Time and Temperature
Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.
1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.
New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.
Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.
Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.