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New Orleans, LA

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New Orleans is one of the world's most fascinating cities – it's home to a truly unique melting pot of culture, food and music. Come down and experience New Orleans, one of America's most culturally and historically-rich destinations
No city in North America can compete with New Orleans when it comes to culture, food, historic architecture, joie de vivre and tourism options.
The Crescent City has suffered plagues, wars, imperial regime changes and devastating floods. Yet, it always wakes up with a smile on its face. This may be because its inhabitants step to an easy beat first laid down three centuries ago. Moving at this relaxed pace, visitors are delighted by the French Creole elegance of the Vieux Carre (French Quarter) or the opulence discovered in a streetcar ride through the Garden District and Uptown.
Anytime of year find live music, amazing Creole and Cajun cuisine, fresh seafood, farmers markets, shopping, nightlife and more.  During Mardi Gras season, the city becomes the world’s center. Downtown transforms into an adult playground, while parades in residential areas provide children thrilling entertainment. Each spring, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival moves the focus to the charming Gentilly area and the Fair Grounds Race Course. But no matter the time of year, New Orleans' calendar overflows in celebration.


Architecture & Culture

New Orleans, with its richly mottled old buildings, its sly, sophisticated - sometimes almost disreputable - air, and its Hispanic-Gallic traditions, has more the flavor of an old European capital than an American city. Townhouses in the French Quarter, with their courtyards and carriageways, are thought by some scholars to be related on a small scale to certain Parisian "hotels" - princely urban residences of the 17th and 18th centuries. Visitors particularly remember the decorative cast-iron balconies that cover many of these townhouses like ornamental filigree cages.
European influence is also seen in the city's famous above-ground cemeteries. The practice of interring people in large, richly adorned aboveground tombs dates from the period when New Orleans was under Spanish rule. These hugely popular "cities of the dead" have been and continue to be an item of great interest to visitors. Mark Twain, noting that New Orleanians did not have conventional below-ground burials, quipped that "few of the living complain and none of the other."
One of the truly amazing aspects of New Orleans architecture is the sheer number of historic homes and buildings per square mile. Orleanians never seem to replace anything. Consider this: Uptown, the City's largest historic district, has almost 11,000 buildings, 82 percent of which were built before 1935 - truly a "time warp."
The spine of Uptown, and much of New Orleans, is the city's grand residential showcase, St. Charles Avenue, which the novel A Confederacy of Dunces aptly describes: "The ancient oaks of St. Charles Avenue arched over the avenue like a canopy...St. Charles Avenue must be the loveliest place in the world. From time to time...passed the slowing rocking streetcars that seemed to be leisurely moving toward no special designations, following their route through the old mansions on either side...everything looked so calm, so prosperous."
The streetcars in question, the St. Charles Avenue line, represent the nation's only surviving historic streetcar system. All of its electric cars were manufactured by the Perley Thomas Company between 1922 and 1924 and are still in use. Hurricane Katrina flood waters caused severe damage to the steel tracks along the entire uptown and Carrollton route and had to be totally replaced and re-electrified. The cars themselves survived and are included in the National Register of Historic Places. New Orleanians revere them as a national treasure.
Creole cottages and shotgun houses dominate the scene in many New Orleans neighborhoods. Both have a murky ancestry. The Creole cottage, two rooms wide and two or more deep under a generous pitched roof with a front overhang or gallery, is thought to have evolved from various European and Caribbean forms.
The shotgun house is one room wide and two, three or four rooms deep, under a continuous gable roof. As legend has it, the name was suggested by the fact that because the rooms and doors line up, one can fire a shotgun through the house without hitting anything.
Some scholars have suggested that shotguns evolved from ancient African "long-houses," built here by refugees from the Haitian Revolution, but no one really knows.
It is true that shotguns represent a distinctively Southern house type. They are also found in the form of plantation quarters houses. Unlike shotgun houses in much of the South, which are fairly plain, New Orleans shotguns fairly bristle with Victorian jigsaw ornament, especially prominent, florid brackets. Indeed, in many ways, New Orleans shotguns are as much a signature of the city as the French Quarter.
New Orleans' architectural character is unlike that of any other American city. A delight to both natives and visitors, it presents such a variety that even after many years of study, one can still find things unique and undiscovered.


The history of New Orleans reads like a fantastic novel. Here are a few of the highlights to help you better understand the historical dynamics that have shaped this utterly unique city.
In 1718, the Frenchman Sieur de Bienville founded a strategic port city five feet below sea level, near the juncture of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. The new city, or ville, was named La nouvelle Orleans for Philippe, Duc d'Orleans, and centered around the Place d'Armes (later to be known as Jackson Square. The original city was confined to the area we now call the French Quarter or Vieux Carre (Old Square).
SPANISH RULE: 1762-1801
In 1762, either because he lost a bet, or because the royal coffers were exhausted, Louis XV gave Louisiana to his Spanish cousin, King Charles III. Spanish rule was relatively short -- lasting until 1801 -- but Spain would leave a lasting imprint on the city.
In 1788, the city went up in flames, incinerating over 800 buildings. New Orleans was still recovering when a second fire in 1794 destroyed 200 structures. One of the only
French structures to survive these fires is the Old Ursuline Convent (1100 Chartres). Completed in 1752, it is the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley. This means that most of the buildings you see in the French Quarter were actually constructed by the Spanish.
In 1801 Louisiana ceded back to France, but only two years later Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, effectively doubling the size of the U.S.A. At a cost of only $15 million, it was considered one of the greatest real estate bargains in history.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Americans arrived en masse as did European immigrants from Germany, Ireland and Sicily.
Tension existed between the European Creoles concentrated in the French Quarter and the new American residents. As a result the Americans settled across Canal Street in what was known then as the American Sector, known today as The Central Business District. The two factions skirmished often, and the Canal Street median became neutral area where the two groups could come together to do business without invading the other's territory. Ever since, all city medians have been called neutral grounds.
And the Haitian Revolution of 1804 meant that for years to come thousands of Afro-Caribbean descent would come to call New Orleans home. These immigrants further diversified the population of New Orleans and made colorful contributions to the city's culture.
The war of 1812 culminated in the Battle of New Orleans three years after the war began. In January of 1815, 8,000 British troops were poised to attack and overtake the City of New Orleans. The American forces lead by General Andrew Jackson were grossly outnumbered. And due to the circumstances an unusual union formed - the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte and his men joined the American forces to defend New Orleans. On January 8, a polyglot band of 4,000 militia, frontiersmen, former Haitian slaves and Lafitte's pirates defeated the British at the Chalmette battlefield, just a few miles east of the French Quarter. The battlefield remains a place worthy of a visit.
By the mid 1800s, the city in the bend of the river became the fourth largest in the U.S. and one of the richest, dazzling visitors with chic Parisian couture, fabulous restaurants and sophisticated culture. 
Society centered around the French Opera House, where professional opera and theatre companies played to full houses. In fact, opera was performed in New Orleans seven years before the Louisiana Purchase, and more than 400 operas premiered in the Crescent City during the l9th century.
Under French, Spanish and American flags, Creole society coalesced as Islanders, West Africans, slaves, free people of color and indentured servants poured into the city along with a mix of French and Spanish aristocrats, merchants, farmers, soldiers, freed prisoners and nuns.