“The Big Easy” or “NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana)”, “The City that Care forgot” or “Crescent City” are just a few Names for the City of New Orleans, the famous city between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Delta. It’s the largest city of the State of Louisiana, but not the capital. The capital city is Baton Rouge. The city itself has about 350.000 inhabitants, including the metropolitan area with about 1.2 billion people.
The name “The Big Easy” was possibly a reference by musicians in the early 20th century to the relative ease of finding work there. It may have originated in the prohibition era, when the city was considered one big speakeasy due to the government’s inability to control alcohol sales. But it derives also to the easygoing everyday life in the area, celebrating festivals, music and the beauty of life. The city of New Orleans appears in many music songs.
In 2018 New Orleans celebrates it’s 300 years. In May 1718 the City “Nouvelle Orléans” was founded by the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and it was named after Philippe II., the Duke of Orléans. Still today you can see the French heritage in the urban architecture: The most famous is the French Quarter and the Garden District.
Since it’s foundation New Orleans has had a turbulent history: From 1718 to 1763 it took part of the Kingdom of France, from 1963 to 1802 it took part of the Kingdom of Spain, from 1802 to 1803 it was again French. In 1803 the french emperor Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase, which at that time was a huge area. It doubled the area of the existing United States. Later the city became a synonym of slavery: Many African people were brought to the Port of New Orleans and sold throughout the southern states to work at the sugar and cotton plantations as slaves. New Orleans has had the largest slave market in the US. Outside the city you still can see it’s heritage, the marvelous plantations. The most famous one are Oak Alley Plantation and Laura Plantation.
From 1812 to 1815 British Forces tried to capture the city, but the Americans where able to defeat them. This period is known as the “Battle of New Orleans”. In the following years and uring the Civil War (1860-1865) New Orleans was part of the Confederate States of America and took part of the South. After the war the slavery ended, but a new era began: the Civil Rights Movement until the 1960’s, black people fought for their equal treatment in public life. Different to the rest of the Southern States New Orleans has always been a liberal city and a melting pot of diverse cultures from around the world.
According to its geological position on the Gulf of Mexico and an elevation below sea level New Orleans was often hit by tropical hurricanes. The worst was Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, which destroyed the dams and flooded about 80 percent of the city; many people died or became homeless, others fled to other cities. Since then New Orleans is recovering from that shocking moment. But the people of New Orleans never lost their courage of live, and celebrate their festivals as always. For sure the most famous festival is the carnival in February or just called Mardi Gras, french for Fat Tuesday. At least two weeks before ash Wednesday the city celebrates this with parades, concerts and lots of beads, plastic necklaces.
Other festivals are the Jazz & Heritage Festival in April/May, with many world famous musicians, such as Bon Jovi, Joe Cocker, Bruce Springsteen mixed with many local and international (mostly Jazz) bands, the French Quarter Festival in April, the Voodoo Fest in fall, and several others. New Orleans is often called as the birthplace of Jazz, many Jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong or the recently died Antoine “Fats” Domino are born in this city. Many jazz bars with live music are throughout the city, mostly in the French Quarter, on Bourbon Street or Frenchmen Street. Bourbon Street is famous for its restaurants, bars, clubs & shops. Others are the Jackson Square with the St. Louis Cathedral, Canal Street and St. Charles Street with its antique Streetcars. Another unique symbol of the city are the cemeteries. According to the swampy ground, people cannot be buried underground, but they had to build mausoleums.
A bit outside the city there are many swamps with alligators, snakes and other animals. New Orleans is also famous for it’s cuisine, influenced by the French and Caribbean inhabitants, and it’s position to the Gulf of Mexico it became the Cajun and Creole Cuisine, the best known dishes are Crawfish, Crawfish Etoufe or Red Beans and Rice, as well as Po-Boys and Alligator meat.
The cuisine is mainly spicy and mostly flavoured with Tabasco Sauce which is made in Avery Island, just a few hours outside of New Orleans. The climate is humid subtropical with short, generally mild winters and hot, humid summers. The best time to travel is February to May, as there are the most festivals like Mardi Gras, the French Quarter Festival or the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.