Touring the Vieux Carré by horse-drawn carriage is romantic, funny, informative, and a must-do activity. On a prior visit, I fell under the spell of a real "old timer" who not only knew his history, but was a natural comedian. No such luck with the current guy, but who was to know he would turn out to be a dud?
He would not leave his parking post unless he could get another couple to hop in so he could make his minimum fare. So we waited, and waited, and waited . . . finally, we were joined by another young couple and were relieved to begin our tour. By the way, there are blankets on the seats that came in very handy, as dusk was setting in, and let’s remember that it’s December.
He was difficult to hear because he did not turn around occasionally, so you can see his lips moving. We did catch a few notable facts, which I give you below.
1. At one time, the French Quarter was all of New Orleans. As the city grew, it extended beyond those boundaries. Several major streets make up the square, and they are Bourbon (most famous), Royal, Chartres, Decatur, Rampart, Dauphine, and Burgundy. On foot, we did the first four.
2. The French Quarter is less than a mile long and only half a mile across; try telling this to your feet as you amble along. It has become synonymous with the city of NO.
3. Royal Street had me literally jumping out of my seat; it is a mélange of galleries, funky and elegant shops, antiques, and ambulant musicians. In days of old, a streetcar used to run along this street. Behind St. Louis’ Cathedral was the area where Jackson plotted his battle plans. Also on Royal is famous haunted Lalaurie House.
4. Chartres Street is not as posh as Royal but has its own merits (a lot of bookshops, which sends me straight to heaven). Here you will find the nation’s first pharmacy, which is now a museum. We entered when we were on foot and did not stay for the tour. Remember Paul Prudhomme? Lines used to form around the block for a table at his restaurant. It’s still there, but there are no lines. New Orleans’ oldest playhouse is on Chartres, on the corner of Jackson. The Cabildo, now part of the Louisiana State Museum, was the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase.
5. Decatur used to be considered dangerous at one time, but they fixed that. The Jax Brewery is an important shopping anchor together with the Canal Place Mall. This is where you can find the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Café, and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company among other well-reputed places. The first Café du Monde is also there, across the street from Jackson Square.
Your guide might be able to point out all the houses of ill repute, which can be on any of these streets.