on January 24, 2007
A walking tour of the French Quarter is a must as it is the historic and cultural center of New Orleans. You can easily walk the Quarter as it is rather shady; there are many restaurants and bars if you need to take a break, although it can get rather humid in summer. This walking tour will take approximately 2 to 6 hours to complete, depending on how many museums you actually visit or how many breaks you take for food or shopping! As always, bring along a hat, drinking water, and lots of sunscreen.You can start your walking tour at the upper end of the Quarter where you will find boisterous bars, gift shops, fancy hotels and world–class Creole restaurants here such as the ever popular NOLA, Antoine’s and Galatoire’s. Despite the hordes of tourists here, one can still marvel at the gorgeous architecture of the area. The French Quarter draws its beauty from the sheer number of aged and detailed houses, especially the filigreed cast iron gates and balconies. We saw lots of gates that had corn, grapes, and leaf motifs as well as shuttered doors and windows. Interestingly, some columns of the houses had huge ‘thorns’. This, we were told, was to prevent amorous young lovers from climbing onto the upstairs balconies of their sweethearts. Make your way to the heart of the French Quarter, Jackson Square, one of the most picturesque parks in the United States, mainly because it is flanked by the Pontalba Buildings, the Cabildo, and the St Louis Cathedral. The Cabildo is historically significant as the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803 and has served as the venue of the Spanish Colonial government in New Orleans. Inside you will find more than 1,000 artifacts and authentic works of art. The Cabildo is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Tickets cost $5 for adults and are free for children.The history of Mardi Gras is wonderfully chronicled in the permanent exhibition at the Presbytere which emphasizes major themes of the celebration such as the Masking, Parades, and Balls. Not to be missed are the unique Mardi Gras memorabilia, sequined and bejeweled handmade gowns worn by kings and queens, and antique invitations to masquerade balls. The Presbytere is closed on Mondays. Otherwise, hours are from 9am to 5pm and admission is $5 for adults. If you decide to visit the Cablido and Presbytere together, you will receive a 20% discount on the ticket price. The square itself is an amazingly colorful and hectic place, what with carriage rides (starting from $10), tarot card readers, mimes, musicians, painters, performers, and vendors, all vying for your attention and dollars! Be sure to visit the French Market at the lower end of the Quarter near the river. It houses the Farmer’s Market and Flea Market and you will find really cheap souvenirs and trinkets here if you bargain hard!
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