The French Quarter
Also known as the Vieux Carre ("Old Square"), the French Quarter is one of the oldest parts of New Orleans and a large part of what gives the city its flavor and charm. The Quarter consists of 120 city blocks nestled along a bend of the Mississippi River. It offers a little something for everybody: outdoor cafes and markets, seedy bars and elegant restaurants, antique stores and funky gift shops, street corner musicians and artists, unique architecture ... and best of all, beignets!
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities (along with NYC, Chicago, and London). I honeymooned in New Orleans, at the lovely Degas House, and whenever I visit, I spend most of my time wandering about the Quarter.
The French Quarter is not a museum like Colonial Williamsburg; it's a thriving area of the city where its residents live and work -- it just so happens that the residents of this neighborhood live and work in a lot of historic buildings. Over 35,000 buildings in New Orleans are on the Historic Register, and many of them are in the Quarter.
The Quarter was established by the French in 1718 as a military outpost, and was acquired by the Spanish in 1763. Most of the distinctive architecture in the French Quarter is actually Spanish in origin. The Creole culture is a melding of French and Spanish heritage, along with African influences from the slave population. The Quarter has endured and adapted through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 ("what, we're Americans now?!"), several devastating fires, and a Yankee occupation during the Civil War.
A number of colorful personages have added to the Vieux Carre's legacy, among them artists, politicians, writers, musicians, actors, and even pirates.
Oh, yeah...and "lagniappe" is a French Creole phrase dating back to the mid-19th century that means "a little something extra." Originally it was used by merchants in New Orleans when offering a small extra item or bonus to their favorite customers.
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