All that Jazz at the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny

The French Quarter really is very charming. It is not difficult to see why and how it embodies the spirit of New Orleans. It's alive day and night but each time of the day with different types of crowd and atmosphere for obvious reasons. No time of the day is more exciting than the other. When the sun is out, art galleries, stores, boutiques, and cafes come alive. Come sundown, the fun and craziness begins on Bourbon Street.

The buildings throughout the French Quarter are striking with the common theme of Victorian-style cast iron railings. There was certainly no shortage of cafes and bars on every street we walked on in the Quarter. While many of the streets can easily be passed off as being similar, they actually each have their own little unique characteristics. We turned from one corner going on to the next street and found ourselves in quite a subtly different setting. Royal Street, best seen during the day, is lined with a multitude of expensive and upscale antique stores, art galleries, and specialty boutiques. Walking past the many antique stores make a good opportunity for window shopping although I am also curious as to how often these stores make a sale given the competition from their neighbors.

There was no lacking in dining and shopping options along Decatur Street during the day and we could easily see how the colorful bars come to live at night.

We probably walked on Chartres Street most often really because our hotel was right around the corner from here. The colonial architecture buildings were each different and unique in their own way. It was not uncommon to spot ceiling fans on many upstairs patios on the second floor which was really interesting given that the patios were outdoors. Perhaps they are needed for the non-breezy summer days in New Orleans. Or maybe I need to get used to the fact that not every city is as windy as Chicago.

Cocktails to go. Only in New Orleans.

Come sundown Bourbon Street turns into a pedestrian-only zone with Mardi Gras-like festivities no matter the time of year. One of the wonderful things about Bourbon Street is that we did not necessarily have to be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras because every night on Bourbon Street feels like Mardi Gras although with a lesser extent of craziness but nevertheless bustling with energy. Mardi Gras may have been recently over but there was still the ritual and tradition of people gathering on balconies throwing colorful beads to people (women, especially) on the street in exchange of bearing their breasts. But really though, these beads throwers are getting nicer and nicer. They still throw you beads and trinkets as long as you raise and flap your arms in the air signaling that you want them too. We did not really see people actually working hard to earn all the colorful beads they draped around their necks. Live jazz bars were everywhere and the music from the different bars were loud enough to escape out onto the streets that we did not necessarily have to be inside any of them to feel the jazzy atmosphere of Bourbon Street. When we had enough drinks for the night, late night eats were everywhere as well. People working for the various strip clubs clamored for patrons and many of them would walk up to us both and say, "No cover charge for you couple!" One of the big differences between the law in Chicago and New Orleans is the alcohol consumption on the street. No surprises here that in New Orleans it is legal for people to carry a beer in hand walking on the street and enjoying the night out. In Chicago, you drink inside and if you cannot finish your drink before you leave, I guess it is too bad for you.

Artists, tarot card readers, and musicians find their comfort spot at Jackson Square. Right outside the park, tarot card readers set up their own little tables, sit on their chairs, and wait for passersby to stop by hoping to get a reading. Artists display their works for people to admire and maybe make a sale. Musicians offer live entertainment to people walking past and maybe some interested passersby will buy the band's CD.

Lovers of jazz will like Faubourg Marigny, an area located right outside the eastern edge of the French Quarter. This hip and bohemian neighborhood has four blocks of live jazz bars and restaurants along Frenchmen Street. On one of our nights there we strayed away from the drunken and tourist atmosphere of Bourbon Street and went to Frenchmen Street. We heard that this was where locals come to enjoy jazz. Many of these bars do not have a cover charge but patrons are encourage to leave a tip for the musicians. The best way to enjoy Frenchmen Street is to stay for a drink at a bar while listening to the music, and then hopping over to the next bar for another drink and for more jazz. As the bars have different types of jazz genre playing at a time, it really was a good option for us to decide the types of jazz we wanted to listen to that night whether for a short while or longer at a certain bar. Some of the popular jazz bars on Frenchmen Street are Spotted Cat, Snug Harbor, and Apple Barrel.

All we needed was good jazz to complete the essence of the true New Orleans experience and it was not difficult to find it.

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