Louisiana provides a rich, unique blend of attractions, cuisine, culture, and French history.
Louisiana was a state with French influence, and it remains in its largest city, New Orleans, as well as its Cajun/Creole cuisine. I visited Louisiana last summer as part of a trip that included Alabama and Mississippi (future article). My family explored the New Orleans region, and though it was scorching hot, it was extraordinary. Here are the highlights:
Louisiana’s cuisine is one-of-a-kind; in fact, it’s well-known across the U.S. for delicious Cajun and Creole dishes. Indulging in local food is relevant to dining in the Caribbean. Some of the famous dishes are beignets, jambalaya, gumbo, red beans & rice, and po’boys (sandwiches).
Cajun cuisine has been a staple in New Orleans for many years. In fact, the influence has remained strong since the late 1700s/early 1800s, when settlers to this region introduced the cuisine. Since then, many Cajun dishes have risen, and the diversity of entrees makes Louisianans proud of their distinctive cuisine.
At Cafe Pontalba, I wolfed down the scrumptious combination of a massive, juicy, Cajun burger and Cajun potatoes inclusive of several spices. The burger was so enormous it barely fit into my hands. The first chew of the medium-rare burger was magnificent, as the soft, tender patty was extra juicy and dancing on my taste buds. The potatoes were perfectly chopped and cooked, and it felt like indulging in skinless potato bites. This delectable side dish was topped off in a Cajun seasoning, which could include a mixture of various spices such as garlic powder, chili flakes, paprika, thyme, oregano, etc. Cajun seasoning is inclusive of many spices to introduce a flavorful, unique feeling to your taste buds. Though my potatoes were not spicy, the spice level can vary for any dish. When exploring new states, I like to eat the famous cuisine there to sample different foods and be immersed in a state’s unique culture.
Lastly, Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans is known for its coffee and scrumptious beignets.
Beignets are fried dough pieces (like donuts) covered with powder, a MUST try here because of how delectable they are. I remember eating several, and they made me forget about other sweets. When taking that first bite of a beignet, it felt like tasting the inside of a donut, but instead enhanced with a crunchy, fried taste. The mass amount of powder sprinkled over the sweet easily gets your fingers dusted, and it gives you a tingly feeling. It’s hard not to make a mess when eating these powdered sweets, but it’s easily forgettable because the beignet is tastier with every nibble. Cafe du Monde has multiple locations in the New Orleans area.
Louisiana is home to some unique attractions that are infrequently found throughout the country. It has plantations, which were large mansions originally used for agricultural purposes. I took a tour of a plantation near New Orleans, and it was a massive, colonial-looking estate. I went inside, and was shocked to see the design and layout still reminiscent of a couple centuries ago, as it remained intact with its original design and was devoid of renovations. Some of the distinctions were the placement of barrels, old chandeliers, and a large balcony. It almost felt like it was a school field trip from history class, yet still a worthwhile experience to have.
Plantations have a large history behind them, and knowing what they symbolized in past times gave me an uneasy feeling during the tour. With every passing second, it grew harder to think about the deep, cruel history entrenched in this mansion. The pushes, shoves, spits, and falls all flooded my mind. As the calendar has kept turning, the cohesiveness of society has fluctuated, and it’s an up and down world we live in. We see the good moments of humans helping fellow humans in times of natural disaster and crisis, while in others, there are moments of assumption and spiteful attitude. Though society is driven by a stark contrast in perceptions, all humans have hearts and purpose in every step, no matter their appearance to the world.
Other attractions in Louisiana include swamps and marshes. Now, you may think that sounds unappealing, but there are quite a bit of tours that delve into the heart of a swamp and nature firsthand. In those tours, alligator sightings can happen (if that’s your idea of a good time).
This last one is not an attraction, but there is a lake near New Orleans called Lake Pontchartrain. There is a long bridge to cross it (around 25 miles long), or the interstate one. We took the shorter one on the interstate, but the lake was astonishing to look at. I could see the other bridge in the distance from my car, and the sun’ rays reflecting on the water was magnificent. It was literally one bridge built into the water and spanning into the distance, an elegant sight to behold.
New Orleans is a city like no other. With so much culture and history immersed in this city, the attractions are endless. My family visited the French Quarter, a famous district known for its Louisiana cuisine, bars (Bourbon Street), and exceptional design. Walking in the French Quarter was superb, as the building designs were different colors, there were balconies, and it was such a vibrant atmosphere during the day, something assumed only at night. There were tourists taking it all in, plenty of food aromas, shops, and more. Don’t get me wrong, this place is ALIVE at night for raucous clubbers, but it was also live during the day.
We made a point of emphasis to visit Jackson Square, a famous point in the heart of the French Quarter. In the center lies the St. Louis Cathedral, an iconic, immense, white cathedral that is standing majestically. Around Jackson Square was street painters, street dancers, and horse carriages. It was radiant due to so many people and the street’s hustle and bustle. The Mississippi River was across from Jackson Square, and my family and I took a streetcar along the river after taking some photos at St. Louis Cathedral. We spent several hours in the French Quarter, walking on the crowded streets through the abundance of shops, the inside of a large flea market, and the fine dining. The multitude of entertainment options and design make the French Quarter a truly glamorous district in the country. Because the French Quarter incorporates aspects of multiple cultures such as French design and Cajun cuisine, I left NOLA more motivated to experience the culture in countries around the world.