ADVERTORIAL • April 2019
It’s the cocktail-slinging, culinary award-winning, horn-blaring heart of the South and, thanks to direct British Airways flights, it’s now easier to reach than ever. Here are five reasons why New Orleans should be on your must-visit list
There are few places in America where history feels so alive as in New Orleans. From the narrow streets and flaking facades of the French Quarter, still lit by flickering copper gas lanterns, to the gleaming streetcars that rattle down oak-lined St Charles Avenue (the very same that inspired once-resident Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer prize-winning play A Streetcar Named Desire), it can feel as if the clock has been turned back just for you. It’s also one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, a melting pot of influences evidenced both by its festive traditions – from French-themed Bastille Fête to the world-famous Mardi Gras (pictured) – and its Cajun and Creole cooking (the latter blends West African, Haitian and Native American influences with those of the French, Spanish, German and Italian communities that settled here).
Talking of food, New Orleans is obsessed with it. Whether that’s rib-sticking po’ boy sandwiches (pictured), stuffed with fried shrimp, crawfish, oysters or crab (Johnny’s Po Boy does some of the best); traditional hearty Creole dishes such as gumbos, grits and grillades, which you’ll find served up all over town, usually with a fiercely guarded home-spun twist; or highly elevated contemporary cooking, you’ll find it served generously and with genuine warmth. In fact, it’s a city so recognised for its food and hospitality that 2019 sees it in the running for 13 prestigious James Beard Awards (winners yet to be announced), including in the Best New Restaurant and Outstanding Service categories. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum offers a brilliantly curated and eye-opening look at how much New Orleans, and the South, has contributed to the food world.
But it’s certainly not just about the food here. As the Museum of the American Cocktail irrefutably proves, New Orleans is also a city that likes to imbibe. Its signature cocktail, the Sazerac (pictured), is a warming blend of cognac, absinthe, bitters and sugar the colour of sunsets over the Mississippi. There are few more appropriate places to sample a sip of it than at the glamorous Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans, a 1930s masterpiece of mahogany counters and walnut wall panelling. But you don’t have to go out of your way for a decent drink in New Orleans. The French Quarter is dense with atmospheric drinking dens pouring everything from sophisticated slow sippers to locally brewed beers, or the frozen daiquiris and Hand Grenades that keep the party spirit on Bourbon Street well stoked.
And where there are drinks, you’ll invariably find music. It’s the single ingredient that flavours almost all aspects of life in New Orleans. It floats down to the street from behind shutter-clad windows, blares brassily from the horns of marching bands that seem to appear from out of nowhere, and boom-thumps irresistibly from the blues and jazz bars that pepper the grid of streets. Sample the original, rough-hewn sounds of the city at Preservation Hall, an intimate, no-frills venue that has been serving up (and preserving) authentic New Orleans Jazz since the 1960s. Or head to Tipitina’s, an iconic neighbourhood juke joint, for all-night jam sessions that’ll have you stumbling out onto Napoleon Avenue as the rising sun paints the sky pink.
The Big Easy sure is easy to reach. Not only is New Orleans accessible from the UK via direct flights from London Heathrow with British Airways, it’s also a really easy city to get around. While the streetcars (pictured) are easily the most fun (and affordable at $3 for a day-pass) method of getting across town, the compact size of its neighbourhoods make walking the best way to see everything on offer. Of course, there’s also always the Mississippi herself, and the Algiers Ferry – it’ll take you across the river to the pretty suburb of Algiers Point, which offers the best view of the city, looking back across those fabled waters.
Words by Alex Allen
British Airways is the only airline to provide direct flights to New Orleans from the UK, with scheduled flights departing Heathrow five times a week. To book your flights to New Orleans click here