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Category: New Orleans (page 2 of 3)

A Brief History of New Orleans

New Orleans. NOLA. “The Big Easy.” “The City That Care Forgot.” This metropolis of many names holds a place near and dear to my heart. Situated along the Mississippi River only one hundred miles from its source, the capital of Louisiana is a site of rich history, diverse culture, and social individuality. Founded by the French, ruled by the Spanish and purchased by America, this port of abundant trade has never ceased to animate the imaginations of human beings since its conception.

While the area may have been explored to a shallow extent in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the governor of French Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieuf de Bienville, who officially founded “The Big Easy” in 1718. Four years later New Orleans, then Nouvelle-Orleans, was dubbed the capital of Louisiana, snagging the title from Biloxi. The city would soon come to know the face of disaster later that year. A vicious hurricane struck the vulnerable town and decimated the majority of its infrastructure, forcing government officials to rebuild the grid pattern we now know today as the French Quarter.

Only 44 years later, in 1762, the French sold their Louisiana territory to Spain, thus transforming “The Crescent City” into a Spanish trading city for the next 40 years. In progressive fashion, the city adopted Spanish stratification inclinations and actually acknowledged a social class composed of “free people of color.” Soon, however, in 1803 the city was yet again ceded, this time back to the French. Then, in a remarkably rapid transaction, the United States proposed the Louisiana Purchase and bought the rights to Louisiana, as well as a tremendous amount of other territory, in 1803.

With its impeccable location along the trade superhighway of the time, the Mississippi River, New Orleans gained rapid momentum in the early 19th century and was soon America’s 3rd largest city. The thriving metropolis was responsible for shipping an enormous quantity of produce to the Caribbean, South America, and even Europe. While slavery was undoubtedly a large facet of the commercial market, that is not to discredit the free black community mentioned previously. In fact, those free from shackles prospered. Perhaps, it was in part due to this reason that New Orleans was taken unopposed in the soon-to-come Civil War (I apologize but the remainder of this article is to be published in a second post).

Road to Tokyo: Part Two

In the prior post, I claimed I would provide a written walkthrough of the various Pacific campaign exhibits housed in the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. Well, in this post I will continue to do so:

Island Hopping: Footholds Across the Pacific

As is mostly disseminated through tales of D-Day, storming beaches during World War Two was a phenomenally dangerous form of engagement. Soldiers were forced to prance through minefields while explosions clawed the sky. Bullets tore through the air to penetrate human bodies and deal out demise. Anguished screams filled ears as torment strangled soldiers across both sides. This same tale, time and time again, characterizes seemingly endless stories of “tactical” island hopping. In “Island Hopping: Footholds Across the Pacific,” museum-goers encounter a realistic beachscape littered with obstacles, carnage, and hostility. Immerse yourself in the experience as soldiers ultimately attempt to bring B-29 bombers within range of the enemy homeland.

China-Burma-India: The Pacific War’s Second Front

Detailing a facet of the war that largely goes unmentioned, this vital exhibit sheds light on some of the darkest corners of World War Two. Step into the space to witness a restored P-40 Warhawk fighter jet suspended in front of an immense three-panel video screen. The screens alternate between displaying an animated map of wartime supply routes to China and an environmental video of the Himalayas. Immediately impressing upon the museum-goer the nature of the enormous obstacles that Allied soldiers were forced to deal with, this room imparts upon visitors a much greater appreciation for the plight these soldiers were not only forced to endure, but forced to overcome.

Philippines: Returning to the Philippines

As the name may imply, this exhibit space primarily concerns itself with happenings in the Philippines. At the time, these prized islands were American territory under enemy control. They were stolen resources, a stain on the American reputation, a wrong which must be righted. The United States had promised to embrace its little brown brother with arms of protection, and yet the Japanese managed to pry those arms apart, dealing the Americans a blow in not only pride but in strategy as well. Regarding tactical value, the Philippines were a stronghold of geographical necessity. They were perfectly placed to dictate shipping lanes, the flow of oil and other innumerable supplies to Japan. This exhibit details the complexities and nuances involved in rescuing the Philippines back from their Japanese captor, and does so with a remarkable affinity for storytelling and attention to detail.

Death at Japan’s Doorstep: First Assault Onto Japanese Soil

The Pacific Theater hosted many performances of pervasive bloodshed, but few matched the extent of the Okinawa and Iwo Jima invasions. As Allied forces progressed closer and closer to the Japanese homeland, the Axis powers grew bolder and more aggressive. With the Japanese government pledging resistance to the last man, no matter if “one hundred million will die together,” an implacable fervor enveloped both sides. The extent of such passion often is difficult to communicate through mere words, however. Thus, “Death at Japan’s Doorstep: First Assault Onto Japanese Soil” is here to remedy the potential discrepancy by illustrating a tremendously accurate representation and depiction of the underground defensive network of caves and tunnels that the Japanese used in their attempts to dissuade and repel Allied forces.

Downfall: Endgame Against Japan

There are few times we can identify a course-altering moment in history. Usually, these decisions are the culmination of conversations held behind doors, out of sight yet not exactly out of mind. Before Truman gave the final decision that bellowed a conclusive end to the second war to end all wars, there was a path of immense destruction winding its way into the Japanese homeland. Firestorms enveloped Oriental cities and innocents, melting away culture and obliterating integral artifacts of Japanese tradition. The Allied intent to pursue victory was a decision not to be changed, an ironclad commitment not to be swayed, a passionate devotion not to be eradicated no matter the cost. The future of the world was at stake, and present momentary decisions paled in regards to eternity. In an effort to preserve American life, Truman made a decision that would devastate one culture to preserve another. He made the decision to drop not one, but two atomic bombs. Frankly, it is impossible to fully capture the weight of his decision no matter the medium. Yet, “Downfall” comes close in illustrating the extent of his decision. Truman was forced to weigh the significance of life itself, the prioritization of one people against another, the future of one culture at the expense of another.


Road to Tokyo: Part One

I previously authored a couple pieces describing the various Campaigns of Courage exhibit spaces at the National World War II Museum. However, I primarily restricted myself to the European side of the campaign. Well, I am back to rectify that with these next couple of pieces that center on, as you could have probably guessed from the title, the road to Tokyo. While the Pacific campaign of the war does not often receive the same publicity afforded to the more western campaign, that is not to discredit it in any way, shape, or form. In fact, the “Road to Tokyo” was responsible for a monumental event in history, the dropping of the atomic bomb. While I will make my way in due time to Truman’s landmark decision, I would like to proceed through the associated exhibits and stages of the campaign in the same order as the museum itself.

The Road to Tokyo: Facing the Rising Sun

Find yourself whisked away into history the moment you step foot into the first Pacific exhibit of the National World War II Museum. With a meticulous attention to detail, this exhibit space articulates with provocative detail the events surrounding that fateful day of December 7th, Pearl Harbor. Soon after the Japanese attack on our own soil, Germany and Italy declared war on us as well. Facing the rising sun of war, visitors find themselves immersed in a mentality characterized by the pervasive events of the 1940’s and World War II.

Briefing Room: Japanese Onslaught

Following your experience in the initial exhibit space, you will venture into the “Briefing Room: Japanese Onslaught.” The display does a fantastic job of emulating the very same atmosphere enveloping American military leaders at the time of Pearl Harbor. Three large windows showcase remarkable fighter planes igniting their engines over enemy waters in anticipation of battle. Besides the windows lie photographs of eighteen distinguished military leaders. These former leaders of the free world would then go on to develop the two-pronged Pacific invasion strategy that is also displayed to museum-goers in the very same space.

The New Naval Warfare: First Blood

After absorbing all the “Briefing Room” has to offer, set sail to “the New Naval Warfare: First Blood.” While the attack on Pearl Harbor was certainly devastating to American battleships, it did not hold the same effect on the Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers and submarines. Fortunately, these vessels were already at sea during the attack and facilitated rapid deployment following the December 7th tragedy. This Pacific display illustrates the amazing day-to-day activities of officers and cadets onboard those deployed battleships, as well as depicts a flight deck that offers details surrounding Doolittle Raid, Coral Sea, and Midway.

Guadalcanal: Green Hell

Immerse yourself in Guadalcanal to truly appreciate all those who gave everything sacrificed for us. It was here that WWII’s first major amphibious landing took place. This immaculate gallery presents an emotionally resounding depiction of the invasion. Fantastic colors swirl and coagulate to present a nearly transcendental experience that pits every museum visitor in the center of it all.

Pacific Theater Challenges: Fighting in the Tropics

Modeling a traditional Japanese rice hut, this exhibit effectively communicates the daily challenges soldiers encountered while residing on the Pacific islands. Encountering a nearly non-existent infrastructure and an enemy capable of atrocity, soldiers were perpetually exposed to the horrific sights and sounds of widespread murderous conflict. Even when sleeping, the Allied forces were bravely staring death in the face, standing up for freedom, and securing our liberties.

Road to Berlin: Part Two

In a previous blog, I described some of the various galleries that compose the “Road to Berlin” campaign exhibit space in the New Orleans museum. This piece will be the continuation of that, describing the remaining galleries that construct “Road to Berlin.” They are listed below:

D-Day Theater: This gallery includes a large projection screen that displays a film describing Operation Doomsday in detail. This fascinating information is relayed in an exciting, engaging, and immersive manner that truly does justice to the courage and sacrifice of those who risked everything to protect our freedom. Ultimately, D-Day gave the Allied powers possession of strategic beachheads that in turn catapulted the West’s drive across France. This gallery also includes a small exhibit that names and pays respect to all those who lost their lives in this successful mission.

Northwestern Europe: Invasion & Liberation: After the hard-fought success at Normandy, there came a series of pivotal wins and losses for both sides. “Northwestern Europe” depicts the barriers encountered by Allied forces, ranging from the gruesome battles fought in the hedgerows to Operation Market Garden. Accompany the West’s quest through Europe while they free Paris and force the Nazis to retreat behind their own border.

Breaching the German Frontier: As the Allies reached the German border, they were halted in their tracks. The Siegfried line, a series of bunkers, minefields, and barbed wire presented a tremendous physical obstacle that was nearly impossible to overcome, for a time. The exhibit itself accurately resembles a destroyed German bunker, which enables the museum-goer to witness the incredible infrastructure of the Nazi defense. As for specific content, the space delves into stories surrounding the Allied advance, one of which is the capture of Aachen. A fascinating narrative, Aachen was the first German city to surrender.

Battle of the Bulge: This component of the exhibition space demonstrates the Battle of the Bulge, when Allied forces fought the Nazis in frigid temperatures for six full weeks. The Allies eventually repelled the Nazi counter-attack in an incredible display of valor, resilience, and bravery in the biggest battle of the war for the U.S. army.

Into the German Homeland: On penetrating the innermost reaches of German control, the Allied forces bore witness to some horrendous sights, sounds, and smells. This final component of the “Road to Berlin” exhibit space reveals, sparingly and tastefully, some of these atrocious sites. Detailing the Allied triumph over the German-controlled Rhine, this space takes visitors from the Allied soldiers’ first encounter with the Ohrdruf concentration camp (the first liberated death camp) all the way until the eventual surrender of Germany.

This is only a portion of the “Campaigns of Courage” exhibit space. “The Road to Tokyo” expounds upon its own stories, its own horrors, and its own triumphs.


Road to Berlin

World War II had a tremendous impact on our planet and our civilization as we know it today. Naturally, it behooves us to understand an event of such magnitude. Although, perhaps even more important than understanding, is remembering. Remembering those who gave their lives. Remembering why they gave their lives. Remembering why we must never repeat the genocide, the violence, and the scope of such a conflict ever again. This remembering is why the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is so dear to me. Its excellent exhibits demonstrate the resounding and rippling effects of the “war that changed the world.”

One of the most impressive exhibit spaces is the Campaigns of Courage section. This space is actually split geographically between the “Road to Berlin” and the “Road to Tokyo.” For the purposes of this piece, I will merely discuss the “Road to Berlin” section. Split between ten different galleries, this space takes the museum visitor on a journey through the West’s quest to successfully invade Hitler’s Europe. Look below for a brief synopsis and description of some of the galleries present in the “Road to Berlin.”

European/Mediterranean Briefing Room: This space, set in an abandoned room in North Africa, envelops you in the various and extreme pressures that surrounded the war as of November 1942. Learn the reasons for the foundation that molded the Western war strategy which forced Hitler from power.

Desert War-North Africa: This area explores the story of when the Allies attacked the Axis powers in Africa, thus securing a Mediterranean headquarters before invading Europe. Enormous at 1,500 square feet, this space depicts the Tunisian landscape with astounding accuracy.

Invasion of Sicily: As the name implies, this gallery expounds upon the invasion of Sicily and immerses museum-goers in the atmosphere that surrounded this pivotal moment in the Allied campaign. There are actually three separate exhibits that make up this space: “Operation Husky,” “Taking Palermo,” and the “Race for Messina.”

Italian Campaign: An absolutely integral component of Allied strategy, the “Italian Campaign” harbors some of the most significant battles that occurred during the war. Broken up between five exhibits, this gallery even includes oral histories where the voices of veterans recount their personal experiences and roles in the war.

Air War: This portion of “The Road to Berlin” recreates the scenery of a Nissen hut. Said huts were prominently used and manufactured in England to be utilized for storage and occasionally operational needs. The three exhibits composing this space are as follows: “First Strikes,” “Losses,” and “Aircrews’ Experiences.”

This quick list is just half of the exhibit spaces that make up the “Road to Berlin” section of the World War II museum. Considering the meticulous attention paid to subtle details, it is truly a remarkable experience just walking through the museum. Immerse yourself in the past and remember what World War II meant for us.

The remaining galleries and their descriptions can be found here.



Tips for Mardi Gras

As we approach Mardi Gras season, the fervor and excitement surrounding New Orleans climbs to an all-time high. Frankly, with such so much to do it can be daunting trying to understand which parades to attend, what to wear, and how to get around. In my time in Louisiana’s most famous city, I had some questions of my own, and so I developed this guide to take on the “Big Easy:”

1.“What is the best parade to attend?”

Rex is the trademark Nola parade that has given Mardi Gras the famous reputation it deserves. Created in 1872, it has actually retained traditions for well over a century, including the singing of “If I Ever Cease to Love You.” Step out onto the vibrant intersection of Napoleon Avenue and S. Claibourne Avenue on Tuesday, February 9th for an experience you’re not likely to forget. You’re welcome.

2.  “Where should I stay?”

Obviously, it will be your goal to find a nice, affordable hotel in close proximities to the festivities. Of course, considering Mardi Gras is the busiest time of year, that is not exactly easy task. Preparation is vital here as available rooms will likely be booked several months prior to the event.

3. “What should I wear?”

Sunscreen. Seriously, you need to wear sunscreen. Even if it’s cold this year, that sun has a nasty habit of burning you without ever letting you know, until you wake up the next day anyway. Also, be mindful of whatever shoes you choose to wear. No one wants to pick a pair of boots and experience the blistery evidence afterwards. Other than that, just check the weather, pretty simple really.

4. “I realize the city is bound to be hectic. How do I get around?”

Back to what I said about the shoes…walking. Honestly though, walking is likely your best bet considering the city isn’t very big. However, I can understand if you’d rather not trek miles through hordes of college students and hesitant strangers. So, for those of you who are looking to avoid pushing and shoving, I would recommend a bike. Taking a car is quite literally crazy considering traffic, and especially insane if you don’t want a ticket (see NOLA traffic ordinances here). The streetcar stops two hours before and two hours after a parade. Hailing a taxi? Forget about it in this congestion. Busses, well I guess busses work if you’re willing to face constant detours and delays. So I maintain, you should walk or ride a bike.

I hope this answered some of your questions. Happy Mardi Gras!


How The New Orleans’ Restaurant Scene Is Changing

Just any other city rich with culinary innovation and history, a fair amount of restaurant openings and closings are cyclical occurrences that happen to shape the food scene for the year. With various food establishments entering and leaving the restaurant scene, the way in which different people engage and experience food can often depend on varying factors that may not been so easy to see. Looking back on the year, The New Orleans Advocate explores different factors that have altered the ways restaurants operate from emerging chef training programs, the rise of food trucks and the ever expanding seafood collection available to New Orleans’ locals.


Training chefs to be mentors

The restaurant group Dickie Brennan & Co has changed the structure of its training program by organizing a team of veteran chefs to act as mentors to younger chefs in training. Instead of the veteran chefs taking the lead in the kitchen, this program essentially allows for these established professionals to guide and teach the younger counterparts in order to create an atmosphere of culinary growth and innovation.


A different kind of food court

As traditional food courts in malls gradually take the back seat as social hubs, the food truck community is slowly but surely becoming popular in various cities across the country. For many people, food trucks shape an environment that foster various forms of creativity and innovation that maybe did not exist within the realm of traditional food courts. “The food court” in New Orleans comprises of different food truck vendors in a centralized outdoor space who all offer tasty delicatessens anywhere from local Creole favorites to exotic treats from Central America.


The expansion of seafood

“The bountiful catch” is a phrase coined by Carmo, a small cafe style restaurant in downtown New Orleans that is allowing different chefs from culinary establishments across the country to create recipes using bycatch, or seafood usually thrown back into the ocean by fisherman. By expanding the range of seafood served in local restaurants in New Orleans, it allows for more stability in the market by emphasizing less on certain fishes’ value and therefore possibly preventing a monopoly on a single type of fish. The experimentation with bycatch has the potential of creating new dishes that could add further cultural value to the restaurant scene in New Orleans as a whole. Stay tuned!


10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

10 Classic Dishes From The Heart of New Orleans

Along with the status of being one of the most culturally rich port cities of the U.S., New Orleans still continues to reign supreme as one of the culinary gems of the country. You simply cannot deny the fact that New Orleans’ vibrant history of native, Spanish and French influence has affected the diverse and comforting dishes that comprise some of the port city’s culinary masterpieces. With this in mind, the combination of spice and historical recipes from the Old World highlight the area’s melting pot history which make New Orleans what it is today. See below for just some of the interesting dishes that this city has to offer and read more about them on CN Traveler.


Chargrilled Oysters Acme Oyster House and Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

A special dish to New Orleans, the grill adds a completely different level to oysters that are usually served raw in other parts of the south. The smokiness of the char grill is a subtle undertone in the oyster which is complemented perfectly by the heavenly bread crumb herb mixture.


Po’ Boys at Johnny’s Po’ Boys

Originally provided to unpaid, picketing laborers in the 1920’s, this sandwich with a story is a popular quick lunch pick me up for anyone working in the neighborhood. The fried shrimp Po’Boy is an almost must.


Beignets at Café Du Monde

A french pastry that made its way to the New Orleans port, this light doughnut smothered in powdered sugar could easily make any afternoon on the town even more enjoyable.


Muffuletta at Central Grocery

Another super delicious, hearty sandwich that is packed with italian meats ranging from mortadella to salami with fresh italian bread of course.


Red Beans & Rice at Mother’s Restaurant

Made with pork bones from Sunday night dinner, this dish is no way a leftover meal. Perfect from the first bite and never disappointing, Mother’s makes you believe you’re in the comfort of your living room.


Gumbo at Commander’s Palace Restaurant

The most famous New Orleans dish stewed to perfection with seafood, chicken and cured pork is a fantastic addition to any type of day.


Pralines at Tee-Eva’s Old Fashioned Pies and Pralines

Made with sugar cane and pecans locally grown in the region, this simple cookie is truly one of a kind. Another recipe brought by the French, this dessert allows us to appreciate culinary genius from the Old World.


Blackened Redfish at Jacques-Imos

Even though this dish has a strange and somewhat unappetizing name, this butter dipped spice induced fish with all its crusty goodness will have you coming back for more.


Boudin Ronnie’s Boudin & Cracklin’ House

This Cajun sausage is a staple for any New Orleans local and is a rite of passage for anyone visiting the area. Enough said, just please go have some.


BBQ Shrimp

There is nothing better than shrimp cooked in a spicy butter bath accompanied with some fresh, crusty French bread. Please trust me on this one.
BBQ shrimp

Best Places to Encounter Street Music

New Orleans, perhaps more so than any other American city, boast a thriving music scene. Not only is the homegrown talent plentiful, but thousands of the planet’s best musicians flock to the city every single year. Some of the most inspiring and unexpectedly fantastic performances you will see during your time in New Orleans will take place on the street. Here are a few of the best spots to listen to street music.

Royal Street 

A music-lover’s dream, Royal Street is chock full of talented street performers. You will be exposed to a variety of genre’s including blues, jazz, a cappella and more. The music usually commences just before noon and continues well past midnight. A few world class groups including the duo Tanya & Dorsie, Buku Broux, Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen and Steamboat Calypso Destination Fun Time Band are all staples of this street.

Jackson Square 

Stop by this area during daytime and you will be sure to catch some talented brass bands in action. Grab a beignet from the nearby Cafe Du Monde and come back to some of New Orleans’ best street music. If you choose to stop by during the night, there will probably single saxophone player.

Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street may be world famous for the live music that pours out of the many live venues that line the sidewalk. But, you will almost certainly be exposed to street music, in particular brass bands, at the corner of Chartres and Frenchman.

The Mississippi River 

Street musicians of all types typically line up on the Mississippi River. If you wish, go ahead and partake in a relaxing dinner-time trip on a steamboat to hear some jazz while cursing down the river.

Everywhere in the French Quarter

It is quite common to run into a brass band leading a second line down a quarter street. Music is simply embedded into the DNA of the city, so feel free to join the line!

A NOLA Newcomer’s Dining Guide

Are you New Orleans bound for the first time? It is likely that you are feeling quite overwhelmed with how you can fill your days. Here is a great interactive guide with which you can plan your trip day by day. Below you can find the four restaurants that are perfect for newcomers looking to be exposed to the legendary New Orleans cuisine.

Mr. B’s Bistro

This Cindy Brennan French Quarter restaurant has earned itself quite the reputation over the years. Boasting a relaxing atmosphere and an array of perfectly prepared classic creole dishes, Mr B’s is a must visit for any NOLA first-timer. Try their famous Barbecued Shrimp or their equally delicious Chicken Pontalba, a rich dish developed by the renowned chef, Paul Blange.

Commander’s Palace

Situated in the Garden District, Commander’s Palace has served as home some of the most famous New Orleans chefs in existence such as Tory McPhail, Emeril Lagasse, and Paul Prudhomme. Opened more than 130 years ago, this Brennan-owned restaurant is recognized as an institution of the NOLA dining pantheon. While formal (you’ll need a blazer), Commander’s Palace also has the down-to-earth, fun oriented ambience that permeates the entire city. The menu indulges in all of the creole culinary classics, but can get away with it with James Beard winning Tory McPhail at the helm. This serves as another great destination for a Big Easy newcomer who wants to try all the classics that have made this city’s cuisine world famous.


If your schedule allows it, try to make it here for your Friday lunch. It’s truly a unique experience as many of those at lunch will hang out at Galatoire’s well into the night. Boasting waiters with upwards of five decades of experience at this restaurant, this is amongst the most charming of restaurants in all of New Orleans. Food-wise, opt for the Poisson Meuniere Amandine.

Toups’ Meatery

While universally enjoyed, delicious Cajun cuisine isn’t as easy to come by in NOLA as you may think. However, Chef Isaac and Amanda Toups’, who hail from the center of Cajun country, do it right. The Meatery board features, as the name suggests, an array of sausages, galantines, pork rinds, pates, and more. The Lamb Neck is also a great choice.