It's been almost 2 months since I visited New Orleans and I can still feel it. That city had such a lasting impression on me, it's as if the symbolic elements of the city left a permanent imprint on my mind.
When I think of New Orleans, there are several iconic features that stand out to me.
If I had to paint a picture representing the Big Easy for you, it would not be complete without the following:
The fleur de lys or "lilly flower" is a symbol that has its roots in ancient Babylonia and Egypt. It evolved into a symbol of the French monarchy and is now featured all over New Orleans.
The symbol appeared on the flag of the French explorer, Sieur de La Salle, who founded the Mississippi Valley. Then, French settlers went on to use the symbol when they founded New Orleans in 1718.
The fleur de lys continued to decorate the city through the 19th and 20th centuries up until today. You'll find the fleur de lys symbol all over New Orleans—depicted in artwork, repeated on wallpaper, spray-painted on garbage cans—it practically covers the entire city!
Little plastic colorful beads, especially in green, purple, and gold, are not only found in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras season. They are in every gift shop, are being sold on multiple street corners, and have been littered around the city with intention. You'll even find them even up in the trees and strewn across people's porch railing.
This city is Mardi Gras city and it's Mardi Gras city all year 'round!
Fun fact: In the late 1800s, the King of Carnival chose the Mardi Gras color scheme because they were the colors of a visiting Russian Grand Duke by the name of Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff—quite the mouthful! Anyway, the colors do stand for something. Green is for faith. Purple is for justice. Gold is for power.
People play their brass instruments across the neighborhoods of New Orleans.
If they're not playing them, brass instruments are depicted in the street art and artwork.
You won't be able to get away from trumpets and tubas and trombones during your visit. But why would you want to? It's the best place in America to hear a real, live brass band. You won't have to look far!
I can never find pralines when I am in New York unless I am at a specialty bakery. But in New Orleans they love their pralines.
There is hardly a 2-block radius in the French Quarter that you will not see pralines for sale. Even basic convenience stores will have pralines for sale at the counter if not on the shelves.
I get it, though. I mean, who doesn't love butter, brown sugar, and pecans?!
5. Colorful Creole Cottages
I mentioned this in another post—but it's worth another nod.
I am absolutely obsessed with the architecture around New Orleans. The houses are so brightly colored—and multi-colored—my eyes were having a fiesta just looking at them all.
I also found the hanging plants across the second floor wrought-iron balconies to be so beautiful. I can't explain it—the style is so incredibly appealing to me. I could not get enough.
Luckily, they were everywhere so my obsession was constantly being satisfied!
Some cultural beliefs and spiritual practices made their way to New Orleans from Western Africa. One of these practices is voodoo.
Marie Laveau, an infamous voodoo practitioner, is responsible for bringing voodoo to the forefront of New Orleans culture in the 1800s.
Today, there are mostly kitschy, commercial voodoo shops found around the city. Still, there are serious practitioners who walk through these shops to purchase their various necessities for ceremonies and worship.
7. Powdered Sugar
When in New Orleans, look down at the ground. If you see a dusting of white powder, it's probably the edible kind and it comes from locals' and tourists' favorite pastry: The beignet.
I tasted two of the city's most famous beignets and both times I made a mess. There is no way to eat a beignet without leaving evidence behind. The city is filled with powdered sugar remains as a result.
Jono and I had a great time spotting all the unusual places where people must have stood around outside eating beignets. Street corners, bridges, sidewalks, park benches—you name it! People in beignets in New Orleans like people eat pizza in New York.
New Orleans is full of iconic attributes that make it unlike any place I've been to in the United States. It's a total anomaly, a character with tons of special quirks, and I loved every feature!