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COME VISIT THE FRENCH QUARTER NEIGHBORHOOD
By John Magill
Few neighborhoods anywhere delight the visitor as much as the old French and Creole sections of New Orleans where history is steeped in romance and lurks around nearly every corner. While the heart of this District is the world famous French Quarter -- also called the Vieux Carré or Old Square -- next door are the Marigny and Tremé neighborhoods, which are less heavily traversed but just as beguiling and vibrant as their more high profile neighbor.
Strolling through the French Quarter's narrow 18th and 19th century streets, one encounters old buildings embellished with lacy ironwork galleries and enticing courtyards hidden behind plaster and brick facades. During the day one might browse through elegant antique stores and trendy boutiques, visit museums like The Historic New Orleans Collection, and have the choice of dining at inconspicuous cafés or some of the world's most splendid restaurants. Nighttime shows a different world. This is when clubs on Bourbon Street -- words synonymous with having fun -- blaze to life to create one of the legendary entertainment spots of the world. Just as much fun, although perhaps not so well known, are the clubs and restaurants on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny.
For many people these pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods serve as great gathering places frequently highlighted by festivals. During the spring the Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival and the French Quarter Festival delight visitors and locals. Later in the summer the Louis Armstrong Festival and gay-friendly Decadence Festival attract many visitors. In the cooler months, many enjoy the Food and Wine Experience, celebrating Christmas in the Quarter, or Caroling in Jackson Square by candlelight.
Topping off the list of festivals is the Carnival (Mardi Gras) Season. The irreverent Krewe du Vieux rolls through the French Quarter and Marigny’s narrow streets, while the dog-honoring Mistick Krewe of Barkus parade begins in the Tremé at Armstrong Park before strolling through the Quarter. During the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day (Fat Tuesday), elaborate parades roll down Canal Street on weeknights and day and night on weekends. On Lundi Gras (Fat Monday), the day before Mardi Gras, King Zulu arrives by boat along the Woldenberg Riverfront Park. Mardi Gras day, parades roll down Canal Street, while the streets of the French Quarter and Marigny are teeming with costumed revelers and marching groups.
No matter where you trek in the old heart of New Orleans you'll find not only a lot of history -- and maybe a few ghosts -- but a place that is also full of life.