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An Afternoon in Jackson Square

Contributed by Nick Cognevich, Jr.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA--On a recent lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to play tourist in New Orleans. I didn't know it at the time, but my automobile has a mind of its own. Both my car and I ended up in the famous New Orleans French Quarter.

I left it in a local French Quarter parking lot and let my nose follow the sweet smells of New Orleans cooking. Those smells were so delicious that I had trouble choosing between fine Creole cuisine and a cafe au lait with beignets.

I decided the Creole dishes could wait while I had an order of beignets and cafe au lait. Beignets are a light square donut that puffs up when fried. Served piping hot and three to a plate, they are mounded with powdered sugar, and are always served fresh. Cafe au lait is 50% coffee (normally chicory coffee) mixed with 50% warm milk, and served hot.

While I waited, a two-piece band started playing for the restaurant's patrons, and everyone in the cafe enjoyed it. The group was one of the many live-in-the-street bands that travel the area entertaining visitors during the weekends.

Having finished my coffee, my next stop was the Moon Walk to get a view of the Mississippi River. With long ramps leading up to its promenade, the Moon Walk is accessible to wheelchair tourists. At the top, I could see many ships traveling the Mississippi River. With the river to my back, I faced Jackson Square, the St. Louis Cathedral, and the Pontalba Buildings. I could also see many other activities around the square.

Moving away from the Moon Walk, I proceeded to the entrance of Jackson Square. In front of the Square, you'll find many mule-drawn carriages to take you on a 30-minute tour of the French Quarter. I couldn't get over the individuality of these carriage animals; each mule wore a straw hat on its head, giving it a personality all its own.

From there, I walked down to St. Ann Street. Here, I saw the Lower Pontalba Buildings, the 1850 House, and many other small shops. The 1850 House is currently closed for renovation, but is typical of an antebellum rowhouse in New Orleans during the 1840s-50s. You are able to see period artifacts and furniture that reflect New Orleans' most prosperous era.

From St. Ann Street, I turned the corner onto Chartres Street. On this side of Jackson Square are the St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere, and the Cabildo. The St. Louis Cathedral is home to the Archbishop of New Orleans. Its history dates back to 1727, with tours available daily. The Presbytere was originally used by the New Orleans Clergy as its quarters. The Cabildo, built by the Spanish, was used as one of the city's government buildings. The Presbytere and the Cabildo are now part of the Louisiana State Museum and are open daily to visitors.

On this trip, I decided to tour the Presbytere, and paid the entrance fee of $6. During my self-guided tour, I saw large working models of wooden sailing ships, a Zachary Taylor exhibit, a Baroness Pontalba exhibit, antique furniture, busts of famous Louisianians, and a collection of formal clothes from the 1890s to the present. Outside of the museum, I saw an original cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and a miniature 2-person submarine, dating from the Civil War, that was found locally.

From the Presbytere, I entered Jackson Square. There I saw the famous statue of General Andrew Jackson on his horse, tipping his hat. From the park, I had the pleasure of seeing a wedding party get into horse-drawn carriages in front of the St. Louis Cathedral.

In walking outside the square's iron fence, I saw a children's band performing, children tap-dancing, artists, concession vendors, jazz combos and mimes, among other sights!

Well, three hours is plenty of time to explore Jackson Square and have fun doing it. I had so much fun playing tourist, and I'm looking forward to my next sightseeing adventure in Louisiana.

Have a great time on your visit to Louisiana! - Nick