New Orleans of old was a city alive with the vibrant sounds of music coming from bars, known for its Creole cuisine and a host for many celebrations and festivals. Irma Green reminisces about the time she spent there.
My love for music has led me to many different cities and towns, but visiting a city with its whole fibre entrenched in music, fun and parties made it one of the most memorable times of my life, and almost 10 years later I still have contact with people I met on the journey. It is hard to explain the vibrancy and energy created by the music one experiences everywhere you go.
We were fortunate to stay in a hotel on Bourbon Street, in the heart of the action. It was situated in the French Quarter, with its origins dating back to the 1700s, where a lot is done to preserve the architecture and no modern style developments are found. The narrow streets are lined with interesting little shops ranging from clothing and antiques to souvenirs and buildings which are brightened by flower baskets hanging from their widows and patios.
The Mardi Gras held here is attended by people from across the globe and one can find the most exquisite feather masks and items like voodoo dolls and small musical instruments.
At 18:00 every night Bourbon Street is closed off to traffic and makes way for buskers, jugglers and street musicians to entertain visitors. Whether you love rock, bluegrass, jazz, country or the excitement of a piano duet, your taste will be satisfied. It has become a “global” street where you will meet people from everywhere in the world and party like you are long lost friends. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was the main reason we visited New Orleans and for three days we moved between a selection of stages and listened to Latino sounds, African beats, the deep base only a rock stage can provide, the sweet notes of jazz and some soul soothing sounds from the gospel tent.
We saw the legends Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Beach Boys perform and understood why Springsteen owns the title “The Boss” in the USA. Other highlights of the visit to New Orleans included a swamp tour, boating in the deeper forest area with its abundance of alligators and from where one could view how the swamp people made a life living on the water’s edge. Covid-19 has had a massive impact on New Orleans and the city has just announced that it is now in a modified phase three state.
New Orleans resident, Daphne Calypso Bellefontaine says:
I personally have not been infected, but we have all been affected. A large portion of the population here are in the service industry and entertainment. These poor folks went through a rough patch. All bars had to completely shut down. The French Quarter was eerie; completely deserted. Restaurant owners had to find innovative ways to stay afloat. Unfortunately that meant major staff and menu reductions and the food was pick up only. The full shut down lasted until about September. Since then there has been a phased reopening starting with outdoor – bars, eateries at a reduced capacity.
Bars just recently got the okay to stay open until midnight, but that rarely happens because a culture shift of drinking at home has really taken hold. Bands and musicians are the last to get approval to play because the mayor does not want to encourage congregating and dancing. Although things are slowly coming back, there are still major bans on public gatherings.
The Mardi Gras was cancelled this year for the first time (that wasn’t due to war). As it stands now, the French Quarter is picking up, tourists are returning, music is heard in the streets, and small gatherings are allowed.
Masks are still required in businesses and shops. They are also necessary in restaurants but they can be removed once seated. Unfortunately not all businesses were able to survive the shutdown, and that’s heart breaking.
When visiting the city remember:
- Every person must wear a mask or face covering while in public, except during personal outdoor recreation.
- Indoor gatherings are limited to 150 people, and outdoor to 250 people, with masks and social distancing required.
- Restaurants, bars, breweries and event venues can serve alcohol between the hours of 6am and 1am (including to-go drinks). Packaged liquor sales in the French Quarter and CBD are limited to the hours of 6am to 1am. Bars may open at 50% capacity indoors or 100% for outdoor seating (or up to 250 seated patrons outdoors, whichever is fewer); outdoor seating, drive-thru, takeout, and curb side pickup service is also allowed.
- Conference venues and meeting rooms are limited to 50% capacity.
- At restaurants, bars, breweries, libraries, offices, and other businesses, no more than 15 individuals may be seated at a table.
- Live entertainment may be performed at bars, restaurants, concert halls, music halls, and performance and event venues with a special event permit. They must also follow the capacity limits based on the business type. Additional safety guidelines, including proper ventilation, must also be in place.