The French Quarter or Vieux Carre’ is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. It was Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, who founded the city in 1718, and the French Quarter or old square was the center of the city. And though it is called French, most of the buildings were built when the Spanish ruled the land. The area is listed as a National Historic Landmark back in 1965. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed much of the outskirts of the City, but left the Quarter relatively unscathed.
Since the 1920s, the historic buildings are protected by law and cannot be demolished. Renovations and new construction must be done according to strict regulations to match the period style of architecture. As a result, the area retains is old charm, and represents something that is completely American.
On previous trips to ‘Nawlins, I have taken city tours and visited many of the famous cemeteries that make the area unique. Jackson Square (formerly Place d’Armes) is an open park, the size of a city block, and located in the center of the French Quarter. After the Battle of New Orleans, it was named for the victorious general and future President, Andrew Jackson.
This place is basically the heritage version of Vegas. What happens in ‘Nawlins stays in ‘Nawlins!” On my first trip here in the 80s, I was walking down Bourbon Street with three friends. I see the top of someone’s head just ahead of me. It was my crazy friend, Don, from SoCal, with white man’s Afro, some really magnificent “high” hair on his head, made him a foot taller than he really is.
More on Bourbon Street and the famous places to eat and drink. Just walk down most any street here and get a big whiff of seafood gumbo or shrimp remoulades. In the background, some music like a jazz trumpet, or a clarinet reminiscent of Pete Fountain. There is also a heavy layer of grease, probably from the Po’ Boys filled with deep fried fish, chicken, prawns, or oysters. And in the old days, they just threw the oyster shells in the streets. It was quite a scene when they finally upgraded the streets, exposing decades of oyster shells beneath.
The Vieux Carre’ is also the name of a cocktail, and a play by Tennessee Williams. It was invented (the drink) by Walter Bergeron in 1938. He was the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in the heart of Bourbon Street. It contains:
1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz cognac
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes angostura bitters
Mix in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice and stir.
Most importantly, the Vieux Carre’ Commission (VCC) is in charge of the preservation of the quaint and distinctive character of the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. The authority for VCC is derived from the Louisiana Constitution and the 1955 Code of the City of New Orleans. Their mission is to preserve, protect, and maintain the distinct architectural, historical, and zoning characteristics of the Vieux Carre’. They regulate all repairs, restoration, alterations, and construction that affect the exterior of any building situated on private property in the French Quarter. This is the area bound by Iberville Street, N. Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue, and the mighty Mississippi River.