Although a city in Louisiana, New Orleans was actually founded by the French. Inhabited by Native Americans in the beginning, the city became part of an important trade route when these people created a portage between the headwaters of Bayou St. John and the Mississippi River. French explorers and traders began building settlements along the bayou, and in 1718 New Orleans, then called Nouvelle-Orléans, was founded by the French.
Although the French no longer rule New Orleans, the city’s French heritage can still be explored. Interestingly, the architecture of the French Quarter is mainly Second Generation Creole and Greek Revival styles. That being said, a visit to the Ursuline Convent allows you to see the last authentic in-tact building designed before the city’s transfer of power to the Spanish. Moreover, you can see a few French-style buildings around Chartres Street. And even when looking at the other architectural styles in NOLA you can see French influence. For example, typical Creole Cottages exhibit some French building styles as these types of structures evolved from French and Spanish architecture.
Kayaking Bayou St. John with Kayak-Iti-Yat on their Big Easy Bayou Tour also allows you to explore New Orleans French heritage, as you’ll, in essence, travel through history exploring the original trade route and learning about the bayou’s significance from a knowledgeable guide. Historic buildings, wildlife and diverse New Orleans neighborhoods are also park of the experience.
Another great touring option for discovering New Orleans’ French heritage is taking a Segway tour with City Segway Tours New Orleans. Not only does it provide a different, more unusual way of seeing the city, but guides are knowledgeable and fun. Moreover, a variety of tours are offered, including a Private Segway Experience where you can inform the guide about your interest in the city’s French heritage.
French desserts are a tasty way to explore New Orleans’ French heritage, especially through warm, melt-in-your-mouth beignets. Sampling beignets at Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur Street), a traditional al fresco cafe open 24/7 that serves only drinks and beignets. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts generously topped with sweet powdered sugar.
And of course, visitors can explore New Orleans’ French heritage through the plethora of French restaurants. For a truly historic experience, head to Antoine’s Restaurant (713 Saint Louis Street). Serving authentic French-Creole dishes, the restaurant is the oldest restaurant in New Orleans and has been open since 1840. Make sure to sample some of their invented creations like the Oysters Rockefeller, oysters on a half-shell topped with herbs, butter and breadcrumbs and baked; Pommes de Terre Souffles, which are like puffed French fry pillows; and Eggs Sardou, poached eggs topped with artichoke hearts, ham, anchovies, truffles and hollandaise sauce named after famous French dramatist Victorien Sardou. Other notable dishes include fried oysters on toast buttered with paté de foie gras and served with a rich Colbert sauce; a filet of speckled trout with toasted sliced almonds and lemon butter sauce; and a chicken breast served with a Rochambeau sauce and a rich Béarnaise over a slice of baked ham. A few other great French restaurants in New Orleans include La Provence, Restaurant August and Herbsaint.
Featured image via clamhead