For some of you spring breakers, the planets have aligned this year: Mardi Gras overlaps with Virginia Tech’s spring break.
Undoubtedly, the allure of drunken throngs on Bourbon Street will entice a handful of Tech students to make the trek to New Orleans. If you are making the trip for the wild parties and parades, don’t miss out on the opportunity to know the city behind the mask.
Somewhere among the green, purple and gold streets, I’ll be there.
You see, for me, it’s my destiny to go. I’m Louisianan — not by birth, but by heritage. My parents grew up, married and plan to be buried in the same swampy town of their fathers. My aunts, uncles and cousins are dotted throughout the state. In my childhood memories, I chase fireflies on a humid summer’s night by the bayou. The thought of my mother’s cooking makes my mouth water for spicy creole gumbo and fried beignets.
But many folks fail to understand this pride. To an outsider, Louisiana may appear to be a backward, poor next-door neighbor. But if you’ve seen “Swamp People” on the History Channel, you might understand the charm of its people. They know how to live a simple life. They embrace the comfort in tradition, and there is no other tradition in Louisiana quite like that of New Orleans.
New Orleans has style because it has attitude. Street performers, zydeco and steamy weather mesh with voodoo magic and creole cooking. History lives in the antebellum plantations, St. Charles streetcar, Natchez steamboat and the St. Louis Cemetery. From the jazz saxophone player outside Café du Monde to the painter in Jackson Square, the city has soul.
When you aren’t throwing back “hand grenades,” you should wander on down to Jackson Square in front of St. Louis Cathedral to check out Old Hickory’s statue. In 1814, then-Col. Andrew Jackson “fought the bloody British in a town called New Orleans,” as an old Johnny Horton song goes. Oh, and the big cathedral is nice, too, if you like churches.
Another day — or night if you dare — you might try taking a historic cemetery tour. New Orleans’ ghostly past is sure to not disappoint. If you have more time, or even a car, go on a plantation or swamp tour for a better look at the South.