New Orleans is one of the most culturally vibrant cities in America, and seniors get the opportunity to learn all about its heritage and charming character on the Western Caribbean Cruise & New Orleans with Cajun Country. Also known as the Big Easy, this city has a reputation for its adult-focused festivities and energetic nightlife scene, but it also has an alluring French influence, diverse displays of architecture and a rather beautiful way of burying its dead. On day 11 of the tour, travelers make their way to this intriguing city for some sightseeing and can explore these unique aspects. Learn a little more about these cultural features before your trip.
French and Spanish Influence
As visitors walk about Big Easy on this senior travel tour, they may notice that many of the residents they meet speak French. That's because the European people have had a huge impact on the culture of the city. When the metropolis was established in the late 17th century, the French claimed it as their territory, and settlers developed a colony that would later become known as New Orleans, named in honor of the French Duke of Orléans. While the city was under French rule through the first half of the 18th century, it was sold to Spain in 1763, adding its rich flavor to the culture of the destination. Throughout the years, the people of New Orleans have continued to embrace its unique and motley character, even highlighting it to draw tourists in from around the world.
Cities of the Dead
During the trip to New Orleans, senior travel groups will visit one of the city's old cemeteries. Known as "cities of the dead," these sites are much different from the traditional American graveyard, and they're among the top attractions of the metropolis. That's because they're brimming with beautiful, elaborately decorated crypts rather than tombstones. Since the city is built atop swampland, the ground is not conducive for burials. For this reason, people began placing their loved ones in above-ground mausoleums, and eventually they started erecting small villages for the deceased filled with statues, sculptures, artwork and other embellishments. Stroll the grounds to find the resting places of famous figures such as voodoo queen Marie Laveau (who is said to haunt the city) and Impressionist painter Edgar Degas.
Seniors who partake in the affordable travel packages have the option of attending a Mississippi River cruise on an authentic steamboat that features a delicious dinner accompanied by jazz music. This excursion gives guests the opportunity to taste the local flavors - the city is known for its Creole and Cajun cuisine (thanks in great part to the French Creoles and Spanish who brought their fare from overseas). Many of the foods are focused on seafood caught by local fishermen, and shellfish is the feature of many plates. While your meal depends on the cruise offerings, you may dine on some of the traditional New Orleans delights, such as gumbo, crawfish, red beans and rice or bread pudding. If you have the opportunity, don't miss the chance to sample some a jambalaya, a meal made of sausage, vegetables, rice and various meats and seafoods that takes its origins from Spanish paella.
As seniors walk about the city, they'll see gorgeous displays of architecture that highlight the multicultural heritage of the area. Expect to see Creole cottages, magnificent Spanish mansions and even some cathedrals built in the Moorish revival style. Take special notice of the structures in the French Quarter. While one would expect them to be of the Creole style, most are actually Spanish. After suffering two great fires in the late 1700s, many of the original buildings had to be demolished, and the Spanish brought their beautiful designs to the table when time came to rebuild. There are also delightful American townhouses scattered throughout the locale, particularly in the Lower Garden and Central Business district, and these were generally built in the first half of the 19th century. One especially unique structure is the shotgun house - built mostly in the late 1800s, these homes were small, narrow wooden shacks that were built atop brick piers, sometimes adorned with Victorian embellishments.
With a bit of knowledge about these interesting cultural aspects of New Orleans, tour members can make the most of their trip. But as with any trip, unexpected elements are bound to arise, and visitors may find that they come across unusual features that they weren't prepared for. Fortunately, a guide will be there all along your escorted vacation to familiarize you with Big Easy culture and heritage.