New Orleans is the most European of American cities--one can pick up the continental ambiance even in a short stroll through the French Quarter. Deservedly a popular destination for tourists, New Orleans has regularly been the site for Super Bowls, Final Four basketball tournaments, and innumerable food and music festivals. Major conventions and other events are held here year-round.
Located on the Mississippi River, 50 miles above the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is one of the world's largest ports. The shipping industry has been the greatest contributor to the prominence of New Orleans as a center of admiralty law and international trade. As the South's port of call for 200 years, New Orleans has developed as a city of strong ethnic traditions, beginning in the 1700s with French, Spanish, and Africans, and continuing since with Irish, Germans, Italians, Latin Americans, and Vietnamese.
New Orleans is the state's banking, judicial, medical and cultural center. It contains five layers of courts--state trial, state appellate, state supreme, federal trial, and federal appellate.
Visually, New Orleans often evokes the past. The French Quarter occupies about 100 square blocks that comprised the original settlement founded by Sieur de Bienville in 1718. Narrow streets are decorated by the ironwork galleries of closely-built homes that hide beautiful tropical courtyards behind pastel-painted blind fronts. A few miles upriver, the Garden District is filled with gracious mansions built by wealthy Americans who came to New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase and settled their own distinct area of the city. Still further upriver are the University and Carrollton neighborhoods, which include their share of stately homes, small cottages, shops, and restaurants, all surrounding the Tulane campus.
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We who live in New Orleans understand why people want to visit us--and come back regularly. There is a hint of the history and culture of New Orleans in the food at almost any local restaurant. Shrimp, oyster, or softshell crab poboys "dressed," steaming loaves of French bread, red beans and rice on Mondays, half a dozen raw (oysters, that is), boiled crawfish or etoufee, cafe au lait with chicory, and beignets are all part of the local food argot. They are all affordable on a student budget.
Jazz was born here, and thousands celebrate it each spring at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, which features two long weekends at the end of April and beginning of May, with equal parts food, sun, crafts, and music of all kinds--rock, country, and zydeco, as well as jazz. Virtually every weekend of the year, a food or music festival is held somewhere in Louisiana, often in or near New Orleans.
Tulane sponsors many classical music concerts, as well as contemporary music. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra plays a full season in New Orleans, often on the Tulane campus, and makes available student tickets. The Friends of Music series brings internationally known chamber music groups, like the Emerson Quartet or the Kronos Quartet, to Dixon Hall on the Tulane campus from September through April. A variety of music can be found in out-of-the-way clubs all over town and in the top-draw names that fill the Superdome and the New Orleans Arena, or venues on the Tulane campus.
New Orleans has always been a fertile ground for writers, with the tradition of William Faulkner, Walker Percy, and Tennessee Williams continued by Shirley Ann Grau, Sheila Bosworth, Anne Rice, and Nancy Lemann, among many others.
There are shopping areas--from quirky Magazine Street to tony Canal Place to the suburban malls, to the French Quarter itself.
Our professional football team, the New Orleans Saints, engenders incredible support among New Orleanians, and the newer professonal basketball team, the Hornets, are creating new traditions. Minor league baseball is played at Zephyr Stadium. There's terrific sailing on Lake Pontchartrain. The city's flatness makes it perfect for bicycling, and there are well-marked routes through diverse neighborhoods. Students receive free admission to the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, located in City Park, the second largest municipal green space in the country.
And,of course, there's Mardi Gras, a celebration that extends from Twelfth Night on January 6th to Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is a rich mixture of formality and street theater, with days of parades, strutting bands, elaborate floats, and cascades of doubloons and beads.
New Orleans is most of all a city of personal discovery, which makes it particularly exciting for students. Local traditions, varied neighborhoods, lush tropical foliage, and the constant past and a modern present combine to make New Orleans a rewarding city in which to live and work.