HISTORY OF THE FRENCH QUARTER
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The French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, literally means "old square." Established in 1718 by the French as a military outpost to protect their interests and provide a port for commerce, the mile-square Vieux Carré spent the first half-century of its existence as a decidedly French settlement. Unlike the English colonies, which were often populated by dissidents hoping to distance themselves from their mother country, the original citizens of New Orleans proudly embraced and celebrated their French heritage, often sending their children to school on the continent.
When New Orleans was acquired by the Spanish in 1763, the French settlers accepted their new Spanish cousins with a reasonably minor amount of revolt and bloodshed. It was from this melding of the two cultures, combined with a generous sprinkling of African influences from the slave population, that Creole society and cuisine were born. (The "French" architecture for which the Quarter is famous is actually Spanish, the entire city having burned in 1788 and much of it again in 1794.)
France and Spain shared boundaries and social customs, so their citizens lived in relative harmony, but when the United States made the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and New Orleans became American, Mon Dieu! Pas Possible! At that time, a physical and spiritual separation began, with the newly created Canal Street as the boundary, that would last over a century and would further insulate the French Quarter from the bustling city around it.
In time, the Creoles expanded beyond the Quarter as well, across and down Esplanade Avenue, far from the boisterous Americans, but the Vieux Carre remained the heart and soul of New Orleans - a quintessentially European experience that has lost little of its old-world character and appeal despite the ravages of time and the influx of visitors that descend upon it.
Today, the French Quarter is a world of narrow streets and historic houses, where profusions of tropical flowers peek from hidden courtyards, the mingled aromas of garlic, onions, fresh-baked goods and coffee gently scent the breeze, and a vibrant cacophony of music, conversation, and laughter infuses the atmosphere with the promise of excitement.
Don't miss the Farmers' Market an open-air emporium where Louisiana's farmers sell their produce. The variety of local fruits and vegetables available in season includes pecans, sugarcane, mirlitons, Creole tomatoes, and okra. Garlic wreaths hang from the rafters of the building where the great chefs of New Orleans shop for their kitchens.
To fully appreciate the Quarter, one should view it as its Creole inhabitants did (and still do) - through its fine food, elegant architecture, sublime music and mysterious rituals. The French Quarter possesses a proud and magnificent heritage that residents and visitors alike can enjoy!