New Orleans. The Crescent City. The Big Easy. How does one explore all that a city has to offer when its heritage and culture are as rich and hearty as a cup of smoked turkey gumbo? Well mon ami, it isThe Big Easy, so let’s take it one street at a time.

(1) Esplanade Avenue

Esplanade Avenue is a five mile long cool drink of water. Coming out of the City Park, Esplanade is remarkably unremarkable. Within a block, two of the four lanes become cycle only lanes. The center narrow strip of asphalt median broadens into expansive grass boulevard. Centuries old matriarch Live Oaks canopy the avenue offering joggers, dog walkers, even the occasional lovers a cool respite from the Louisianan mid-day heat.

The history of Esplanade Avenue dates bake to the 1900th century and as the avenue eases its way to the Mississippi, its architecture reflects its passage through time and history. No less than three historical neighbourhoods bump-up against Esplanade. To the West, the neighbourhood of Treme, with its modest architecture is recognized for being America’s oldest existing African American neighbourhood. Now artisans of all disciplines and races call Treme home. One can call it success when the Hippies start to move in.

Moving past North Rampart Street, Esplanade bisects the neighbourhoods of the famous French Quarter to the West and to the East the unpretentious blue-collar Faubourg Marigny. The increase in historical social stature is reflected in the building design as the Mississippi gets closer. Here the fine manicured lawns and wrought iron railings adorn the imposing estates of Millionaire’s Row which dominate the avenue.

But alas, all this house-envy and open-mouth gawking makes one thirsty. There are numerous establishments on Esplanade Avenue to refresh oneself from a slacker day of sight-seeing. Washing down a world renowned half-pound burger at Port-of-Call with an in house specialty cocktail is a good place to start. My favourite by far is Buffa’s. At Buffa’s, one will find in the front a dog friendly bar and in the back a dining room with live Jazz played nightly. On occasion the chef will pull out a bar-b-que on to the sidewalk and cook up beer and onion marinated bratwursts.

For those with a more refined travel palate (literally and figuratively), Esplanade Avenue holds enough to keep the strictest culture-vulture occupied; the U.S. Mint and The Edgar Degas House are fine examples. One could do a lot worse than a stroll down Esplanade Avenue. A city’s history and culture presents itself one block at a time at a pace that is yours and yours alone, one step at a time.

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