This post today is dedicated to an artist named Diane Millsap. What’s special about Millsap, is that she focuses almost all her artwork and photography around the city of New Orleans, and I think you’ll agree, her paintings are truly beautiful and a credit to the city!
I found myself captivated by the deep reds and oranges she uses to illuminate various buildings and landscapes from around the city, it gave me a real feel for what New Orleans must feel like as the sun sets.
Diane has been painting New Orleans for over a decade, she uses oil paints for her artwork but has also started to print some of her pieces. On her website, Diane says “I have become enchanted with New Orleans because it offers and endless flow of images to paint. This city has a depth of soul and a love of life that reaches out to everyone.”
I think it’s safe to say she captures the soul of the city, the colours are so vibrant and the places so realistic, it’s enough to make anyone want to visit! One of my favourite paintings of hers is of the Cafe du Monde, seen below. The bustle of the customers combined with the summery night’s sky illustrates brilliantly the iconic cafe, which is open 24/7.
For those who are interested, more of Millsap’s work can be viewed here, or if you are interested in buying a poster of her work – here.
So you may have been wondering why so many French influences can be found in Louisiana, the simple answer is because from the 17th-18th century Louisiana was under the control of the French. I personally find the melange of cultures in Louisiana particularly interesting, so I thought for this post I would look a little further into the history of this wonderfully diverse state!
During the time that Louis XIV reigned France, the French started to explore the territory known as Louisiana. King Louis sent an explorer named René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle to travel the Mississippi River in order to establish trades routes and to explore new areas. In April 1682 La Salle discovered the Mississippi basin, which he named Louisiana, in honour of King Louis. The French claimed the whole of the Mississippi Valley and in 1699 Louisiana became a royal colony.
The French also founded the city of New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana in 1718. The city was chosen to be the capital for a number of reasons, for example it was on a fairly raised area of ground, making it less susceptible for flooding, but also because it was at the mouth of the Mississippi River which made it ideal for farmers transporting their goods, and it has great access to the Gulf of Mexico!
Although before the French, it was the Spanish who occupied Louisiana, it is still said that Louisiana is the state with the most French influence in America. However the French did not hang on to Louisiana forever; in 1803 the Louisiana Purchase was made, whereby the United States purchased approximately 828,000,000 square miles of territory from France, which included our beloved New Orleans!
Regardless of the sale of their land, the French legacy in Louisiana remains, particularly in New Orleans. The city has a neighbourhood known as the French Quarter, the oldest neighbourhood in the city and a historic landmark, full of many historical buildings reminiscent of the days of French colonisation. One historical building that particularly captured my interest (possibly due to my love of Beignets) was the Cafe du Monde. Opened in 1862, it is a quintessential piece of France in the heart of New Orleans, and it’s just as popular now as it was back then!
You may have noticed, for a while now, vampire stories have captivated the world.
Two of those stories are set in Louisiana and are now deeply embedded in people’s culture and fantasies.
According to this article from the guardian, it’s the atmosphere in New Orleans and in Louisiana in general that allows such stories to remain. The swamps, the midst, the old French Quarter, the voodoo magic that used to be practiced, they all set the frame for an intriguing, yet monstrous creature to live in that environment.
There was first Interview with the vampire a novel by Anne Rice that was adapted in 1994 with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst.
And more recently True Blood
There is clearly, in New Orleans, a vampire mania; there was a Vampire Film festival, a vampire hunting tour, a vampire ball, and finally, there is today a small community called the ‘real vampires’. They adopted the vampire look and ‘way of life’ after reading and watching all that culture has to offer about vampires. They also have a leader, who is in fact a dentist that makes their fangs and created a company out of it!
If you want to know a little bit more about these people you should check out the video below!
Now you know! So be careful if you ever wander in the French Quarter at night!
Last week it was Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, and it got me in the mood for food! I thought I’d take this years Mardi Gras as an opportunity to find out a bit more about the traditional food of New Orleans, and what I discovered will make your mouth water! One of the most authentic dishes to New Orleans is known as JAMBALAYA. It’s a Creole rice dish, inspired by French and Spanish cuisine and slightly reminiscent of Paella. The ingredients that go into the rice are varied but typically involve chicken, chorizo, sausage, seafood or a combination of them all, and it’s safe to say it always goes down a treat.
According to the American Dictionary of Food, the dish came about when a traveller turned up at a New Orleans Inn a while after dinner had finished being served. Apparently the chef at the Inn was asked to ‘balayez!’, to ‘throw’ a meal together, and the meal that followed was to be known as Jambalaya. I
f you fancy trying this dish for yourself, here is a quick recipe for Chicken & Chorizo Jambalaya (serves 4): You’ll need: 1tbsp olive oil, 2 chicken breasts,
chopped 1 onion,
diced 1 red pepper,
thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves,
crushed 75g chorizo,
sliced 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning 250g long grain rice 400g can plum tomatoes 350ml chicken stock Then follow this method… 1) Heat the oil in a large frying pan with a lid and brown the chicken for 5-8 mins until golden. Remove and set aside. Tip in the onion and cook for 3-4 mins until soft. Then add the pepper, garlic, chorizo and Cajun seasoning, and cook for 5 mins more.
2) Stir the chicken back in with the rice, add the tomatoes and stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender. If you try the recipe, be sure to comment on this post and let me know how it went!
This week, the headline acts were revealed for the popular New Orleans music festival known as ESSENCE FESTIVAL, so I thought I would provide a little history about the festival that is unique to the city and bring you up to date with what the festival has in store this year…
The annual festival began in 1995 and was initially organised as a one-off event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Essence (a monthly fashion and beauty mag designed for African-American women aged around 18-50). The festival has always been held in New Orleans, however in 2006 due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina it was held in Houston, Texas.
This year, the event has some stellar artists set to play the main stage: Kendrick Lamar, Mary J Blige and comedian Kevin Hart are among some of those announced so far…
Weekend tickets start at $130.50 (around 114 euros), if you fancy a weekend of great music and partying in New Orleans you can get yours here! The event will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and is not one to be missed!
Having spoken about Lousiana’s climate in one of the previous posts, I thought it would be fitting to have this as the next topic on my list:
This year will be the tenth anniversary of the catastrophe.
Here’s a good infographic which summarises the damage the hurricane caused in Louisiana and in New Orleans in particular:
It’s been almost ten years, now. So what’s the situation in New Orleans now?
Protection-wise the government has built in 2011:
A 1.8-mile barrier across Lake Borgne, to the east of the city, capable of withstanding 26-foot waves
350 Miles of levees
The world’s biggest drainage pumping station on the west side of New Orleans
Also, non-profit organizations like “Rebuilding together New Orleans” helped erasing traces of the aftermath by rebuilding the houses of the inhabitants who were, for many of them, unable to afford the re-construction of them.
But the situation is still concerning. People who left after the hurricane did not come back afterwards, unemployment rate is still high, no firms are willing to invest in the state economy, and the erosion in the Mississippi Gulf is threatening as it takes 27 square miles of land a year and will probably increase in the future.
Today we will leave the lively New Orleans for a much quieter scenery, though it is no less famous for it : the swamps that are almost unique to Louisiana, better known as bayous. Now I am pretty certain that at the very mention of the word ‘bayou’, many people of my generation first think of this Disney animated movie, or if not at least have a mental image similar to the one presented there : dark, marshy wetlands lost in the middle of the Cajun countryside, paddle steamers that wandered in after taking a wrong turn from the Mississippi, and last but not least, alligators ready to ambush you should you get careless. Beyond this cliché, however, the term “bayou” refers to any river or stream whose flow is either extremely slow if not outright stagnant. So you do not really need to be far away from civilisation in order to find one of those, as demonstrated by the bayou Lafourche here, a crossroad litterally made of water :
Any Louisiana tourist worth their salt is ought to explore at least one of those. Check this site for some basic informations about the swamps and their wildlife, and a selection of bayou tours around the New Orleans area : http://www.experienceneworleans.com/swamp.html#swampLife