Of all American cities very few can lay claim to a more individual character than can New Orleans.
A product of mixed cultures; a swashbuckling history of treasures, piracy and voodoo; and a musical tradition of experimentation and joy combine to give New Orleans a personality all its own. (Even Disney features mockups of the city as a "land" in several of their theme parks).
And if New Orleans is an entity unto itself, the Vieux Carre, or French Quarter, is its beating heart.
The French Quarter, so named for its French heritage and architecture, is a fascinating place full of history and mystery in equal amounts. Here voodoo and rum reign supreme, though in separate houses of course. Donuts have been elevated to a high art and coffee is a mainstay for mornings.
Walk through the streets at night, particularly on Bourbon Street, and you'll hear New Orleans' own brand of jazz and the blues from nearly every bar. Food is a fixture, and many of the earliest "celebrity chefs" had their starts in this town. Culinary excellence is everywhere.
We all know the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but New Orleans has picked itself up by the bootstraps and carried on. It's not yet fully recovered even now, but six months after Katrina the city's unofficial motto "laissez les bons temps rouler" (let the good times roll) already filled the streets.
New Orleans is that part of America exemplifying both the best, and the worst, of ourselves.
Perhaps it's the urban and historic manifestation of our national Id?