Time is now ticking away and it is less than 50 days until we depart the UK for our 26th annual pilgrimage to New Orleans for the French Quarter Festival. Everyone is getting very excited and contacting us to talk through the tours and events that we have planned for this year – once again it promises to be a fun-filled extravaganza. To us at Southern Sounds the tour participants are not just clients but good friends – meeting up year after year is a very sociable reunion.
We believe our itinerary gives people the chance to enjoy some exciting events that are not offered to the standard tourist. If you are a true jazz fan you will have heard of Preservation Hall, the mecca of jazz, but to gain access the general public have to join a long queue to get in and your entrance fee is only valid for one set. Not for us… we hire the hall for exclusive use, the house band entertain us with two sets and we get the chance to chat with the band during their break. They also allow us to take in our own drinks – another treat that is not generally offered. This is always a very special evening and often local musicians and friends pop in to welcome us back.
A dear friend of our tour is a New Orleans local, John McCusker, a jazz historian and photographer. John is extremely informative and takes us on his ‘Cradle of Jazz Tour’ a coach-based tour, which explores some of the historic jazz sites associated with traditional jazz greats. This excellent excursion includes time for stops for some walking and photo opportunities.
And then of course there is the festival itself. Each year we are invited to take part in the Opening Parade; dressed in a patriotic theme of red, white and blue and with our fancy umbrellas we march behind The Society Brass Band and show the Americans that the “Brits” are back!
The award-winning French Quarter Festival is a four-day local music showcase scattered throughout the French Quarter and the largest free music event in the United States with 1,700 musicians playing 400 hours of free, local music. With 23 stages featuring every genre from gospel to jazz, from funk to classical, from cajun & zydeco to brass band – there is something for everyone.
Apart from music-related events, we include excursions with a chance to take a breather and tme to enjoy the local countryside. A trip to Louisiana is not complete without experiencing a swamp tour – we choose Pearl River Eco Tours as they are dedicated to preserving the Honey Island Swamp and the flora and fauna that inhabit this beautiful area; a great fun and educational experience. We also take a trip each year to visit a plantation; this year we will be touring the beautiful Oak Alley, known as the “Grande Dame of the Great River Road” and probably the most photographed plantation ever. It’s been the setting for many films, including ‘Nightrider’ and ‘Interview with a Vampire’ and ‘Primary Colors’.
The top highlight is our trip over Lake Pontchartrain to Mandeville for our exclusive farewell event held at The Dew Drop Social and Pleasure Club, an historic dance hall dating back to the 1920’s where the likes of Buddy Pettit, Bunk Johnson and George Lewis played. Here we listen to a very special band that is organised by our dear friend Barry Martyn and consists of Dr Michael White and Gregg Stafford to name but a few. This event is outstanding and very emotional as we know our time in New Orleans is coming to an end. But there’s always next year!
That said, if you fancy joining us this year we have a few rooms left at the hotel. Please contact us for further information or to register your details for future trips. “Laissez les bons temps rouler…”