New Orleans, Louisiana audio tour: Walking the Tremé

About the Tour

Two hundred years before the HBO television series made Tremé an emblem of the cultural richness of New Orleans, the residents of this faubourg drummed, danced, and second lined their way into history. Tremé, touted as the oldest African American neighborhood in the United States as well as the birthplace of jazz, boasts a history of civil rights activism and jazz rhythms that lingers and inspires all who wander it. From Armstrong Park’s Congo Square to Brass Band Heaven and the Tomb of the Unknown Slave, the Faubourg Tremé will get under your skin and have you singing a bit of John Boutte’s “Hangin' in the Treme, Watchin' people sashay...” So, join me for a leisurely stroll through a neighborhood like no other.

Trumpet: Emirdemirel - Improvisation on Dorian Scale Trumpet

Tour Producer

avatar

Denise Altobello

Daughter of a butcher and a restaurant maven, granddaughter of a one-armed Cajun barbecue chef and a German gravedigger, I hail originally from the now famous Ninth Ward of New Orleans, just downriver from the French Quarter and the Faubourg Tremé. Growing up among the graveyards of my French, German and African-American neighbors, I played hide-and-seek in the cities of the dead, learned to decipher the voodoo markings adorning the above-ground ovens and honed my skills in palm reading, bar-hopping and fire baton twirling. My most recent adventure was scriptwriting LULU WHITE: Queen of Storyville,” a musical cabaret that tells the story of one of New Orleans’ most fascinating madams and her opulent Mahogany Hall.
During my adult summers I travel, write, edit and lead talented teens in travel writing and photography workshops as part of NOLA Travel Writers. When not traveling, teaching, and scribbling, I continue to wander the neighborhoods of New Orleans with the same curiosity that I brought to my childhood games of graveyard hide-and-seek. Who knows what I may unearth next?

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Major Landmarks

  • Congo Square

  • New Orleans African American Museum

  • Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts

  • Backstreet Cultural Museum

  • Saint Augustine Catholic Church New Orleans

Directions to Starting Point

At the corner of North Rampart and Saint Ann Streets, across from the French Quarter. If you are driving, parking is available on the street as well as in the nearby Basin Street Station Parking Lot at 501 Basin Street.

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Tips

Places to stop along the way

By all means, enjoy the shade of the hundred-year-old oak trees inside of Armstrong Park and Congo Square. And don't miss a chance to stop for a delicious hot or cold drink inside the Tremé Coffeehouse. The neighborhood vibe in this funky coffee shop will show you why this neighborhood is so popular with locals and local wannabees. Finally, be sure to stop by The Backstreet Cultural Museum for a firsthand look at the unique Mardi Gras Indian culture.

Best time of day

Daylight hours. Dawn to dusk. Please note, the Backstreet Cultural Museum is closed on Mondays.

Precautions

Always good to be cautious. Most people in the neighborhood are friendly and welcoming, but take care.

Comments

Just completed this tour and read the feature on the VoiceMaps blog. I was a bit disappointed. There was a lack of honesty about the structural neglect given to this neighborhood. Over and over the audience is forced to make the necessary leap to see the (in my experience obvious) racism that has kept the people of Treme and it’s history from view. A park that celebrates the most famous son of New Orleans is only accessible from the southern gate and his own community is blocked. The buildings and greenery are in such a level of disrepair, it is an embarrassment to the city and the nation that is supposed to be in charge of upkeep. This is particularly juxtaposed to the massive budget and dedication given to the wwii memorial just a few blocks away. There are ways of conveying the differences in treatment within the city that are more respectful to the generations of people who have struggled for equality.
The most troubling part of the tour was it’s ending. To end the tour describing slavery as less than the abominable institution that it was leaves room for your audience to sugar coat that era and not see its legacy today. I would also argue that the tomb’s location is ironic.

You say in the blog posts, ‘I remember the first time I saw the giant chains and medieval-looking shackles against the white wall of the church. I wanted to recreate that feeling for listeners. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a powerful, visual reminder of the Tremé’s complex history. I was determined to fix the gaze of my listeners upon it.’ The unknown slave is NOT Treme’s history. It’s more applicable to the history of the rest of the city and nation. If I gained anything from this tour it was that Treme was the beacon of hope and a safe haven for people of color— not where they lived in shackles. Even as slaves, Treme was opportunity. That sculpture belongs somewhere else.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 6 months ago

I think in this tour missed African 2 important Trem museums Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum. Alvin Jackson the owner has original documents of contracts Louis Armstrong, James Brown, this museum has to be in the tour. The another one is New Orleans African American Museum, you should include both, they are important for Trem History.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 7 months ago

Yes, I surely do need to update the tour with the addition of the Petit Jazz Museum. I will! It didn’t open until 2017- after this tour was first published. The African-American Museum is actually included in the tour, but it needs to be updated. The museum has re-opened since this tour was published. Thanks for the reminder! I’m on it!

Posted by Denise , 7 months ago

Great tour. Great concept. Your own private tour guide.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , about 1 year ago

I liked the tour. There was one spot that was difficult for the GPS to pick up and the audio didn't que you in until after you were in the deadzone. At this time don't do this tour on a Monday as the backstreet cultural museum is closed and email info.noaam.org first to schedule a tour.

Posted by Gordon 'GUnit' Baker , over 1 year ago
Posted by Gordon 'GUnit' Baker , over 1 year ago

Awesome narration with some personal touches. We never would have known or explored this area of the city without this tour. Well voiced, very informational and well put together. Long walk for a hot day but doable!

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , almost 2 years ago

Well guided, but somewhat monotonous in the types of attractions highlighted. Although the personal reflections of the narrator are occasionally charming, it would be more engaging if it was guided by someone who grew up and lived in the neighborhood.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 2 years ago

Ahh.... Thank you for the feedback! Perhaps I can expand the menu of attractions. Good idea. Just a side note is that I grew up and lived 1.1 miles away from Armstrong Park - just a tad downriver. Two contiguous neighborhoods.

Posted by Denise , 7 months ago

Great stuff. We were sad when it ended

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , over 2 years ago

What a gift to visitors AND locals who want to explore this amazing neighborhood! We’ve lived in New Orleans for most of our lives and we learned so much about our city and its history! The app worked so well and gave us the opportunity to leisurely relish in the culture. We also discovered a new favorite coffee oasis! Can’t think of a more glorious way to spend a Sunday!!!

Posted by Rebecca , almost 3 years ago

Love that you know your Tremé traditions! Merci!

Posted by Denise , about 3 years ago

Fab tour - buck jumping and having fun - long live NOLA

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , about 4 years ago
Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.