European influences are hard to miss in this city.  In New Orleans, street names are in French or Spanish. I spent my first few hours in the city on foot, with my camera. The air was humid and thick, everyone was waiting for a thunderous rainfall.

In the New Orleans  Garden District, impressive and expensive properties caught people’s attention. But I was more interested in the  grand mansions that have long been left unmaintained. With large balconies and tropical greens overgrowing on the front porch, it is not hard to imagine these houses in their previous glories. The New Orleans Garden District receives its name from the large houses – and large gardens – in the area. The secluded and relatively inexpensive area is home to many celebrities like the Manning brothers and Sandra Bullock.

Across town, Brad Pitt has a property in the French Quarter where jazz clubs and bars line the narrow streets. As I strolled pass the shops, I was greeted by the southern hospitality that I had heard about and find myself drawn to. For a moment, I was surprised at  strangers smiling at me and saying hello, but quickly adapt to the local warmth. I smiled back at the restaurant owner who called me “miss sugar” and “baby”.

I’d like to thank the New Orleans  Convention  & Visitors Bureau and Maison St. Charles for helping me arrange a wonderful trip down south. Don’t miss the New Orleans Garden District when you visit the city next.

This article originally appeared on  Just-In-Time Travels. Get in touch with the author@tracyzhangphoto.