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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Change Back from a French Quarter

Very nearly total proof of visitation

It never occured to me I might one day visit New Orleans, or rather, 'Nawleens', the height of American jazz & cool. But yesterday we drove on into Louisiana.

First up we checked out the Nawleen's Visitor Center where we told a bus tour of the city was an E-ticket, and it was. But first, we were urged to visit the old city cemetery located right behind the visitor center. It is officially called 'St. Louis Number One Cemetery'. 

Checking out who is buried where in the old City Cemetery
The cemetery was amazing - it covered an area of one city block, so I was able to cover most of it pretty quickly. It dates from the 1720s and it is still accepting new customers, provided they meet the criteria, i.e., dead. The graves are located above ground for sound reason; the water table is wildly unpredictable. After a hearty storm the water table rises, causing buried coffins to pop up out of the ground like macabre toast. To avoid the 'Pop Tart Coffin' effect, the locals interred their dearly departed above ground. The vaults often contain generations of family.

There are many famous patrons located in the cemetery, the most popular being Marie Laveau, a notorious and still much honored Voodoo Queen. Though she died in the 1800s, as you can see below, she still receives a good deal of 'hoodoo money' in exchange for favors. Madame Laveau may be dead, but she is still influential.

The lady takes her due
Here lies Plessy

Another famous inhabitant is Homer Plessy, who is famous for his part in history when he sued the State of Louisiana and lost. The result was the U.S. Supreme court making legal the notorious 'Separate but Equal' bullshite the American south got away with right up until my own childhood.

Enough cemetery commentary. After our self-guided cemetery tour, we boarded the Big Red Bus, to take a full city tour. We sat on the upper deck.

No surprise, our the first thing we drove past was Cemetery #1, so we got an aerial view of it all.

High atop the double decker tour bus, I relaxed, listened to much of what came over the loudspeaker, and ignored other bits. Overall the impression I got is that despite that most of the shots of New Orleans I've seen is of the French Quarter, that is only a small area of the city. There is a huge main drag through the city center. Trolleys run down the avenue and with loads of places to blow money on anything you can imagine.
The 'main drag' in New Orleans
 The tour took us past the infamous Storyville, known for it's open & legal prostitution around the turn of the century, where Jazz music grew up and learned to shimmy. We passed countless restaurants, and a fair amount of museums, like this one, the lovley and v. old art museum.

And we hit the area of town where the Mardi Gras happens. There are strings of beads, all colors, growing like wild moss on every light fixture and tree.

We saw the long, mansion bordered street the Mardi Gras Parade travels down. And too, we saw the little islands in the center of the streets where the locals set up their traditional BBQ grills to cook while viewing the proceedings.

The bus even drove past the gigantic warehouse where Mardi Gras floats and stuff are stored in the 11.9 month off season
Where Mardi Gras hangs in the off season
View into the warehouse - there be dragons there!
When our tour was over we hunted down and stayed at a historical hotel, The French Market Inn. It was a great treat!
The French Market Inn
Inside the grand old dame of a hotel were stone walls and even a lovely back garden with fountains. We had to pass by the gardens and wind through corridoors to make it to our amazing room. Its ceiling was at least 14 feet high and the walls were all brick and to use my favorite line from Victor/Victoria, the bathroom was a religious experience. We only stayed in the Big Easy for a single night, but I hope I get to visit there again some day. Hey, it could happen.

The remainder of the day we toured, ate our way through the French Quarter. I, being highly under exercised was rather tired by then, but I was also tickled to be in the grand old city. Oh, and I got another stamp for my National Parks Passport book at the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park. Sweeeeet...

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