Monday, March 12, 2012

New Orleans Trip, part 3

Feb 10 was Friday and the weather turned colder. It was also raining lightly in the morning, just sort of sprinkling and misting. I thought this was a nice atmosphere to visit a cemetery!
New Orleans has many beautiful old cemeteries, which are famous because all the burials are above-ground. New Orleans is at or even below sea level, and the water table is very high, so you just can't bury people underground. The water will push the coffin right out of the grave! This is the same reason that New Orleans houses don't have basements, and why there is no subway system.
I chose to visit St. Louis cemetery number one, there are three cemeteries named St. Louis, but number one is the oldest and the closest to the French Quarter.

new orleans feb 10
Red line shows my path on Friday Feb 10
click picture to see full size

I started my walk on Dauphine street in the French Quarter. I passed Carl Mack costume shop, which had such beautiful handmade Mardi Gras costumes and masks on display I had to go inside and explore. I was a costume design major, so this place was heaven for me!

new orleans costume store
click picture to see full size

new orleans costume store
click picture to see full size

This is the side of Mardi Gras that I love- the costumes, the floats, the pageantry, the SHINY THINGS, the creativity, the fantasy. It's like a giant moving art show. Forget about 'girls gone wild' tittie flashing and getting shitfaced on cheap sweet cocktails, for me it's all about the ART. I guess I am getting old!

new orleans costume store

speaking of costumes...
He met Marmalade down in old New Orleans..

I continued on through the French Quarter and I just love the architecture of this place.
It's got such a distinctive sense of place, it doesn't look like anyplace else.
new orleans 009
click picture to see full size

I love they have kept so much of the original character and texture of age.
Everything has this amazing patina that I find so beautiful. I'm not really into "shabby chic" because it's too pastel, too twee, too chocolate-box. But the shabby/distressed textures of New orleans had this look of faded elegance and richness...
new orleans 011
click picture to see full size

new orleans 014

I crossed Rampart street, the northern boundary of the French Quarter, and went to Louis Armstrong Park. By now, the light mist had turned into heavier rain.

Enjoy my favorite song by Louis Armstrong! Born and raised in New Orleans.

I left the park and walked towards the cemetery, but it was now raining so hard that I was getting soaked, even through my raincoat. I saw a tourist information center called Basin Street Station and I ducked in to hopefully wait until the rain eased up a bit. It used to be an old train station and is now a museum, which has free exhibits of the history of the city, focusing on music history and railroad history. This is really a little hidden gem, it's totally free and has some wonderful old photos and memorabilia from the early days of jazz and blues. I especially liked the audio exhibit that detailed all the different influences of jazz music- african, spanish, brass band marching music, blues, gospel, etc. Instead of just reading descriptions of the influences, you can actually listen to them.

There is also a wonderful miniature model of the city as it looked in maybe the 1920-20 period?
new orleans 026
click picture to see full size

new orleans 028

Basin Street Station was a great place to get out of the rain , but it showed no signs of easing up so eventually I went back out to visit the cemetery next door.
All the books and websites I looked at had warned not to go into the cemeteries alone, because there were muggers that hid among the labyrinth of above-ground tombs. They even have a warning sign at the gates
new orleans 034
click picture to see full size

But I was there alone, so whatever! I was going in anyway. I hoped the muggers stayed home out of the rain, LOL.

new orleans saint louis cemetery number one
click picture to see full size

This cemetery is small compared with some others in N.O., but very densely packed with tombs so there is a lot to see. The tombs were apparently build where ever there was an open space, without much planning or organized rows and pathways.

new orleans 037

This is the tomb of Marie Leveau, the voodoo queen. People draw 3 X's to ask for favors or protection, and they leave gifts and offerings.
new orleans 038
click picture to see full size

new orleans 039
click picture to see full size

zombie, voodoo, gris gris, and the Witch Queen of New Orleans

The cemetery has LOADS of that aged, decaying beauty and texture that I adore

new orleans 054
click picture to see full size

It was raining quite hard so I got some raindrops on the lens of my camera, the blurry spots are raindrops, not ghosts!
new orleans 042
click picture to see full size

After exploring the cemetery (and seeing no muggers, just other tourists!), I headed back down to the French Quarter to find someplace to feed my hungry tummy and get dried off a bit.
I went to Oceana Grill on Conti & Bourbon, it was in between lunch and dinner time so it wasn't crowded. This is the best time to go to eat, you won't have to wait and you get very good service. You also won't feel rushed to finish so they can turn over the table. I had a delicious fettucine Alfredo and 2 Abita Ambers, which was the most delicious of all the local beers I tasted on this trip.
I warmed up inside and out and had a nice chat with my waiter, who had visited San Francisco the year before. We were comparing the two cities and he gave me some great recommendations for where to see music: Frenchmen street in the Marigny district.

When my coat and feet were fairly dry, I ventured back out to Bourbon street and I saw my first parade. The Krewe of Cork had a small walking parade through the French Quarter. (the big parades with floats do not go into the French Quarter because the streets are just too narrow). The Krewe of Cork has a wine-lovers theme, and I got some cool custom beads from this Krewe. (second from left)
new orleans souvenirs 008

Each Krewe has special custom items to throw such as cups or beads with their names on it, in addition to the generic strings of beads. I really liked getting the special beads, because these can only be gotten in the parades, you can't buy them in stores.

The balconies of Bourbon street bars have people throwing beads
new orleans 070
click picture to see full size

I also went to Marie Leveau's House of Voodoo and bought a beautiful little handmade voodoo doll
new orleans souvenirs 003
The mask is from a different shop on Bourbon street

After the Cork parade, I walked back to my hotel to change into warmer dry clothes, and then I headed down to St. Charles street to watch the Krewe of Oshun parade.
The rain had eased up a bit but it was getting much colder, definitely not the balmy weather I saw on my first night.

For parade watching, I went into a little deli and got a Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale, brewed in Mississippi. New Orleans lets you drink alcohol on the street, as long as it's not in a glass or metal container. So you just get your beer or cocktail in a plastic Go Cup, and you're golden.

The Oshun parade was beautiful, and much bigger than I expected.
new orleans 085

I was amazed at how MANY beads they throw! They don't just throw one string at a time, they throw fistfulls at a time, sometimes even a dozen or more strings all tied together. I collected so many beads, it was really fun. And no, you don't have to flash your boobs to get beads. In fact, I didn't see anyone flashing anything for the whole week I was there! The parades are much more family oriented, there are kids in the audience catching beads and stuffed animals, and there are lots of high school marching bands in the parades.

After the parade it was late and I was freezing, plus I had early plans the next morning, so I went back to the hotel for a long hot bath and sleep.

No comments: