We took a carriage ride from the French Quarter to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It is one of three cemeteries belonging to parishioners of the great cathedral on Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Marie Laveau, the Voodoo queen of New Orleans is interred there. She was born around 1800 to two free persons of color in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She was also a devout Catholic. The church at the time understood the cultural significance of Voodoo in New Orleans and did not frown on their parishioners practicing it. She passed away in 1881. The markings all over her vault are from people who come to ask her for favors or help with a problem. Why three X’s is not known for sure, and there are several theories.
St. Louis Cemetery is owned by the Archdiocese and they had recently clamped down on security just before our visit. Apparently there were some prior unfortunate incidences with film crews and vandalism. You now must have a tour guide to escort you through. Thank goodness for our local carriage driver! You can also wait at the gate for a tour guide to show up with their group, then pay them the going rate of about 10 bucks to let you tag along. The oldest tomb we saw was from 1800 and had recently been restored..
It felt strange walking around among the many vaults, no grass underfoot like cemeteries in the Midwest and the South. Only dirt, crumbling stone and brick, and crushed seashells. There were bits of green trying to pop through, tiny plants and flowers in the cracks of the tombs. It was the only sign of life other than us tourists. I wondered how the souls buried there would feel about all these people, most of them not even from New Orleans, traipsing through every day. In many ways it’s better than having no one there at all. Their burial site will always be appreciated unlike so many that have been long forgotten.
On our first full day in New Orleans we decided to explore the French Quarter. Being Easter weekend and having three parades on Easter Sunday (including the Big Gay Easter Parade which I kind of wanted to see, but would have had to drag my husband to kicking and screaming), we though it best to go on Saturday to avoid more crowds and difficulty getting around. We walked about half a mile from our hotel, which was totally doable even with two kids in tow. The weather was cloudy and cool which was a surprise given our impression of hot, humid NOLA, but really pleasant for walking around all day.
Breakfast at Pierre Maspero’s
Mid-City Carriage ride through the French Quarter and to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (the cemetery will be my next post)
French Quarter scenes
One thing on our list that we did not get to experience was beignets at Cafe Du Monde. The line was insane and we would have waited all afternoon. But that gives us another reason to come back to New Orleans someday.
I just returned from New Orleans, and was totally entranced by the place. It is a city of contrasts in every sense. It was my first time there, and I left wishing we had more time.
The first person we saw downtown after we exited the expressway was an older man with boobs and a purse. My children took a while to process this and I think I heard some of their brain cells pop. But I am glad their sheltered suburban lives were rocked a little bit. This is why we travel, to see things we don’t normally see and expand our horizons. New Orleans is truly a town built by a cast of characters. As I told the kids, welcome to New Orleans!
I will post my New Orleans images in a series of installments. This first will be about The Roosevelt, a Waldorf Astoria hotel. We would stay there again in a heart beat. Built in 1893, it is historic and elegant. It also has a great roof top pool that changes colors at night! It is located just off Canal Street, which is pretty gritty, but we didn’t feel unsafe. I am a city girl at heart having grown up in Chicago, so maybe others may feel more uncomfortable, but my family and I did not. New Orleans is curious in that you have these amazing hotels like The Roosevelt and Ritz Carlton mixed in with some unsavory surroundings. But also with wonderful huge-hearted people. There is just something special about it. The city really was intoxicating, and not just because of the Sazerac cocktails!
My kids especially enjoyed elevator #1 in the second tower. The lights would go out every once in a while, which made for an exciting ride! From the Fountain Lounge in the lobby, the kids would watch the doors open and the elevator stand empty, just waiting for it’s next victim. Or so their active imaginations thought! It’s part of the fun of staying in a historic hotel. My favorite part were the flower arrangements and how the lobby smelled like lilies the moment we entered. Oh yes, and the Sazeracs, ohh the Sazeracs..
(recipe from The Roosevelt New Orleans)
1 sugar cube or simple syrup, 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters, 1.5 ounces of good 6-8 year rye whiskey, 1/4 ounce Herbsaint, lemon peel for garnish
Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. In a second old-fashioned glass, place a sugar cube (or simple syrup) and add the whiskey and Peychaud’s Bitters. Empty the first glass of ice, and coat that glass with the Herbsaint. Discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the mixture from the second glass into the first glass (make sure to strain as you do it). Add the lemon peel garnish. Enjoy alone or with your favorite cast of characters~