Continuing yesterday’s thread...
Friday, November 6
Seize the Day! The Marchioness generally sleeps later than me, so on our first full day in New Orleans, I arose and spent an hour or two running from pillar to post photographing destinations that had no opening or closing times. Morning is a pleasant time in the French Quarter. A lot of WORK happens, from the crack of dawn. The classier places all hose down their sidewalks (let’s not talk about what might be on them to clean). Deliveries come to the restaurants and bars. A lot of repair and maintenance and touch-up seems to be happening to these historical old buildings constantly…painters and masons and carpenters seem to be bustling around everywhere constantly just as a matter of course.
And of course, early bird tourists like me are up, some of them with cups of beers or cocktails. And everywhere, these picturesque mule-drawn conveyances, operated by tour guides:
I was curious to see Basin Street and the former Storyville area, important locations in the birth of jazz (Basin Street Blues, anyone?) even though nothing is there anymore. Well, there is something new there now. My thumb:
At any rate, I often like to go where things were even when there’s no “there” there anymore. Storyville was the special Red Light District established by city leaders 1897-1917. Musicians like Jelly Roll Morton cut their teeth playing in the saloons and whore houses there, before it was torn down by a different set of city leaders.
I’ve wanted to make a pilgrimage to this spot half my life. Congo Square is in many ways the birthplace of American music and dance. I came to honor the ghosts of the anonymous people (black slaves) who knew how to use their time off correctly! Today it is surrounded by Louis Armstrong Park, in the neighborhood of Treme.
Tennessee Williams lived in this apartment on St. Peter Street when he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire.
Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré — one of the oldest community theatres in the country, organized in 1916
The Lalaurie House, site of unspeakable tortures; today quite haunted. It is said the mistress of the house, Delphine LaLaurie mistreated the slaves in her charge to the point of dismemberment, disembowelment, murder and the desecration of corpses. All while playing the hostess at society parties. When the facts came out the people of New Orleans were so outraged they rioted. Kathy Bates’ character on American Horror Story: Coven was loosely based on her.
Site of the first theatre in New Orleans, the St. Peter, built 1791.
Site of the Spanish Theatre.
By now, the Marchioness was up and we embarked on sight-seeing proper. We caught our first glimpses of the gorgeous Jackson Square, bordered by the Pontalba Buildings, the St. Louis Cathedral, Cabildo and The Presbytère (more on those later), as well as the Mississippi River Waterfront. It is always bustling with musicians and fortune tellers.
We were on the way to Cafe du Monde to get their famous beignets.
But the line was prohibitively long….so we went back that night and enjoyed them then instead. They are delicious — quite like zeppole.
From the river side we caught this wonderful view of the plaza, the Cathedral, Cabildo and the Presbytère.
We poked our head in the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. This was about it!
We were amused to see that this old whorehouse is available for lease! Any takers?
Then it was off to historic St. Louis Cemetery #1 and the adjacent Saint Expedite church, hilariously misnamed when crates arrived marked “expedite”. The cemeteries of New Orleans are famously unique. Because of the swampy nature of the ground and the fact that it is below sea level, bodies can’t be buried underground, but in above ground tombs resembling houses. Many feel that zombie mythology arose partially out of this unique situation, because….use your imagination.
The real grave of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau!
This is where Karen Black had her acid freak-out in Easy Rider (1969):
Then it was off to the Musée Conti Wax Museum, a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages. It was literally around the corner from our hotel and we had the entire place to ourselves:
Here is their Marie Laveau display. Her chauffeur is clearly a zombie. I photographed nearly every display at the museum (covering all of New Orleans history, plus many famous horror characters) — I think I will devote a whole post to the museum next Halloween!
Then it was off to the Voodoo Museum — a small museum containing 3 or 4 rooms of genuine artifacts related to the practice of voodoo. Rich in atmosphere — I want to go back!
We also managed to stop into Madame John’s Legacy, one of the oldest buildings in the city, an 18th century Creole plantation house, built 1788. Sound like we did a lot? The French Quarter is densely packed, every other building seems to be a tourist attraction of some sort.
We tried to get into Preservation Hall that night but it was SRO, so we wrapped up the evening at Maison Bourbon where we enjoyed a pleasant couple of sets by the very solid quintet the Loose Change Jazz Band. It wasn’t a trade down. I loved ’em! They didn’t like picture taking but I photographed the stage during their break:
That evening we made our way to Canal Street, our first stirring out of the French Quarter. It was kind of like stepping back into the 21st century after having spent a day in the 18th and 19th — McDonalds, Starbucks, CVS, department stores etc. And we saw this! The statue of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. We also saw lots of Lucky Dog stands around town.
For Day Three go here.