Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Orleans Part 3

I'm not sure how many "New Orleans Part X" there will be, but I hope you're enjoying them so far.  There was so much to see and tell about that I'm doing the posts in parts so you don't get tired of reading!

The French Quarter of New Orleans is everything good and everything bad that you’ve ever heard. We had a cemetery tour scheduled for the afternoon, so we spent the morning walking up and down street of the French Quarter. Some of the architecture is exactly what you’ve seen in pictures, but other buildings are having the charm “restored” right out of them. 

Not so much charm



Not so much charm

People who live in the French Quarter have become very concerned with their privacy.

Top of a walled courtyard

On the post of  a balcony, so no one can climb up the post


When we got off the street car at about 9:30 am, you could hear live music playing from one of the cafes. And there were street performers scattered through the Quarter.

Mime on the street

A duo playing music

Full band set up in the street

Jackson Square and St Louis Cathedral are beautiful.

St Louis Cathedral

Canon across the street from Jackson Square

Building next to cathedral

Interior of cathedral

Bourbon Street, for me, was a bit of a disappointment. It’s the narrowest of narrow streets in the Quarter and lined with men’s clubs, strip joints and just looks really seedy.

Just to prove we were actually there.'s just sex!

What do you think is in here?

I loved this sign!

And this one's for Janeen

We did spot several restaurants that we recognized.

One of the Brennan's brothers

K Paul's restaurant

Brennan's - Nancy really wanted to go there, but we learned that the brunch ran about $50.  A bit pricey for us.

And I found a few signs I just liked.

In the Quarter somewhere

On Canal Street building

Every corner in the FQ had one of these signs, some in better shape than others

Walgreen's on Canal St. - I posted a similar picture of a Walgreen's when I was in San Antonio.  I love seeing the signage from decades ago.

We also stumbled upon a place where they were rolling cigars. Wegot a little mini tour of how they did it from the manager. She assured us it was Cuban tobacco, but grown in South America!

There were a few of these sprinkled through the French Quarter

After a while, it all starts to look the same, so luckily it was time for the cemetery tour.
When we had booked the tour, we were told to go to the Royal Blend Coffee & Tea shop and meet the tour guide there. When we found the spot, it looked like this

It may be a bit hard to tell in the photo, but it was in this back alley that really looked run down and off the beaten path. Since no one else appeared to be waiting for the tour, we were a bit apprehensive, particularly when this man showed up.

Adam, our cemetery tour guide

But eventually, more people showed up and he had a city-issued tour guide badge, so our fears were allayed and we started the walking tour.

Already tired from walking around all morning, we did fairly well on keeping up on the way to the cemetery. Coming back was a different story, but it had been worth it. Adam took us to St. Louis Cemetery #1 and told us quite a bit about the history of the cemetery and some of the people entombed in it.

When cemeteries were first opened in New Orleans, people were laid to rest above ground in tombs. This is generally believed to have been because of the high water table in the area. While that had something to do with it, the primary reason behind putting the remains above ground had to do with where the French settlers had come from. In Paris at the time, this was the vogue - to entomb people in crypts. So the French Catholics in New Orleans were just copying what was done in their home land.

By the same token, Protestants in the area, mainly from the New England region, were accustomed to burying their dead below ground. Thus, you can easily tell the Catholic from the Protestant areas of the cemetery.

There are different types of tombs, too.  The ones below are for families to bury generations of members:

Family tombs

And society tombs, where you can be buried if you're a member of that society.

Society tomb
We saw one tomb that had about 15 different names on it and asked how did they fit all those people in a single tomb? The answer -when the tomb is built, a hole was dug under it and shelves are put inside it. People are interred wrapped, in wooden coffins, and placed on the shelves. When the shelves are full, the oldest remains have probably decomposed into a few bones and some rotted wood. The remains are scooped into the hole in the bottom of the tomb and the newest remains are put on that shelf. In this way, as people are put in, the oldest remains are continuously removed to the bottom to continue to decompose. Some of the tombs have as many as 30 different people in them.

Tombs are in all states of repair. When a tomb in purchased for $58,000, part of the money is sometimes put into a fund for the archdiocese to provide perpetual care of the tomb.

This indicates that the archdiosese takes care of the tomb
This tomb is in good condition.  .

Families may choose to take care of the tomb themselves and may fall into disrepair.

Some tombs in not so good shape

Others receive no attention and can deteriorate beyond repair.

This one was so deteriorated that nothing can be done to restore it

If the tomb is not cared for in 50 years, the archdiosese can take it over, repair it and manintain it. But shortage of money causes a lot of them to be unattended to. Family members may opt to resell the tomb as well.

We saw some famous tombs
This tomb has been seen in multiple movies, such as Easy Rider
Nicholas Cage family tomb

Some not so famous
Placque on Homer Plessy's tomb

And some infamous
Marie Laveau

Homer Plessy is a person who deserves more recognition than he gets.  60-some years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Plessy, in 1892, defied a Louisiana law that segregated trains. He was arrested and became a defendant in the Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the “separate but equal” facilities. His case was one of the first legal challenges to the separation of races in the Reconstruction South.

Marie Laveau, as most people know, was also known as the Queen of Voodoo. She was also a devout Catholic, which is why she now resides in this cemetery.

Today we not only view her tomb, but also her residence and people use the name liberally for commercial purposes.
Marie Laveau residence

Getting mileage from the name

On the way back from the cemetary tour, our guide took us through Louis Armstrong Park.  In it is Congo Square, a place where, in the 1800s, slaves once congregated on Sundays to visit and practice their religion.  Today, it's a huge park with outdoor art and several performing arts centers.
Entrance to the park

Statue commemorating Congo Square

One of the several sculptures in the park
When the tour was over, it was still early, but we we exhausted AGAIN and decided to eat at Cafe Maspero, a recommendation from Glenn (finally he told us something right!).  The food was cheap and plentiful.

To wrap it up, I'm including some other images from our time in the French Quarter.

Notice the palm trees on top of the building

There were carriages everywhere that you could take a tour on

This is a Louisiana city court building.  I thought it was interesting because it is round

We found this sign posted on a side walk.  Huh?

U.S. Mint - it is the only mint in the country that ever printed both Union and Confederate money.

And I have been noticing the beer signs since I’ve been in Louisiana. They’re nothing you’d find anywhere else.

I know, it's wierd.  But Nancy used to accuse me of never taking any pictures, so now I take pictures of EVERYTHING!

Tomorrow, we’re leaving New Orleans for the day…..

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