Sunday, January 3, 2010
10-Year Anniversary in the Big Easy
We had the most amazing time in New Orleans. I had hoped that it would live up to all of the mythical Anne Rice-isms I had read back in high school- that it would be as sultry and mysterious as I imagined it. And it was more so. Fiction could never capture the nature of this city- the history, the decrepit, aging buildings, the sinking cemeteries- it is another world entirely. I felt like I was walking through Montmartre and breathing with hidden saints and souls all around me. The food was excellent, the transportation a snap and the people were so eager to talk to us- we felt like family. (That may have been due to the high blood-alcohol levels in everyone we met, but even the locals were charming and completely endearing!) I am ready to go back tomorrow and if I didn't have ties to Texas, I would move there right now and become a bookstore/bar owner. The only caveat: We went right before Christmas. The town was decorated beautifully, the weather was chilly and there were far fewer tourists than during busier seasons, so I think our timing helped make this a perfect visit.
We had to eat beignets at Cafe du Monde, of course.
However the BEST espresso I've ever had in my LIFE was at a cafe in the city park. I sipped it while watching a black goose drink out of a puddle.
We decided to take a tour of the city to get our bearings, both to view the beautiful Garden District mansions and the Lower 9th Ward. Many of the homes have been rebuilt and we saw only a couple of FEMA trailers on our tour, but there are still signs of the devastation from Katrina. Some people we talked to were eager to tell us about their Katrina experiences. Others were still too angry to say much.
The Garden District is a fantasy. Century-old trees have grown too big for the sidewalks they shade and their roots billow out into the gutters.
Wrought iron galleries encircle homes like lace and flowers still bloom in the middle of winter. This house was one that Anne Rice lived in- her book The Witching Hour was set in it.
Layfayette Cemetery is smack in the center of the Garden District. We rode the St. Charles streetcar to see it. (That is the Streetcar Named Desire. Though we thought it should be the Streetcar Named Slow and Noisy.)
Later we toured NOT the Mardi Gras museum Or the world-famous aquarium, but the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Deacon as a doctor found it amusing. And as for me, the collector of odd antique jars and ephemera, I was in heaven. Check out the leeches!!
The city was full of art and music-
And bookshops packed to the rafters in precarious stacks. And cab drivers that spoke creole French to each other as they drove us around.
At sunset the sky turns a velvety purple- and the air becomes heavy with spices from various secret etouffe and jambalaya recipes.
And of course we threw the obligatory beads. (Thankfully, though, it was too cold to see any topless girls.)
Our last day we toured St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest of New Orleans' above-ground cemeteries and the reported burial place of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen. It's also where parts of Easy Rider were filmed. The water table in New Orleans is a crazy thing. Some parts of the cemetery have sunk three feet- you can see this if you look at the bottom row of these 'oven' vaults. Other stones jut up and out of the dirt like bobbing apples. Some tombs are white washed and pristine. Others seem to be crumbling and might very well float away in the next storm, if they haven't already.
I am completely enamored. The city is a loud, crashing party and a slow, whispering secret all at once. I can't wait to return.