Without question one of the country’s best known party towns is New Orleans. This riotous town is full to the brim with intriguing places, cultural interests, and fantastic food. It really feels like you’ve stepped into a different world there.
My day started out at the cemetery. (What, you mean you don’t start any city tour at the cemetery?) But this isn’t just any cemetery, it is the St. Louis Cemetery No.1 and is one of the most popular places to see in New Orleans. The only way to see this cemetery is by joining a guided tour so I booked my ticket for first thing in the morning.
There are three of these cemeteries in New Orleans and all of them were established in the 18th century. Cemetery 1 and 2 are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No. 1 is the oldest and most famous of the cemeteries and is home to the final resting place of some of the city’s most notable. These above ground vaults are beautifully decorated.
One of the most famous residents of this cemetery is Marie Laveau, a renowned voodoo priestess. People will often leave beads or other tokens at the door of her vault. The other popular vault is the future resting place of actor Nicholas Cage who loved the city of New Orleans so much that he has prearranged to be buried here in a pyramid shaped vault.
The cemetery makes up roughly one block of area and exploring the the mini streets through the vaults gives such an interesting perspective on the area. It was definitely a highlight of the city for me.
After the cemetery I made my way to the French Quarter where the sounds of jazz music rang through the air and the sweet smells of beignets made my mouth water. New Orleans is famous for it’s beautiful architecture. Colorful buildings lined with decorative wrought iron fill the streets.
I popped by Cafe Du Monde where a line of people were waiting for their chance to have some hot, sugar dusted beignets. Beignets are a sort of small square shaped doughnut coated in powered sugar and Cafe Du Monde has been serving them up since 1862. This open air coffee shop is a landmark of the city and is constantly full of tourists and locals alike.
With hot beignets in hand, I took a stroll down the river where I was overwhelmed by the sight of the mighty Mississippi River. This river was the dividing line between the established East and the unknown of the West for explorers, pioneers, and gold miners. Anything that was past the Mississippi was considered wild territories.
Near the waterfront was a towering statue of Joan of Arc carrying her banner. This statue was a gift of the people of France to the citizens of New Orleans in 1972. She is fondly known as the ‘Maid of Orleans.
I walked by Jackson Square where the Louis Cathedral stands overlooking the Mississippi River. The full name of this church is the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France. This is the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the U.S. This cathedral is said to be haunted by the spirit of a priest whose body is buried here. People have seen him walking along the alley named after him in the early mornings and has also been seen during Christmas midnight mass near the alter holding a candle.
I walked down Bourbon Street which is known as the epicenter of the New Orleans party. Bars and restaurants line the street with music blaring from each one.
Though it still has the beautiful buildings like the rest of the French Quarter, the general feel of the street is far more gritty and dirty and the smells wafting in the air are not those of hot beignets but that of stale beer, excrement, and sadness. Maybe this was because I was there during the day and there in-between when the party ended and the party started, but I was disappointed in this iconic part of the city.
To make up for the depressing walk down Bourbon Street, I went in to a little shop with all the usual flare and fittings of New Orleans. Their Mardi Gras parties are legendary and with that comes an incredible array of Carnival masks. Walls lined with masks of all colors and styles were lovely. There were little voodoo trinkets on the tables playing to this lesser understood part of the city. But the best part was that they were making pralines and rows of rows of these nutty caramelly treats were lined up ready to delight in.
New Orleans is such an interesting city that will always surprise you with something to discover. It has such a mixture of different cultures that have come together to create something completely unique. While Bourbon Street and Voodoo aren’t really my thing, I will go for beignets and wrought iron buildings any day!
23 thoughts on “Moments & Misadventures :: Bourbon Street, Beignets, & Voodoo…I must be in NOLA”
This is another place which I’d love to visit entirely due to its music history and music reputation. Definitely on our last for another US road trip.
Between Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans I think you would love diving into the music scene in the south. It is a whole different culture here in the south than other parts of the country.
I think NOLA is one of those places that you either love or hate _ no middle. We happen to love the city, but we haven’t been back since hurricane Katrina. Weird how you never smell the gross odors on Bourbon Street at night! Great post, Meg!
Its part of the magic of the city that the ordors of Bourbon Street disappear in time for the party. I was there post Katrina and you could still see some of the rebuilding going on throughout the city. Someone said that there were fewer random jazz bands in the street than there was before but the spirit is still there. 🙂
You had me beignets! I must go there at some point to enjoy them. Great post Meg!
Thank you! Nothing better than some hot and sweet beignets! I could eat more than would be good for me and not feel any remorse about it 🙂
You and me both!
Ah, New Orleans! I have long promised myself that if I ever get back to Tennessee, I will add another few weeks onto the trip and get down to New Orleans. I’ve been so close (and yet so far) on several occasions, but never quite made it. As someone who has always loved cemeteries, you are preaching to the converted with St. Louis Cemetery No.1 What a fascinating place and a total riot that you got to see Nicholas Cage’s future grave. Did you stay a while checking out his plot, or were you ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’? (sorry). The prospect of a stroll, a drink and a bite around The French Quarter is the stuff of dreams for me. The jazz… the old buildings… beignets… just perfect. Bourbon Street looks so atmospheric Meg, while you pull off the masked look rather nicely methinks.
Thanks Leighton, I really love all the masks . They are just so pretty and fun. Cemetery fans unite! The cemetery is really incredible and seeing where Nicholas Cage will be laid to rest is quite the National Treasure 😉 I think you would love New Orleans and the whole vibe of the city. Oh and the beignets-you will love some hot and sweet beignets as you cruise around.
I’m not sure how I’ll like NOLA. It was on my radar for a while, but now it’s not so much. And yet, I’ve made a mental note of a cat sit down there that’s taking place during my spring break. There are definitely things that appeal (like the things you mention in this post) but as an introvert who’s in bed by 9pm, I’m not sure we’re a good match…
I think you might be surprised how much you would enjoy NOLA…although Bourbon Street is definitely not where you would find me. But the architecture is really lovely. Of course since youre heading to Savannah youll probably be surrounded by beautiful architecture. All the charm and none of the Bourbon Street!
Savannah’s been deferred for a year, but I’m very much looking forward to it.
sad day! But I’m glad it is still in the works even if a little later than planned
Great trip through New Orleans, we may get to visit one day!
Thanks Ali 🙂 I hope you get to go one day. It is a whole different world in New Orleans from anywhere else in the country.
Apart from the disappointment of Bourbon Street this looks like a great day’s exploring. The cemetery sounds fascinating, the masks are gorgeous and who wouldn’t enjoy the beignets?! I’d love to visit one day …
Yeah Bourbon Street was definitely not my cup of tea, but the rest of the city was fantastic. The cemetery really is so interesting and artistic and there is nothing better than a hot and sweet beignet 🙂
I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. The city seems so vibrant. That cemetery looks so interesting with all the above ground vaults.
I hope you get to visit New Orleans one day, it really is a culturally vibrant city with no end of interest to it. The cemetery was my favorite part of the city-almost like a town to itself. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great weekend 🙂
I celebrated my birthday in New Orleans once, we were passing through so my parents decided to stay overnight!
Oh what a fun place.to celebrate your birthday! 🙂
such a fascinating town! any vampires lurking in the shadows?;)
haha, I would not be the least surprised if there were! 🙂