We woke up later than usual, having been out past 2:00am the night before. We had wanted to hit a tour, which was looking like the 1pm cemetery voodoo tour as we missed the others which happened around 10am. (we always take the historic new orleans walking tour, which actually gives you facts rather than sensationalized vampier fiction as some other tours might.) took us a while to get going, but we got showered and dressed and headed for Cafe Beignet where the tour was supposed to meet.
Cafe Beignet is indeed more like a coffeehouse than DuMonde, although they do serve beignet. Their menu is substantially bigger. We both went for spinach quiche and some caffeinated drinks. We saw not only our present tour guide, but the older Cajun guy we'd gotten on our other tours and the guy who founded the tours as well as authoring a book on NOLA cemeteries.
We all got stickers, made sure everyone was paid up, and headed out.
Our guide was a middle aged lady who told us that the current weather was mild for NOLA, wearing a light 3/4 sleeve shirt and jeans. We were all sweating. The sun was going full blast, so she was trying to keep us in the shade as much as possible. She explained, before taking us too far, about the history of the place, how the native americans thought the french were crazy to try and build a city where there wasn't supposed to be one.
(When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England. )
Anyhow...the city is below sea level and sinks something like an inch every three years.Our guide told us that in 100 years, the place migt no even be there. So, since I plan on dying in the next hundred years, I figure I'll get to live there before it goes under. The history is full of all kinds of horrible disease and death - yellow(putrid) fever, black plague, cholera, malaria, etc etc etc. But, people just didn't learn. htye wanted to live there. well, more like the place was a great strategic point, and a place to send unwanted prisoners and those who were out of work for three days. yes, it was a prison colony. Not a surprise really.
The people who managed to live and settle there were very catholic, and became known as Creole, which basically meant you were French one day, Spanish the next, and Italian on weekends. These people tended to be laid back and celebrated life (gee, wonder why) as compared to the crazy americans who settled there later and wanted to make a profit out of everything. Damn americans. There was slavery, but if you were a slave you'd fare far better in NOLA, as over time there were free people of color, as well as mixing of races. (Quadroon)
We ventured into a catholic church and browsed the interior, taking time to stop in a little grotto? type area where stones of thanks were imbedded in a wall around a statue of Mary, and Holy water could be dispensed from a metal container with a tap.
We heard about the infamous goings on at the Storyville district (red light), and saw where it once was. Bourbon street has replaced it, and while it may be a cleaner version, people from NOLA are not the least bit proud of it.
We braved the heat and sun in St. Louis #1, which at the time was built just outside the city limits as all the decay was believed to be contributing to the sickened population. Miasmas were said to come from a dead person, and were blamed for others falling ill. Our guide explained the reason for above ground burials (we knew this already, but still find it fascinating) mainly being the water table and the fact that underground burials result in floating coffins and decaying corpses.
We visited famous toms such as Homer Plessy and Marie Laveau - the latter's tomb being marked with XXXs and gifts left at it due to people praying to her and asking for her assistance. From what we learned, she was a healer, a priestess, and an unsavory character all in one.
From there we went to Louis Armstrong Park and rested in congo square, where the height of voodoo activity took place. We moved on, optionally, to the voodoo temple, where we bought cold drinks and were more than happy to be inside. The temple was a fascinating and holy place, but Priestess Miriam talked very much like the classic oracles do and was very cryptic. She warned us that she did not give a textbook talk on voodoo, and that was fine with me. She did make some good points, not that any of them were connected. Channeling God and spirits can do that to you though. Or maybe we were just woozy from sunstroke and that's why we didn't get it. In any case, I figured that actually praying at the temple would be a more enlightening experience than Miriam's disjointed attempt at a speech for tourists.
So we were just exhausted. We lumbered down rampart and wound our way back into the quarter to get back to the hotel. I wanted to hit the pool, but we wound up napping, and after being in the frigid hallways and cool room for such a long time, my pool craving was dissolved.
Even with a nap, and some TV time out of the sun, we still had plenty of time to play with. Tonight was our night of drinking, although it was important that we have a nice dinner as well. We remembered a restaurant from last year that, although it was a small chain, it was an excellent one. We labored to find it during our first couple days, but like most things in NOLA that are worth anything, we happened on it by accident.
We headed over to Ralph and Kacoos at the beginning of what would be dinner rush, and found it wasn't too full at all. This place is big and has several rooms with themes - One has Mardi Gras stuff all over it, one is all about the sea, with boats, ships, captains, anchors, etc. We ate in the front room which had a Mardi Gras mural. I'm almost positive we had the same waiter as we did the previous year, to boot. we both ordered hurricanes - which were made well. Nice and slushy, asn hardly tastes like alcohol at all until you try to stand up. We had both blackened and fried alligator bits (YUM), and terrible trouble trying to order something as EVERYTHING looked so good.
I got the Shrimp trawl - which the description was not unlike the Bubba/shrimp scene in Forrest Gump. Ginat srimp stuffed with crab, shrimp Au gratin, jambalaya...drool. At the moment, I've forgotten what Mike ordered, but I remember that it was horribly tasty. The place gives you so much food that you cannot possibly leave without a take home box, which of course we got. I'm sure their desserts are fabulous too, not that we've ever had room.
We needed to waddle off the food, so we decided to roll ourselves down Royal and we wound up in Bryant Gallery, where they were having another exhibition of Juan Medina paintings. Mike had been entranced by an angel painting the year before - and so we went in to look at the rest of the work. We liked it so much that we couldn't pass up going back in. One of the gallery consultants started talking to us and Mike, having a hurricane in him, almost got himself in buying a lovely but expensive reproduction of the painting he saw the year before. The consultant took it upon himself to find this painting - which apparently had been bought up fairly quickly. He was going to try and see who bought the painting and find out if a digital image had been taken of it, so a reproduction could be a possibility.
Meanwhile, he talked to us as we were browsing the collection upstairs, which was fascinating in both a technical and subject aspect. I decided I wanted to paint again. The consultant got our info and would call us if he found out anything about the painting. If nothing else, he insisted that we at least leave with a poster or book since we'd decided to come back again a year later.
That done, we decided to start the drinking.