"In the southland, there's a city, way down on the river..." (Princess and the Frog)
Last week I travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana with my family to celebrate my step-father's mother's 90th birthday. I have been to New Orleans a few times before for Christmas and Mardi Gras, but I have never gone in the summer. It gets unbearably hot and humid in July there and I was worried that the heat would affect me negatively, but we shifted some plans around and managed to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Our very first day we took a mid-morning flight and landed around noon with the hour time difference. My step-father and step-sister picked my mom and I up from the airport and we immediately headed to the French Quarter.
The French Quarter is the most famous and recognizable area of New Orleans, with the famous St. Louis Cathedral standing in the center. This neighborhood of the city features Cafe du Monde, home of delicious coffee and beignets, art galleries, amazing restaurants, historic buildings, and unique shops. Here you can enjoy a bowl of gumbo while listening to live jazz music before shopping for a voodoo doll and some alligator jerky.
One of the more unique things about New Orleans is the music that bounces down every alley and into every open window. There are constantly musicians on the sidewalk sharing their gift with the city and it is strange to not hear it while walking through the Quarter.
On this trip, my sister and I decided we wanted to go on a ghost tour to learn more about the town's haunted history. Our tour covered both ghosts and vampires and our tour guide was friendly and appreciative of questions.
This particularly foreboding green home was used in the film Interview with a Vampire, starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Our guide told us there is a group of people residing in New Orleans who consider themselves to be vampires, drinking blood and dressing in vampiric garb. I had not previously associated vampires with New Orleans, but in addition to the ghosts and voodoo, it certainly makes for an eclectic and haunted city.
Many of the homes and hotels in New Orleans were previously used as schools, stores, or boarding homes. This hotel below was an orphanage many years ago that caught on fire, trapping three young boys inside. People staying in the hotel have reported encountering these small boys as they discover the wonders of television, turning it on in the middle of the night and jumping on the bed.
We saw a handful of signs like this one around town. Apparently, since New Orleans is considered the most haunted city in America, it is the law that the person selling or renting out a property must disclose if it is haunted.
If anyone reading this is a fan of American Horror Story, you will immediately recognize the next two locations we visited on the Ghost Tour. The one with the green door was used in the show as Madame LaLaurie's home that she goes to tour years after she lived there.
In reality, Madame LaLaurie's mansion is two houses down and, in my opinion, much more beautiful and grandiose than the one used in American Horror Story. Our tour guide informed us that the home is privately owned, though, and the producers could not get permission to film in front of the real mansion. The atrocities that took place in this home are not something I wish to repeat, but suffice it to say that Madame LaLaurie was a sick, twisted woman who severely abused her slaves. The LaLaurie family was chased out of town, but because they were wealthy and powerful, never had to face any legal repercussions for their crimes. Appearances have included a young woman on the balcony and screams that have no physical origin. The home continues to be privately owned but none of the owners could bear to actually live here for too long so it remains empty.
New Orleans and the French Quarter are so much more than Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. There are so many cobblestone streets, art galleries, and hidden courtyards to explore that it leaves no time for any of the partying New Orleans has become infamous for.
I loved being able to see a new side of New Orleans and I hope during future trips to be able to tour an old plantation as well as the bayou.