In our second installment of Frontiers, blogger Meghan R. Rose lets us tag along on her trip to New Orleans (AKA NOLA), where she takes in all the city has to offer, from beignets to voodoo museums.
Frontiers: New Orleans, LA
For the last months of 2014, my man and I had been planning a trip to New Orleans for my birthday in January. We were on all the travel sites, Pinterest, YouTube, everything, before we decided on staying at the Hotel St. Marie, right in the heart of the French Quarter. It was built in the 1860s and had additions in the mid-1960s, and American Horror Story fans may recognize it from the Coven storyline.
The first day we looked out our balcony, and lo and behold there was a young man walking down the street playing the tuba. I thought that myths of New Orleans being filled with music were, well, myths. Not so, friends! You could hear music pouring out of nearly every venue in the city. It was absolutely wonderful.
My main goal the first morning was to get over to the world famous Cafe du Monde and have an honest to goodness beignet. Fried dough covered in mounds of powdered sugar?! Yes, please! The cafe was only about an 8-minute walk, down toward the mighty Mississippi River. We set out and took in all the sights of the French Quarter: art galleries, trinket shops, piano bars, cajun restaurants, mardi gras shops and architecturally stunning villas. On the way, you will walk through Jackson Square, and in the center, see the statue of Andrew Jackson upon his steed, winning the Battle of New Orleans. To one side of the square is the Saint Louis Cathedral, founded in 1721 — though due to many builds and a devastating fire, it wasn’t fully completed until 1794, when it opened on Christmas Eve. The current structure is the restoration, which took place in 1849, after the building started showing damage from exposure to the elements, and needed to expand to house its growing congregation.
On the other side of the square is the Mississippi River and a shopping/restaurant area. This is where you will find Cafe du Monde. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. They only close on Christmas Day and when there has been an emergency, such as a hurricane. The cafe doesn’t have a big menu at all. They only serve coffee and beignets — it’s what made them famous, and they have stuck to it since 1862.
After breakfast we wandered toward Canal Street and took in all the city sights and more shops. On the way back to the hotel we stopped inside Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built in 1722, Lafitte’s is the oldest structure to be used as a bar in the United States. It was owned for a time by the famed hero and pirate, Jean Lafitte. Stories of his heroics center around his unbridled support of General Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans. As the British came in from the river, hoping to defeat the troops, Lafitte had rushed weaponry and more men to greet the British, thus leading the New Orleanians to victory.
That night we ventured out to the Hotel Montleone, which houses the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge. This night spot is interesting simply for the fact that you are having a cocktail while riding on a working carousel, which revolves once every 15 minutes. Installed in the hotel in 1949, the rotating bar has been a favorite of many great writers, notably Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote.
The following day, we took in the more spiritual and more supernatural side of New Orleans with a visit to both the New Orleans Historic Museum of Voodoo and the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1. For a $5 fee, you can tour the museum and learn the ins and outs of Voodoo, as well as dispel many of the rumors surrounding this practice. Many voodoo priests and priestesses were and still are followers of the Catholic religion. They bring those devotions and add them to various tribe rituals from Africa and the Caribbean. Much of voodoo is to offer protection to the follower through charms and herbal blends. The museum had several altars set up to kings and queens of voodoo past, most notably Marie Leveau and her daughter, Marie Leveau II.
All the pennies stuffed into that plaque were an absolute fraction of the total number that were inside that museum. Other altars included everyday items such as lipstick, mardi gras beads, cigarettes, mini liquor bottles and costume jewelry.
Last stop on our tour was the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, one block outside of the French Quarter. All of the tombs are above ground and most all the vaults are from the 18th and 19th centuries. No. 1 is the most famous of the three Saint Louis cemeteries in New Orleans and is the final resting place of quite a few notable New Orleanians. Notorious slave owner Delphine LaLaurie, Voodoo queen Marie Laveau and the founder of the area’s first neighborhoods, Bernard de Marigny, are all entombed there. Recently, a large pyramid-shaped vault was purchased by actor Nicolas Cage, though the reasons for this remain a mystery.
That afternoon we said farewell to NOLA and all the wonderful memories we’d made. It is definitely a city that I will be travelling back to every year at least once!
Copy Meghan’s itinerary:
- See the Andrew Jackson statue at Jackson Square
- Take in the sunset while staring at the Mississippi River
- Visit the shops along the French Quarter
- Stay at the Hotel St. Marie or Hotel Montleone
Meghan Rose lives in downtown St. Petersburg, FL, with her boyfriend and their pet skunk. You can find more of her writing (and adventures) on her blog, Ramblings of a Rose.