Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thu 14 Mar - New Orleans, LA

Another tram day, so we bought a daily pass each for the extraordinary sum of $3. We are heading to City Park at the end of one of the streetcar (not tram, we've learnt) lines.

City Park is not really in the city but a short distance north of the French Quarter, closer to Lake Portchartrain. On the directory board below, it states that 95% of the park was under water during Hurricane Katrina, with lots of damage as a result. The city has clearly spent a lot of money in rebuilding and improving City Park since then and it is hard to imagine such devastation.

Here is Di holding an oyster shell in her hand, bang in the middle of the park, with lots of other sea shells nearby. There has been water here...
Of course, being New Orleans, a lot of water features everywhere. We liked the building in the background, a sort of picnic shelter Greek classic style.
We encountered an area that first looked like a disused golf course, but then we realised that it was for throwing frisbees when saw the below sign and others like it.
And here are a couple of frisbee throwers.
This pond had different watercrafts including a Venetian style gondola. The building in the background is New Orleans Museum of Art.
Now, what would the caption be for the below... Send a self addressed stamped envelope to...

New Orleans Museum of Art from the front reminded us a lot about NSW Art Gallery in the Sydney domain. It is Hans there sitting on its steps.

Adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art is a sculpture garden, Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden to be correct. Now, these sculpture gardens can often be a bit dull and unimaginative, but this one was really cool. We didn't like everything, but a lot of it was quite innovative. The below piece was called Karma and it was Hans' favourite.
This upside down man had two purposes, the obvious connection to torture and mistreatment, but there was also a chain at the back of the man and when you pulled the chain, it sounded like a bell as the sculpture is hollow.
Four dudes got company of a fifth dude... Why...?
Di liked the puppy which was really 3 puppies in 3 directions. The puppy didn't have a very happy face though.
Dianna and Diana...
After the morning's exploration of City Park, we took the streetcar back to Canal St and changed to a bus on Saint Charles Street westwards. The streetcar was nowhere to be seen and the bus was overfull, so we reckoned that there were tram issues and in the end the trip took nearly an hour and we were pleased we had allowed extra time. We had booked a free walking tour for Lafayette Cemetary and the Garden District for the afternoon and took the opportunity to get closer to the area and have some lunch beforehand (Vietnamese, not very good, but first time since leaving Australia, we were eating with chopsticks and a spoon, nice!)
At 1.30pm, the walking tour started with an exploration of Lafayette Cemetary. Here is the entrance and it is only open for a few hours during the day, closed on Sundays.
Lafayette is named so because this area west of the French Quarter was once the seperate City of Lafayette. The French and the Creole lived in the City of New Orleans (the French Quarter of course) east of Canal Street and the American lived here, west of Canal Street. Americans and Creoles did not get along hence the separate neighbourhoods. Later on the two "cities" merged to become the New Orleans that we know today. Lafayette now is another town some distance further west of New Orleans, which we stopped in travelling Megabus from Houston.
The plaque is on the wall just outside the entrance gates to Lafayette Cemetary.
Our guide, Joanne, was from... Adelaide. Who would have thought? Joanne had been in New Orleans for the last 10 years and seemed to be a girl of great wanderlust as she had also been a guide in Sydney and lived in NZ and in London and been to New Orleans on and off for many years until she moved here.
Joanne explained that a lot of people in the mid 1800s when New Orleans was shaped, came from elsewhere and started to belong to a group or society once they arrived. Of course, the group below probably had no such choice but were bundled together into a group decided by their fate.
A couple of location shots of the Lafayette Cemetery.

We did notice as we walked around lots and lots of Germans have tombs here.

People were buried above ground because the water table is just a few feet below the surface. We heard some grim stories of coffins or bodies that had "popped up" from the ground during times of heavy rainfall.
For some unknown reason, Joanne didn't know, this grave was left open and there had never been any bodies in it. It is the only one open at Lafayette Cemetery.

Here they can put lots of family members in one vault. If you die and go into the family vault, they leave it sealed for 1 year and 1 day. You are buried in cheap untreated wood or cardboard to allow the Louisiana heat to decompose you inside the vault. Normally this takes a year. They give you 1 more day (out of respect) then if they need to bury another family member they open the vault, sweep up your remains put them in a little paper bag or box and drop them into a space in the floor of the vault. Your next family member goes into the space you were in. So multiple generations of one family stay togehter in one vault. One had 35 family members in total buried in it. Very practical.

The second half of the walking tour covered the Garden District and its majestic houses. The gardens were not really there anymore as the area had been subdivided many times and today the houses are the main attraction.
The house below belongs to John Goodman.
This house belonged to Anne Rice, famous author according to Joanne and others. Hans, of course being ignorant, has never heard of her.
Hans didn't manage to get a good photo of the house below, referred to as Toby's Corner, but a Swedish flag was next to the American one at its front. Possibly a Swedish Consulate...?
As the plaque below explains, Jefferson Davis, the confederate president during the era around the American civil war, died in this house, in the guest room immediately to the right of the entrance.
The walking tour was fantastic and after 2 hours of filling our brains with details, Joanne finished around 3.30pm back where we started. We wandered south down to Magazine St for a coffee and cake and a sit down at CC Community Coffee, after which we grabbed bus number 11 back to Canal St.
This area around Magazine St is in the Irish Sector and with St Patricks Day coming up in a few days, it was all happening there, Irish flags, drinking and today apparently an "Underwear Race"....?
Back to base for a glass of wine before hitting the streets on our last night in New Orleans.
At 6.30pm we headed to Frenchman Street where TripAdvisor reviews suggested we would hear better music. We decided to catch a streetcar - but you'd better not be in a rush. Waited, and waited, and waited but it gave us time for some dusk photos of Canal street. See below.
Finally on a streetcar and at Frenchman Street.
We walked up and down and stuck our heads in to listen to bands in about 6 different locations. No band sounded very good so we chose somewhere with a good beer selection, but it turns out were hopeless at making mixed drinks. Hans got a decent beer and Di got probably the worst drink she's had that she returned the first and asked for a new one. Still not good. On well. Also the musician was a Barry Manilow lookalike and wannabe so we drank fast and moved on.
We found a more fun group down the road but still not good. As Hans pointed out it, his brother Mike could do better when he was 15 years old! A photo of the group below.
We have up on Frenchman Street and went back to Bourbon Street. The party continues all the time, including this local identity we've seen a few times. There is some connection to New Orleans Saint football team, but we haven't quite worked it out how. We don't think that matters too much...
A couple of more night shots from Bourbon Street on a Thursday night...
We kept searching in vain for music and unbelievably found the "best" about 100 steps from our hotel. They had sign out the front which made us laugh.
The Bootleggers was not very busy and had expensive drinks - a Corona and mixed drink for $13 - so we found a table and made the drinks last as we listened to the band. The singer was very ordinary but the keyboard player was excellent and at least they sounded like they had practiced together.
Our view is that New Orleans is overrated for music in bars. We actually heard the best music from buskers on the street. Overall Austin is THE place for live music and nightlife, with Tucson coming in second. New Orleans is great in many ways, but Bourbon Street and adjacent street's music life is not it. We will be on the road again tomorrow and after 5 nights here, we feel that there is still more to see and do. Next time...


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