Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Debbie, these are for you!

Lafayette Cemetery
Garden District

New Orleans Cemeteries are known as "the cities of the dead"

Jackson Square
French Quarter

Bourbon Street
French Quarter
( I got quite a kick out of this sign!)

Abandoned French Quarter Creole Townhouse
Esplanade Avenue

Garden of same mansion

Side view of abandoned mansion

Laura Plantation Slave quarters

Builders and Original Occupants of Laura Plantation
Formerly called "l'habitation Duparc"
Guillaume and Nanette Duparc nee Prud'Homme
(Doesn't she look like a sweetheart? Just don't get on her bad side;
she had a tendency to have her intials branded on both cheeks of slaves who ran away)
She got hers in the elderly invalid during the Civil War, the family left her behind
in her bed while the Yankees were shelling the house. There was nothing left of her.

Front of Laura Plantation
'maison principale' or "big house"

Front porch of Laura Plantation

On our recent Christmas vacation to New Orleans, we stayed in a Victorian House bed & breakfast fronting Louis Armstrong park at the edge of the French Quarter. Nice place! A former Storeyville bordello, our room fronted the house on the second floor. 14 foot ceilings. 'Six over Nine' windows that slid from the floor into the walls above, allowing us to walk through onto the private balcony. Floor to ceiling lace curtains. Fireplace, original hardwood floors and oriental carpets. Four poster bed, extremely high. Clawfoot bathtub in bathroom, with it's own 6 over 9 floor to ceiling window! HEAVEN!!!!!

Nice room, if you don't have to stay in it. Being very short and very stout, I had an extraordinarily difficult time hoisting myself up into the bed, and the first night I slept in it, when getting out in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I forgot I was about 2 feet higher than normal. The trip to the floor was MEMORABLE, and not in a good way.

Eventually, I began to remember to slowly slide down to the floor when getting out of the bed.

A Bed and Breakfast that has 14 foot ceilings, has a staircase of about 10 steps more than a normal contemporary staircase does. 25 extremely steep, narrow stairs to climb every single damn time you think you are ready to head out the door and realize you forgot some random but necessary thing waaaaaaaaay up there, in your room.

After we finally remembered everything we needed for our first day out, and spending an entire day walking throughout the French Quarter we drug ourselves back late that night. Standing at the foot of those stairs, exhausted....looking up to the second floor landing, so far, far away, I cursed myself for being too good to stay in a damn Ramada Inn where they have ELEVATORS.

But then again, who was more deserving of a long, hot soak in an old, deep clawfoot tub, looking out through the lace curtains down onto the street below enjoying a glass of wine? Forgot to buy the wine at the market three blocks away. The water came out of the spigot with the speed of a thick hot lava flow. Ice cold and barely warmed up. No way to keep the water in the friggin' tub. Shoved a washcloth down the drain but that doesn't quite work.

You'd have thought I'd have learned a lesson about Victorian scale furnishings and equipment from the night before when I fell out of the bed. But NO. Forgetting that clawfoot bathtubs are by their nature much deeper than a normal tub, and that this itself is yet another 6 or 7 inches off the ground, trying to get in was it's own adventure. But it was the getting out that was nearly fatal. Totally ate it, wound up nearly going through the 6 over 9 window right next to the tub. I can only imagine the show the 15 cab drivers parked along the opposite side of Rampart Street got that night through the lace curtains.
The charming antique toilet, with it's oak tank cover and pull flusher up near the ceiling, ran all night long. The lights from Rampart street blinded us in our room all night long. The drunk people emerging from the French Quarter looking for cabs, whooping and yelling ....all night long. I just HAD to stay in a French Quarter historical B & B.

Next time, screw the charm and history. I'm staying at the Hilton.

We mostly did the historical sights, toured the 1850 House in the Pontalba Building on Jackson Square. Toured also the Beauregard-Keyes House and the Urseline Convent. Visited the Cabildo and Presbytere museums on Jackson Square, the Mint, took a buggy ride, stopped in to visit with pirate Jean Lafitte for a drink in his old Blacksmith Shop. Didn't do too much partying on Bourbon Street, we're too old and had to be in bed by 10pm. Plus, we knew we'd never make it up the steps to our room alive if we were drunk. And if the trip up the stairs didn't kill us, some piece of furniture in the room would.

Took the St. Charles streetcar into the Garden District, and me, who'd been there before 12 years ago and therefore didn't need to do any planning...couldn't figure our way around. But we did find the Lafayette Cemetery, and Ann Rice's former home.

Got wise and rented a car in order to visit some plantations. Saw Oak Alley first, pretty much like going to Disneyland, where they sort of forget about the people that made that lifestyle possible, the slaves. Middle aged women in polyester 'period clothing' that if made correctly, only young teenagers would have worn. Being somewhat educated on historicity of what their clothing should have looked like, this nearly drove me over the edge. Didn't take any photos of Oak Alley because I was not impressed.

Next stop, St. Joseph Plantation. Newly restored by original family who's always been there, this was pretty primitive and my favorite in it's simplicity.

Last stop, Laura Plantation. Under restoration during my visit 12 years prior, I was thrilled to be able to finally see it. Lovely place, and they acknowledge to some degree the reason these people were able to live the Creole lifestyle...the slaves. A little honesty goes a long way.

Since we had a car for the night, we decided to venture into the Garden District to go out to a nice dinner, after a week of eating in the Quarter. I was to select the restaurant, from the passenger seat of the car and nothing else to go on. Saw a well lit, fanciful fun looking place called the something or other grill. Went through hell finding a parking spot. Turned out to be a Mexican restaurant. Which is okay, if you don't work in Old Town, San Diego and are surrounded by the best Mexican cuisine all year long. And New Orlean's Mexican food is NOT like the goods you get in San Diego. Somebody was NOT very happy with me for selecting, through no fault of my own, something very NON New Orleanian. Geez. Then we got lost going back to our B&B. Somebody didn't pay attention to the backseat driver next to him in the passenger seat and we wound up in a very, very, very NOT OKAY part of New Orleans in the dark of night. I suppose if I hadn't goofed up on dinner, he'd have listened to my directions and we would have had a very uneventful, unmemorable evening. ( I think somebody was still grouchy from the 2 hour time-share promotion I let us get suckered into earlier in the day)

All in all, the mix-ups and misunderstandings made our trip more fun, and we did get to sneak into a French Quarter abandoned house for sale, which was the creepiest thing in the world. I think we had a fabulous time, and I wouldn't change a minute of it. Except for the view the cabbies across the street got of my fat naked self hurtling against the window as I stumbled out of the tub.


  1. I adore New Orleans!! Thanks for the pics & the wonderful post!!! Sounds like a wonderful trip!!

  2. Wow, amazing photos and stories! I so wish I could visit New Orleans...Oh, that old lady at the plantation sounds like a witch! No wonder she got left behind! What a way to go....

  3. Wonderful pictures Thank You so much for sharing , i want to go to NO, sometime real soon!!! I LOVE your Marie, she has a very French nose!!!! Your sisters sites are lovely, they have great style!!!!!

    Many Hugs,

  4. Loved the tour! Sounds like all in all it was a nice trip despite the cons.

  5. The comforts of home are sounding all too cozy after reading your post! Although I would love a soak in a claw foot tub (minus the window), and a tour of the historical sights of New Orleans.

  6. Robin,
    What an adventure! I visited New Orleans about 10 years's a very spooky place...
    I'll bet you'll never forget this trip!
    Take Care,