DAY 17: New Orleans, Louisiana
Miles traveled: 2,970
States visited: 12 (just added: Mississippi, Louisiana)
Weather: 85, sunny
I’m in New Orleans. This is my second couchsurfing experience of the trip. My host is Brandon and he lives in a huge old house in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, which, for my Pittsburgh readers, is kind of Lawrenceville-ish. It has a very diverse mix of people and it’s a really interesting area next to the French Quarter, with really old, colorful houses. We went to dinner at some place that specializes in seafood (I ate alligator for the first time), then hung out with some of Brandon’s friends on a porch and did some people watching.
Later in the evening one of his friends took us to Bourbon Street, which was really fun. The old-style buildings are attractive and the atmosphere was total party and debauchery, even on a Tuesday evening. There is no open container law here, so you’re allowed to take your drink out of the bar and walk down the street with it. It was so weird walking into a convenience store at 1 am with rum & coke in hand.
Brandon was hosting some other couchsurfers as well – Jackie from Colorado, and four French girls. I had lunch with the Frenchies at a place called the Cake Café and it was quite enjoyable, both the food and the conversation. I’m meeting a ton of cool people by couchsurfing – I think that’s the way to go from now on.
Brandon’s friend Josh took us to see a couple of cemeteries. In New Orleans, you can’t dig six feet underground because the water table is so high. So everyone has to be laid to rest above ground in mausoleums. We went to the St. Louis Cemetery #1, which had lots of ritzy resting places. It’s a pretty big tourist attraction, since voodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried there.
Then we went to another graveyard that was at the opposite end of the spectrum. People in the city who can’t afford a proper burial often take their relatives to ghetto cemeteries like this. They dig a hole a few feet deep and dump the body in. Over time as the ground gets weathered, bones begin to surface. I saw pieces of human skull and all other sorts of bones. Many of the headstones were wooden and/or handwritten. It’s pretty sad but fascinating at the same time.
I absolutely love New Orleans – I could really see myself here. Here’s a link to my new article about unusual and off the beaten path things to do in New Orleans. I’ve now added it to my list of cities I’m considering moving to, along with Seattle and Chicago. I was supposed to leave town this morning, but there’s no way that’s happening. I’m going to put in another full day here. If I didn’t have a music festival in Memphis starting tomorrow, I’d spend the entire weekend here.
Wow, I didn’t know that there could even be a ghetto cemetery like that. God, imagine going to visit Nanna and her femur is sticking out of the ground!
Yeah, it’s pretty shocking. I get the sense that most of the graves are never visited by anybody, though some clearly do show signs of recent visitors.
I knew about the mausoleums ( thanks to Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite) but never new about the ghetto cemeteries. However, it’s nice to see that even though the city was ravaged by such disastrous weather, it still has character and still looks haunting and beautiful! I’ll go with you the next time you go!! 🙂