Sunday, December 9, 2012

DAY 108- New Orleans...

The locals pronounce it “NAw Lynnss” and they also talk really fast.  I kept on having them repeat what they were saying.  I guess I had gotten too use to the slow southern drawl they do everywhere else in the south.  I did a bit of exploring before the 10AM cemetery tour.  I wandered onto the low numbered end of Royal St. in the French Quarter and found the Café Beignet that the locals had recommended as having the better beignet than Café de Monde which they called a tourist trap.  While on the way there, I walked past several art galleries that weren’t open yet for the day.  There was some amazing stuff in their windows.  At Café Beignet, I walked to the back counter ordering coffee with a beignet.  I then found a table to sit at.  My coffee was called out and shortly after that my order number was called.  Beignets piled with powdered sugar and I was wearing black capris pants.  Oh, I so did not think this one through!  But it was a yummy and a bit messy experience.

Photo- The entrance to Cemetery Number One where I had my tour.
About 20 minutes before the cemetery tour, I wandered over to where it started.  It ended up being four of us on the tour.  Rene, our tour guide, walked us over a few blocks and started to explain the process and history about burial in New Orleans. The water table being so high created all kinds of problems for burying the dead.  Also, every Spring, it was common to have flooding in the area and bodies would come floating by the houses.  Rene teasingly told the joke that you like talking to your living Aunt at the dinner table but she wasn’t a very good dinner guest dead.   She showed us a section on Burgundy St. where there was an earlier cemetery but now it was a row of houses.  She mentioned a story of where a resident had arranged for a swimming pool to be put in and remains had been unburied.  I guess this whole area had quite a few remains just below the surface.

Photo- Our tour guide Rene showing us the "Oven" style of burial.
Photo- Rene showing us the most famous burial in the cemetery
a VooDoo Mistress called Marie Laveau.
Photo- In the middle area of the cemetery a picture from walking through.
We then walked over to Cemetery Number 1.  Rene asked us to be respectful.  It is still an active cemetery, and also not to lean or sit on any of the graves because of the damage that can cause over time.  She went over the different styles of burying that were in the cemetery; showing us as we went along within the walls of the cemetery. She also showed us some of the historic and famous figures in the cemetery.  Then, Rene showed us the backyard area where the Protestants were buried.  It is a Catholic cemetery.  She explain and showed us the difference between restoration and renovation within the cemetery.  Rene also showed us what she considered the eye sores on the cemetery; one of them being a pyramid that Nicholas Cage had built and plans to bury in, and the other is a strange memorial statue.  The tour was very fascinating and enjoyable.  Rene struck the right balance of fun and interesting.  I took both of the tours through a local company called Historic Tours and they give a slight discount if you take more than one with them.
Photo- Nicholas Cage's pyramid-- we were convinced that he purchased because the
IRS is not likely to repo a burial plot.  Though, I would imagine the resale value has some
potential because of where it is.

Next, outside the walls of the cemetery the group of all four of us decided to head out and explore the city.  We walk over to where the trolley cars are.  One of the gals decides to bow out and I ask if it’s okay to still hang out.  I ended up hanging out with a cute adorable middle age couple from Cincinnati, OH.  Steve and Patty were wonderfully easy going and made for enjoyable company for the afternoon.  We jumped on to the trolley car not sure where it went but open to explore.  This was my kind of exploring!  The great thing was its only $3 to ride their bus and trolley cars all day in New Orleans.

Photo- Patty and Steve in front of the Sculpture Garden.
Well, the trolley ended up stopping at a bunch of cemeteries and we already had a tour of one.  One cemetery a day was enough for us.  We back tracked a little and found a restaurant that must have been good because it was crowded.  It was called the Flying Burrito and we only waited about 5 minutes for a table.  We were reviewing maps and discovered if we caught another trolley line we would be close to a sculptural garden and the botanical gardens; that sounded good to me.  Lunch was wonderful and I enjoyed the Flying Burrito which had steak, chicken, and shrimp in a whole wheat tortilla.  Patty’s salad that she ordered looked good and Steve had a burrito too.
Photos- Two pictures of my favorite sculpture in the garden. 
The bottom one is a close up and the bottom human form is about 6 ft tall.
Photo- One of the cool sculptures in the garden.

After lunch we waited for a trolley that went north and meanwhile Patty was showing me photos of their swamp tour and a Mardi Gras Parade warehouse that they had explored in the last couple of days they been in New Orleans.  The trolley car arrived and we headed toward the New Orleans City Park which is an end stop.  Off we walked over to the Sculptural Garden which is right next to the New Orleans Museum of Art.  The sculptural garden is free and we got a brochure from the gal at the desk.  It’s a wonderful garden area and there are several acres and areas within it to walk around and enjoy.  It was fun wandering around with Patty and Steve trying to figure out the titles to some of the sculptures and trying to figure out what some of the sculptures were.  We even had a bit of fun with some sculptures that were on benches by mimicking them.
Photo- Patty and Sculpture.
Photo- Steve, now look serious like the statue!  LOL!!
It was sprinkling a bit off and on but we figured we would take our chances and went next to the New Orleans Botanical Garden which was next door to the sculptural garden.  There was a $6 fee to get in and the lady at the desk recommended visiting the Japanese garden area and said that the orchids were in bloom in the conservatory.  We walked through and enjoyed it all.  The Japanese garden was very peaceful and relaxing.  There were vegetable and herb gardens.  There was a train depot like garden with models that represented part of the city of New Orleans which was fun but the train wasn’t running at current.  As we went around they had Christmas lights up and out and it looked like they were getting ready for an event called Cajun Christmas.  There were alligators, Santa, and angels.  We went into the conservatory and saw all of the wonderful orchids in bloom.  It was a wonderful garden to visit.
Photo- The middle of the New Orleans Botantical Garden.

Next, we headed back to the trolley station figuring it was time to head back to the French Quarter.  Patty and Steve were staying on the other side in a hotel by Jackson Square.  As we were waiting we saw another bus go by and go down a street that would be a direct shot to the French Quarter.  Steve got on the phone and called the RTA(the New Orleans Transit) phone to find out where it went.  Well, it was a direct shot back to the hotel and it came every 30 minutes.  We were up for a different way to go back and we waited until the next one came.  We got to see a different landscape on the way back.  Brightly painted houses and neighborhoods but we did see one or two houses with an X on them.  There were still signs that the city was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.  We arrived in the French Quarter and I gave Patty a hug and thanked them for letting me hang out with them for the day.  It was fun having someone else to do a little sightseeing with. 

I took a shower and decided to have dinner at the famous Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter which was just off of Royal Street.  I walked into the Gumbo Shop and there was a line.  Well, it turns out there was a big group of 17 waiting to be seated together.  I cut right to the front and the hostess asked if by the kitchen was okay.  Sure; I told her I was easy; how couldn’t I be in the big easy?  She must have heard that one before she just smiled and sat me.  I had planned on having their gumbo which they are famous for but I ended up having a combination plate instead which had crab estouffee, jambalaya, and another rice dish that had chicken and shrimp in it.  The server talked so fast I just agreed and said that would be fine.  I also didn’t have to wait as long as those that ordered gumbo.  The gumbo was taking a while and I already had my meal before a table next to me that sat earlier than me.  It was good stuff too and I had a local brewed beer with it.  Don’t ask me the name of the brew because I could barely understand the server with his accent.  I just took a chance and hoped I would like it and I did.  After dinner, I slowly wandered back to my hotel and I was ready to call it an early day.  My feet were hurting a bit from all the walking I did earlier.

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