Bella Vida by Letty

New Orleans

3 Streets Not to Miss in New Orleans French Quarter

Royal Street French Quarte

I love New Orleans.  It is one place I will definitely visit again.  I had the best time there.  The French Quarter is one place not to miss.  There is so much to see and do here.

The first time I visited the French Quarter was an early August morning.  I jumped onto a street car which dropped me off on Canal Street.  I crossed it to enter the French Quarter via Royal Street, one of the oldest streets in the city.  As a walked a noisy street cleaner drove by leaving soap trails up and down the streets.  You’ll find out why at the end of this post.

The first thing you notice is how old the city is.  The old Spanish style has been well preserved.  It’s a great place to notice the architecture.  The front facade of the Hotel Monteleone is quite exquisite with its intricate details.  Massive and grandiose true to Beaux Arts architecture you will see symmetry and elaborate ornamentation.

Royal Street French Quarter

Royal Street is a great place to shop.  On this street you will find many antique shops to browse through and inspire you.  I know seeing the antiques sparked my imagination and made me wonder what the French Quarter was like long ago.  It’s a great street where art lovers can get a glance of local artists in the many art galleries.

Also on Royal Street is Cafe Beignet where we had the most delicious Cajun style breakfast.  It’s a small place with great food.  If you get the chance you can sit outside.  More often than not you will get a street performance.

Cafe Beignet  French Quarter New Orleans

If you want to experience New Orleans French Quarter you must visit Frenchmen Street at night.  There is nothing like live music on a pleasant evening.  This is where the locals come out to party and enjoy authentic local jazz bands and performers.  We spent the night hopping the bars and nightclubs.  A few places not to miss on Frenchmen Street are: The Spotted Cat, Cafe Negril and The Maison.

Frenchmen Street French Quarter

Frenchmen Street is where you will find many Creole cottages and townhouses.  A great place to enjoy the architecture of the 17th and 18th century.  The streets in this part of the city curve sharply due to the nearby Mississippi River and branch out in orderly triangular patterns.

Finally the one street in the French Quarter you must not miss is the famous Bourbon Street.  Yes, I know it’s touristy, gaudy, wild and loose.  The later it gets the higher the piles of garbage forming in the gutter lining both sides of the street, etc.  There is so much garbage the city has to clean it up and wash it down each and every morning.  It is NOLA.  The street is lined with bars and strip clubs.  This is where you will find most tourists getting their party on.  I had to see it with my own eyes.  As a matter of fact it is where I had my first taste of absinthe.  I couldn’t have picked a better place.  It was at the Old Absinthe House, a bar that’s over 200 years old.  It looks and smells like it too.

corner french quarter

Have you been down these streets in NOLA?

 

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Cities of the Dead ~ New Orleans Cemeteries

St. Louis Cemetery Number One

It takes one year for human remains to decompose in the above ground tombs of New Orleans cemeteries.  These vaults are an example of Spanish influence on the city.  Before then citizens tried various methods of interring the deceased but nothing worked because the city built on a swamp is prone to flash floods.  Flooding would cause buried coffins to pop out of the ground and float into the streets of the city.  Not good.  New Orleans cemeteries adapted to this method creating a unique series of tombs and vaults which look like miniature cities, cities of the dead.

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

New Orleans is a great example of a city which celebrates its cultural heritage by preserving its past.  Gone but certainly not forgotten.  There are no less than 42 cemeteries in the metropolitan New Orleans area.  Many remain highly visited tourist attractions.  The largest cemetery is Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery but the most famous is St. Louis Cemetery Number One, the burial place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.  During her life she was revered for her legendary voodoo powers and remains so to this day.

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Her grave is encircled with gift offerings from believers and non believers making the pilgrimage to visit her tomb in exchange for blessings.  A cluttered pile of odd offerings at the foot of the grave the day I visited consisted of feathers, gum, dolls, beads, flowers and even booze.  I’m imagining some arrived ill prepared and just left whatever they had on them.  The markings you see on the tomb are little x’s but our tour guide discouraged it seeing it as vandalism.  He suggested to knock three times on the tomb instead.  Somehow I just knew I would receive a response if I did.  I didn’t want to bring anything back home with me other than these wonderful photos so I did not knock.

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau Tomb

The St. Louis Number One is the oldest continuously operating cemetery in New Orleans.  The tombs and vaults range in both size, condition and decor from concrete to brick or wrapped in wrought iron.  The largest belong to the wealthiest or are community vaults designed to share the cost of maintenance.  On its outer walls the cemetery has vaults available for rent to help out those who can’t afford a tomb.  A few world famous buried there are chess champion Paul Morphy, activist Homer Plessy, the family of impressionist artist Edgar Degas.  Actor Nicolas Cage’s pyramid shaped tomb also draws big crowds.

 St. Louis Cemetery Number One

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

Visiting NOLA Cemetery Tips

– Take a tour.  You will learn so much about the city’s rich history rather than looking at a bunch of names on graves you’ve never heard of.  I did the New Orleans Voodoo Cemetery tour which contributes a portion of its proceeds to maintain the site.

– Go in a group.  Some of the cemeteries are in worse shape than others and you may run into a dead end and get lost.  It was also recommended to me because there have been instances of muggings in the more solitary locations.

– Take an umbrella.  It gets really really really hot especially during the summertime months.  An umbrella will help shield you from the bright sun.

– Bring water.  When I was exiting the cemetery I bumped into someone selling water bottles in front of the cemetery but he was not there when I arrived.  There are no fountains and it gets extremely hot when the sunlight reflects off the vaults.

– Plan accordingly.  Not everyone can handle walking in the sun during hot weather.  There were a few people who left our tour early because they were not prepared nor used to extreme heat.

Have you visited a NOLA cemetery?

St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans

I posted more photos than usual in this post.  Do you prefer having more or less photos?

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The Garden District of New Orleans

The Garden District in Uptown New Orleans

There’s a beautiful neighborhood in New Orleans called the Garden District and during my visit where I stayed.  It’s a wonderful place for taking a long walk especially if you enjoy taking photos.  In this neighborhood you will find row after elegant row of Greek Revival and Vintage Victorian mansions with perfectly manicured gardens.  Every single one is different.  You really never know what will be around the corner.

The Garden District in Uptown New Orleans

The Garden District of New Orleans is considered to have the best preserved historic mansions in the US.  The area is one of the earliest expressions of Greek Revival and the streets still named after the nine muses of Greek mythology.  It was developed after 1830 by wealthy Americans who made their money in the shipping, cotton, sugar and slave trade industries.  While they may have been short on ethics there was no shortage of money.  St. Charles Avenue is where the wealthiest and most powerful residents of New Orleans lived.  It’s incredible to see such lavishness from the past survive.

I’ve read both sides behind the reasoning they chose this location.  One, because they were snubbed by French Quarter Creoles and or two they thought they were just too good to live alongside them in the French Quarter.  The evidence is in the opulence of the Garden District where residents spent tons of money trying to outdo one another in having the most extravagant home.

The Garden District in Uptown New Orleans

My imagination ran wild inventing stories of the types of people who lived in these mansions back then and now.  The Garden District has had many famous residents over the years: Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt, John Goodman, Nicolas Cage, Helen Mirren and the Manning’s to name a few.  I was looking for two characters in particular, Lestat de Lioncourt & Louis de Pointe du Lac.  And I found them.  Do you know them?


I love spooky stories, especially ones with vampires.  You know I had to stop at Anne Rice’s old home.  It stood elegantly on a corner surrounded by tall oak trees and shmancy mansions.

 The Garden District in Uptown New Orleans

 You may think some of these photos look a little tilted but the reality is this place is so old the sidewalks have huge cracks in them making them uneven.  The same can be said about the streets.  The culprit is usually the root system of an extravagantly large oak tree.  Be sure to watch your step.  The best time to visit is early morning on a sunny day when you can enjoy all of the little details that make this neighborhood great.  Take your time walking.  There’s plenty of shade and don’t forget your camera.

Have you been to the Garden District of New Orleans?

 

 

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Where to Stay in the Garden District of New Orleans: The Hubbard Mansion Bed & Breakfast

Hubbard Mansion Collage Garden District New Orleans

On my first trip to New Orleans, I chose wisely and stayed in the gorgeous Garden District.  Wealthy families set up genteel households beginning in the early 1800’s in this now historic area.  This picturesque neighborhood features mansion lined streets protected and kept cool by giant leafy live oaks where you’ll find beads hanging from their branches leftover from previous celebrations.  Row after row of architectural beauties in altering styles of Greek revival or Victorian elegance.  Some are very old, some are renovated while others are completely new, each one special in their own unique way.  The Garden District is a feast for the senses. You’ll find a new delight on every block whether it be an interesting architectural detail or the fragrance emanating from a colorful well manicured garden.

The drive up to New Orleans from Florida took longer than planned.  Even at night, the Hubbard Mansion bed and breakfast was very easy to find since it’s located on one of the Garden Districts main streets, St. Charles Avenue.  Arriving late in the evening just beyond the wrought iron gates we were welcomed by the soft glow of vintage lamps reflecting off extravagantly large columns of this Greek revival mansion.  The familiar southern song of cicadas rose and fell as we made our way up to the spacious front porch furnished with white wicker rattan tables and chairs.  The perfect place to sip a cool sweet drink, take in the breeze and watch the streetcars go by.

Exhausted from the heat and the long drive I was looking forward to some southern comfort.  Entering through the white double doors was like taking a trip back in time.  Every piece of antique furniture and accessory hand selected to make you feel like you are living in a different time period.  The best part is not having to give up modern amenities because the soothing coolness of the air conditioning was exactly what I needed.  From the chandeliers to the brightly colored area rug, it’s an accurate representation of the elegant lifestyle of well to do New Orleans households of the past.

This grand mansion features five majestic suites for guests.  I felt like royalty staying in the high ceilinged Henry II suite furnished with period pieces, a marble top dresser and gorgeous triple bevel mirrored armoire.  It was the attention to detail like the rose shaped pillow on the Victorian chair that made me feel as though I was visiting a friend’s home.  I had a restful night’s sleep in a luxurious period king sized bed after freshening up in the extra large Jacuzzi tub.

The next morning I was able to catch up on some writing sitting at a wonderful Victorian desk cleverly positioned to receive the best lighting in front of the seven foot window overlooking St. Charles Avenue.  It was very peaceful.  The birds sang, joggers and streetcars passed me by as I typed away.  The bed and breakfast provides wifi allowing me to catch up with my email which can quickly get out of control if I don’t.  Very convenient if you have to work during your travels.

During the day I enjoyed the many details of Hubbard Mansion and found myself making up stories as to what it would have been like to visit during the 1800’s.  This Greek Revival is a newly built replica of a Natchez Mississippi Mansion and is kept in pristine condition.  Every room is filled with curious Victorian antiques, an old radio, a lovely tea set, large fancy  dining room and so on.  There were several hand carved Victorian settee sofas where one could read, gather or daydream.

One of the famous New Orleans streetcar stops is literally across the street.  Taking advantage of the off street parking the bed and breakfast offers allowed me to explore the rest of New Orleans at my leisure.  It was a real convenience.  I recommend taking the streetcar and also walking to get a close up look of the beautiful neighborhood.  There are restaurants a block away in either direction and the grocery store and gas station are just one streetcar stop away if you need supplies.

After my days of exploring in the heat, hustle and bustle of New Orleans the bed and breakfast provided clean comfortable sanctuary where I could recharge for the next adventure.  It’s the reason I wanted to stay in the Garden District.

Hubbard Mansion Postcard NOLA

Have you been to the Garden District?  If you’re looking for a clean, comfortable elegant place to stay during your visit I recommend the Hubbard Mansion bed and breakfast.  When you go be sure to tell your hosts, Don and Shelia Hubbard I said hello.

 

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Exploring the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana

French Quarter Royal Street New Orleans Collage

When visiting New Orleans a trip to the French Quarter is an absolute must.  Stretching from the Mississippi River toward Esplande Avenue and Canal Street up to Rampart Street, the neighborhood is a feast for the eyes and bursting with things to do.  Precisely because there is so much to do and so many interesting facts to learn I recommend taking a tour from one of the locals.  Tours are numerous and are designed to entertain just about every taste.  I did the cemetery Voodoo tour of which a portion of the proceeds goes back into the community to assist in preservation efforts.  That tour was so fun I have to write up a separate post to tell you all about it.

French Quarter Streets Collage NOLA

Leaving our bed and breakfast in the Garden District we took a short ride down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street in one of the city’s famous streetcars.  For a three dollar day pass you can hop on and off as much as you like.  They are a reliable source of transportation scheduled nine minutes apart.   It was a short walk to Cafe Beignet on Royal Street where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of Cajun hash browns and coffee.   I love to eat and everyone I spoke with told me there was no bad food in NOLA.  They were not lying.  The people of New Orleans are super friendly and treated us well.  After breakfast we window shopped along the antique shop lined street and took in the architecture.

French Quarter architecture Collage NOLA

Founded in 1718 the French Quarter is New Orleans oldest neighborhood.   It was French Canadian, Sieur de Bienville, who came upon this crescent of the Mississippi River deemed safe from tidal surges and hurricanes.  Under his governorship New Orleans, which he named in honor of the Prince Regent of France, became the capital of French Louisiana and this its center.  Today the district is a National Historical Landmark containing numerous historical buildings.  Most of the surviving French Quarter architecture was built during the forty year of Spanish rule which we can see today expressed in colorful pastel walls and elaborately decorated ironwork balconies.  They stand today in part because the Spanish had stricter building codes and eliminated flammable materials like wood.

Jackson Square French Quarter New Orleans  Collage

Our trip coincided with the Red Dress Run, the biggest little red dress event in the world so everywhere we looked there were men and women in sexy red dresses.  The event is held the second Saturday of every August and is sponsored by the New Orleans Hash House Harriers, a social club of self proclaimed drinkers with running problems.  They spilled out of beautiful Louis Armstrong park and onto the streets of the French Quarter in a festive mood.  There was music and drinking going just as you would expect to happen after midnight at ten in the morning.  I must admit, their energy along with the very friendly people of NOLA had me in a such a great mood, the sweltering August heat had no chance of ruining my day.

After our Voodoo Cemetery tour we headed to Riverwalk in search of something cold to drink.  We ended up having a late lunch of scrumptious jambalaya partnered with a cold fruity drink called a Cherry Blossom at River’s Edge.  Following lunch we strolled past local artists displaying their latest works of art along the beautifully manicured landscaping of Jackson Square.  The main attraction is sculptor Clark Mills’s grand statue of Battle of New Orleans hero and U.S. President, Andrew Jackson.  The square is surrounded by historical landmarks like the old St. Louis Cathedral, the Louisiana State museum and the oldest apartment buildings in the United States.

corner french quarter

We then headed back to our quiet, clean and comfortable room in an elegant Greek Revival mansion for a long nap so we could party all night long on infamous Bourbon Street.  Do not miss visiting Bourbon Street, no matter how crowded and obnoxious, it was entertaining to say the least.  I couldn’t think of a better place for my first taste of absinthe than at the Old Absinthe House Bar.  Absinthe reminds me of the anise flavored Columbian drink, aguardiente.  I sipped it slowly so I was all good.  This bar is almost 200 years old and looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in at least 100 and the bathroom at least 300.  I guess the interesting characters that came in and out that night kind of made up for it.  People of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities having a great time together.

You know how I really like to dig in and explore the city.  I had to go back to the French Quarter one more time to visit more than the tourist scene on Bourbon Street.  I had to experience the local jazz music scene for myself.  On my last night we had a blast bar hopping on Frenchman Street.  None of the places had cover charges.  In between stops we ran into an open air art market to inspire my creative side. Every place I visited that night had live music and every single band was great.  Non stop dancing hula hoop girl can attest to that.  We hit up The Spotted Cat, Club Negril and Maison to name a few.  The atmosphere was festive and lots of people were dancing.

horse tie french quarter

I have wonderful memories of the French Quarter and I’m sure I’ll go back one day.

Have you been to the French Quarter?  What are your recommendations?

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“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.”   Mark Twain

“I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.”  Langston Hughes

“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air, I knew I was home. 
It was rich, almost sweet, like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard. 
I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.”   Anne Rice

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My New Orleans Itinerary & Postcards

A couple of weeks ago I went on a road trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a blast and I will be sharing the entire month of September.  I’m giving you a sneak peek with these postcards I created of some of the places I saw.

French Quarter PostCard Hotel Monteleone

Hubbard Mansion

Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar

French Quarter

Cafe Beignet

National Historic Landmarks

Tremé

louis armstrong park postcard new orleans

Louis Armstrong Park

River’s Edge

Riverwalk

Bourbon Street

Dirty Linen Night

Jackson Brewery

Old River Road

Oaks Alley Plantation

Mississippi River

Frenchman Street

The Spotted Cat

Maison

Cafe Negril

Hubbard mansion postcard Garden District New Orleans

St. Charles Avenue

Street cars

Canal Street

Royal Street

Historic Voodoo Museum

Archdiocesan Cemeteries

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Jackson Square Postcard New Orleans

Jackson Square

Pirate Alley

Faulkner’s Apartment

Red Dress Run

Cabildo

Presbytere

French Antique shop sign postcard French Quarter New Orleans

Louisiana State Museum

St. Louis Cathedral

French Market

Live Music

Jazz

Have you been to New Orleans, Louisiana?  What was your favorite thing there?

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