New Orleans: Cemeteries in the sunshine

Lafayette Cemetery #2

Lafayette Cemetery #2

I always make a point to visit graveyards and cemeteries when I’m traveling. They are some of the most peaceful and thought-provoking places in the world. I find myself relaxing, remembering. Contemplating.

I had thought my visits to NOLA cemeteries would be more atmospheric somehow. Scratch that. I should say “differently” atmospheric. Because they definitely had atmosphere! I had pictured them grey and wrapped in the stereotypical fog. Sinister. A fitting place for vampires. You know. But it was so warm and sunny, they were almost welcoming me in. I suppose I should go back at night for the atmosphere – but the pics wouldn’t be nearly as good.

The above-ground crypts of New Orleans are particularly interesting. They feel like wee little cities, monuments to the dead layered side by side one on top of the other, like high rises in New York. Some crypts have more real estate, and others crowd around each other, filling all the nooks and crannies.

Geography was the deciding factor in the first two cemeteries I visited. I’m staying Uptown – near St. Charles Avenue and Jefferson – so when I looked on a map and saw Lafayette #1 and #2 close to the nearby Garden District, I felt a walk in the 24C sunshine was in order.

So, I wandered eastbound on a lovely side street toward Lafayette #2. It was only a 20-minute wander. Lovely houses, pretty gardens, giant trees. Even an Italian coffee house to add further enjoyment and fortification.

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Sadly, about 5 minutes away from the cemetery, the neighbourhood took a turn for the worse. I always forget that about US cities. How you can be in a safe neighbourhood one second, cross a street and be in a bad one. It’s a good reminder to be more careful and less complacent (I am a woman of relatively small stature, after all).

Anyway, I got to and from the cemetery without incident. And it was creepily beautiful. I would soon find out that it was smaller than Lafayette #1, with far fewer trees for shade.

Onward to Lafayette #1. Quite a different experience. There was a history student hanging out around the entrance talking to people as they left. Visitors were everywhere, wandering the laneways. Tours were being conducted. Giant trees overhung the outside of the cemetery wall (it had a wall rather than just a fence). Lafayette #2 had been completely deserted – and given the neighbourhood, I guess I can see why.

I spent a lot more time in Lafayette #1. It was beautiful, serene. And it had plenty of shady spots to rest at for those of us still among the living and feeling the heat.

Can’t wait to see what else the City of the Dead has to show me.

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New Orleans: So far, it’s been all sunshine and walking tours

Blue Skies in New Orleans

Blue Skies in New Orleans

I’ve begun my third official morning in NOLA, and once again, it has dawned sunny and warm. This is what the sky looked like on my first morning, and it’s looked exactly the same the last two days! I’m again out on the back porch, enjoying my coffee in only a thin wrap for warmth. It’s so nice not to have to wear boots and a bulky winter coat!

To take as much advantage of the beautiful weather as possible (my first two days here, the temperature got to 24C!), I’ve spent my first days mostly outside. Walking around the French Quarter. Walking around the Garden District. Walking around cemeteries (it’s strangely cheerful wandering around old crypts in the blazing sunshine). Walking around Audubon Park. Walking along parts of Magazine Street.

Frankly, my feet hurt a bit 🙂 But I really wouldn’t trade it!

I’m not sure what today holds. My friend S and I will be exploring via car, so I’ll get to see a whole new section of New Orleans. Maybe Bywater. Or City Park. I’m sure it will include fabulous food, delicious coffee and hundreds more photo ops! Stay tuned.

Somewhere over western Louisiana…

the view over east Texas - west Louisiana

the view over east Texas – or western Louisiana

…actually, we could have been over eastern Texas.

Anyway, I hadn’t expected to be 35,000 feet over Texas, but every once in awhile life throws you a curve ball. Just one day before my departure, the entire Eastern Seaboard decided to conspire against me. There was some kind of storm and Newark airport (as of Tuesday morning) was grounded, putting my anticipated connecting flight in jeopardy!

Oh no, you don’t! No way is some winter storm going to mess with my plans to escape!

Yesterday, I got on the phone…well, I got on to hold music for long while first…and switched my flight to connect through a nice, warm city outside the storm zone. Houston, it is.

I’m pleased to report that I did get to New Orleans – and this is what it looked like as I was arriving (I love aerial views – it’s just too bad I have to take them from inside a blurry airplane cabin window):

I landed in the mid-afternoon sunshine, and my lovely driver Floyd was there to pick me up. As he drove me to my Valmont Street abode-for-the-week, he recited some history and Hurricane Katrina facts. We chatted about the economy (low price of oil, fall in the Canadian dollar, socialized medicine – the usual). And when I couldn’t make the code work on my friend’s front door, he kept me company to make sure I got in okay. Above and beyond, Floyd. Thanks.

And the best thing? It got so warm in the sunshine, Floyd turned on the air conditioning. Imagine needing AC in a car in late January. Awesome!

When I finally got into the house, I oriented myself, unpacked, and changed into something cooler. I took a glance at a map of the area and went exploring for a couple of hours. I’m staying just off of St Charles Street, so I wandered along, taking in all the houses. Love that architecture. Many already have Mardi Gras decorations up – on their doors and on balconies. I’m sure I’ll see more of it.

New Orleans Garden District

New Orleans Garden District

I met a very chatty and helpful woman on St. Charles, who told me all the best places to eat and best times to visit the WWII Museum. And that I shouldn’t miss the Sculpture Gardens. After gathering a few provisions, I made my way back to enjoy a glass of wine on the veranda. So civilized. Fingers crossed that the weather will stay fine!

St Charles oak

St Charles oak

P.S. A mosquito just landed on me, ready to suck some blood. Despite my general dislike of the creatures, I’m rather enjoying the novelty of being bitten in January. (I don’t think it’ll last very long.)

There’s nothing like a really cold day to get you planning your holiday

Waking up this morning to the announcement that it was -32 degrees Celsius  put me in a mood to plan my upcoming trip to New Orleans. Only 2 weeks away, and I really can’t wait to get to a milder climate, if only for 8 days. And then I looked at the 14-day outlook for New Orleans:

New Orleans temperature 2015

Yes, people – that’s a daily high of between 11 to 21 degrees Celsius! Woot! I don’t leave until just after this chart runs out, but I remain hopeful that it’ll be capris and cardigans for my holiday!

This trip to Nola will be different. On my previous visits, New Orleans was just one stop of many on road trips I had undertaken. I’ve wandered the French Quarter and taken a Riverboat cruise. I’ve eaten blackened crawfish, gumbo, pralines and beignets. I went on a Cajun swamp tour. And as a student of history and lover of architecture, I’ve driven the River Road several times between New Orleans and Baton Rouge to see many of the old plantation homes.

What I haven’t done is seen much of the city outside of the French Quarter, but on this trip, New Orleans is the main event. I’ve been scouring websites and the online Lonely Planet guide, and there are so many neighbourhoods, museums, galleries and parks that I’ve yet to visit. Can’t wait to explore.

Here’s what I have tentatively planned (not sure how much of my list I’ll get to, but I’m up for the challenge!) :

Now, I’m off to make another piping hot cup of tea so my fingers don’t freeze up permanently before I get to thaw out in New Orleans. I’m totally ready! (Though not yet packed, of course.)