I wrote over the summer about my experience of hearing Jeff Buckley for the very first time while I was in New Orleans. In that entry I describe the neighborhood that Rosewalk House sits in like this:
"Across the street was a bakery, a wine shop, a news stand, and a coffeehouse. All over the neighborhood you could smell things exclusive to New Orleans and the South in general, scents I have come to love over the years that can make an evening outside doing absolutely nothing a voyage of discovery just from their fingerprints on the air if you let your nose be your compass. Confederate jasmine, baguettes baking in an ancient Creole brick oven with the memory of hundreds - thousands of loaves before etched in the clay, coffee and chicory, steam from fat raindrops scorched on the unforgiving pavement of a Southern road in August, cut grass, and that smell that really old, cozy houses have. If I remember it all hard enough and close my eyes, I'd surely float right up and out of this chair..."
That is only part of it, though. What I was describing there was just one square block. New Orleans is all about parties, tradition, culture, food, and music, all bathed in Catholicism and Voodoo. Thanks to people like the pirate Jean Lafitte, Mme. Delphine Lalaurie (about whom I devoted an entire Friends layout to), Marie Laveau, and in more recent times Anne Rice, there is also a gothic subculture and history of haunted goings-on rampant throughout the French Quarter and surrounding areas.
I love the local people in New Orleans. They're quite charming, and very no-nonsense. Seemingly everywhere you run into people, they are walking history books. And there is SO much to see. My personal favorite places are Central Grocery, where I can get my beloved muffeletta (FOOD-GASM!) and really good marinated olives. I love Magazine Street for shopping. Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop is where you can buy gris gris bags, excellent postcards, and find all things occultic - plus they have thousands of cute and interesting little tchotchkes. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life, if you go to New Orleans you have to see this place. You'll be completely enchanted. You'll see street performers, artists, palmists, and various and sundry other mystics in Jackson Square. Have lunch at Cafe Pontalba, in the historic Pontalba Apartment building, said to be the oldest apartment building in the country. Just across the square is the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, and across the street is the historic LePetit Théatre, which has its own haunted history. One block toward the river and the Moon Walk is the French Market, which is amazing. It is also the location of the legendary Cafe Du Monde (OMG, Creole coffee and beignets). New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. Music plays a fundamental part in the way people live and even in the way they die there.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, on Basin Street, just outside the Quarter, is one of the "Cities Of The Dead" that New Orleans is justifiably famous for. I personally think the Metairie cemetery is the most awe inspiring. The city was constructed below sea level, and the water table is so high that the dead must be buried above ground. This is the cemetery that houses Marie Laveau's tomb. According to legend, she still grants wishes. You mark the tomb with XXX in chalk or brick, rub the ground three times with your foot, knock three times (to wake the dead) and make a wish. Yeah. A great deal of my interest in New Orleans stems from its mythology, specifically of the historic atrocity and haunting tales, which are plentiful.
Take a streetcar down St. Charles to the Garden District to see some amazing houses and extraordinary architecture. You can see the homes of Anne Rice and NIN's Trent Reznor, as well as many others. The Lafayette Cemetery #1 is the setting of many of Anne Rice's novels, including The Vampire Lestat and The Witching Hour.
It's just a wonderful, magical place and I'm looking forward to showing all of this to Damien when we go next Spring. I think I'll enjoy it all much more this time, considering how much I know he's going to love it there!