After breakfast (on our balcony!) we headed out of the French Quarter to catch the streetcar to the Garden District.
It was definitely a different way to travel around the city and experience all the sights and sounds of the neighbourhoods we passed. Unfortunately we missed the tour we booked due to some construction, but when we got to the Garden District we found another one starting up with Tour New Orleans and jumped in. It all worked out in the end because it was a great tour and we really enjoyed our guide, David. He was full of interesting history and facts about not only the Garden District but the city itself.
Our first stop was to Lafayette Cemetery No 1, which has been active since 1833. There are over 1,100 tombs and an estimated 7,000 people buried here – all within one city block. It’s been used in many films and television shows including Interview with the Vampire, the Ashley Judd film Double Jeopardy, Dracula 2000 (with a young Gerard Butler), the new CW show The Originals (here is a video of cast talking about shooting in New Orleans) and even scenes from the New Kids on the Block video for “The Right Stuff” (and now that song will be stuck in your head all day).
The walls of the cemetery (left) are tombs themselves.
A non-profit organization called Save Our Cemeteries is working hard to preserve the many tombs that are falling into disrepair. This site also gives some great explanations as to the different types of tombs.
I had always assumed that the tombs were made this way because the city is so close to sea level and the coffins would rise from the ground, but there is more to it and our guide was happy to explain. In each of these tall tombs, there are 2-3 shelves inside to hold the dearly departed. When someone dies, the bricks for that shelf are removed and the body is placed inside and cannot be opened for a year. During that year, one of the famously hot New Orleans summers will come around and that tomb will turn into an oven and disintegrate the remains. Then when the family needs to open the tomb to use it again, the remains of the previous tenant are removed and placed in a deep pit below the bottom shelf. This is how generations of families are able to fit into one tomb.
This metal tomb inspired the author Anne Rice when writing her novel Interview with the Vampire and is believed to be the model used for Lestat’s tomb.
There are many notable tombs in the cemetery, including the Jefferson Fire Co. #22′s society tomb with an ornate fire pump on top. Across from this is the location of the fictitious Mayfair family tomb featured in Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour.
Next up, we continued our tour into the phenomenal Garden District. It feels like a completely different city from the French Quarter, and for a long time it was. The two areas were also developed by two very different culture groups. The French Quarter was established by the Creoles during the Spanish and French colonial periods in the 18th century, while the Garden District was populated by Americans who came down to the area after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
We walked by this beautiful chalet-style home owned by actress Sandra Bullock, who moved here in 2010 following the adoption of her son Louise (from New Orleans). Hooked on Homes shared some pictures of the interior prior to them moving in. Built in 1876, the house is beautiful with it’s detailed gables and ironwork.
We also passed by this home that was once owned by Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor and is now occupied by actor John Goodman. Check out this interview with Garden & Gun about what led to Goodman living in New Orleans.
This house was built for Kentucky Colonel Robert Short and the story goes that his wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa, so he bought her the cornstalk fence. However, the common belief is that it was used because it was the most expensive fence in the building catalog.
Later on, we found some in the French Quarter just like this, but it had the corn kernels painted in yellow.
We stopped by 1239 First Street to see the former home of Anne Rice, but I have to admit that I was almost too distracted by these crazy overgrown tree roots to see what the tour guide was saying. Built in 1857, The home is considered a transitional style, containing both Greek Revival and Italianate elements. Rice also used it as the inspiration for the Mayfair Manor in her novel The Witching Hour.
See this design in the fence in front of the house? The pattern is often mistaken for little skulls (which would be appropriate for Anne Rice), but it’s actually a rosette pattern called Rosegate and is the precursor for chain-link fence.
The tour circled back around to the building we started at and that’s when I spotted this awesome Turkish towel store called Loomed. Garrett said I couldn’t go in…because he’d already bought me an early birthday gift from there, but he finally coincided on the grounds that I wouldn’t buy anything. But once we got in there and I started fawning over all the textiles, he gave in and we bought some new bath towels too. I’ll be sharing more about this great company later this summer once we’ve used the towels some more and I can give a good review. So far, I love them!
As we started walking down towards Magazine Street, I spotted some of the shotgun homes that New Orleans is known for. The homes are usually no more than 12 feet wide, with rooms arranged one behind the other and doors at each end of the house. In other words, you could open the front door and fire a shotgun through all the rooms and it would come out the back door.
All the fresh air and sun had us starving by lunchtime, so we popped into Smashburger, expecting the usual fast food fare. It ended up being delish, especially the fries tossed with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.
After looking around some of the shops on Magazine Street, we hopped on the bus (yay for the Jazzy pass!) to make our way back to the French Quarter. It was our first time walking around in daylight and we took in all the shops, picking up gifts and trinkets along the way.
Anytime we told someone we were going to New Orleans on our honeymoon, they always told us to go to Café du Monde for the beignets and café au lait. The place has been serving them up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since 1862. It seems like it’s a requirement that you go there and who are we to break tradition, especially when there are doughnuts involved.
Thankfully we showed up when it wasn’t too busy (it’s known for long lines) and were able to get a table right away.
Two orders of beignets and a café au lait for Garrett. They smelled amazing and we could hardly wait to dig into them.
I was determined not to get icing sugar all over me (as I could see on the other patrons), but it was futile. Honestly – just dig in and enjoy.
Garrett did, complete with an icing sugar moustache. (and check out that new bling on this left hand.)
You better believe we bought a box of the mix to make them at home.
Throughout the French Quarter, we saw signs like this one, advertising that properties were “not haunted”, so we knew that we needed to go on some kind of a ghost tour and hear about the ones that are. David, our awesome tour guide from the morning thankfully also did evening ghost tours of the French Quarter, so we hopped online and booked it with him right away.
The tour met up at the Pirates Alley Café and you’re allowed to walk in public with alcohol (as seen on Bourbon Street), so we grabbed a couple of drinks to walk around with during the Ghost Tour. I tried the Pirate’s Punch (coconut rum, dark rum, pineapple, orange juice and grenadine) and Garrett had the Pirates Alley’s Grog (their own special blend rum).
We had a great time walking around the city as it started to get dark, listening to spooky stories.
For the most part, the stories were more so about the history of this interesting neighbourhood, including tale of the ghost of P.G.T. Beauregard and a stop to the LaLaurie Mansion to hear the horrific events that happened there, which inspired the TV show American Horror Story: Coven.
After the tour, we walked around the French Quarter taking in all the sounds of the night, like this street band.
Goodnight New Orleans!