The Retirees in the South East USA – Cemeteries, Parks and Rooftops of New Orleans

The following morning, we rose early to catch the city tour. We travelled by tram to the city, then caught the riverside tram back to where we were last night but this time to catch the bus. The tour started travelling through the French Quarter where we saw a sign saying “300 NOLA” . New Orleans Louisiana (NOLA) is 300 years old this year and the signs are erected to remind everyone. We then passed Jackson Sq. named after General Jackson who liberated New Orleans from the British, passed a monument to the workmen who died in the Blue Horizon tragedy, passed a typical American settlers home (a “shotgun” home due to it having a hall from front to back), a typical Creole home (pitched roof and wooden shutters) a restored plantation home and a multi – coloured home (9 colours) finishing with their own style craftsman home.

The cemeteries of New Orleans are full of crypts. New Orleans is surrounded by and has formerly been part of the swamps forming most parts of Florida. So the appearance of many crypts in the cemeteries raised the question why not bury the dead in the ground? Some one suggested to us that they bury their dead above ground because the water table is so high. However the bus driver/tour guide disagreed. He explained that this habit was about recycling rather than water tables and pointed out one crypt which contains over 250 Augustinian nuns and 1 priest – is that heaven or hell? During the yellow fever epidemic it was believed that the fever was spread by the dead so they developed some half way houses to hold the dead until it was considered safe to open the crypt. One of the effects of yellow fever is a comatose type state which lead to people being buried alive in some cases. How do they know? The frantic scratching on the underside of the coffin lid told the story.

From the cemetery we travelled to the City Park and its sculpture gardens. Along the way we passed New Orleans’s oldest oak tree (800+ years). The park is immense and contains the second oldest tree as well – surprised? The sculpture garden is very interesting with its tower of violins, a magically suspended window with its escape ladder (or is someone breaking in?), elongated spiders and hollow horses and the ever – present oak trees draped in Spanish moss. This moss is not a moss but feeds from moisture in the air. It has been used in the past as mattress stuffing, but it must be treated (washed or boiled) before doing so otherwise the small creatures living in the moss bite (hence sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite).

There ended the tour and the bus raced back to the city. I have had better tours but it gave us a better understanding of how valuable our tram passes were. We decided to walk back to St Charles Ave tram and in doing so passed through Jackson Sq and the artists all trying to flog their wares. There is that blue dog again. We saw one in the sculpture gardens. This led us to walk the back streets spotting restored apartments with gardens on their balconies. A quick decision we decided we would return to city park in the afternoon.

Back on the trams again.

The trip on the tram took a lot longer than we anticipated. There are two trams that run in that direction – the Cemeteries tram and the City Park tram. The Cemeteries trams out numbered City park trams two to one. The trip dragged but we made it to City Park – end of the line. City Park, a 1,300-acre (5.3 km2) public park, is approximately 50% larger than Central Park in New York City, and holds the world’s largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age. It also has rows of Crepe Myrtle trees planted as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s damage to the existing trees. It also has the Issac Delgardo Museum of Art now the New Orleans Museum of Art which our tour driver had said was free to enter. What he did not say that it was free for residents of New Orleans on Wednesdays only. So we skipped the museum and decided to visit the sculpture gardens again and  then the gardens which included the Temple of the Twin Sisters which turned out to be a hot house for tropical plants.

Quite surprising was the model railway tucked away in one corner. We rejoined David and Veronica and made our way to the tram stop.

We managed to catch the tram almost immediately and enjoyed a much faster ride home. After appropriately dressing for the evening to walk through Bourbon St, we boarded the tram once again. The tram terminates across the road from Bourbon St and even though it was late afternoon/early evening the sun shone brightly showing up the seediness of Bourbon St. Brash bands playing in filthy bars, strip clubs, hookers standing in doorways awaiting their next customer, filth in the street – not the scene expected. Where were the jazz bands and the juke joints we had heard about. So after walking a number of blocks we determined to move over onto Royal St. via St Louis St in the French Quarter past our restaurant for tomorrow night. Cleaner but still no juke joints or jazz bands but rather art galleries reflecting the neighbourhood the Supreme Court of Louisiana and antiques shops. We found another Café Beignet with a guitar player serenading it patrons so we pulled in for dinner. We all ordered omelettes of different kinds and no one was really happy with the meals but the music was enjoyable and we sat around for up to an hour enjoying the music.

We finally returned to our tram stop for the journey home. I am reminded of a funny incident whilst travelling back to our hotel. To return to our hotel we had to pass through a round – about with a garden and memorial in the centre. It seems a regular hangout for the homeless and the down and out residents. This evening in question, a fellow boarded the tram dressed in jeans blue underpants barely covered by the jeans and a T shirt with some voodoo cartoon on it. He looked dirty and unsteady on his feet. The tram slows to pass through the roundabout and our fellow traveller strikes up a very loud conversation with one of the fellows lounging under a street light in the park. The conversation goes along until the park resident says, “Are you all comin’ to pick up your bag?” Tram rider says “You all got my bag?” Park resident “yeah you all want your bag?” The tram rider became agitated, rang the bell, hitched his pants up, and pushed to the front of the tram. As the tram slowed the driver opened the door and the now excited tram rider does not wait for the doors to open fully (when the door opens a step extends to make the departure or entrance to the tram easier) and he steps out falling flat on his face on the ground. There was murmuring throughout the tram as that would have hurt, but whatever substance he had taken and whatever was in the bag seemed to fortify him against feeling pain as he pulled himself up hitched his britches once again and strode away. I was astounded as I thought for sure we would be waiting for an ambulance to collect the fallen rider.

On returning to the hotel the others went up to the roof top whilst I went to the room gathered together the wine glasses and snacks and joined them on the roof top. A grand view of the stadium and central business district.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.