Ariadne's Travels - Diary

Saturday, March 27 - I landed in New Orleans International Airport about 5:45pm, 15 minutes early. After retrieving my luggage, I frantically searched for my best friend, who was supposed to have arrived an hour before me. Learning that her flight had been delayed, I made my way over to the terminal she should end up at, and found her waiting for her luggage. The bed and breakfast (B&B) we were staying at sent a cab for us, so we took the cab to the Banana Courtyard, which used to be a brothel.

The couple who owns the Banana Courtyard B&B was on vacation, but their son was there to welcome us. After being shown to our room (the Madame's Steamboat Room) and getting settled, the son, his wife, and their kids walked us down Esplanade Avenue until we reached Decatur Street, at which point we parted ways. Holly and I ate at a little restaurant near the corner of Esplanade and Decatur (whose name I neglected to write down). For my first try at southern food, I had blackened chicken. It was great. Then we wandered around the Quarter for a little while, before returning to the room.

Sunday, March 28 - After eating breakfast, Holly and I made our way down Esplanade again and went to the French Market, which is a big flea market. Jewelry, clothing, masks, leather products, cheesy tourist stuff, etc. could be found here. I bought two bracelets (one delicate silver and blue one, and another clunkier silver one with a hinge) at the market, and a unique pair of earrings (white teardrop-shaped glass surrounded by bright red wire) at a store across the street from the market.

After wandering around both the flea market portion and the farmer's market portion of the French Market, we made our way over to the Moonwalk, which was nearby. The Moonwalk is actually named after a mayor/governer (I can't remember which), not the dance move made popular by Michael Jackson. Anyway, it's a little walkway beside the Mississippi with benches and street lamps scattered along it.

When we reached the Jackson Square area, we heard music and saw a crowd, so we went over to see what the fuss was about. That's when we saw the street performers dancing and telling jokes to a large group of spectators. We watched for a little while, then crossed Decatur and entered the park in Jackson Square. Flowers, trees, and benches awaited us here, along with a small fountain. Surrounding the park on three sides, people tried to sell their wares. The left and right sides of the square had mostly artists, while the side facing the St. Louis Cathedral (see Jackson Square link) was composed mainly of fortune tellers and Tarot card readers. The forth side, facing Decatur street, was where many horse drawn carriages could be found between tours.

We peeked into the cathedral, but there was a mass going on, so we decided to wander. We took a left (facing the front of the cathedral) onto Chartres Street, where we accidentally stumbled on the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum near the corner of Chartres and Toulouse Street, which is one of the places I wanted to go. It's a two story building chock full of interesting facts about tools, instruments, medicines, and general medical procedures previously used to treat patients. Most of the artifacts in the museum are original, and they include lots of information on everything present. If leeches, scary looking needles, and using opium for "female nervousness" interests you, this is the place to go. They have a little courtyard out back, which is also rather pretty.

Then we returned to the cathedral, where mass was now over, and looked around a bit, before grabbing a snack at a local bakery and taking a break in the shade of a tree in the park. We watched as a poor male pigeon tried to pick up girl pigeons, but was rebuffed each time. He'd puff himself up and strut his stuff, but the girls kept running away from him.

We went back to the B&B to rest, and signed up for a haunted tour on the way. After an hour or two we went out to dinner at the Gumbo Shop, which is located on St. Peter's Street (somewhere between Bourbon and Chartres, I believe). I had my first taste of gumbo - Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, to be exact, and I loved it.

Next was our Haunted History Tour. It was a lot of fun, and our tour guide was great. We went to several haunted locations, including a haunted bar. (To read some of the stories he told us, click here.) He also pointed out the Pirate's Alley Cafe (not haunted, but one of his favorite hangouts), but we'll get back to that later. We ended the night by walking down Bourbon Street before returning to the B&B.

Monday, March 29 - Once again, we ate breakfast before beginning our daily adventure. The morning was devoted to voodoo - we visited the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum first. It was composed of two rooms, but those rooms had tons of info on voodoo, its origins, how it came to Louisiana, its customs and ceremonies, etc. I was surprised to learn how closely related voodoo and Christianity are. In fact, Marie Levaeu, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, went to church daily. Picture taking was allowed, but the museum requests that photos be taken for private use only, so I'm not going to post them. We stopped by the Voodoo Spiritual Temple next, but it was little more than a very small gift shop. I suspect tourists aren't allowed in the temple itself. Then we went to Marie Leveau's House of Voodoo, but that was just a gift shop with a psychic in it.

Then we walked to Canal Street, where we caught the historic St. Charles Streetcar (here's another link about St. Charles Streetcar), on the corner of Canal and Bourbon, to the Garden District. We wandered the Garden District for an hour or two, following a self-guided tour route Holly had obtained from a book. Amongst other things, we saw Anne Rice's house (which used to have tours, but apparently doesn't any more), and Lafayette Cemetery #1. Despite warning from every tourbook/website we came across, Holly and I entered the cemetery by ourselves (supposedly people are regularly mugged in cemeteries down here, so they recommend you take a tour through one for safety reasons). There were enough people there that we felt safe, so we took our time looking around. As we made our way back to the streetcar, it began to rain, and we took refuge in a little market on the corner. When the rain let up, we caught a streetcar and rode to the end of the route, then went back from whence we came. It was a relaxing ride with a spectacular view.

We had intended on going back to the B&B, but it began to rain again, so we stopped in the historic New Orleans Old Absinthe House, where I tried their signature drink - an Old Absinthe House Frappe (made with an absinthe substitute). It was a little too strong for my liking, though (for more on absinthe, see Tuesday). Anyway, we got bored of waiting for the rain to stop, so we squished under my umbrella and stopped in a variety of stores on the way back. Of course, by the time the rain let up, we were exhausted, and decided to find a place to eat because we didn't think we'd have the energy to leave the B&B once we got there. We ate at The Little Easy Bar & Grill, (located somewhere on Conti Street, below Bourbon), where I found a version of jambalaya that didn't include shrimp (I don't eat seafood). Jambalaya is good...but I like gumbo better. :-)

We ate, we walked back to the room, and we collapsed.

Tuesday, March 30 - Breakfast again (free breakfast is a good thing), before going down to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (located at the end of Canal Street by the river - if you're looking at the map, it's the gray rectangle just to the right of the end of Canal)...just in time for the penguin feeding. It was a small-ish aquarium, and I was disappointed on the number of fish in the tanks that weren't identified on the signs, but they had an absolutely amazing jellyfish exhibit, so I suppose they're forgiven. We also got to see the feeding in the big tank, which consisted of a variety of fish, including sharks and sting rays, and sea turtles.

For the first (and only time) during our trip, we had lunch. Around mid-afternoon we headed for Johnny's Po-Boys to try the local "delicacy," po'boys. What is a po'boy? It's a sandwich made with long, thin, French bread, and just about anything you can imagine in between...it's called a po'boy because even a "poor boy" could afford it. I had a French fry po'boy. Yes...I had a sandwich that consisted of French fries and gravy between two pieces of bread. What can I say...it's a New Orleans thing. Anything goes around there. :-) It was great.

Then we went to Presbytère, which is next to St. Louis Cathedral (on the right, if you're looking at the cathedral from Jackson Square). It may not look like much from the front, but appearances can be deceiving. There are two floors literally crammed with everything you ever wanted to know about Mardi Gras and Carnival. Holly and I spent a good 2 hours there, and were accidentally locked in (because we stayed right until closing time). If you have any interest in Mardi Gras, this is the place to go! We were both thoroughly impressed with it.

It was time for a break, so we went over to Tony Seville's Pirate's Alley Cafe, located on Pirates Alley, to the left of the cathedral (if you're looking at the cathedral from Jackson Square). It's a tiny, tiny, tiny place with an L-shaped bar that takes up at least half of the room, and literally only a few chairs and tables along the outer walls. Most of the cafe is open, so you get a nice breeze, and not many people know about it, because it's so small and next to a church (you wouldn't go looking for a bar next to a church, would you? Only in New Orleans). Holly and I ordered some Absente, which is a safe form of absinthe. (For more info on absinthe, click here.) We also ate the last piece of "vampyre cake," which was nothing more than vanilla cake dyed red covered with chocolate icing. But man was it good. I've since read that this cafe is a popular Goth/vampire hangout, though there weren't any there while we were.

We returned to the B&B for a rest, because that night was going to be a late one...

Around 11pm, we went out into the night, grabbed some pizza at Dante's Pizza (neither of us were particularly impressed with it), then walked around for a little while. That's when we made our way over to The Dungeon (which I insisted on visiting as much for the supposed spooky decor as the fact that I named the bar-cum-diner in my So Impossible series The Dungeon). By day, it's just a black door with bars near the top on Toulouse Street (between Bourbon and Royal)...and it stays that way until the clock strikes midnight, at which point the door opens, and you're invited in. First you walk through a really narrow alley (literally only one person can fit down it at a time) for a few feet until the path opens up into a little courtyard. If you walk through the courtyard, a big scary guy asks to see your ID (the only place that checked our IDs, by the way). Then you walk into the main bar, which consists of dark scary decorations (gargoyles, skulls, and the like...although it's tastefully done. You know, they don't over do it with the spooky stuff) lit mainly by red lights. There's a long bar with stools along it, and at the end of the room are two big mirrors (one on the end wall, and one on the wall next to it - they meet at the corner of the room). Across from one mirror is the juke box. And at the end of the bar is a little platform with two antique-looking, velvet covered bench-type things. Holly and I walked down the bar and sat on those. We hung out for a good hour and a half. We peeked upstairs, and saw a small dance floor, and another seating area, but we were a little intimidated, so we didn't stay up there. The bathroom is down another narrow passage on the first floor. It looks like bookcases are built into the walls, but they're fake books, and you have to push in the right place to get into the bathroom. I wish I could've taken pictures, but I wasn't allowed. If you want a better idea of what it looked like (although the site doesn't do the place justice), check out their website (it takes a while to load, but there are pics and stuff).

Wednesday, March 31 - After getting up a little earlier than usual, and eating breakfast, we went on a Haunted History Cemetery Tour. Our tour guide was awesome - he's a French guy named Pierre with a heavy French accent. Actually, he had the strongest accent of anyone we met in the Quarter. Anyway, he took us around the Quarter a bit, telling random stories and showing us local attractions (like the House of the Rising Sun, which was the last legal brothel in New Orleans, one of the places they filmed a scene from Interview with a Vampire, and Lenny Kravitz's house) before taking us to St. Louis Cemetery #1. Amongst other things, he took a loose brick out of a crypt and let us take pictures, showed us the different sections of the cemetery (Catholic, Protestant, Italian, etc.), and finally led us to the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Leveau. Then we went to the Louis Armstrong Park (where he supposedly wrote the song "What a Wonderful World").

After the tour we took photos...or, more accurately, I took photos for you guys, then went to the New Orleans School of Cooking (on St. Louis Street, somewhere below Bourbon, I think) for a cooking class. The food was excellent, but the chef was rude to his staff in front of us, and kinda mean to the woman who volunteered to help him when he asked. I'd put the recipes up, but I'm not sure if that could get me in some kind of legal trouble. Not that anyone one from the cooking school would ever come to my site...but just to be on the safe side, I'm not.

Then we walked back to the B&B via Decatur, so we could buy souvenirs, and as we were walking up Esplanade, we saw a TV show being filmed. I believe it was called "Nick & Nora," though I could be wrong...I guess it's a new show for the WB. Look for it in the near future. I'll have to watch the first few episodes for the part we saw them taping.

After a rest in the room, we ventured out one last time. We ate dinner on a balcony on Bourbon Street (I forgot to write down the name), where I had chicken gris-gris and a hurricane, which is a local specialty drink. We wandered a little, then stopped at the nice, quiet Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. We stopped here earlier on the week during our Haunted History Tour, and both promised ourselves that we would come back. It looks like it's about to fall down and consists of only two rooms, but the atmosphere is lovely, lit only by candles, with a guy singing jazz in the background. Holly had a drink, I didn't. We sat there for a little while, then reluctantly went back to the room.

Thursday, April 1 - We left the French Quarter for bigger things...rented a car, and drove out into the wilderness. Of course, with my superior map skills (honestly, I think you have to be drunk to follow the maps down there), we managed to get lost. Actually, I was reading the map correctly, but I was looking at the wrong set of directions (the ones coming from the opposite way). Still, we managed to arrive at our location with time to spare. So...where were we? We were in Slidell, right on the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, to go on one of Mr. Denny's Voyageur Swamp Tours. This tour was unique in that you're in a canoe and have to paddle your way up and down the swamp, which is pretty cool. Mr. Denny is very concerned with the wildlife (and the effects of motorized boats on the wildlife), so he didn't interfere with it (i.e. he didn't feed any aligators...as much for their safety as ours). Also, because we were in a canoe and not a big, motorized boat, we got to paddle into some beautiful, narrow passages. We saw turtles, a snake, an alligator, and a bright yellow rare bird, whose name escapes me. We also saw another place where part of Interview with a Vampire was taped. When the tour was done, we headed north west to St. Francisville (which is north west of Baton Rouge). We got a room for two nights, ate dinner at a local pizzeria, and slept.

Friday, April 2 - We got up, enjoyed yet another free continental breakfast, then went to the St. Francisville visitors center to look at brochures. We decided to go on a walking tour of the historic part of town, which lasted about an hour. Then we went on a 20 minute drive up to Angola to visit the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum. The museum is literally right outside the gates of the prison, and though it's small, was pretty interesting. Dead Man Walking and Monster's Ball were both partially filmed there. It's amazing what kinds of weapons inmates can fashion from the simplest items...knives made out of just about anything, homemade guns, a hatchet...even a homemade shotgun!

Once we had our fill of the prison (on an amusing note, they had a shirt that said "Angola - a gated community"), we decided to check out a couple plantations. We went to the Cottage Plantation first because it was listed as "the oldest complete plantation complex in the area." Be that as it may, it was small (for a plantation) and the tour, if you could call it that, left much to be desired. However, our tour guide recommended visiting the Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site down the road, which has tours on the hour. Because it was almost 2pm, we decided to grab a snack and wait until the 3 o'clock one. After eating some ice cream and cookies, we drove to Rosedown. Now this was a plantation. It had extensive grounds, beautiful gardens (unfortunately, most of them weren't in bloom yet) and a big ol' house at the end of a tree-lined lane. This tour lasted a little over an hour, and our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, though some of the tourists were the kind of people who "know everything about everything," and they pissed me off.

After leisurely strolling the grounds, and stopping in the gift shop for our generous free book (not hardcover or anything, it was still a nice, soft covered book) we went back to the hotel to await the arrival of an old college friend and her boyfriend. Then we went to the gas station for dinner. Um...you can't really do that kind of thing in the northern U.S., but this is apparently typical for the south, or at least Louisiana. They all had crawfish (I don't eat any kind of fish or seafood) so I just got a burger...but I also had my very first taste of hush puppies! I was determined to try them because they were listed as one of Evolution Rogue's favorite foods...and let me tell you, they were absolutely delicious!

A little later on, we headed over to the Myrtles Plantation for a haunted tour. Although my friends were all disappointed with the tour (mostly because it only spanned 5 rooms, due to the fact that the other rooms are rented out as a B&B), I thought it was ok. For stories about the Myrtles Plantation, click here.

Saturday, April 3 - We left St. Francisville for Cajun Country...driving south until we reached Thibodaux, where we went to the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. This museum consisted of a few large rooms, and had tons of info on Cajuns - where they came from, where they are now, their culture, their music, etc. Both of us thought it was exceptionally interesting, a must-see for anyone in the area.

We went further south then (and got lost again...stupid map...yes, I blame the map. Even Holly agreed that one part of the map was especially confusing) through Houma, to the Louisiana University Marine Consortium (located in the town of Chauvin), a little tiny aquarium with info on wetlands/swamps.

Then we headed back to New Orleans, where we got lost (*sigh*...seriously, I'm usually a very good navigator. I stand behind my previous theory that you need to be drunk to follow a Louisiana map...why else would they have drive-through daiquiri stands?), and then almost ended up at the wrong airport (again, my fault). Rest assured, we finally got a room across the street from the correct airport (which was surprisingly quiet), ate dinner at the Olive Garden, and went to sleep.

Sunday, April 4 - Got up at 5am (on the day Daylight Savings Time begins, no less), returned our rental car, and went to the airport. Left my beloved Holly behind, and came home.