Louisiana was claimed by LaSalle in 1689 for French King Louis XIV and Queen Anna (hence, Louisianna). In 1718, Bienville established New Orleans and a year later, the first slave ship docked in the New Orleans’ port. Between 1762 and 1803, the city went to the Spanish as a result of the Seven Years’ War. The French reclaimed the territory in 1803 only to sell it to the Americans less than a month later. Louisiana became the 18th state to enter the union. Because of its history, New Orleans (and Louisiana in general) has a very colorful culture.
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French Quarter Marigny New Orleans Voodoo St. Louis Cemetery Garden District & Lafayette Cemetary Swamps and Alligators
Jackson Square is the first place the French built. There were 13 tribes nearby and none had occupied this territory. Bienville founded the colony here in order to avoid fighting with the neighboring tribes. The reason why those tribes did not settle here was because it was right next to a swamp and was thus the breeding ground for various diseases, most notably yellow fever. Nonetheless, Jackson Square is the tallest natural peak in the region at 11 meters above water. It hasn't been flooded in 200 years (even during Hurricane Katrina).
The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, in the background, is the oldest Catholic cathedral still in use in the United States. The façade says that the church was built in 1749 however, the original actually burnt down in 1788 and only one of the original walls was kept. To the left of the church is The Cabildo, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the right is the Hurricane Katrina museum and the museum of Mardis Gras. The locals call it the most emotionally confusing museum.
The Statue of Andrew Jackson is at the center of Jackson Square. It commemorates the defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. The statue is not unique though as there were 9 others spread around in the United States.
The Cabildo is identical to the building that houses the Hurricane Katrina and Mardis Gras museum. The skyscrapers of downtown New Orleans can be seen in the distance.
Between the Cabildo and the St. Louis Cathedral is Pirate Alley, where the Pirates Alley Cafe is located, honoring all the pirates that have passed through the streets of New Orleans. The most famous pirate brothers, Jean and Pierre Lafitte, who smuggled in stolen goods and sold them to the citizens of New Orleans at a reduced price. During the prohibition of the 1820s, the Lafitte brothers also smuggled in alcohol for the citizens. William Claiborne, the first governor of Louisiana, hated Jean Lafitte so much that he put out a $500 reward for his capture. Jean Lafitte equally put out a $1000 reward for the capture of Claiborne just to mess with him. Yet, Major General Andrew Jackson recruited Jean Lafitte and his pirates to help fight off the British during the War of 1812.
This alley is also famous as William Faulkner lived in one of the attic apartments. One of his favorite pastimes was shooting passersby with a BB gun. Nuns and priests out in the courtyard of the St. Louis Cathedral were worth the most points.
Inside the Pirates Alley Cafe
The green building was a typical French Quarter house. It was built out of Cypress wood as that wood was in abundance. In 1788, though, candles were lit in this house for Good Friday. The wind blew and the house caught on fire. The citizens couldn't ring the church bells to alert the fire department as they were muffled for Good Friday. As a result, 80% of the city burned to the ground. This house and many others were rebuilt ...with Cypress wood. A couple years later, a couple boys were playing with shards of flint. Sparks flew and 50% of the city was again burned to the ground. It was then that the Spanish government intervened and created a building and fire code. Most notable, the buildings had to be built of brick and plaster and the entire façade had to be in line with the sidewalk. This is why the balconies jut forward. Why was this house not rebuilt? The story goes that it was owned by a commander of the Spanish army who refused to rebuild.
Note: Parts of 12 Years a Slave were filmed here.
These are now the typical houses in New Orleans. The one in the middle has a terrace while the two surrounding it have balconies. These balconies were bought from catalogs so everyone knew how much you spent on it. Everyone wanted to buy the most expensive one to show their wealth.
Wealthy Creole families sent their boys to live in garçonnières when they became adolescents because the parents didn't want the boy and his friends corrupting their daughters. Irish immigrants also lived in garçonnières as they could not afford much.
Built in 1727, the Ursaline convent is the oldest building in New Orleans. It was unaffected by the two great fires of the late 18th century. It is said that by divine power, the wind changed direction before the fire reached the convent. It used to run hospitals, orphanages and schools. Now it just runs a school.
Entrance to the Court of Two Sisters
These Charm Gates were wrought in Spain especially for the Court of Two Sisters. According to legend, Queen Isabella had them blessed so that their Charm would pass on to anyone who touched them.
The Court of Two Sisters is known for its Sunday brunch. Talk about a
The stunning inside courtyard of the Court of Two Sisters.
Inside the swanky Bourbon Orleans Hotel
The Hotel Monteleon, on the outskirts of the French Quarter, housed Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams' favorite bar. It is currently famous for its rotating carousel bar.
Bernard Marigny’s family owned the New Orleans’ district known as the Marigny. When his father died in 1800, Bernard decided to sell off the land. Most of the sales were made to white Creoles who were buying a house for their African mistresses (as was required under
plaçage). Because this area was historically inhabited by Africans, Jazz music was very prevalent. If you would like to hear some good music when you come to New Orleans, Frenchmen Street is the place to be.
The Creole Cottage features four rooms in each of the corners of the house. There are no hallways and no front door. People entered through any of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Another reason for the large windows was that, when all of them were open, it created a nice breeze. Finally, this cottage has 1.5 floors. The top half floor was used for food storage as the area got flooded quite regularly. (More specifically, this a brick-between-post Creole Cottage.)
Shotgun houses began in the 1860s. The inside is essentially one room after the next, again with no hallway.
Double Shotgun houses are essentially two shotgun houses glued together. They house two families. This double shotgun features a porch, which came from Caribbean architecture in the 1840s.
A shotgun house next to a double shotgun house. Notice how colorful all of the houses in this neighborhood are.
Center hall Creole Cottage: Americanized version of a Creole cottage. It features the same four rooms but with a hallway in the middle.
The orange house was originally on the corner of the street. However, when a German family moved to New Orleans and wanted to open a bakery, they learned that they could only open a business on the corner. For this reason, they kindly asked to move the orange house to the neighboring plot of land. The owners agreed and the German family built their house/ bakery on the corner.
Voodoo is a religion originally from western Africa. When the Africans were brought over to be slaves, they were forced to convert to Christianity. They realized that a lot of their practices and gods has a similar counterpart in the Christian religion. It’s for this reason that the voodoo religion was preserved in New Orleans. It wasn’t until Marie Leveau that the religion gained publicity.
North Rampart Street lies where the northern wall of the city once stood. On Sundays, the Africans had a day off. They used to gather in the streets of New Orleans but the mayor became worried that the Africans were planning a revolt, as they outnumbered the whites by three to one. When the mayor passed a law saying that the Africans can't congregate in the city, they started gathering just outside the city in what is now the Louis Armstrong Park. Back then, it was called the Congo Square.
This statue can be found inside the Louis Armstrong Park. It depicts a ceremony for the gods. Notice that the statue curves slightly. This is to show the circular nature of the ceremonies.
Voodoo ceremonies were typically performed under a large tree so as not to be seen by the whites. While they were outside the city and not breaking the law against congregation, they had officially converted to Christianity and would be severely punished if they were caught practicing their religion. While the big tree has since been cut down, the area was paved in a circular pattern reminiscent of voodoo rituals.
Marie Laveau was born around 1801. She was a hairdresser. For this reason, she had access to all of the gossip of the city. Thanks to this informational power, she was able to practice voodoo in public. If any public official threatened her, she reminded them of the gossip that she had on them and scared them with her rituals. Marie Laveau kept as many things about her life private in order to create a mysterious persona that would only increase everyone's fear of her.
While she was only 1/4 black but for all intents and purposes, she was considered a
gens de couleur. For this reason, Marie Laveau could not marry a white man. Instead, she lived with Christophe Glapion, a white man of French descent, in this house. Like many other aspects of her life, it is uncertain how many children they had together but two did live into adulthood. One of these children followed in her footsteps both as a hairdresser and as the Voodoo Queen. It is said that Marie Laveau II sometimes pretended to be her mother during hair appointments which gave the impression that Marie Laveau never aged. Many claim to have seen Marie Laveau after her death in 1881, but they probably saw her daughter.
Statue of Louis Armstrong in the Armstrong Park. (It has nothing to do with Voodoo.)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine St Jude precedes the St. Louis Cemetery.
Tombs typically have two stories. Bodies are placed on the top shelf. When it comes time to open it and bury someone else, the remains are shoved to the back, where they fall through a gap and collect on the bottom shelf.
Marie Laveau's tomb contains the remains of over 85 people, only 25 of which were part of her family. Marie Laveau is said to have let people who can't afford a tomb to bury them in hers. On the outside of the tomb, there are Xs. Legend has it that if you mark an X, spin three times and yell a wish out, it will come true. Once it does, you should come back and circle the X. This practice is highly frowned upon by the Church and the tour guides.
Paul Morphy was a chess prodigy who won the World Chess Championship in the mid-1800s.
Tombs in the cemetery used to all be colorful. This tomb is an example of a colorful tomb that is not being taken care of by the deceased's family.
This is part of the wall that separates the Catholic side of the cemetery from the protestant side.
Originally, cemetery walls were used as holding places. When a family member died less than a year before another family member, they were placed here because the tomb is not allowed to be open within a year of burial. As time went on though, poor families bought these slots for permanent burial as they were much cheaper.
Now you may be wondering how a casket fits in these small, sometimes rounded, holes. It does. Once the ceremony in the church is over, the body is taken out and placed in the hole after the remains of the previous person are pushed to the back.
The wall on the left is the back of the wall on the previous picture. This is the protestant side of the cemetery.
Eliza Wilson Lewis Claiborne, wife to William Claiborne, is buried in the protestant side. Elizabeth was Claiborne's first wife, who died of yellow fever. Claiborne was the first governor of Louisiana and is a direct ancestor to Liz Claiborne.
Just over the wall rests Claiborne's second wife, who also died of yellow fever less than five years after his first wife. His second wife's name was Marie Clarisse Duralde Claiborne (whose tomb is on the foreground). In the background, you will notice the top of Eliza Wilson Lewis Claiborne's tomb.
After the death of his second wife, he took a third. They had two children that lived until adulthood, Sophronie and William. Sophronie married the son of Bernard Marigny (see
Easy Rider was filmed in the St Louis Cemetery. However, because Peter Fonda sat in this statue's lap for one of the scenes, movie filming is strictly prohibited in the cemetery. Now only documentaries are allowed to be filmed here.
Nicholas Cage bought a plot of land for his future burial. It used to be covered by kisses from his adoring fans. Wanting to keep the cemetery looking at its best, the church wiped them off. It is said that when Nicholas Cage returned, he was outraged that the kisses were no longer there and demanded that they be replaced. The church, which already hated the pyramid tomb, refused.
I find the historic and modern day contrast interesting.
The Garden District is where Americans settled when Louisiana became American territory. Notice how different the architecture is from the French Quarter and the Marigny. In order to show their wealth, Americans wanted to have large front yards that they then surrounded with expensive fencing.
This house is called the
Kernel Shards Villa, named after the person who paid for it. He married a girl from Iowa who said she missed the cornfields from back home. To comfort her, he had the fence made to resemble corn stock. (It's interesting to note that this was the most expensive fence mold in the catalog. That's why it's rumored that being homesick may not have actually been the reason why she wanted this particular fence. Thankfully, the mold is still intact. If you want to purchase this fence, it'll only cost $125 per linear foot.)
This house was paid for by Henry Lonsdale. The Greek revival doors are original to the time of construction. A priest now owns the house and has built a chapel inside.
Spanish Moss is very common in Louisiana swamps and parks. In order to thrive, it needs clean air and cannot stand the heat. For this reason, it cannot grow in the city as it is too hot and the exhaust from cars kills it. However, the owners of this house "replant" it every year, which is why it's currently in the city.
The carriage step was very useful during a time when all of the streets were mud. It helped when ladies were coming down from carriages as it provided a step for them. When coming down, ladies were very careful as if a man saw their ankle, they were forced to marry him.
The entire Garden District is historically preserved. The rule of thumb is that from a helicopter view, everything must remain the same. For this reason, owners can change anything inside the house (if the house itself isn't historically protected) but they cannot change anything on the outside such as cutting down a tree or adding a TV antenna. Thus, because the trees are protected, they are left to lift the sidewalks in this way.
Lafayette Cemetery is a rather common backdrop in various movies and series. Yet, the objects that actors touch are actually props as they are not allowed to disturb the graves.
Tombs with the little black SOC plaque are being protected and restored by the Save Our Cemeteries organization.
We had the pleasure of taking an air-boat swamp tour through the Jean Lafitte National Park. The
is great! I highly recommend. Louisiana Tour Company
The Jean Lafitte National Park
Alligators live between 80 and 120 years and spend 90% of their time in water. They don't need much food to sustain them. When they chase prey, they generally lie at the bottom of the swamp where they are camouflaged and sprint up to catch a fish. A fish can last them three weeks. If they go on land and catch a rabbit, that can last them three months.
Tour guide playing with an alligator. While he's become friends with this alligator, he has gotten bitten by various other ones. Because alligators have very dirty mouths, alligator bites can cause various infections if not treated properly.
Tour guide left a marshmallow on the alligator's head.
One male alligator can impregnate up to 50 alligators per season. The females go to lay eggs in the marsh. They provide a little protection while the alligators learn to feed themselves. In a couple months, the mother chases them away to get ready for hibernation. If they don't leave by the second time that she tries to chase them away, she eats them. (Talk about natural selection O.o)
Note: This is the tour guide's pet alligator. This one is about a year old. The one in the water, that he was playing with, is about 7 years old.
Alligators grow by a foot every year for about 8 to 10 years. Then, they grow only by a couple inches per year. The distance from an alligator's eyes to the tip of their nose in inches is the length of the alligator in feet. That means that if the distance from the alligator's eyes to its nose is 6 inches, the alligator's length is about 6 feet.