Big Easy Street Theater: New Orleans is a Spectacle

Every visitor with a soul develops a soft spot for New Orleans. The charm, history, music, food and mischief that define The Big Easy make it impossible not to be captivated.

As we always do, we began the day at Cafe Du Monde. Megadoses of sugar, grease and caffeine — what more could we need to fuel the day’s explorations? Beignets devoured and coffee swilled, we proceeded to take on the town.

Admittedly, some of the French Quarter’s appeal isn’t as …  CONTINUE READING >>

Every
visitor with a soul develops a soft spot for New Orleans.
The
charm, history, music, food and mischief that define The Big Easy
make it impossible not to be captivated.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana

As
we always do, we began the day at Cafe Du Monde. Megadoses
of sugar, grease and caffeine — what more could we need
to fuel the day’s explorations?

Beignets devoured and coffee
swilled, we
proceeded to take on the town.

Admittedly, some of the French Quarter’s appeal isn’t as charming
in the cold hard light of day as it is by the soft neon glow of
night.

We figured a daylight tour might look better from the splendor
of a mule-drawn carriage.

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

Nearby
Jackson Square hosts more mules than you could shack a
stick at — lined up and ready to haul ass around the
Quarter. A mule is only a half-ass, but we wanted to use our feet
for carousing later that night.

Our
teamster/guide, Jan, proved to be a veritable
treasure trove of artful narratives about the history and architecture
of The Quarter.

The accuracy of these yarns ran the gamut from
factual to fanciful, but that’s part of the fun. Jan pointed out
many of the best known landmarks, offered up historical information
and threw in a sprinkling of ghost stories for good measure.

Whether
they be legend or genuine is left to the beholder to ascertain.

St. Louis Cemetery number one in New Orleans, Louisiana

New
Orleans is well-known for its cemeteries, with crypts built
above ground instead of the usual subterranean graves. The
reason for this was commonly thought to have been that the
city sits below sea level, making grave digging impractical.
The caskets might even float up to the surface.

But it is
likely that there is a less disgusting explanation.

Traditions
of the French and Spanish that settled this area, and the
ability to show off wealth and station in
life by building ornate tombs may have had more influence on the
development of these glorious graveyards than the water table.

St. Louis Cemetery number one in New Orleans, Louisiana

Families
built fabulous mausoleums used for generations.

For those without the means to afford an elaborate entombment,
benevolent
societies were formed, usually exclusive to people in a certain
occupation or ethnic group, to pool resources for building a respectable
resting place.

The Tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau

Several
of these burial grounds are just outside The French Quarter,
the closest, oldest and perhaps best known being St. Louis Cemetery
#1.

Jan and our mule dropped us off and we took a stroll through history. Dating
back to 1789, the cemetery holds several of New Orleans’ earliest
dignitaries, both famous and infamous.

The
most storied resident, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, attracts
hundreds of pilgrims to her tomb everyday. The believers
draw three Xs on the tomb or leave offerings, always in
threes, of candles, flowers, dolls, coins, even cigarettes
and cigars, in hopes of having the famous priestess grant
their petitions.

On occasion, the sacrifices
will include
chickens. The more urban of the worshipers have been known
to offer up a bucket of KFC, perhaps
believing chicken comes like that in its natural form, to fulfill
the ritual’s requirements.

Having
had enough of the spooky side of The Crescent City, it was
time to see some of the splendor of the old South in The
Garden District.

The best way to do this, from our point
of view, is to jump on the St. Charles street car on Canal
Street at the edge of The French Quarter.

The clattering
old trolleys run right down the middle of St. Charles Avenue
through the heart of the district.

Stately manors line the
boulevard on either side, and the gardens are, well, it
is called The
Garden District for a reason.

The
trees along St. Charles were draped with thousands of Mardi Gras beads from the parades of Carnival.

No, we were
not crazy enough to venture into New Orleans during Mardi
Gras, these baubles were the remnants from several weeks
prior to our visit.

Click here to see in which part of Louisiana we DID spend Mardi Gras – what a wild, wild time!

A
good place to get off the trolley and turn around to head
back into The Quarter is the Audubon Zoo and Gardens,
named in honor of
the famed naturalist and painter John Audubon who lived in New
Orleans in the early 1800s.

White alligator at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, Louisiana

With
a bit of time before the nightlife kicked in, we took a
little stroll through the gardens, then thought “what
the hey,” and gave the zoo
a quick once over too.

It’s not huge, but is well appointed and
gives an interesting nod to the local flora and fauna, including
a couple of white alligators that should not be missed.

With
darkness approaching, we headed back to The French Quarter.

Wandering about The Quarter is a study in street theater,
one of our favorite diversions. The show consists of all
types of performers practicing their acts for the audience
of passersby with varying degrees of proficiency.

The performances
ranged from unique and fantastic diversions to talentless,
don’t-look-just-keep-walking tragedies. Most were the former
variety, fortunately, and largely musicians drawn to the birthplace
of jazz.

Though it’s
been a long time since the labor pains, blue notes still fill
the air of The Big Easy, both on the streets and the stages.

Drifting out of the dens and dives along Bourbon Street, jazz
is just one of the many musical styles one might hear. Rock,
rhythm & blues, soul and zydeco are just as likely to tickle
the eardrums of The Quarter’s revelers.

The most
famous of these music venues is Preservation Hall. Just off
Bourbon Street, folks from all over the world line up and wait
for hours just to have a chance to hear some of the old masters
rip a riff or two. Although the building dates all the way back
to 1750, it wasn’t used for musical performances until 1961
when Allan and Sandra Jaffe opened it as a place for aging musicians
to play and preserve the art form. Hence, the name. The hall
is a sanctuary to honor and protect New Orleans jazz.

You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting music fans and revelers in the French Quarter. They can be seen roaming the streets after dark, complete
with giant goofy glasses of
vile, brightly colored potent potables.

There’s something about
New Orleans that makes otherwise reasonably sane people want to drink mass quantities of concoctions that they would never touch
back home.

What follows degenerates into displays of flesh, or
more often, requests for any passing female to display some. Once
Veronica had been so propositioned, we decided it might be time
to mosey on.

Besides,
we thought we should make it to bed before the ghosts came out
to play.

David &
Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Louisiana!



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9 thoughts on “Big Easy Street Theater: New Orleans is a Spectacle”

  1. My Son and I went by the cemetery in Meridian, MS, where Gypsies are buried, and we noticed several pairs of eyeglasses, and wondered why they leave these.
    I can vividly remember when the caravans would set up within walking distance of my home when I was a child.

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