A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend just under 24 hours in New Orleans. It was a whirlwind to say the least! And if you’ve ever traveled with me, the word exhausting is probably associated with your memories…mind you, very fond memories! New Orleans has been on my “to visit” list for quite some time now. While I know Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are probably what New Orleans is best known for, I was going for the architecture, history, coffee and cemeteries! Vampires and voodoo anyone?
We arrived in New Orleans around 3pm and got checked into our hotel before heading out for a walk (maybe .5 miles) to the French Quarter to explore before dinner.
Jackson Square, which dates back to the 18th century and was originally called Place d’Armes, has played quite a role in New Orleans history. With the presence of a church (St. Louis Cathedral), proximity to the Mississippi River and the governor’s mansion (point of government), Jackson Square has always been a “common area” or hub in the city (and big area of street art) and that remains unchanged today. Following the 1815 Battle of New Orleans (during the War of 1812), the British were offered a strong defeat at the hands of Andrew Jackson, hence the renaming of the square.
Unfortunately, there was a wedding going on inside the St. Louis Cathedral, so we were unable to see inside, but the prominent 3 steeples were still amazing to gaze upon outside. Founded in 1720 as a Catholic Parish, it is the oldest cathedral in the United States, with its current architecture taking shape in December 1794.
I had Googled and Yelped “gluten free” food in New Orleans prior to arriving. Not so shockingly (it is the South) it was hard to find. Thankfully Muriel’s Jackson Square popped up in my searches meeting all my requirements for a fantastic dinner: gluten free menu, history and a ghost!
The plot of land and housing structure that Muriel’s sits on was originally constructed in 1718 with the founding of New Orleans. When the official city plans were laid out for the city in 1721, being next to Jackson Square the focal point of the city, made it a prime piece of real estate. It has since had quite the history which you can read more of here, but as of 2001 it was restored to its mid-1800s majesty as Muriel’s Jackson Square. My favorite features? The crown molding and the indoor balconies (probably not the technical term).
Dinner was absolutely fantastic! I had the double cut pork chop with Southern greens and pecan sweet potatoes, which ironically you can find the recipe for here.
During dinner our sever treated us to a ghost story. Muriel’s has a long history of owners, but in 1814 Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan wagered the home in a gambling game…and lost. Devastated by the loss, he committed suicide on the second floor prior to eviction, where it is said, he remains today. Although Jourdan is considered the main resident ghost, it is thought that more spirits roam the building given it’s long and somewhat troubling history, which you can read more about here.
A quick jaunt down Bourbon Street (and to think it was only 6:30pm!) solidified my suspicions that it is not my scene or the grand jazz capital of days past. The belligerently drunk people and how street performers used dogs (don’t even get me started) had me wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. Realizing it was probably too early to find any “good” jazz music, we decided to call it a night.
The following morning we headed once again down to the French Quarter, this time with Sasha! I’d read some reviews that mentioned Cafe Du Monde was dog friendly around the outside, thinking they meant outside the patio area, but was pleasantly surprised that it meant on the patio by the fence. Arguably probably one of the most famous landmarks in New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde opened in 1862 as a traditional French coffee stand. We arrived around 8:00am just as they were putting chairs down outside, grabbed a table by the fence and watched the line of people grow, literally half way down the street! We placed our orders for chicory cafe au lait and beignets (none for me unfortunately) and sat about people watching and attempting to keep Sasha from getting covered in powered sugar :) Let me tell you, this dog was made for travels and adventures! Normally very vocal, she did fantastic with all the people and commotion.
With coffees to go we headed back towards our hotel along the river, stopping for sites along the way. Also, it should be noted that Sasha apparently needs horses in her life!
With only a few hours left in New Orleans, we jumped on the St. Charles Streetcar, the oldest (1835) continuously running streetcar in the World, to the Garden District to see some of the famous mansions and most specifically, Lafayette Cemetery #1. If you’re ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend the streetcars. Not only a great way to see the city, but for $3.00 you can use all the lines all day!
I’d previously researched cemeteries in New Orleans and had hopes of seeing the famous St. Louis Cemetery #1, however it requires a guided tour to see and was just a bit out of our way. The concierge at our hotel actually recommended Lafayette Cemetery #1 and a quick google search solidified this as a great choice given its references to vampires.
There were tour guides available for a price (too much if you ask me), but they were going to take too long for our time-table anyway, so I did a quick google search of “self-guided tours” in Lafayette Cemetery #1 and came up with this. It ended up being perfect and had me giddy excited weaving in and out of the rows, trying to see as much as possible! Most exciting to me? This is the cemetery they use in the current tv show The Originals! I’m a fan :) Not only that, this self-guided tour taught me way more about cemeteries and graves than I’d ever imagined and this from the granddaughter of a mortician!
We took the St. Charles Streetcar back to our hotel to pack up and check out. I’m pretty sure we spent the next 24 hours shocked at how much we did in such a short time! While happy to have checked this city off the list, I’m not sure it’s one I’d make a point of going back to, but definitely worth the stop if I was passing through. If anything, for some more chicory coffee and people watching with Sasha at Cafe Du Monde :)