The final New Orleans chapter
The Cocktail Tour
I’d like to be able to tell you the fascinating history of each cocktail we encountered on the tour of the finer drinking establishments in New Orleans, but to be brutally honest, I can’t remember. I just remember thinking they were very nice indeed, especially the Mint Julep, and so were the people we met on the tour.
I can’t even show you many photos from the tour, because they are generally very blurry. Suffice to say, it was fun!
And I did meet a fabulously Southern couple. She told me she did not go out of the house without her face made up and her hat on, and that she loved cocktails dearly! Excellent work, madam.
A little bit of history
These tours we took were super interesting and I got to see parts of New Orleans that had been intriguing me, and as we went round the city it made me realise that New Orleans just has this thing about it that I will try to explain.
It’s not like ‘normality’. It’s like there is a sense of fun and frivolity and danger and foreboding all in one go. It is sensual and dark and hedonistic and full of intrgiue. And I partly felt that I had stepped back in time. Brad Pitt, who has a house there with his brood, says of the city: ‘New Orleans has real spirit. It is the most authentic of American cities.’ I agree, Brad, I totally do!
This ‘spirit’ may have something to do with the history of New Orleans. It gives it a powerful sense of identity that I have not truly encountered in America before.
New Orleans is a place where Africans, both slave and free, and American Indians shared their cultures and intermingled with European settlers. Encouraged by the French government, this produced a durable culture in a difficult place and therefore marked New Orleans as ‘different’. With the prevailing French language of the city, its dominant Catholicism, its bawdy sensual delights, or its proud free black and slave inhabitants — in short, its deeply rooted Creole or native population and their peculiar traditions – it stood out back in the day, and it still has all this culture and history seeping from the streets in the 21st century.
The city has been plagued by floods, disease and hurricanes, and recovered every time, but one thing on the tours that struck me was how many times people referred to those who cam and populated New Orleans in the early years – the French sent their thieves, murderers, prostitutes and general criminal population and some say that this set the tone for New Orleans from early on.
Ghost and history tours
I picked up some interesting NOLA facts on my tours, so I hope the tour guides read this and give me 10/10 ;) .
a) I did not know that Lee Harvey Oswald and Truman Capote went to the same school in New Orleans. This elementary school sits adjacent (yes, that is RIGHT NEXT TO) Bourbon Street and all its debauchery! Interesting choice of location.
b) Brad Pitt has bought a whoppingly expensive house here. Anne Rice, her of Interview with a Vampire fame, lives here and has already set up her tomb in the cemetery for when she pops her clogs. Nicholas Cage lives here and bought some houses off Anne Rice, but now he is in financial dire straits and may have to sell some, and many folk of New Orleans like to take the piss out of him cos he’s a bit wacky and wotnot. Sandra Bullock has bought a house in The [beautiful] Garden District, not far from Anne Rice that is opposite the house where they filmed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which starred Brad Pitt.
c) Fats Domino lives here, but he has lost a lot of weight and the locals now call him Skinny Fats. He stayed in his house during Katrina and then had to be airlifted out of the top floor.
e) The Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau is much revered and feared in New Orleans. It is not in the least unusual to hear from people who attribute both favors and miracles to her intercession. Not unlike the Saints, her spirit still listens and blesses with humanity, justice and love. “In all Voodoo, in all places, in all times, she is the Queen. “
f) New Orleans as a big home for runaway children and a big recovery home for addicts, both of which are doing great work.
g) New Orleans holds the record for hauntings. My favourite ghost story was about Delphine Lalaurie, who was, by all accounts, a narcissistic nutter.
Delphine was a reputedly beautiful woman with long, black hair, and she and her husband were renowned for their extravagant parties. They had many slaves and seemed a respectable pair, but little did townspeople know what Madame Lalaurie did to make her slaves submissive. She had already been in court over charges of brutality, and on one occasion after complaints of abuse, several slaves had been removed from the home, but few people would speak out against this couple, so they were never arrested. Not even after a young girl jumped to her death from the second floor to escape her harsh mistress. Then one night in 1834, a fire brought a volunteer fire brigade to the home and the Lalauries’ gruesome secrets were discovered.
As they put out the flames, they could smell the stench of death, so they broke into a locked attic room to find a truly disgusting scene. According to several accounts, dead slaves were chained to the walls, but some were still alive and housed in cages, starved or maimed by medical experiments. One man had been surgically transformed into a woman, and a woman’s arm and leg bones had been broken and reset at odd angles. Another woman’s skin had been peeled off, while the lips of a third were sewn shut. A few had been dissected, with their organs still exposed. Scattered around the room were pails full of body parts, organs, and severed heads.
A lynch mob was formed, but the Lalauries had escaped and were never heard from again. Renovations years later uncovered the skeletons of slaves apparently buried alive, but no one knows how many unfortunate victims these two brutes actually had.
Smith indicates that this building soon became known as “Haunted House,” and people avoided it. Although it is a beautiful residence in a desirable location, it sat vacant for 40 years. Then several successive owners reported such problems that it again sat vacant for a time. Stories include sightings of a large male in chains, a woman who shouts in French and carries a whip, pictures inside thrown from the walls, cameras not working, and furniture that moved around on its own. The current owner is aware of the tourists who come to see it, but requests privacy.
I feel spooked just writing about her!!
I now want to go and watch all the movies that are set in New Orleans again and go ‘Oh, I’ve been there!’ And soon, I can watch about Delphine on American Horror Story, starring Kathy Burke…. yey!
And that, folks is my New Orleans. I will be back to it…cos I still need to do the French market, the Voodoo tour and the Mississippi steamboat tour (they were annoyingly out of action :( ).
And so, back to Desperate Housewife normality (and school next week ;) ! )