Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Haunted Travels: New Orleans, Louisiana

Today's Haunted Travels post is in honor of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday always takes place the day before Ash Wednesday, it is a Christian celebration and involves eating rich or fatty foods before the fasting of Lent begins. I think that is something most of us can get on board with, sweets and good food you say? Yes please!

Traveling with two little boys is a new thing for me and it does mean some limitations to places we can go and the hours we spend exploring. I would have loved to soak up all the haunted and creepy sights like I typically do, take a ghost tour, walk around after hours, but we left the French Quarter just before dark. The party atmosphere isn't exactly toddler friendly, and I don't think they are quite old enough for some of the unique places New Orleans has to offer. Although hopefully one day, when they are older we will take them back and they can enjoy some of the creepier aspects of New Orleans.

What better time to write about some of the haunted locations in New Orleans than during Mardi Gras? I had my piece (or two) of king cake to aid in my participation of the celebrations and I may even try my hand at making my own beignets too. But all of this talk about Mardi Gras is making me hungry, wait no, actually...it's bringing back fond memories of my visit to New Orleans this past summer.

My daughter, who loves French culture picked this destination for our summer vacation. I was a bit hesitant to go, a fourteen hour car ride with teenagers and toddlers didn't seem like my idea of a vacation, but I have always wanted to go. We decided to visit New Orleans for only a few days, just long enough to take in the atmosphere, visit the French Quarter, cemeteries and a few other sights before headed on to Florida to the beach.

There is so much to New Orleans aside from just individual buildings and haunted hot spots. The entire city is so full of unusual characters and history, if you don't have much time or you have limitations to exploring some of the attractions, you still will get a great sense of the culture and the darker side by just being there. Mardi Gras beads are dripping from the rooftops, trees and fences. The narrow streets and architecture really take you back in time hundreds of years in the past. It's sweet southern charm, mixed with African and Creole French culture.

Voodoo Culture -

Voodoo is a huge part of the culture of New Orleans. Voodoo is a spiritual belief that originated in Africa and it is very alive and well in New Orleans today. There are voodoo shops scattered throughout the French Quarter. Voodoo has long been associated with witchcraft, black magic and devil worshipping. Many believe voodoo to be a dark, mysterious and dangerous practice, but for those who believe, it is a way of life, much like any other religion. The voodoo culture adds an element of ambiance and mystique to this city.

St. Louis Cathedral -

St. Louis Cathedral may be one of the first buildings you see upon entering the French Quarter. Located in Jackson Square, the first cathedral built at this location was erected in 1722, however the original was destroyed by a hurricane, the second by a fire and the third was replaced by a larger building. The current and fourth cathedral has been in place since the 1850s. It is open to the public and they do offer tours. Of course when entering such a sacred place, the utmost respect should always be given. The cathedral is awe inspiring, both inside and out. A quiet and peaceful place but grand and magnificent too.

The cathedral is also believed to be haunted, the church was actually built over one of the cities earliest cemeteries. A former priest was also laid to rest at the cathedral as well. This former priest is said to have been heard singing near the church many many years after his death and that his spirit has remained to watch over the city.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 -

New Orleans has many cemeteries but we learned on our first day there that most of them close and are locked up early in the day compared to the cemeteries in our area. We did not get to explore the famously haunted St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 as it had already been locked up for the day by the time we arrived. However, the next day while we were exploring the New Orleans famous Garden District, we happened upon Lafayette Cemetery No.1. The cemetery dates back to 1833 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's the main cemetery that has been used in films made in New Orleans such as Interview with the Vampire, author Anne Rice has used this cemetery in many of her books. Anne herself was once a resident of the Garden District. My daughter was excited to discover that one of her favorite TV shows, The Vampire Diaries has also had scenes filmed here.

The cemetery is a well known haunted location in New Orleans. I found it to be completely mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful. I could have spent all day inside those stone walls just walking around and taking photos. This is one of my favorite photos I took that day, it had rained the previous day and getting around in the soggy cemetery proved to be a bit of a challenge, but it made for a particularly pretty photo. I always have my camera with me but I happened to snap this one on my phone.

New Orleans Garden District -

The Garden District is as charming as anything could be in the deep south, but of course that New Orleans flair really adds a little something special to this area. There are picturesque mansions and small cottages throughout the district, gardens and of course those beautiful cemeteries like Lafayette No. 1.

This area is part of the parade route for Mardi Gras and it's evident that the Mardi Gras festivities don't just take place in the French Quarter. Mardi Gras beads hang from the old wrought iron fences that line the old brick sidewalks of these quaint cottages. The history is abundant here, many celebrities call this district home as well as quite a few spirits too.

Like the French Quarter, the Garden Distinct has haunted history tours as well. While we did not take a tour during our trip, we did explore as many of these places on our own as we could during our short stay.

During our time in New Orleans we visited the famous Sucré for gelato and macarons, had lunch at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, browsed countless shops, listened to locals perform some amazing jazz music, toured a few buildings and grabbed some beignets at Café Du Monde before we left. My daughter had her fortune read by a psychic and she and her friend explored the New Orleans Museum of Death. Overall I think we really got the essence of New Orleans, and a little taste of the haunted history that I was seeking.

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