Clarissa Johal: Hello #NewOrleans

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hello #NewOrleans

I recently took a trip to New Orleans and fell in love with the city. Their history is fascinating, there are lots of things to see and do, and the people are wonderful. The city has a definite "live and let live" vibe. 💓

We stayed in the French Quarter.- there's nothing better than waking to the sound of live jazz and tugboats. I felt more than a little guilty I was there to have fun, though. Homelessness is a huge problem in New Orleans, as it is in most cities. There’s a distinct demarcation between frivolous tourists and those trying to eke out a living. This year, I'm going to donate my July birthday royalties to a New Orleans homeless shelter rather than my usual animal-related charity. My thoughts keep going back to the people I saw on the streets.

You could literally spend an entire weekend shopping in the French Quarter but what I found more intriguing was the vibrant street art & music community. Every morning, they'd set up along the streets. Every night, they'd pack their wares and walk back to their homes. Art is never easy - in any form. It was obvious these artists were busting their butts just to make a living. One morning, we left our hotel at 6am and walked through Saint Louis Cathedral Square. There weren't many tourists out yet but a street performer was already playing his guitar and singing his heart out. When we walked back to our hotel around 7:30pm, he was still there. Kudos to this guy and the rest. Following your dream is never easy.

If you're wondering about the Voodoo Scene there are plenty of voodoo shops for the tourists, much like Salem and its "witch" shops. My advice is to do a bit of research so you don't embarrass yourself. Don't be "that" tourist and go crazy stocking up on voodoo dolls and gris-gris bags without knowing what they are. I saw too many tourists making asses of themselves and being flat-out disrespectful. It was weird. Voodoo is a polytheistic ancestral religion. A religion - not something to make fun of or screw around with because you think it's "spooky." Just my two-cents. 
The cemeteries are a photographers dream. There are many photo opportunities but again, don't be "that" tourist. Be respectful of the deceased and their families if you go tromping around. In the Garden District's Lafayette Cemetery there were plenty of tourists climbing the headstones and oddly, a street vendor selling Ouija boards to contact the dead. (I get everyone is trying to make a buck but it made me wonder who would buy one!)

Cemeteries aside, let’s talk ghosts. New Orleans is noted for its hauntings and given its history, including Hurricane Katrina, I can understand why. From a paranormal writer's perspective, this leaves the door open to all sorts of writing inspiration. This wasn't a writing trip, however, it was my daughter’s birthday. She doesn't like ghosts. I know, I know. Go figure. I honestly made an effort to book a hotel in the French Quarter that wasn’t haunted. In a city that prides itself on hauntings, it was almost impossible.

We stayed at the French Market Inn. I’m reasonably sure the landing where this photo was taken (above) was occupied by the ghost of a dead soldier. Every time I walked past this particular area, it felt like I'd walked through someone. I felt light-headed and got an image of a man wearing a military uniform. At night, I woke to the sound of someone pacing our very small room. There was no living person, of course, and the hotel grounds were silent. Another thing - I usually don't have nightmares but, yikes! I had several in which I was drowning and a very intense one where I lost my memory. That particular one still haunts me.

Walking the streets of the French Quarter, there were only two places that gave me pause for thought. After exiting the Voodoo Museum, my phone battery was completely dead (it was charged before we went in). In the Pharmaceutical Museum, there was an old bed that felt "off" to both my daughter and myself. In my mind's eye, all I could see were bloodied sheets and as you can see by my photo, the sheets were clean.

Photo courtesy of Darjeelingtea at English Wikipedia
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To end on a (lighter) foodie note - 'cause New Orleans is known for its cuisine - it was difficult to find vegetarian eats! Lots of seafood but I don't eat fishies. C’est la vie. I lived off grits and pasta. I tried King Cake for the first time and loved it. I’m not a cake person but omg, I’m going to have to try and make it myself. What’s not to love about a rainbow-iced cinnamon cake with sugar sprinkles? Laissez les bon temps rouler!

No comments: