This was Tracy’s idea six months ago, and it’s an awesome one: Let’s make Thanksgiving special by spending it in New Orleans.
He booked us a week in an RV park that’s oddly located right where a person would want to be: just a couple of blocks away from the French Quarter and Garden District and Treme and basically several interesting places in New Orleans.
It costs an arm and a leg (about $130/night on average) and is very fancy. The first day we were here I did five loads of laundry and we sat in the hot tub until we were wrinkled. We have a tiny little paved rectangle to call home where we can’t put out a rug or the screen tent, but what the heck, we’re in New Orleans. Where even the RV park abides by the real shutters and wrought iron building codes.
The big benefit they claim is tight security: a locked gate and a high wall and direct instructions not to walk outside the park at night, seeing as how there are a million drunk tourists surrounding us and a few wandering (and camped in tents) homeless folks right here.
Speaking of tourists, neither of us has been to Nola, ever, so I’m going to write this assuming you haven’t either, which I know to be silly since we’re the only outliers. So please bear with me if you know all this stuff already (probably better).
The very first thing we did was walk all the way down to the Mississippi so Tracy could commune with her a short bit, plus he spit into the water. Yeah, I know.
But, as of now, he’s glamorously spit at the start and at the end of the mighty river that he’s also paddled hundreds of miles down. Seriously, he loves this river.
We’re standing there with all of New Orleans behind us, and Tracy’s gazing out at the river, mumbling things like, “That barge barely got under the bridge!” And, “I wonder what it’s carrying?” And he’s looking at the birds and watching the water.
Favorite part taken care of, first off.
Banjo is next: where will we walk her now that we’re parked in a supposed fortress of safety amid a city? Turns out there’s a park next to us that’s interesting and handy.
Lafitte Parkway runs in a long strip northwest, from Treme to MidCity. (See, don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about? We’ve been here just two full days, but walking and bike riding around will get you acquainted really fast.)
Yes, a handful of homeless persons may still be sleeping in the bushes when Banjo and I walk early in the morning, but there will be ten other people around riding their bikes to work in the French Quarter or working out in the park. It’s funky; the people are funky.
Louis Armstrong Park
You can send us to the city, but there will always be trees somewhere for us to walk around under (let’s hope).
The Louis Armstrong Park (a few blocks east of Lafitte) has an unused arts center that sits eerily among huge live oaks, plus statues galore educating visitors about the indigenous people who used to meet in the area that’s now known as Congo Square, where, later, enslaved people gathered on Sundays to let off steam.
The lady in my third photo above is a famous gospel singer who supported Dr. King, Jr. This place is packed with significant history, which I knew in general; we’ve been reading up about Nola and listening to audio narratives and immersing ourselves as much as possible, but walking through it and feeling the feels right there drives that home the uniqueness that is Nola.
We did tear ourselves away from the interesting parks to do touristy stuff in the quarter, namely go on a walking tour led by a graduate student in historical preservation at Tulane. This guy started with indigenous peoples and then never let us forget on whose backs the entire city was built, at whose cost, and who ended up shining throughout those centuries of turmoil.
The Houmas are the ones I remember of several indigenous peoples who lived in these low lands before Europeans showed up. When the Spanish and French moved in, they scooched closer to make trading easier, and in the blink of an eye Marie Laveau, Tennessee Williams, Earnest Hemingway, Louis Armstrong, etc. were writing and healing and playing the definition of America all in the same spot.
We’ve eaten red beans and rice and gumbo and cochon de lait and beignets and fried green tomatoes and remoulade, and we’re gonna eat more. I’m bummed it’s not crayfish season: they’re my favorite, and they’re just not the same frozen. Still, there are oysters and jambalaya and boudin and more out there waiting for us.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 3
This is the only cemetery within an easy bike ride that’s open to the public; vandalism has forced the closure all the others (except for paid tours).
The diversity of stonework and design on the tombs and ages of the interred are mind-boggling. We especially enjoyed finding the oldest tombs with families that couldn’t be contacted, so the church dug out the remains and sold the tomb to a new family.
There are all sisters of the church who died before the 20th century. Some took saints’ names, while the oldest ones kept theirs.
We saw these names: Tanguis, Gremllion, Guiffre, Chauvin, Rein, Goslee. And that’s just in the French section.
Two Trees in the City Park
City Park is huge, with the arts museum with its sculpture garden, a Japanese garden, a golf course, on and on. We had to leave early because of rain but we’ll be back. We did find the singing tree: a giant live oak with wind chimes installed in its branches, from small to huge in a circle.
Standing under it sounded a lot like my (ex) mother-in-law’s car port, frankly. But there wasn’t much wind when we were there.
The music tree we rode by on our way to grab lunch: I’d seen it in Atlas Obscura but hadn’t remembered its story.
The carvings are barely discernible from a distance, but up close you can identify each bird on the tip of each tree limb, plus musical instruments along the trunk.
I’m gonna stop here because we’re about to go on an architectural walking tour of the Garden District, and then we’re catching a band outside at a neighborhood brewery. There should be good food in there somewhere, as well. We’re certainly feeling all the complexities of being an American here, but the hedonists in us are wining out!