Updated: Sep 16
Ghosts, voodoo, cemeteries, museum of death, Tabasco factory, the bayous, what to do and experiences, things to eat or drink absolutely. If I had to choose one must-see city in the United States, it would be New Orleans without compromise. I have visited it twice.
As soon as you step away from the old square, New Orleans seems like a big city like any other. Perhaps the only interesting thing to do in town would be to take public transport. They have kept the old red and yellow electric trams which still have great charm. They are very clean and I find it fascinating to watch the drivers operate them.
But make no mistake, just because the tourist interest is squeezed between four streets at most doesn't mean you'll get bored quickly. On the contrary. Quite simply, what's fun and completely free to do in the Old Quarter is to walk, walk, and walk the streets. I think you can even walk up and down the same street all day and see something different there: a business you hadn't noticed, the parade suddenly passing by... It's a giant carnival!
The Dark Side of New Orleans
Despite the joyful jazz atmosphere that makes you dance on every street corner day and night, New Orleans has a slightly more gloomy side too, and that's probably what makes this city very intriguing.
Ghosts and Voodoo
Yes. The city has many ghosts. If you stay there for several months, you can even rent haunted apartments. There is a guided tour (in the evening) that will show you where they are. Your guide will also tell you about the vampires and won't be shy about telling you eloquent details about the neighborhood in general either. For example: our guide points out the old stone walls, which are all a little crumbled, or hollowed out, at shoulder level. It is indeed a funny place for erosion. He tells us that the reason is the drunks! Too unstable to walk properly, they let themselves be dragged on the walls, and, over time, this has dug them slightly. To what extent this thesis is verified, it is not known! Knowing, however, that absinthe in New Orleans is in the spotlight, we can believe it. There is even a bar (Absinthe Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar) which has been open since 1732. 1732! In fact, drunk people. Apparently it's the oldest bar in the US (according to their website)! Literally, seeing the structure of the bar itself, you step back in time.
Of course, the guide will tell you a little about voodoo, but to learn more about it, I recommend the guided tour on this specific subject. Quickly, voodoo is an animist religion originating in West Africa (Benin, Togo). It is a cult to the spirit of the world of the invisible, of all the gods or demons. This religion is found in Louisiana because of slavery. Voodoo is widespread all over the world, even in Canada, and has nearly 50 million followers. They affirm that there is a supernatural world and pray to these beings to give them power or benevolence.
Several stores are to be visited only out of curiosity, or to buy dried chicken or crocodile legs, items that have malefic or benefactor powers, in short, all the objects seem interesting and you will want to buy everything. They also have a nice collection of Mardi Gras items.
Museum of death
Being extremely sensitive, this museum really shook me. Inside you will find several artifacts and articles concerning serial killers, for example. If you like to wonder about this type of personalities, it is a small museum but full of items and relevant information. You can see weird things in formalin jars, photographs of murdered people, from the coffin to the stuffed animal, the price is worth the visit. A little too much for me that day, I had to go out before I even finished. I have a little too much imagination for this kind of places… 17$ USD plus taxes.
If there's one thing in the weirdness category about New Orleans that you shouldn't miss, it's its cemeteries. Because because of the sea level which is only 2 meters in this city near the Mississippi, people cannot dig to bury their dead, and therefore, they have to put them in crypts. Now, I have seen several because in South America it is often this kind of tombs, but never as beautiful as here in New Orleans. The style is absolutely terrifying and beautiful at the same time, giving you chills. The perfect horror photoshoot.
Two big days out
Despite everything, you want a little adventure and you're not too ''morning after'' to go out (or you are and you still have energy!), here you go two things not to miss in the area.
The Tabasco factory
Our love of hot sauce obviously drew us to the Tabasco factory. Not as much as we are fans of this sauce in particular, we prefer artisanal sauces, but all the same, we owed them a little visit out of curiosity. However, how to get there? We don't have a car, and Avery Island is still a 3 hour drive from New Orleans! An organized tour was also out of the question. You know how lucky we are and I'll tell you the story. When we arrived in the old square, Michaël and I were strolling through the streets and we noticed a young punk playing the guitar in the street. Mike decides to go talk to him and we become friends and meet him several times by chance during our walks during the week. He tells us later that he has a van because he sleeps in it, and that he can take a short trip with us to the Tabasco factory. We obviously pay for the gas and here we are 3 hours later visiting the factory. She is impressive. Being amateurs, we were really happy for 5$ USD! We obviously bought sauces that are not usually found in Quebec, such as a special sauce aged 8 years, for example (the originals are aged 2 years). After $70 USD spent in store, Tabasco gives you 10 mini bottles of original flavor. Cameron also had spent over $70. He gave us his 10 mini-bottles, because he and Elvira won't put their suitcases in the hold on the plane (actually they didn't really bring suitcases because they live in Washington DC and for them it was a short weekend trip). So we found ourselves bringing back to Quebec about thirty bottles of hot sauces in our suitcase! At the airport, they obviously opened it (they had left a note), but nothing had been confiscated. They must have had a good laugh when they saw that, or thought to themselves, “another one who likes hot sauce so much”!
The famous bayous of Louisiana: your chance to see crocodiles if they are not too shy in good season or to revive your childhood memories by reminding you of the movie ''Bernard and Bianca''! We visited the bayous in December so no crocodiles for us but enjoyed the boat ride and found it fascinating to see a wild boar standing with little hooves on some roots and swimming in the water. We were also able to observe raccoons. Although I find them cute, for that, I was not impressed because we also have them in Canada. I questioned the ethics and authenticity of the organized tour a bit because clearly these animals are fed corn kernels so that we can observe them, but hey. At least they are fed. The landscapes are truly magnificent, typical of Louisiana. I was happy to finally be able to go there because in 2016, the waters were too high to go there, the boat tours were all cancelled.
Things to eat or drink absolutely and places not to miss
Say at least once: “Let the good times roll!”
Breaded and fried oysters in a sandwich (Po’boy)
Oysters and Tabasco
Jambalaya and Gumbo with sausages and prawns
Hot sauces (Do a tasting in a Pepper Palace store)
Turtle soup (I didn't like it but I think you have to try)
Donuts from café du monde (as well as for the atmosphere)
Absinthe at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar (this bar opened in 1732)
NB: The crocodiles and turtles that we eat in New Orleans are killed in breeding on farms. Those who are wild stay wild.
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