Sunday, October 10, 2010

Garden District Tour

The other thing I really wanted to do in New Orleans was go on a tour of the Garden District. This is where the all the big fancy houses are. It was originally established as the city of Lafayette but couldn't compete with the Port of New Orleans and was eventually annexed. Another town in Louisiana took the name, hence Lafayette, LA.

There are so many interesting things about these old houses. Most of the features (besides decor) have to do with the heat. There are vents below the houses to circulate air. That's why they are called drafty old houses. Windows are very tall, almost floor to ceiling and open from both the top and bottom to let in more air. In the summer time windows are opened and the shutters are closed for privacy. The louvres can be adjusted so they can see out but passers by cannot see in. Ceilings where high because heat rises.

Then there's the architecture. I don't remember too much about this topic except the ones with big columns are Greek Revival. The ones with rounded windows and lots of arches are Italian style. Then there's the Queen Annes. Do not called them Victorians. "Victorian" refers to a era, not an architectural style. Having said that, here's the real dish: the famous houses.

This is the first house Anne Rice bought. It was a previously a church.

This an example of Gothic style, which is usually reserved for churches. So now we have a house that looks like a church and a former church that looks like a house.

This is the house of Archie Manning where Eli and Peyton Manning grew up.

This is the house Anne Rice actually lived in. She lives in La Jolla now.

This is John Goodman's house. It was previously owned by the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails.

Sandra Bullock's new house. Did you know her adopted baby is from New Orleans?
Sorry I didn't take pictures of the house where President Taft died. And the house where the likes of Mark Twain and Edgar Degas partied. BTW: Edgar Degas is the one who married his first cousin. He came to New Orleans to meet his mother's side of the family. He married his cousin, had 5 children with her, 4 survived. His wife was blind. He hired a woman to come and read to her. Then he ran away with the woman who read to his wife and left his blind wife with 4 children. His mother's side of the family took in Degas' wife, changed all the childrens' last names back to their mother's maiden name. The name Degas became a dirty word in New Orleans after that.

Oh, here's a Georgian style house. Georgian houses are perfectly symmetrical, inside and out.

Cemetery Tour

This is the cover of a book I found in a gift shop in New Orleans:

While we were in New Orleans, I dragged Matt on a cemetery tour. It was really fascinating. I learned so much about the history of New Orleans as well as everything you ever wanted to know about how they bury their dead in New Orleans.
Tour guides will differ in their opinions about in ground v. above ground burial. Some say they bury above ground because New Orleans is at sea level and it was hard to keep the coffins from popping up and floating away during the rainy season. Others maintain that 30% of the Netherlands is at or below sea level and they bury their dead in the ground. It's mostly about space. The above ground mausoleums are natural crematoriums that can be reused over and over. Therefor it's the original recycling program.
Cemeteries in New Orleans (there are 3 main ones that I know of) date back to the early 1800s. Each mausoleum or tomb is purchased by a family. Each time a family member dies, the marble front is removed (it's held on by screws) and the brick and mortar wall is broken. They slide the casket in onto a shelf, reseal the brick wall and replace the marble cover. The tomb should be left sealed for a minimum of one year and one day. This is too ensure that the remains are adequately decomposed. If the tomb is in good repair and has no leaks, it can get up to 200 degrees inside on warm days, creating a natural crematorium.
When the next family member dies, the tomb is reopened, the remains are bagged and tagged, sent for DNA confirmation and then swept to the back of the tomb where there is an opening into the "cellar" or caveau along with all the other deceased family members. After a year in the heat the remains are just ashes and skeletal remains. You can imagine how many family members can be buried in this type of tomb (maybe as many as 200?). If a family member dies within a year of the last burial, there are "rental" tombs you can use in the meantime. Imagine having all your relatives buried in one place. What a great way to track your family's DNA and history.
Cemeteries in New Orleans are still being used today. The tombs vary from one another just like the people of New Orleans, from old to new, simple to ornate. Some have all the family members buried there engraved on the marble cover. Some have sculptures on top or beside them. Cherubs and lambs symbolize innocence, perhaps a child or infant is buried there. An urn represents mourning. An urn with a drape represents deep mourning. Besides family tombs, there are group tombs such as veterans of a particular war, fire fighters, and even one for orphans.
Some tombs have fallen into a state of disrepair. Moisture is the worst enemy of the mausoleum. Some have been restored or renovated. Renovation is when a group of workers come in, re-plaster and repaint the whole thing to look brand spanking new. It's inexpensive and quick. But if the wrong materials are used, it doesn't breath and the whole recycling thing doesn't work very well. Restoration is more time consuming, laborious and costly, but it maintains the integrity of the original tomb.
Now you know almost everything I know about how they bury the dead in New Orleans. Matt and I have always thought traditional cemeteries are a waste of space, as are golf courses. He doesn't like golf because of the whole exclusive aspect. I realize that many golf courses are more inclusive now of the average person. My objections are the waste of water and heavy use of pesticides (how do you think they keep the grass so nice and green and free of weeds, IN THE MIDDLE OF A DESERT?) Matt thinks cemeteries should be combined with golf courses.
I kind of like the idea of my whole family all being buried in one place, instead of scattered all over kingdom come. But Matt reminded me the recycling program would never work in Alaska. We are missing the key ingredient: heat. In fact, when our folks die in the middle of winter, we have to wait until spring to bury them! And well, we have plenty of space. He also wondered if I would be buried in the Manalisay tomb or the Wise tomb. I guess this is where it's advantageous to marry a first cousin. Did I just say that?
Up next, the Garden District, where we'll learn more about history, architecture and even some first cousins that were married! I love this place.

A typical family tomb.
An old tomb in need of repair beside a newly renovated one.

Here is the oldest grave in Saint Louis cemetery #1. It's an in-ground burial.

Angel sculpture.

My favorite little cherub, no bigger than a foot long.
More trivia: Ever since the acid trip of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, the Archdiocese of St. Louis no longer allows filming in St. Louis Cemetery. Newer films such as Interview with the Vampire are filmed at the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District. My photos are from both cemeteries.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Orleans

Matt and I went to Virginia last week for a Sleep Studies review course. Then we took a side trip to New Orleans just for fun. The following blog post is for my kids. Although New Orleans is rich in history and culture, they don't really understand most of that yet, so most of the photos are going to be of funny, weird or creepy stuff. Later I will post photos of my Cemetery Tour and Garden District tour for the history and architecture buffs.

It's warm most of the time in New Orleans. Here is a grove of banana trees. There are also many other types of trees and even some bamboo groves.

Here's a creepy fake mummy statue we saw in a store. He was shaking and making these squeaky noises. He is life sized, about as tall as me! On Bourbon Street it's a party every night. I think it's like Halloween all the time, too.

Check out this skull collection!

This is a crayfish. It looks like a tiny lobster, except it lives in fresh water.

The pastries on the left are called beignets. They fried donuts with powdered sugar on top.
You eat them with coffee. Here at the Cafe du Monde they serve coffee with chicory and milk.

This is our hotel, Maison Dupuy. We are staying in the French Quarter, so everything has a French name. New Orleans was also settled by the Spanish. They brought servants from Africa and later, Ireland! The people of Ireland were starving during a famine. They were told if they came to America they would have jobs and homes and food. Instead, they became slaves with even fewer rights than the Black servants who were already here!

On Tuesday nights people dress up in funny costumes and stand on Bourbon Street like statues. Some of them cover themselves with what looks like silver paint and stand very still like a statue. This man is not covered in paint but he is frozen in that position like a statue. The dog is not real. The bucket is for people to give them money.

You can take a ride on the Mississippi River on this steam boat. You can also take tours of the city riding a carriage drawn by a horse or a mule. You can also take a trolley, a bus, or walk.

Here we are walking along the Mississippi Riverfront. It's almost 80 degrees and we are very hot! It's a lot like Vietnam. We like to walk around, look at stuff and eat a lot! When we come home I will have even more special Mommy blubber. That's what my boys call my fat:)