Friday, July 16, 2010

New Orleans - "America's Most Interesting City"

After my friend's wedding in Mississippi, we decided to make a trip down to New Orleans, Louisiana. We only had 1 day and night to check the town out, so we checked out a lot of things. When we first arrived we headed straight to the French Quarter to go check out the cathedral. We drove right past Bourbon street and that's all we pretty much saw of it - we heard some of the store fronts along Bourbon aren't too appropriate for kids. So we hung out on the other streets in the French Quarter.

Right when we arrived it started pouring rain. But after we parked it let up, and we took a nice stroll in Jackson Square and admired the sights of The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Established as a parish in the year 1720.

Jackson Square is a beautiful park with horse carriages and artists trying to sell their artwork surrounding the square.

There were many foreign tourists there taking pictures in front of the cathedral. It's really neat to see something so historic in person.

James took this photo, didn't he do a great job!? I was hoping we would make it to 11am Mass but we were too late.

We still went inside, there was a baby being baptized. It's such a beautiful cathedral. His Holiness Pope John Paul II visited this cathedral in 1987 and celebrated an outdoor Mass for over 200,000 on the New Orleans lakefront.

After the cathedral we did some shopping on Decatur Street and the kids picked out some masks. We headed over to our hotel to check in and caught the World Cup Final at the hotel bar and grill. James was wearing his Orange and we were cheering for the Dutch!
Too bad they lost.

Madeline enjoying her lunch and the game, also wearing her very girly mask. Stephen thought she looked like an Arabian princess.

After the game we headed over to the Garden District to ride on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar. It is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. And it only cost $1.25 one way to ride!

All the passengers sat next to a window (well for one to feel the natural a/c) to admire the architecture along St. Charles avenue. Gorgeous Antebellum homes (yes that's where the country group Lady Antebellum got their name). Large mansions really in Greek Revival, American Colonial and the Victorian styles.

We passed by many parks and Loyola University. It was a fun ride on the streetcar! After we got off we headed back to the French Quarter to get some dinner. We ate at an outdoor cafe with a live jazz band. And after we filled up on gumbo and pasta we decided to take the kids on a carriage ride.

Here are the kids in front of Sandy. They thought she was a horse but she's really a mule (I guess they work harder?). It was already dark out but it was neat to experience and see the French Quarter at night, and on a carriage.

Madeline was super thrilled when the driver Bob asked her to sit up front with him. She was even more ecstatic when he gave her Sandy's reigns! Madeline was driving us in the carriage along the streets of the French Quarter!

Bob was a great tour guide telling us about all the famous stories and tales of the happenings on the streets here. We saw some celeb homes including Brad and Angelina's. We heard some ghost tales and even passed by a home Casa Do Diabo where a supposed vampire lived in the 1830's.

James caught on that sissy had the reigns to Sandy - so Bob threw one of the reigns over the seat so James could "drive" too. New Orleans is notably absent from the Southern Protestant Bible Belt. In New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, the predominant religion is Catholicism. But there is still a presence of Louisiana Voodoo there. Bob took us down a street where a famous voodoo home is and as we were riding by there was actually 2 women doing a chant out in front of the door. I find it interesting to see other religious practices. New Orleans doesn't get nicknamed "America's most interesting city" for nothing I guess!

One of the last historic sites we saw on the carriage was the famous Cornstalk Fence Hotel. At one time Elvis and President Kennedy stayed here. We enjoyed the story behind this hotel because it relates to Iowa (where Stephen's parents are from). The hotel is set behind the iconic 'cornstalk" cast iron fence. There is a lovely story of an early owner who brought his young bride to live here far from her native Iowa. To soften some of her loneliness for the waving fields of corn back home, he caused this replica to be made in graceful iron so that from her front gallery she could forever see something of her native land. Isn't that sweet!? Next time we go back to New Orleans I'd love to stay in this hotel. And we'd also like to check out the local plantations and do a swamp airboat tour. We have had an awesome summer full of vacation trips! Things should start to slow down now. Madeline starts school in a month. And our Fall and Winter holidays seem like they will be pretty mellow. But we definitely can't wait to plan our next vacation trip, where ever that may be!

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