In November my husband and I spent several days in the French Quarter in New Orleans. We had not been back since Hurricane Katrina, so it was good to see that the city and people had made a comeback despite a killer storm.
One morning we took the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to the Garden District. You can ride one way for $1.25 or buy a one-day pass for $3.00 good also on the other streetcars, Canal Streetcar and Riverfront Streetcar. On the ride we encounter locals utilizing the public transportation as well as other tourists. There were a few unusual riders: Santa, a nun in a purple habit and matching Mardi Gras beads, a man in red tights and cape. The conductors are helpful and friendly to everyone!
We departed the streetcar at Washington Avenue and walked left for one block on Prytania Street and stopped at the Garden District Book Store. It is located inside The Rink which is just what it sounds like – an old skating rink (buildt in the 1880s) which now houses the book store, a coffee shop and other small retail shops. The day we stopped in we just missed a book signing by Walter Isaacson,author of Steve Jobs.
From there we took a walking tour of many lovely homes. It was like walking back in time as we strolled the tree-lined streets as we admired the old homes which were well-maintained and presented various architectural styles. Most of them were built in the 1840s when cotton and sugar cane produced wealth for the landowners. The area reflects mainly the American influence as opposed the influence of the French and Spanish of the early settlers of the Vieux Carre’. It was once was a separate city. Today individuals such as Anne Rice, Nicholas Cage and Sandra Bullock have at one time maintained homes there. My favorite was one with a huge corner solarium.
We ended up our walking tour at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 near where we started from across from The Rink. Established in 1833, this “city of the dead” is one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. The raised tombs are, of course, because it is below sea level. The site has been featured in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.
There I found that a possible distant relative was buried. He was Wheler Harvill. He apparently came to New Orleans and married a widow. He must have been accepted because they allowed him to be buried in the family tomb. His father, Bon Harvill, came from North Carolina so he may indeed be a distant, distant relative. There must be a story there so I will do more research!
Our final stop was The Rink where we had coffee at Still Perkin’ before we caught the St. Charles back to the French Quarter for another stop at Harrah’s!