Mr Gardener - HD -
We rang in the new year in New Orleans, the U.S. city at the top of our Italian exchange student’s list of places to see, after New York and San Francisco. NOLA is only a 7-1/2-hour drive (with no stops) from Austin, so we rented an Airbnb, loaded up the car, and hit the road a few days after Christmas. We had a wonderful time eating muffalettas and Creole, Vietnamese, and Italian food, sightseeing and shopping in the French Quarter, listening to street musicians, riding the streetcar, catching Mardi Gras beads at the Sugar Bowl Parade, and exploring the Garden District and Audubon Park.
Audubon Park and Tree of Life
On our walk through Audubon Park, we happened upon a hoary live oak called the Tree of Life. A sign says it was planted circa 1740, which makes it around 280 years old. Rapunzel-tresses of Spanish moss hang from its horizontal branches, each as thick as the trunk of most trees.
Some of these massive branches have dipped to the ground, as if inviting the weary to sit and rest or the young to scamper up into the tree.
Perched on its gnarled base, dwarfed by its girth, you really appreciate the size and majesty of this grand old tree. I noticed other visitors pressing their hands against its bark in brief communion.
The root zone of the Tree of Life is an archipelago of knobby, lichen-frosted roots and a cushy duff of old leaves.
Romantic live oaks dominate the park’s landscaping, like this grassy promenade down a tunnel-like allee.
A sculpture of a young man testing the water of a shallow pool is framed by a shaggy fringe of Spanish moss.
We found this modern sculpture too…
…and discovered it makes a fun photo opportunity.
A silver palm doing jazz hands
A classical fountain greets you at the park’s entrance across the street from Tulane University.
How lucky are the homeowners whose houses face the park and these grand live oaks.
Strolling around the French Quarter we stopped often to admire the architecture of its old homes, with their iron balconies, tall doors and windows, and colorful paint.
Fern lovers live here.
It’s one charmer after another.
As New Year’s Eve approached, the party atmosphere ramped up. Tourists thronged the streets wearing Mardi Gras beads, haunted/historical tour groups clustered on every corner, and jazz bands and one-man bucket-drummers played for tips in Jackson Square and throughout the French Quarter.
St. Louis Cemetery #1
We joined a walking tour that got us into St. Louis Cemetery #1 (you can visit only via a guided tour because of problems with vandalism), with its blocky marble vaults that may contain dozens of bodies. As our tour guide explained, the vaults act as crematoriums in the subtropical summer heat, and after a year a body is reduced to remains that may then be pushed to the back of the vault to allow room for the next family member.
Opened in 1789, this crumbling City of the Dead is beautiful and historic — and very hot in the summer. It was nice to visit at a comfortable time of year.
The day after our cemetery tour, we saw a jazz funeral parade in the French Quarter, with people dancing with parasols (and cell phones) before a brass band. I don’t know if it was real or a performance, but everyone seemed to be celebrating a life well lived.
St. Louis Cathedral
We had 2-1/2 days in New Orleans and could have spent several more. There’s so much history, culture, music, great food, and friendly people in this lovely city.
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