New Orleans ’96

This was originally published on the web in spring 2001. Click on the photos to enlarge them, and to find links to additional photos from this set.

In August 1996, I took a solo trip to New Orleans. Although it was my first visit, I felt like I already knew the French Quarter and the Garden District, from reading Anne Rice novels – especially the Witching Hour series and The Feast of All Saints.

This trip was also a kind of personal coming out experience. Not that I did anything wild – I managed to miss Southern Decadence by a week – but it was a chance to explore a gay community on my own, far away from home. One hot afternoon, I stopped for a drink at a gay bar (Oz, shown here) and wrote coming out letters to a few of my old friends.

The first place I stayed, Lafitte Guest House (1003, rue de Bourbon) was charming and elegant: beautiful rooms with antique furniture; breakfast on a silver tray. I’ve been dying to return there for some special occasion. I stayed for three weeknights, as the weekend rate was a bit out of my price range. For the weekend, I moved to Ursuline Guest House (708, rue des Ursulines), which was comfortable but not nearly as elegant.

This post highlights the architecture, ambiance, and music of the French Quarter and adds a few scenes from the Garden District and Algiers Point, across the river.

During my trip, I walked the streets of the French Quarter day and night – I had most of the street names memorized! I loved the feel of the place, especially the painted houses, shutters, and balconies. New Orleans, especially the French Quarter, is one of the greatest places I’ve been to linger over a delicious meal, wander down to the river at dawn, or just sit in the park and watch the people. Bar-hopping is easier on Bourbon Street than anywhere else because each building has so many entry-ways (when all the storm shutters are open).

Great music is everywhere; linked here are pictures of just a few of the street musicians I ran across. There is always someone playing in front of Cafe du Monde, it seems.

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day…
Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines
Where mockingbirds used to sing
I’d love to see that old lazy Mississippi
Running in the spring
Moonlight on the bayous
Creole tunes fill the air
I dream about magnolias in June
And I’m wishin’ I was there

Twice, I took the streetcar to the Garden District. Mostly I stared longingly at the mansions, but a visit to Lafayette Cemetery was also a must. The Garden District Book Shop carries many autographed Anne Rice books.

©20022015 Christopher League