I spent my last week in New Orleans. Even better, I actually managed to explore outside of Bourbon Street this time. I went about a year ago for Mardi Gras, and loved every moment of it. There was an electricity on Bourbon Street that I have not felt in many other places. Half of the city was shut down for the massive parade. The floats were larger than life. The streets were flooded with multi color beads. Everybody’s excitement was contagious. The drinks were crazy, and the people even crazier.
However, visiting the city during the off season definitely had it’s advantages. I craved the true history and culture of it all. I wanted to know more about one of the country’s oldest cities. And I definitely found it.
I visited the famous Lafayette Cemetery, which has been featured in numerous movies and television shows. It was shown in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 21 & 22 Jump Street, The Originals, and 12 Years A Slave – just to name a few. Being able to see not only such a famous cemetery, but one so beautiful and filled with such a rich history, was breathtaking. I also heard that the cemetery is haunted (my favorite part of the tour).
Visiting the Voodoo shops was also high on my priority list. I went to several because I was hoping to find some that weren’t too completely commercialized. I went to two that are run by the Marie Laveau name, but they were both near Bourbon Street and didn’t feel too authentic. I did, however, find one shop that seemed much more authentic. It was less cheesy. There were dozens of herbs for sale, essential oils, bats blood, candles, and all sorts of neat things. I enjoyed this store a lot. This one was called Island of Salvation. I highly recommend checking it out.
And one of my favorite parts of the trip was The Dungeon bar that I wound up late at night. Yes, that is what it’s called and it is very much like a dungeon. I attended a “Haunted Pub Crawl.” The guide took us to several of the oldest bars in the city (which happen to be some of the oldest in the country), and he told us plenty of fantastic ghost stories. Several stories featured deaths that occurred in the late 1800’s when the French and the Spanish were still duking things out. There have been many deaths in New Orleans, paving the way for many ghost sightings and stories. I spent some time talking to my tour guide after the pub crawl. He mentioned this Dungeon bar to my friend and I. We were instantly intrigued. So naturally, the three of us went off together.
This bar was one of my favorite places because of how real it was. The entrance is a small opening that is sort of between two other buildings. We walked down a narrow corridor into a dimly lit courtyard area. We walked past the courtyard to the bar. Then we turned a corner and went upstairs. That’s where the magic was. There were cages for people to sit in. Bars on the walls. Skulls plastered everywhere. Grungey metal music playing. There was even a man decked in leather chained to one of the bars. A very dark atmosphere – literally and figuratively. It seemed to encapsulate a lot of the true New Orleans spirit. Death isn’t a taboo subject. It’s merely a chunk of history. The people at this bar seem to particularly embrace it. Everything felt very free-spirited and genuine. I really loved that about this place. Plus, the drink prices.
Oh, and I visited the Museum of Death. I recommend anybody with a strong stomach visit. It was a morbidly fascinating way to learn more about death. And what better city to do that in? Long live NOLA.
In my next blog: the architecture and food of New Orleans!