Another ramble around New Orleans, Louisiana. I managed 5 miles (8 kilometres) but that did include a fruitless search for Payday bars. November, solo. Warm and sunny
I was staying next in Warehouse District and I needed to walk. Garden District is a short half hour walk downtown along St. Charles Avenue or a ride on the streetcar a few stops. The St. Charles Streetcar line is the world’s oldest line in continuous use and it sounds great inside. If you want to hear what that’s like, read on.
You may have read that New Orleans is a dangerous city, the highest murder rate in the whole of the USA. Even the tourist pages tell you not to walk south of Magazine Street, to take cabs (or not to take cabs, choose your poison) and so on and on, but you’ve got to keep some perspective. Let’s just say you’re probably not going to get murdered. It’s daytime and I had no problem walking between these two districts. Walking down Magazine is much nicer and more bohemian than St Charles (where I didn’t much care for going below the overhead expressway with its homeless people’s camp but even there no one made me feel unsafe) But don’t put yourself where you’re not comfortable and take the streetcar or a cab if you prefer.
The sun was up and the sky was deep blue; the temperature in the sun felt much higher than the 14 degrees I’d been promised. I was also hungry. I try to avoid eating in chain hotels and there is so much tasty food to be had in New Orleans I decided to pick something up on the way. Before too long I reached the Garden District, once part of the seperate city of Lafayette, but before even that it was once plantations. I turned left and things started to look somewhat unreal, like a film set, some of the most beautiful 19th century revival style, new colonial and Italianate mansions you will ever see in the south.
At the bottom is a map and link to the route I referred to as I wandered. There’s no set route of course, you’ll most likely run into tour guides as you mooch around, and they are all taking a different path. You can pay for one of these, I guess some will show you the film and football stars’ residences (Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage, John Goodman, Brad and Angelina before the split) but I won’t betray their privacy (ie I have no idea who lived where). All the guides will show you the most historic buildings but fortunately the most interesting houses have a plaque on the railings telling you the history of the house, so you can’t go wrong and you can take yourself round. I’ll link some self-guided tours below.
Once upon a time there were fewer houses and bigger gardens, hence the name. This is where rich Americans came when they didn’t want to live with the Creoles in the French Quarter.
Lafayette Cemetery #1 is here, the oldest in New Orleans with its fancy mausoleums, but it is currently closed for repairs. I was surprised to see a handful of people inside wandering about, I don’t know how they got in. Perhaps they were all ghosts (everyone claims there are a lot of ghosts in this city).
There is a glorious looking restaurant opposite, Commanders Palace, on Washington Street which dates from 1898, serving Creole food which ironically the original residents were somewhat keen to get away from.
Instead I had a fabulous lemon and blackberry cake at the café in The Rink on Prytania street nearby, a building dating from 1884 when it was called Crescent City, which used to house a wooden floored roller skating rink. I highly recommend it (the café, sadly the rink is gone) for a relaxing interlude and I still dream about that cake.
There is even a little Catholic church, dating from 1844, St. Mary’s Chapel. You can still attend mass in there if you come early enough.
I thoroughly enjoyed wandering through these blocks, looking at which house I will buy next. I don’t need much in life, the Trufant house would do but the interior was gutted in a fire so isn’t original. The Wallis-Gelderman house has a pleasing angularity and a great secret garden by all accounts. But on balance, all things considered, I have decided to turf out the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association and have the Davis-Seebold house, the featured image of this post. If everyone wouldn’t mind chucking in a few quid as I think I’m a bit short.
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The following websites have suggested routes and details of the most renowned houses. All of them have google maps (or similar) which you could follow or, as I did, use as a starting point.
You can walk there as I did or use the St Charles streetcar getting off at First or Third street. The streetcar costs a dollar 25, or a full day ticket is $3 (also valid on buses). Buy it on board from the driver, exact money only, or see here for other ways to buy ahead.
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