A Weekend in New Orleans
The jazzy French Quarter of New Orleans invigorates my soul and lifts my spirits, but sometimes a girl needs the calm of the well-mannered Garden District. Wanting a change of scenery, my getaway weekend in New Orleans provided breathing space beyond Canal Street and restored my creative inspiration.
With its well-preserved collection of antebellum mansions, manicured front lawns, and friendly residents, these 250 acres are a slice of a bygone era. Originally plantation land, parcels were sold to wealthy merchants who did not want to live in the already-developed French Quarter, where the Creoles and working class citizens lived. The Bed & Breakfast accommodations in the Garden District are jam-packed with history, with tall tales and ghost stories at every turn.
Parking is often challenging in the Garden District, with restricted areas and resident permits required for most parking lots, and designated vehicle spaces near street curbs. I was fortunate to find designated guest parking immediately in front of the main entry to the inn, my home for the weekend.
Fortune smiled on me again with modern amenities inside of a renovated building from the mid-18th century. The curved mahogany staircase, hardwood floors, and other natural woodwork are indicative of a time of grandeur, when home construction was often a work of art. I was surrounded by Mardi Gras masks, an antique lace gown, old glass bottles, a library, and crocheted cotton doilies. Many of the hotels in New Orleans highlight ties to the past, making for an enjoyable lodging experience.
Arriving mid-afternoon, I decided to spend some time outdoors. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau tourist center is located on St. Charles Avenue of the Garden District, and on the “green line” of streetcars. After a quick stop for a map and some restaurant recommendations, I joined commuters and tourists on the historic green trolley. My thoughts drifted into daydreams while I watched the gentle sway of century-old oak trees, with their beards of lacy Spanish moss.
I was surrounded by Mardi Gras masks, an antique lace gown, old glass bottles, a library, and crocheted cotton doilies. Many of the hotels in New Orleans highlight ties to the past, making for an enjoyable lodging experience.
The following day, I toured the streets and learned the history of the Garden District with a local guide. Our group met at Lafayette Cemetery #1, which has been an active burial location since 1833. This walled city block, known as a “city of the dead,” holds about 1,000 tombs and contains graves representing over 26 nationalities. The tombstone carvings are intricate, and I began to look at the individuality of the engraved stone symbols. I’ve always admired flower carvings on monuments in cemeteries but did not realize that there is usually a broken flower hidden in bouquet carvings. The broken flower is a common funerary symbol, especially on tombstones of children, representing life broken and the end of life. A broken or incomplete column at the head of a monument is less common but represents life being cut short. An hourglass with wings represents Chronos, Greek mythology’s personification of time. The wings that lift the hourglass express passage of time and the sudden shortness of life.
After our walk through the cemetery we toured the residential blocks of the Garden District. The homes of the rich and famous include mansions owned (currently or formerly) by Anne Rice, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman and the Archie Manning family home where Eli and Peyton grew up. Other celebrities have lived in this sophisticated casual residential district through the years, and some are still part-time residents of New Orleans. Perhaps the Garden District gives them the same escape from the chaos that it offered me. Old World elegance intermingles with modern conveniences in the homes, apartments, and small inns found throughout the district.
My trip ended much too soon. This weekend getaway to New Orleans was the perfect remedy for the clutter in my mind. Once relaxed, my mind shifted to daydreams and then to artistic creativity.