Friday, April 25, 2014

Celebrating Easter in the Big Easy

April 20-21, 2014
Bayou Segnette State Park
Westwego, Louisiana

My visions of a jazz brunch to celebrate the joys of Easter faded quickly after I tried to make reservations at nearly every restaurant listed on the Goneworleans website. The cost of brunch was also a little intimidating, so I happily made brunch for us in the beautiful and peaceful setting of the park: portabella and white cheddar omelet, chicken and apple sausage, yukon gold fingerling potatoes, and fresh berries. The only thing I forgot was to play some jazz music in the background—and to take photos of our brunch!

After a relaxing morning, we headed for the Algiers Ferry where we parked on the street for free and boarded the ferry for a five minute ride across the mighty Mississippi ($1.00 for seniors and $2.00 for adults under 65). It was a perfectly beautiful day to enjoy the views of New Orleans from the water.

From the ferry drop off point on the West Bank of the city, it was a pleasant walk down Canal Street to the St. Charles streetcar line. For $1.25, you can ride the streetcar down to the Garden District where you will see architecturally stunning mansions and gardens built in the mid-1800s. This area of New Orleans, in stark contrast to the Lower Ninth Ward, is built on higher ground and suffered little flood damage from Katrina. Known as one of the best-preserved collections of historic southern mansions in the United State, the district was settled mainly by northerners who made their fortunes on cash crops, brokerages, and manufacturing after the Louisiana Purchase. We took a self-guided walking tour using the Go Nola App. (Thanks to Ms. Heyduke for telling us about the app).

The streetcar drops you off on Magazine Street, about one block from the Lafayette Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Because of potential flooding, cemeteries in New Orleans are actually above ground tombs or what some call “cities of the dead.” Since 1833, the cemetery has been the burial grounds for some of the most prominent residents of the city. After a year of interment, the bones can be moved and another family member can be buried in the same tomb. This allows them to put several generations in one family tomb.

This cemetery has been the filming location for several movies including  Interview with the Vampire, Double Jeopardy, Dracula and  Déjà vu.  One word of caution: There are many warnings not to visit New Orleans cemeteries on your own or at all at night (especially St. Louis #1 which borders a crime-ridden neighborhood). These above ground cemeteries are a popular place for muggers to hide.

Just across the street from the cemetery is the famed Commander’s Palace, established in 1880 and long regarded as one of the best upscale restaurants in the city. Emeril Lagasse was the head chef here before opening his own restaurant. Sad to say, we did not have the pleasure of eating here--especially sad when I found out they still offer .25 martinis at lunch (limit of 2).

From Commanders, we started our self-guided tour of the neighborhood. The architecture of these historic homes is typically Greek Revival  (popular during the Antebellum Period); Italianate and Victorian archicecture became more popular later in the 19th century. Many homes are a combination of these three styles as they often added Victorian or Italian details (more gingerbread) when the homes were remodeled.

Warwick Manor on 2427 Camp Street: This huge pink mansion was once a private home, but later became a private school for wealthy children. It is now one of the mansions that has been divided into separate apartment dwellings.

The Pritchard-Pigott house at 1407 First Street: This house is the most classic example of a Greek Revival antebellum home that did not add Victorian or Italian details.

The Morris-Israel House at 1331 First Street:  This supposedly haunted house, built for a tobacco grower and President of the Cotton Exchange, shows the combination of Greek Revival and Italianate styles as the ornate balcony and ironwork were added after the Civil War.

The “Benjamin Button” House at 2705 Coliseum Street: Much plainer in terms of architecture, this home is a popular tourist attraction because many scenes in the Brad Pitt movie took place on the porch and steps leading up to the home.

The Walter Robinson House at 1415 Third Street: Supposedly the first house in New Orleans to have indoor plumbing, this home has also been featured in many movies over the years including Jason Statham's The Mechanic in 2011. It has recently been completely restored and is for sale at $7,999,000 if interested.

The Carroll-Crawford House at 1315 First Street—Another house that shows the merging of Greek and Italian styles. The original owners of this historic mansion threw large parties that included famous guests such as Samuel Clemens and Edgar Degas. (The palm trees in front and live oaks on the sideyard make this home one of my favotires. I also like the arched windows and combination of Italian and Greek architectural details.)

The Montgomery-Hero House at 1213 Third Street  The man had who had this Swiss Chalet-style house built in 1868 wanted it to look more like the homes of Northeastern United States. It seemed a little stark compared to other homes in this neighborhood.

1312 First Street: Having painted quite a few houses ourselves, we were quite impressed with the details of this recently restored Victorian style home currently listed for sale at $2,250,0000  

Somehow I missed taking a photo of  Anne Rice’s former home which is depicted in her novel, The Witching Hour. I have not read this book but apparently almost every detail of this home is described in the novel including the address of 1239 First Street.
The Payne-Strachan House at 1134 First Street: I must have been distracted by the plaque in front of this home as I never did get a photo of the actual house. As the plaque notes, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, died in this home of his friend, a local judge.

The house where Jefferson died is another classic example of Greek Revival architecture.  I did take a photo of one of the Ionic Greek column details that flank the front porch.

The "Cornstalk Fence" House at 1448 Fourth Street: Yet another house that stood out more for its unusual details, namely, the cornstalk fence. We knew there had to be story behind it. Here is what I learned: The owner, Kentucky Colonel Robert Short, bought this expensive fence for his wife who complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa. Story number two: the Colonel’s wife requested it because it was the most expensive fence in the building catalog.

At the risk of getting carried away with my photos and descriptions of our Garden District tour, here are a few more shots that capture some other visual delights of our afternoon walk.


Whew--enough of the Garden District already (but it was a great place to stroll around). And now for the best part of our day. We took the streetcar back to the French Quarter just in time to catch the Fifteenth Annual New Orleans Gay Easter Parade roll through the streets.  I will let the photos in this collage I made speak for themselves!

gay easter parade collage

Our final treat for the day was a stop at Café du Monde for their famous beignets before catching the final ferry of the day, It wouldn't be a real visit to N’awlins without getting powdered sugar all over your face.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!


  1. We loved the Garden District. We did the self-guided tour also. There is so much beauty in that area.

    Did you two get to go to the City Park? The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden located there. It is free and wonderful. What a super park.

    1. Sadly, we did not get to the City Park, but I appreciate the suggestion for next time!

  2. Always enjoy a good stroll around that city... so much interesting architecture to absorb...

  3. Good thing you didn't post pictures of your brunch, just the description has me drooling. I love self guided walking tours and yours was spectacular. What gorgeous architecture. This sounds like a lovely day. I can actually say I wish I'd been with you. And that will shock anyone who knows my feelings about cities. But that! Any chance you'd come back and do it again so I could??

    1. I know from your blog that you appreciate architectural tours. I could easily have spent a few more hours there.

  4. What a wonderful day! One thing I did notice is all the wrought iron fences/entrances in front of the homes as well....very pretty! Thanks for taking us along.

    1. The wrought iron balconies are iconic in New Orleans. Definitely feels a bit like Paris.

  5. Now that was a great day. I think I would have skipped the parade. The architecture is a delight. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a great tour of the city. I was at an IBM conference decades ago, and after 3 days of over the top food, a friend and I took the trolley out to the Garden District, had rice and beans somewhere, and then walked back. It was wonderful to be out of the city and look at those houses. Thanks for all of the photos.

  7. We missed out on Commender's Palace as well ... the line for brunch was just too long. Like you, we did the self-tour so that we could enjoy the Garden District at our own pace. Lovely homes in a lovely setting ... wish the electric lines had been buried underground so that the ambiance of the old days would have been more prominent.

    1. I noticed the lines too--especially when I looked at my photos!

  8. Where's the photo of the powdered sugar covered faces???? :-)

    Thanks for the tour of the Garden District! I love walking old neighborhoods with elaborate houses and gardens!

    1. I had the fleeting thought of getting that photo then it slipped my mind when I was lost in the world of eating a warm beignet.

  9. What a fantastic day! Thanks for sharing. Never have seen an Easter parade fun!

  10. We did not do this tour and missed the fun that you are having. Looked like you had a great time.


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