Friday, August 12, 2016

beignets and ghost stories

There are many jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, face-melting places around the world. Sometimes, you don't have to travel too far from home to find them.  The French Quarter in New Orleans is vibrant, with music spilling out of every window, art on the streets, and the supernatural around every corner.  A heady blend of Creole spices permeates the air.  It's a perfect blend of old and new.

Please note that this guy is playing a washboard.

Danny Delancey works on a new painting in his The Stroll series.

Cafe au lait and fresh beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Back in the good ole days of Napoleonic war-mongering, France suddenly found itself in a coffee shortage. Enter chicory, a plant whose root can be roasted, ground, and mixed with coffee grounds.  NOLA is famous for brewing their coffee in this old French tradition.  If you've never tried chicory coffee, it tastes earthy like peat and smoke.  Beignets are French donuts: fried, airy, and smothered in powered sugar.  Cafe du Monde is the place to go to try these out.     

Masks were popular during festivals to protect the anonymity of the high class socialites when mingling with common folk.  You can find mask shops all over the city, with varying degrees of ornate design and artistry.  It was my personal mission to find the best around so I visited every shop I came across.  The incredible shop that this mask has easily the best range of unique, handcrafted art pieces.  Divided in two, the front showcased the fanciful and glitzy masks while the the back with housed leather grotesque masks. The mask I wound up purchasing was purple and black, with a burst of feathers along one side and a dotted veil cascading down the other.  

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, where the drinks are so good that even the dead keep coming back.
Spirits and the supernatural are alive and well in Louisiana; you can't throw a rock and not hit either a church or a voodoo shop.  Most of the walking ghost tours are filled with costumed fools trying to jump out and scare you but we were lucky enough to find one with a non-cheesy guide that focused on history and story-telling. This is Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar, a old forge originally owned by a pirate-turned-blacksmith who apparently likes to lurk in corners/stare balefully at patrons. He used to operate a smuggling business out of the bar and legend has it, there's still pirate gold hidden in the building.  It's a full house in here.  A lady ghost lives upstairs and is friendly enough but unfortunately has the creepy habit of only speaking your name repeatedly. This place has a awesome freestanding fireplace in the middle of the room, but everyone watch out for the red demon eyes that occasionally appear in the fire.  Despite the ghosts, this bar is great!  Drinks are poured strong and the vibe is cosy, easily my top choice for a neighborhood bar if I lived in NOLA.  

One more ghost story: The LaLaurie mansion is considered the most haunted place in the French Quarter, once home to French Creole socialite slash secret sadist, Delphine LaLaurie.  Neighbors witnessed her in a blind rage chasing a slave girl along this balcony; the girl's subsequent fatal fall arose the first suspicions that not all was right in the LaLaurie mansion.  Soon after, a fire was started in the mansion by a septuagenarian cooking slave chained to the stove.  While checking to see that everyone was evacuated from the house, the firefighters came across a sadistic torture room filled with caged and manacled slaves.  LaLaurie had been flaying people alive, deliberately breaking and resetting bones, and collecting blood but the embellished stories include far grislier atrocities.  She was chased out of the city by an angry mob and her fate after that remains unknown. The spirits in this house are reportedly active, loud, and violent, resulting in the property changing hands often. Once, Nicolas Cage lived here super randomly.  At this time of this blog post, no one lives here. Anyway, it's bad luck to walk underneath this balcony so the locals cross the street to avoid it.      

My cousin Mari silently freaking out during the ghost tour.
There's a lot more to explore in the French Quarter. Stay tuned for another blog post centering more around the art and live music scene!

Visit Cafe Du Monde in town or order chicory coffee online
Maskarade wins for best masks
Check out more of Danny DeLancey's work
Go on the Haunted History Tour, try to get Stevie as your guide
Give yourself nightmares with more stories of Delphine LaLaurie

did you like these new orleans pictures? check out more on my flickr page!

1 comment:

  1. Zombie fact: Researchers have confirmed there are certain cells in your body that start to reproduce only AFTER you die!!!