I spent Christmas in New Orleans. Why New Orleans? Well, I’d been home for Christmas the past three years and I certainly didn’t want that to be expected! So, I searched for places that were fairly cheap, were considerably warmer than here, that I hadn’t been to before, and had enough actually open at Christmas. New Orleans ended up being the obvious answer.
When I checked in online the day before leaving, I received a message that said “one of your flights might be oversold” and offered me $150 to take a later flight. I said no as this seemed like quite the low-ball offer. I didn’t hear any announcements asking for volunteers on the Saskatoon to Denver flight so either they actually found volunteers or they didn’t need up needing the. The flight to New Orleans wasn’t quite full and had an empty seat next to me. The airport in Saskatoon was busy on Christmas Eve but I’d say less so than it was just before Thanksgiving. Denver was incredibly busy though. Strangely, although the plane left Saskatoon a few minutes later we still arrived in Denver way too early (about 20 minutes) for customs to be open yet. Everyone was wondering why they don’t just schedule this plane to definitely arrive after customs is open. As it was an early morning, it sure would have been appreciated! The customs guy seems rather perplexed by my going to New Orleans for Christmas alone.
When I arrived in New Orleans, it felt colder than I expected. The temperature wasn’t that bad (around 13) but the wind definitely made it feel a lot colder. I just wandered around randomly on my first evening there. I discovered quite quickly that no one there lives in a boring house. I’ve definitely never taken so many pictures of houses on a vacation before! I walked down Bourbon Street and even early in the evening on Christmas Eve, it was clear that it was just as unappealing place as I’d imagined. Everywhere, I wandered was nice though. Very few places were closed on Christmas Eve.
Some of the many interesting houses in the French Quarter.
On the morning of Christmas Day, I went on a voodoo tour. All though it was supposed to be a full tour, it looked like a lot of people would not show; but a lot of people came just as the tour was starting. The tour couldn’t go into a couple of places because they were closed on Christmas Day but it was still a very interesting and informative tour. I hadn’t previously realized how connected Voodoo and Catholicism are and that many people actually practice both religions.
There weren’t tons of places open but the weather was quite nice so it was a great day just to wander around. Although it had sounded like cemeteries would be closed, I found St. Louis Cemetery #3 was open as I walking to Bayou Saint John. I stopped and wandered around for a bit. I looked around for a bit but not as much as I probably would have had I not had a tour of a different cemetery the following day. I found it amazing how many people were listed as being in some tombs. In particular, there was one tomb that literally had dozens of nuns in it. Other tombs just had a surname or even nothing on them. In general, I found that the information on the tombs rarely extended beyond the very basic; there were few epithets. Still, the above ground graves were definitely interesting and often quite large. A few of the graves were in poor condition but generally this was a very nice, well-cared cemetery.
St. Louis #3 Cemetery
I then walked around the Bayou Saint John area which was quite nice. I could also have entered City Park as it was literally across the street but I was getting a bit tired by then and I wanted a bit of a break before my evening tour.
In the evening, I went on a ghost tour. I was surprised that the group consisted of just a guide, a couple, and me. The other groups we saw were all quite large. The company I went with, Strange True Tours, has excellent Trip Advisor reviews but I don’t think sell tours from kiosks which other companies do and which probably brings in lots of last-minute people. It was nice to not be in the way and the tour was very informative. It sounds like pretty much every old hotel in New Orleans is haunted (especially those located in the French Quarter), not just the one I stayed in.
For Christmas dinner, I went to IHOP. I was busier than I’d anticipated. I was not even the only person dining alone. I guess I’m more normal than I thought!
On Boxing Day, my day started with me searching for my room key. The key was obviously in the room as I needed it to get in. I eventually found it in my purse but I’m positive that I didn’t put it there and I’m not the type of person who misplace keys. One of the stories for the ghost tour the night before discussed weird things happening with keys so this was definitely weird.
I went on a tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 that morning. It is the oldest extant cemetery in New Orleans. There were earlier cemeteries but they no longer exist. Bodies have been moved around a lot and that still happens to this day though it doesn’t happen with whole cemeteries anymore. I learned quite a bit during the actual cemetery part of the tour. The problem was the super chatty guide spent a lot of time on things that weren’t relevant to the tour, including quite a bit of time giving her personal restaurant recommendations; it was annoying! This cemetery is quite small and there were lots of tour groups and most of them were large. It did not make for the best experience but I guess it was unavoidable though. You see just how heavily Catholic this city is when you see what a small area of the cemetery is for Protestants. I wandered around the cemetery for a bit after the tour and there were still tons of tour groups around.
Oven vaults (the cheapest and least desirable type) at St. Louis #1 cemetery.
After lunch, I headed to the Garden District via streetcar. A day pass for unlimited streetcar and bus use is just $3 which I thought was a shockingly good deal. I began by visiting yet another cemetery, Lafayette Cemetery #1. This cemetery was pretty quiet and more organized than St. Louis #1 but less so than St. Louis #3. There were people there but they were all in small groups so it was a nice place to wander around. As I was leaving, there were a couple of tour groups headed in so I think my timing was good for once! I then wandered around a bit of the Garden District. There are many very large, very nice houses there and the place felt much quieter than the French Quarter. I then went back on the streetcar until I reached Audubon Park. I only walked around a bit of the park but it did provided a much-needed and relatively clean washroom. I then walked quite a bit further before deciding to get back on a streetcar and head back. I was glad that I got on the streetcar early in its route because it filled up quite quickly and eventually there wasn’t even standing room on it. My feet were rather sore after all the walking and one of my toes was bleeding a bit. I still managed to wander around a bit in the evening and do some shopping.
One of the huge houses in the Garden District.
When I woke up fairly early on Saturday morning, it was just spitting and the weather forecast indicated that the weather would only get worse. So, I headed out on a bus to see the Lower Ninth Ward earlier in the day than I would have otherwise. By the time I arrived, it was raining rather heavily. I still did walk around for a while but I’m sure I would have explored for quite a bit longer had the weather been more pleasant. There were quite a lot of boarded up houses but they pretty much all had no trespassing signs on them so I didn’t get too close. There were some obviously new houses and some older ones that people were obviously living in. A few of the houses were quite nice.
I then went to a museum called the Presbytere which in part of the Louisiana State Museum. It had a very informative hurricane exhibit with a focus on Katrina on the main floor and a Mardi Gras exhibit upstairs. It was raining quite heavily while I was in the museum. By the time I left the museum the rain had pretty much stopped and while it was dreary for the rest of the day, it didn’t actually rain anymore.
I had lunch at the food court in the outlet mall and I watched a huge cruise ship being boarded which was kind of interesting.
I then took a ferry over to Algiers which is a part of New Orleans which is located across the river. It was quite quiet there and was a pleasant place to walk around; of course, it also had interesting houses. Both ways across the river, there were few people on the ferry.
View from the ferry on the way to Algiers.
I did more shopping later in the day.
I left New Orleans on Sunday morning. My flight into Denver landed on time but there was another plane at the gate we were supposed to go (apparently there was a catering delay) to so we had to wait. We ended up waiting close to half an hour and my connection time wasn’t too long to begin with it. It seems that there were quite a few of us with tight connections. It was also quite a walk to the gate for my plane to Saskatoon but there were gates that were even further. Anyway, by walking quickly (with no stops) I managed to arrive at the gate about five minutes before they closed the door. This is definitely the closest I’ve been to missing a flight without actually missing it. I arrived to -23 in Saskatoon which was an unwelcome surprise.