Gaslamp City

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If you are a tourist who has never been to New Orleans before, there is something you do: visit the French Quarter.

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I originally planned to go on a “free” walking tour (they request donations) but the tour got canceled by the last minute because of rain. I did not think the rain was that big a deal – it wasn’t raining as hard as it had in San Antonio (and New Orleans has much better drainage). But that’s how it happened.

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Therefore, I went into a gift shop, looked through a book called ‘Walks in New Orleans’ or something, read about their French Quarter walks, and then gave myself a tour of the French Quarter.

According to that book, this yellow building is the oldest opera house in the United States.

According to that book, this yellow building is the oldest opera house in the United States.

Since I am not very knowledgeable about New Orleans history, there was a limit to how much I could cram by looking through about twenty pages of some guidebook in a gift shop.

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Though I cannot read New Orleans architecture nearly as well as I can read San Francisco architecture, I was able to figure out a few things. The balconies/arcades are there to offer shelter from rain and sun. The doors/windows are so tall so that they can ventilate a lot, and the shutters are also there for ventilation.

This belongs to some Chines association - look at the sign in the bottom right corner. It reminds me of Chinatown.

This belongs to some Chines association – look at the sign in the bottom right corner. It reminds me of Chinatown.

While I was on Bourbon Street, I bought a ‘hurricane’ (very sweet and very alcoholic drink). It did not affect me much, possibly because I drank it slowly.

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Of course, I had to visit St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic church in the United States.

St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral

Inside, I learned about Venerable Henriette Delille, who might become the first saint to be born in New Orleans. I also looked at the artwork, in particular the stained glass windows which told the life of the Louis IX of France, who is the St. Louis that the cathedral is named after. There was a friendly docent inside who told me some interesting things about the cathedral; I noticed that she wore a button which says ‘Abortion Hurts Women’.

Apparently, this is the oldest building in the entire Mississippi Valley which is still standing.

Apparently, this is the oldest building in the entire Mississippi Valley which is still standing.

One of the cool things about giving myself a tour of the French Quarter is that I was able to stumble on interesting stuff.

This is an antique gun shop

This is an antique gun shop

One my favorite places in the French Quarter was Benvolo’s, a workshop which manufactures gas lamps. Yes, there is manufacturing in the French Quarter.

A view of the courtyard between Benvolo's workshop and courtyard.

A view of the courtyard between Benvolo’s workshop and courtyard.

The sales representative inside their showroom was happy to tell me about gas lamps. Apparently they sell gas lamps to customers all over the world, and some of their customers are in San Francisco. She was able to tell me about the government regulation of gas lamps in California.

The Vieux Carré aka the French Quarter is the oldest 'historic' neighborhood in the USA. Since the 1930s, this commission has been regulating all construction in the French Quarter to maintain its historic character.

The Vieux Carré aka the French Quarter is the oldest ‘historic’ neighborhood in the USA. Since the 1930s, this commission has been regulating all construction in the French Quarter to maintain its historic character.

Ever since I visited that shop, I noticed just how many gas lamps there are in New Orleans. They aren’t just in the French Quarter – they are everywhere.

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I like the horsetails on the balcony.

I like the horsetails on the balcony.

The parts of the French Quarter away from the river and Canal street look much humbler. I saw an exhibit which explained that, back in the old days, this was where the non-rich people lived. It looks like they still live there. In the quieter streets of the French quarter, there are few shops catering to tourists, and more shops like laundromats or convenience stores.

The humble side of the French Quarter

The humble side of the French Quarter

After walking around the French Quarter, I decided to walk into Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the USA. At first, it did not really look different from the less fancy parts of the French Quarter, at least to me.

Treme

Treme

However, as I got further away from the French Quarter, I noticed that the buildings looked more weathered.

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I did like this old sign:

The sign says 'Ruth's Cozy Corner'

A lot of houses in Treme are built on raised foundations

A lot of houses in Treme are built on raised foundations

I noticed a lot of, for lack of a better word, anti-crime signs in Treme.

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I don’t know enough about Treme to say anything particularly insightful about this, but it seems that the people of Treme feel strongly about reducing crime.

Another building in Treme

Another building in Treme

After walking around the French Quarter and Treme, I took the St. Charles streetcar into Garden District.

The St. Charles streetcar

The St. Charles streetcar

The Garden District is full of large Greek Revival / Italianate houses or something.

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Frankly, I was more interested in the trees.

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The live oak trees, decorated with Mardi Gras beads, are lovely. At this time of year, there are a lot of acorns on the ground – that’s a lot of food for critters (including potentially humans). Even better, they have lots of ferns growing on the branches.

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I heard that the ferns were looking dead last week, but thanks to the rain, they have revived, which is why they are called ‘resurrection’ ferns.

Whenever the sidewalk was opened up, I noticed that the ground is full of old seashells.

Whenever the sidewalk was opened up, I noticed that the ground is full of old seashells.

In both Treme and the Garden District I saw these anti-AirBnB/short-term rental signs. As a resident of San Francisco, I am familiar with the politics of short-term rentals over the internet.

In both Treme and the Garden District I saw these anti-AirBnB/short-term rental signs. As a resident of San Francisco, I am familiar with the politics of short-term rentals over the internet.

I took a peak at Lafayette Cemetery, with the famous above-ground tombs.

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However, I was more interested in the ferns growing in the wall of the cemetery.

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So that is New Orleans – a city with a lot of gas lamps.

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4 thoughts on “Gaslamp City

  1. I’m enjoying the travel photos! New Orleans reminds me a little of Oregon with the ferns and rainy weather. The longest Amtrak route I’ve taken was from Portland to Oakland, and the last time I did that, there was a 12 hour delay because someone hit the train with their car. That was pretty miserable…

    • I have a ticket for the longest Amtrak route that exists (California Zephyr), and I will be riding it from the very first stop to the very last stop.

      Yes, that does sound miserable. I hope my luck will not be that bad.

      • That depends. Sometimes Amtrak trains arrive at a station ahead of schedule, however Amtrak stations can only *leave* ahead of schedule if it is a discharge station (it would really suck if a passenger arrived to the station on time, but missed the train because it decided to leave ahead of schedule). If a train is going to be at a station for 20+ minutes, then yes, passengers can get off and do whatever they want as long as they are back on the train by the time the conductor calls the final ‘All Aboard’. Sometimes very long stops (30-60 minutes) are scheduled, but if the train is behind schedule, a ‘long’ stop could be shortened to ten minutes in order to put the train back on schedule, so one can’t count on them being long stops.

        Houston was so ridiculous because we were there for OVER AN HOUR, yet there was *nothing* to do within walking distance of the station.

        EDIT: Okay, I looked it up, and according to the schedule, the stations where we will able to get off for more than a few minutes are Omaha, Denver, and Salt Lake City. Then again, in reality, those stops may be shortened if the train is late, and if the train arrives really early at some station, we might get a long break at a different station.

        Anyway, I can’t get on the the train until I’m in Chicago, and I am still a few states away (I am currently in Vicksburg, MS).

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