What is the Mysterious Connection Between New Orleans, Vampires, and the Ursuline Nuns?
The Old Ursuline Convent
1100 Chartres Street
I shot this pic of the convent with my iphone. The shutters were tightly closed. Having walked this street many times, I have never seen them open. What lurks behind those shutters?
In my latest novel, Sex, Blood, Rock 'N' Roll, and Vampyr, all hell breaks loose when vampire Nadia goes on a vampire tour in New Orleans. In chapter seven, titled Myths, Legends, and Real Vampires, she is offended that vampires are portrayed as evil by the tour guide and calls him out on it.
People often ask me if it's true that New Orleans has vampire tours. The answer is yes. Why would vampire and paranormal tours be unusual in a city that has so much haunted history? If you visit our magical city, you should plan one. They are walking tours that begin after dark and take you to various landmarks giving you the history of each one. They are entertaining and fun, but are they factual? Well. I'll let you decide.
One of the most famous tales is of the Compte St. Germain; an alchemist of great wealth, knowledge, and charm. He arrived in Paris in the 1700s and was known for throwing lavish dinner parties although he never touched a bite of food. Guests told tales of him sipping wine and telling stories of things that happened hundreds of years ago as if he were there. Records show he was born in 1710 and died in 1745, but the one record of his death was written under king's orders and is not believed to be true.
Two hundred years after his alleged death, a strange gentleman from France named Jacques St. Germain arrived in New Orleans and moved into a home on Royal Street. He threw lavish dinner parties, never touched a bite of food, drank wine, and told stories of long ago as if he were there. One night, Jacques threw a party with many elites in New Orleans. Later that night, he asked a lady to accompany him up to the balcony. Legend has it, when he attempted to bite her, she flung herself over the balcony and landed in the street with blood trickling from her neck. People surrounded her and notified the police. When the police investigated St. Germain's home, they found clothes from different periods in time and numerous bottles of wine, which upon further investigation turned out to be human blood. Jacques mysteriously disappeared before the police could question him. Legend has it Jacques is the real Compte St. Germain and has been seen since then in New Orleans and in different parts of the world.
Among the macabre tales, you are sure to hear the story of the notorious Carter Brothers. In the 1930s, John and Wayne Carter worked as longshoremen on the Mississippi River. One evening, before the brothers returned home from work, a young girl escaped from their French Quarter apartment and ran to the police. Her wrists were cut but not severely enough for her to bleed to death. She claimed she had been locked up for weeks and the brothers had been feeding on her blood. The police immediately investigated and found four other young women tied to chairs with their wrists cut. Over a dozen dead bodies turned up in the apartment drained of their blood. The brothers were arrested, tried, and executed for their crimes with their remains interred in the family tomb. Later, when another Carter family member passed away, the tomb was opened to make room for his remains, but there were no remnants of John or Wayne in the grave to clear. To this day, there have been reports of sightings of the brothers wandering the French Quarter.
One of the most talked about stories is the legend of the casket girls and the Ursuline convent. The old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street is the oldest building still standing in the Mississippi River Valley. The building no longer functions as a convent. The first floor is a museum; the second floor is the home of the Archdiocesan archives dating back to 1718. But what's on the third floor behind those mysterious shutters that are always tightly secured? Nobody seems to know the answer to that question, but there are speculations.
The Ursuline nuns were sent to New Orleans from France in 1725 to establish a hospital and educate the young girls. Most of the early settlers were pirates, scoundrels, murderers, and thieves; prisoners who had been exiled from France and promised if they reformed in Louisiana, they could return to France. The men outnumbered the women five to one, so, in 1727 the city's founder, Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Bienville, sent two nuns back to France to ask the king to send over marriageable young women. In 1728, a group of orphans arrived to marry the colonists and populate the swamp called La Nouvelle Orléans.
When the girls arrived, they each brought with them one wooden chest shaped like a coffin which held their trousseau consisting of clothes, linens, and sometimes a bridal gown. Since their eccentric luggage looked like caskets, they became known as the casket girls. The girls were brought to the Ursuline convent to live among the nuns until they were married.
After the arrival of the fille à la cassette, nobody could explain why the mortality rate, especially the infant mortality rate, drastically increased. Suspicion mounted when the girls later opened their chests, and they were found empty. Fear of what the girls may have smuggled into La Nouvelle Orléans prompted the nuns to contact the Archdiocese. After an investigation, the caskets were transferred by day to the convent attic. The convent attic was sealed off; the doors nailed shut, and the attic shutters sealed with eight hundred nails, each one blessed by the pope.
Legend has it the caskets were used to smuggle vampires into La Nouvelle Orléans. They remain sealed in the attic to this day, and that is the reason why the attic shutters are always tightly closed. No one can explain why occasionally, late at night, someone will see them suddenly fly open followed by a mist that surrounds the convent.
In 1978, two curious paranormal investigators set up a video camera in front of the convent and waited through the night for paranormal activity. Sometime during the night, the camera stopped filming. The next day, they were both found dead on the steps of St. Mary's Catholic Church next to the convent with their throats torn open and their bodies drained of eighty percent of their blood. This crime was never solved.
Now let's take a closer look at this murder. Legends have been passed down by word of mouth, but this alleged crime that supposedly occurred forty years ago is something we should be able to find proof of, so it leads to the question. Is it fact or fiction? It may be challenging to verify something reported to have happened almost three hundred years ago, but it seems if this murder occurred in 1978, it should have been a major news story.
I was curious to see if there were any news reports to corroborate this tale, so I started digging for information, but my investigation turned up nothing. The only stories I could find about it were related to the vampire legend. It seems if this murder happened, there would be something about it in the news archives, but so far nothing has surfaced. There doesn't seem to be anything to validate it so unless there's a special paranormal division of the New Orleans police department we don't know about, I have to assume it's either false or an exaggeration of another murder that happened around the same time, but what do I know?
Another reason for doubt is there are many variations of the tale of the casket girls, including stories that the girls themselves were vampires. If you tour the Ursuline Convent museum, the story they tell is when the girls arrived, they were pale and gaunt after spending six months at sea, mostly below deck, and some of them had tuberculosis that caused them to cough up blood, explaining the vampire connection. That could be, but, on the other hand, why are those shutters always tightly closed? Shutters on attic windows are also extremely rare in the French Quarter. Why isn't anyone allowed on the third floor? Is it possible that something evil lurks in that attic? Is it possible they are keeping something locked in?
More recently, in 1984, nine people were found in and around the French Quarter with their throats ripped open, drained of their blood. The police had no suspects in this case at the time, and the murders ended as quickly as they began. Rumor has it; a rogue vampire was responsible, and he was destroyed by the city's elder vampires for bringing attention to the vampire community. Again, no evidence can be found to corroborate this story, and it is believed to be a variation of the 1978 murders.
So that brings us to the question; are the vampire legends fact or fabricated? Could they be based on some truth? Legends are legends so let's just say nobody knows. Whether there is any truth to them or not, I still recommend going on a vampire tour in New Orleans. Real or made up, they're always fun, but don't be surprised if a real vampire shows up and protests.
My Top 5 New Orleans Offbeat Bars
Even though New Orleans is a fabulous place to visit anytime; June, July, August, and September can be humid and hot. How hot? Frying eggs on the sidewalk kind of hot. New Orleans is a place like no other, so if you want to experience a few venues with a different vibe, you've come to the right city. You will want to stay hydrated so aside from walking around with a bottle of water, you may want to chill in some favorite watering holes where you can cool off while enjoying our magical city. Some are places you will probably experience only in New Orleans, and some are said to be haunted.
1. Igor’s Bar Gameroom and Laundromat
A streetcar ride down St. Charles Avenue through the Garden District is a must. If you get off at 2133 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District, you will find yourself in front of one of the most unique bars you will ever stumble across. I mean where else can you do your laundry while you sip on a cold brew or a Bloody Mary?
Open 24/7, Igor’s serves a great burger any time of the day or night. You can sit at one of their outdoor tables and relax while you take in the sights and sounds of the Avenue, or you can enjoy a game of pool or video poker to an eclectic blend of music from the jukebox while you’re waiting for those clothes to dry. No laundry, no problem! Have fun anyway. I've always found it a great place to get together with friends.
Igor’s has been one of my favorite hangouts since 1999, and finding your picture in the collages on the wall in more than one location could be an indication you may have been there a little too often.
2. The Napoleon House
Located at 500 Chartres Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, The Napoleon House is the home of the famous cocktail, the Pimm’s Cup. Born in London and reengineered in New Orleans, the Pimm’s Cup is the signature drink of this iconic establishment.
Built in 1797, the Napoleon House was originally the home of New Orleans Mayor Nicholas Girod. Girod offered his home to the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1821 as a refuge during his exile. Napoleon never made it to New Orleans, but the name stuck. The Napoleon House has been a favorite hangout for artists and writers since the early twentieth century.
Owned by the Impastato family since 1914 and purchased by Ralph Brennan in 2015, the Napoleon House is a perfect place to enjoy lunch on a hot summer day. Their signature muffuletta is always a treat. When you step into the two-hundred-year-old building, the classical music and ambiance make you feel as if you are stepping back in time.
Many ghosts are rumored to haunt the Napoleon House including an old lady who sweeps the floors late at night. Hmm. A ghost who sweeps. I wonder how I could get her to come to my house.
3. The Hermes Bar at Antoine's
I usually find myself stopping in at 725 St. Louis Street after a day in the French Quarter. It’s a perfect place to relax with a cocktail and enjoy some delicious food including Antoine's bar burger, seafood gumbo, or charbroiled oysters. The walls are adorned with Mardi Gras memorabilia from the Krewe of Hermes. To add to the charm, the building is said to be haunted.
4. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, located at 941 Bourbon on the corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip is one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter. It was built in the 1770’s and is one of the oldest surviving structures.
The bar is named after Jean and Pierre Lafitte, the original owners of the building. They were notorious smugglers and privateers of the early 19th Century. Pierre was a blacksmith and the building was used for that purpose, but it was also a front for their other illegal endeavors.
The building is rumored to be one of the most haunted in the French Quarter. Even though Pierre died somewhere off the Yucatan Peninsula, many patrons have seen his full-body apparition in the bar.
In the later 19th Century, the upstairs area was supposedly rented out to a mysterious woman who ended up committing suicide there. Many patrons have reported encounters with her.
The most sinister sighting is a pair of disembodied piercing red eyes, a possible indicator of demonic haunting. The red eyes have allegedly been seen in the darker corners of the room. When someone notices them and turns to meet their stare, they fade away.
I can’t vouch for any of this, but whether you experience anything paranormal or not, it’s a cool place to experience the ambiance of days gone by and enjoy a drink.
5. Potions Lounge
Potions Lounge is a vampire speakeasy where the drinks are as tasty to a human as the clientele is to a vampire. It is located in a secret place in the heart of the French Quarter. I can't tell you where, but I can tell you how to get there. As well as the location, you must know the password to get in. To find out how to be invited, you must visit Boutique Du Vampyre, a vampire shop at 709 St. Ann Street.
My drink recommendation: The Blood Drop Martini is to die for.
Photography by Karen M
So you're going to visit us in New Orleans soon. That's great! We are happy to have you, and we hope you will enjoy your stay with us in the Crescent City. We love visitors to our beautiful, historical three-hundred-year-old city, and we welcome you with open arms. To ensure your stay in the Big Easy is a fun, memorable, and safe one, here are a few things you should know.
The People of NOLA:
At the mention of New Orleans, most people think of Bourbon Street, alcohol, Mardi Gras, and debauchery. New Orleanians have something of a reputation as party animals and heavy drinkers, but that's not exactly true. Even though we do like to pass a good time, and most of the time our grocery carts do contain beer or wine; along with dodging hurricanes six months out of the year, we have careers, mortgages, families, children, and we plod along with day to day life just like everyone else.
Strangers will talk to you:
Natives are friendly. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in a bar or public place and a local strikes up a conversation. It's fine to talk to them. By the time it's over, you will know what part of the city they live in, their Katrina experience, all about their family, their pets, reading preferences, music preferences, and you may wind up making a new friend.
You don't have to call me darlin':
Ladies and gents, don't be offended if someone calls you darlin', sweetie, or honey. They are not flirting with you. It's just the way we talk down here.
Native Tongue - Talkin' that New Orleans talk:
New Orleans is pronounced New Or-lins by the locals, not New Aw-lins, Nawlins, or New Or-leens. Geographically located in the south, don't expect to hear any southern accents unless the individual relocated from somewhere else. New Orleans is a melting pot with French, Spanish, Canadian, Italian, German, Irish, African, and Native American influence. There are many different variations of New Orleans dialect depending on what part of town you grew up. When the Mississippi river became a working river and the longshoremen came down from New York and started interacting with the natives, their accents evolved into something that sounds like Brooklyn-on-the-southern-Mississippi-river, or what the locals refer to as a "Yat" accent.
Aside from our dialect, there are many words and phrases used here in New Orleans that are unheard of elsewhere. Here are a few you are sure to hear and their meanings:
That's a big one. The neutral ground is the terrain in the middle of a divided street known as a median everywhere else. There's a history behind that. In the old days, the French and the Spanish didn't get along, but they had to do business with one another. To solve that problem, they created a section in the middle of the street designated as the neutral ground where they managed to get along long enough to handle their business. It stuck because nobody uses the word median in New Orleans. It's always called the neutral ground. If you ask a local from which side of the street they are going to watch a parade, they will tell you either the street side or the neutral ground side.
It may be called a trolly everywhere else, but locals will look at you funny if you call it anything other than a streetcar here.
Every menu has po-boys on it. We even have po-boy restaurants. It's a sandwich consisting of meat or seafood between two slices of French bread.
Do you want that po-boy dressed?
If you order a po-boy, your server will ask you that. Dressed means you want it with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomatoes.
French colonists from the Canadian region of Acadia. Many settled in the Louisiana territories and have had a strong influence on Louisiana culture.
Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler (Lay-say le bon tom roo-lay):
A Cajun French phrase meaning: Let the good times roll.
It's a greeting. It means "how are you doing?" If somebody asks you where ya't, you respond by saying "all right, where ya't?"
A French word meaning something extra.
A fluffy square donut lightly fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Louisiana doesn't have counties. We have parishes.
Much, many, a lot.
Did you know?
New Orleans has its own compass:
Forget north, south, east, and west when you visit New Orleans. If you ask a local for directions, the only four points they will use are uptown, downtown, lake, and river.
Is it true it's legal to drink alcohol outdoors?
Yes, as long as it's in a plastic cup or container. No glass bottles or containers are allowed. If you leave a bar, you can take your beverage with you. Just pour it into a "go-cup" first. All bars and restaurants have them. You can walk all over with it. Just don't drive.
Can you buy alcoholic beverages on Sunday?
There are no restrictions on when alcohol can be purchased in New Orleans. You can purchase it twenty-four hours a day seven days a week from any bar, restaurant, grocery store, drug store, convenient store, or Wal Mart. (Yes, even Wal Mart sells alcohol)
Am I going to get murdered?
More than likely not. Just like any other city, New Orleans has its share of crime, but most visitors come and go without becoming a victim. I used to work in the tourist industry and dealt directly with many visitors to the city. I got asked that a lot and I would tell them to be on the safe side, when strolling through the French Quarter or city streets, be aware of your surroundings and stay on well-lit populated main streets. Stay where there are people. Don't wander down isolated side streets. It's always a good idea for gentlemen to carry their wallet in a front pocket or backpack. Ladies, watch your purses.
Tip from a local: The best indication to petty thieves that you are not from NOLA is wearing Mardi Gras beads when it isn't Mardi Gras. You can get them everywhere, and they are fun to wear, but locals only wear them during the carnival parade season.
Is it safe to visit the cemeteries?
New Orleans cemeteries are tourist attractions because we bury our dead above ground. There is a reason for that. The ground underneath New Orleans is swampland. If the dead were interred six feet under, they would wash up after the next hard rain. Most of us don't want to meet our loved ones once interred, so we bury them in mausoleums or above-ground tombs. If you plan to visit our cemeteries, I advise going with a tour group. There are numerous cemetery walking tours. Never venture into the cemeteries after dark alone. The ghosts won't jump out and harm you, but you never know when criminals might be lurking.
Is it worth it to go on a vampire tour?
Yes, absolutely. There are many legends of vampires in New Orleans. From Jacques St. Germain to the Casket Girls and the Ursuline Convent to accounts of mysterious vampire-related murders in and around the French Quarter, your vampire tour guide will keep you entertained with stories and show you the landmarks.
What about a paranormal tour?
Paranormal tours are a must. Your ghost tour guide will take you to haunted places. Some people have even claimed to have had paranormal experiences on some of these tours.
What New Orleans cuisine should we try?
We have some of the best restaurants in the world, and favorite local dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, crayfish, po-boys, oysters on a half shell, and seafood gumbo are all a treat to the palate. For breakfast, be sure to treat yourself to a cafe au lait (New Orleans signature coffee made from coffee and chicory mixed with boiled milk) and beignets, preferably at Cafe du Monde.
Are there any New Orleans original cocktails we should try?
We're always happy at happy hour. If you're interested in having an original New Orleans cocktail at the places they were created, be sure to indulge in a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar, a Hurricane at Pat Obrien's, or a Pimm's Cup at the Napoleon House.
Show me your tits:
No! Don't! Never! Ever! This may happen on the balconies on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. The French Quarter is adult-oriented where you will find risque costumes and flashing for beads during the carnival season. While the Vieux Carre has its share of debauchery, outside of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras is a family event.
Bet I can tell you where you got dem shoes?
Don't fall for it. This is New Orleans biggest scam. The correct answer is: I got dem shoes on my feet, on the street, in New Orleans.
Here's my experience:
One day I was walking on Bourbon Street in my comfy walking boots. A young man approached me with a big smile and said, "I like dem shoes."
"Thank you," I replied and kept walking.
He started to follow me and said, "I'll bet you $20 I can tell you where you got dem shoes."
I looked at him, laughed, and said, "I'm a local. Go pull that on somebody who doesn't know what you're up to."
"Okay," he said. His smile turned into a frown before he turned and walked away.
If I had been somebody who didn't know the scam and entertained it, he would have harassed and intimidated me for that twenty dollars he bet me. If anybody approaches you and says anything about your shoes, unless you just want to make a donation, give them the correct answer or ignore them and walk away. It's a scam.
One of the many reasons to be intrigued by New Orleans is there is no other place like it in the world. Use good common sense. Have fun. Enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer. It has been said: New Orleans is a city with many faces, but only one soul. Its mystery and ambiance will seduce you, and once you surrender, it will never let go. By the time you get home, you will be planning your next trip. When you leave, a piece of it goes with you, and that will always draw you back.
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler
New Orleans Cocktails Recipes
Mardi Gras may be over for this year, but the party is always in full swing. Did you know there are drinks that originated in New Orleans and the first cocktail was introduced in the crescent city?
While you will find most locals indulging in beer and wine, there are some cocktails exclusive to this part of the country that you may want to try. You can make them yourself wherever in the world you are by simply following the recipes.
This drink is not commonly ordered by locals, but it does have its history. The Sazerac originated in New Orleans in 1838 when Antoine Amedie Peychaud served his friends brandy toddies made from his own recipe. The toddies were mixed in an egg cup called a “coquetier” from which the English word cocktail derived, introducing the world's first cocktail.
1/4 oz. Absinthe
1 sugar cube
1 1/2 oz. Rye whiskey or Cognac
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
serve straight up in an old fashioned glass
The most famous New Orleans cocktail is the Hurricane, a potent drink that originated at Pat O’Briens in the French Quarter. The Hurricane is served in the traditional Hurricane glass at Pat O’Briens. You can get this sweet, fruity drink at other local bars, but it will be served to you in a glass or plastic cup. I don’t know how the name “Hurricane” originated, but just as the name implies, it’s a category 5 drink, so my advice: go easy on them.
2 oz. Light Rum
2 oz. Dark Rum
2 oz. Passion Fruit Juice
1 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
1 tbsp. Grenadine
Mix and Shake with ice, then pour into the glass and serve.
The Pimm's Cup
The signature drink of The Napoleon House, The Pimm’s Cup is a perfect drink for the hot and humid long New Orleans summers. Born in London and re-engineered in New Orleans, this cool and refreshing mixture of Pimms #1 and lemonade topped off with Sprite or 7-Up can be found in most local bars.
1 oz. Pimm’s #1
3 oz. Lemonade
Top off with Sprite or 7-Up
Cajun Bloody Mary
Yes, you can get a Bloody Mary anywhere, but we like them a little hotter and spicier down here. Add enough garnishments to it, and you can have it for breakfast.
1.5 oz. Vodka
3 oz. Tomato Juice
1 dash Worchestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. Horseradish
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
2 tbsp. Lime Juice
Tabasco Hot Sauce (to taste depending on how hot you like it)
Garnish with celery stalks, lime slices, pickled okra, string beans, and olives
Take Me To The Mardi Gras
If you’re here in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, welcome to our fabulous city. We are happy to have you, and we hope you will enjoy your stay with us. If you were not able to join us this year, we hope you will in the future.
What is Carnival/Mardi Gras?
With both Pagan and Christian roots, Mardi Gras is the last day to party before beginning the Catholic Lenten season. The Carnival season begins on January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas; the Catholic feast of the Epiphany. The festivities end at midnight on Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The carnival season can be long or short.
What are the origins of Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras originated in medieval Europe. It was established in New Orleans in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville.
A pastry that resembles coffee cake that contains a plastic doll called a “king cake baby.” The person who gets the slice with the baby must buy the next king cake or host the next king cake party. King cake season begins on January 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday.
The name for carnival organizations.
Beads, cups, doubloons, and trinkets tossed from the floats.
A metal or wooden coin with the krewe’s logo on one side and the parade’s theme on the other.
The terrain in the middle of a divided street known as a median everywhere else. There’s a history behind that. In the old days, the French and the Spanish didn’t get along, but they had to do business with one another, so they created a section in the middle of the street designated as the neutral ground where they handled business. Apparently, it stuck because nobody uses the word median in New Orleans. It’s simply called the neutral ground. Parades are viewed on St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street from either the street side or the neutral ground side.
Show me your tits
No, just don’t. This may happen on the balconies on Bourbon Street. The quarter is adult oriented where you will find risque costumes and flashing for beads during Mardi Gras. While the Vieux Carre has its share of debauchery, outside of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras is a family event. The parades are family oriented, and it would be inappropriate, and illegal, to expose body parts along the parade routes where there are families and children.
Can I go to a Carnival Ball?
Not unless you know one of the Krewe members. Carnival Balls are formal events, and admission is by invitation only.
Should I wear a mask?
It’s cool to wear a mask on Mardi Gras Day. Float riders are required to wear masks at all times, but Fat Tuesday is the only day masking is allowed by the general public from dawn to dusk.
What are the colors of Mardi Gras?
The colors of Mardi Gras are purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power).
Is it true it’s legal to drink alcohol outdoors?
Yes, as long as it’s in a plastic cup or container. No glass bottles or containers are allowed. If you leave a bar, you can take your beverage with you. Just pour it into a “go-cup” first. All bars and restaurants have them.
Mardi Gras is a fun time and the temptation to imbibe is everywhere. If you have a tad bit too much, please don't be tempted to drive. You don't want to ruin your vacation by spending time in the New Orleans jail. Use Uber or take a cab.
Use good common sense. Have fun. Enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer. It has been said; New Orleans is a city with many faces, but only one soul. It’s mystery and ambiance will seduce you, and once you surrender, it will never let go. By the time you get home, you will be planning your next trip. When you leave New Orleans, a piece of it goes with you, and that will always bring you back.
We look forward to seeing you again on your next trip.
Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler
Spring is in the air in New Orleans and the festivals have begun. French Quarter Festival is this weekend, April 7, 8, 9 and 10. Today is a beautiful opening day, and, according to the weather forecast, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.
Local artists will perform on stages all over the French Quarter expanding all the way to Spanish Plaza. There will be numerous booths set up by local restaurants offering some of their finest cuisine.
Some must-see artists among this year's lineup are Cowboy Mouth, Kermit Ruffins, The Dixie Cups, Ellis Marsalis, Deacon John, Irma Thomas, Charmaine Neville, Amanda Shaw, Rockin’ Doopsie and the Zydeco Twisters, and the list goes on.
If it gets too hot for you and you’re looking for something indoors, be sure to do a riverboat cruise on the steamboat Natchez where you will travel back in time to the sounds of the Dixieland band, Dukes of Dixieland. Don’t miss the marvelous Becky Allen and New Orleans Hot Stuff at the Palm Court (Decatur Street) on Sunday at 3:00 PM. Be sure to stop in and cool off to the fantastic Daywalkers Friday afternoon at Fat Catz (Bourbon Street) and Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Krazy Korner (Bourbon Street).
It’s going to be a fab weekend, New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps roule!
As a lover of music of all genres, it has always been my opinion that some of the best music comes out of Southeast Louisiana. Rockin Doopsie, Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, Wayne Toups and Zydecajun, Tab Benoit, Better than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, and the list goes on and on. How could we not be impressed with Hunter Hayes from Breaux Bridge, the music prodigy we have watched emerge from playing accordion with Hank Williams, Jr. at age four to topping the country charts at age twenty-one.
Every now and then, something comes along that commands my attention. Not long ago, while walking the warm humid french quarter streets, it was the sound of Cajun Roots music bleeding onto Bourbon Street from a small crowded music club that pulled me in. There is no better place to listen to great live music than Bourbon Street, so it has to be good. It has to stand out to get me to notice. The Daywalkers did just that. I have to say, I was blown away by their unique sound.
The energetic and charismatic four piece band delivers a perfect blend with their combination of instruments and harmonies with Trey Landry on drums, Janson Lohmeyer on keyboard and vocals, Alex MacDonald on washboard and vocals, and Marshall Baker on fiddle and vocals. The washboard is a bit more difficult than one may think, and Alex MacDonald tears it up. I have honestly never seen a washboard solo until now, and it was quite impressive. The dominant instrument is the fiddle, and Marshall Baker is one of the best fiddlers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Whether they are covering an old song or performing their own original material, the Daywalkers music is always fresh and fun. It’s evident they love what they do by the way they pour their heart and soul into the music.
The Daywalkers CD titled Americana Mix features Stuffed Bell Pepper with the lead vocals being pitched back and forth between Janson Lohmeyer and Alex McDonald with Marshall Baker joining in backing them up. Other tracks include Ten Miles to New Orleans, Hello Josephine, Down in Louisiana and Hot Tamale Baby. One of my favorites is Port Author Blues. It's sung in French, and I don't speak French. I have no idea what he's saying, but it sounds nice.
For those of you who would like to take a piece of New Orleans and the Daywalkers music home with you, their CD is for sale during their shows, or you can purchase it on their website. You can also download their songs from their Bandcamp.
You can find the Daywalkers at Krazy Korner (640 Bourbon Street) Saturdays and Sundays from 12 PM - 7 PM and Mondays from 2 PM - 7 PM. Look for them at Fat Catz (440 Bourbon Street) on Fridays from 1 PM - 6 PM. Happy Hour drinks are two for the price of one. There is no cover charge, but there is a tip jar, so you may want to show them some appreciation for knocking themselves out to entertain us.
If you live in New Orleans or plan on visiting our wonderful city soon, be sure to treat yourself to this musical experience and check them out.
For more information about the Daywalkers:
The Daywalkers' Website
The Daywalkers on Facebook
For the past ten days, we have experienced a period of revelry and fellowship known as Mardi Gras. We paid homage to Kings and Queens, we screamed and begged for necklaces, and we wore clothing that is confusing to most of the world. We also saw children playing football, we shared food with total strangers, and we danced to the sound of marching bands. And this experience is called Mardi Gras. But what is Mardi Gras?
Well, we all know it's make believe. There are no real Kings and Queens; the diamonds they wear are all rhinestones, and the jewelry we screamed and begged for is made of plastic. But what about those families sitting together with the kids playing football? Looked pretty real to me. And the jambalaya from a family I had never met before that fed me in between parades on St. Charles Ave.? Tasted real to me. Those costumes that float riders wore as well as the creativity of those who made their own attire was pretty real as well.
So is Mardi Gras real or not? Well, the unreal part of it yields a very real reaction of people of all races, religions, and ethnic groups getting together without incident to enjoy the spirit only we in New Orleans know how to share. Perhaps every candidate for the President of our country should be forced to sit on St. Charles Ave. for a week and a half to realize how real our Mardi Gras is.
There is no black or white - only purple, green, and gold. There is no "far left" or "far right" - only sidewalk side and neutral ground side. And there is no Democratic or Republican Party, just day time parties and night time parties. I only hope that the rest of this country will appreciate our loyalty to this make believe holiday we call Mardi Gras. But furthermore, I pray that they will see through the rhinestones and plastic beads to realize how real it is to live in peace with one another.
The official song of Margi Gras is "If Ever I Cease To Love." The words are strange, but the message is clear - in our community, we will "Never Cease To Love." To all other communities please take note of the very real side of Mardi Gras that should be a model and message to everyone!
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