New Orleans Trip Report (1988 Summer)

Evelyn C. Leeper

 A travelogue by Evelyn C. Leeper
 Copyright 1988 Evelyn C. Leeper

August 26, 1988: fly to New Orleans
August 27, 1988: Cajun Queen Bayou Tour
August 28, 1988: "Indians" Tour, French Quarter Tour, Tipitina's
August 29, 1988: New Orleans Zoo, river cruise, Preservation Hall
August 30, 1988: swamp tour, Oak Alley Plantation, San Francisco Plantation
August 31, 1988: cemetery tour, Voodoo Museum, Confederate Museum

August 26: Our flight left on time--a double surprise, since it was a Continental flight out of Newark. The book I brought turned out to be a dud, so I slept most of the way. We arrived early (they apparently schedule assuming a ground delay) and the weather felt just like New Jersey--hot and muggy.

(I must admit that it's difficult to write this trip log. Going somewhere in the United States just doesn't fell the same as going to another country.)

The ride to the hotel took about a half-hour. We went past the Superdome, home of the Republican convention, for which we saw lots of billboards. One was for the Bush/Kirkpatrick ticket and was either very old or very new. (It turned out to be very old.) Another was for Seagram's V.O.

We checked into the Sheraton and after about a half-hour our bags were sent up. By then it was after 11, so we looked through the tour information, decided what to do Saturday, and went to sleep.

August 27, 1988: Happy 16th Anniversary! (Actually we're almost to the 20th Anniversary of our first date!)

We decided to walk toward where the Cajun Queen was docked. (This was the boat we decided to take.) Halfway there I realized I had forgotten my hat. At least I remembered my sunglasses.

We went into Riverwalk looking for a breakfast place. Riverwalk is an upscale shopping mall on the riverfront. There seems to be a trend toward this sort of mall. (It turned out that the same company is building most of them.) We had breakfast--cafe au lait and beignets, which are sort of like doughnuts. Afterwards we got tickets for the Cajun Queen cruise and then walked around the plaza until it was time to board.

As we got on, someone took pictures of each group (a lot like rafting trips). It was very hot, but from the air-conditioned part of the boat you really couldn't see anything, so we stayed outside.

We left the dock at 10:30 AM and headed downriver (which is actually north at this point). We passed several wharves, many of which are scheduled to be torn down as part of a riverfront renovation program. Then we passed some plantation homes, which are not scheduled to be torn down. Most of the ships and buildings we saw, though, were commercial or industrial--the sort of thing we'd find interesting in Peru or Finland, but here seems too similar to traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike.

We then turned toward the right and went through the Algiers Lock. This lock dropped us about eighteen inches from the Mississippi River level to the level of the Inter-Coastal Waterway. Along this waterway we saw a lot of boats, mostly supply boats and such for the off-shore drilling being done in the Gulf of Mexico, although there were a few shrimp boats and other fishing vessels.

As we traveled, the captain would describe what we were seeing. During the stretches when there was not much to point out, another captain with a Cajun accent would tell "Cajun stories." Cajun stories apparently are Catskill stories told with a Cajun accent. Sample: Mother tells her daughter who's about to get married that every night when her husband gets home, she should sit him down in a nice comfortable chair and prop his feet up. Daughter protests. Mother says, "But you just won't believe how much change will fall out of his pockets into those cushions!" The only story that seemed like it might be of Cajun origin was the one telling where crayfish (crawfish) came from. When the Cajuns were thrown out of Nova Scotia and went to Louisiana, the lobsters missed them so much that they swam all the way to New Orleans. But it was such a long trip that they lost so much weight that they ended up less than six inches long.

Off the Inter-Coastal Waterway was Bayou Barataria, home of Jean Lafitte, who was not a Cajun, but was rather a pirate born in France. He used to fool the bounty hunters who were looking for him by planting fake tombstones with his name so they would think he was dead, and even now there are towns which claim to be his burial place, but he was actually lost at sea in a storm. (We had earlier passed Chalmette Battlefield, where the Battle of New Orleans was fought.)

The bayou did not look like most people's image of a bayou. When you hear the word "bayou," you think of a narrow waterway overhung with cypress trees and surrounded by swamps and more cypress trees. Bayou Barataria looks more like a river (though it has no current--that's what makes it a bayou). It's about 100 feet wider, or wider and only forested on one side, the other being marshland with an occasional cypress tree. You think of bayous as being shaded by trees, but we had no such luck. Luckily sodas were reasonably priced, because the temperature was probably up around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We had hoped to see some wildlife and did in fact see some egrets, but the only alligators we saw were on people's shirts and in the two films they showed on the way back, one on alligator hunting and one on life in the bayous. For a time, alligators were an endangered species, but a ten-year moratorium on hunting had replenished the supply and now limited hunting was allowed.

Normally the boat returns via a different route (through the Harvey Locks), but they were under repair, so we retraced our steps (wake?) through the Algiers lock instead. This made the trip longer but not quite as interesting. Mark found the lack of wildlife disappointing, much as it was on out trip to the Amazon.

We returned about 3:30 PM and walked through Riverwalk. We got some Cajun and Dixieland music in a record store, browsed through a Brookstones, and looked for a belt for Mark in the Banana Republic. We did not go into the Sharper Image store since there was a waiting line to get in.

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we went walking through the French Quarter for a while, scouting out restaurants. When we returned to the hotel at 5:30 Dave and Kate had just arrived, so we hung around a while talking while they unpacked and washed up. Dave had gotten a recommendation for a dinner place nearby--Mother's. Mother's, it turns out, was also chosen by Mimi Sheraton as one of the top ten restaurants in New Orleans. That's odd, because it's pretty much of a corner cafeteria type of place with, however, huge portions. I had red beans and rice with sausage and cabbage, and a bowl of gumbo. The beans were very similar to Puerto Rican beans and the sausage to kielbasa. The gumbo, contrary to my expectations, was not red and had no noticeable pieces of okra. In spite of this, it was good--at least what of it I could eat before I was full. I don't think we'll starve here. Mother's opens early seven days a week for breakfast so we'll have someplace nearby during the convention. Mark discovered Barq's, a local root beer which is available in the hotel machines. While not up to ginger beer, it will suffice.

We stopped at a store and picked up some soda and snacks, then back to the room to watch--what else?--THE BIG EASY. After that was WAR OF THE WORLDS, but I fell asleep on that.

August 28, 1988: We decided to walk towards the Ranger Station where our tour left from and find someplace to eat on the way. What we found first was an overly friendly drunk named Oscar who wanted to come with us. The New York technique of ignoring him didn't work and eventually we had to tell him rather firmly to leave us alone. This, at least, seemed to work.

We ate at Van's, on the southwest corner of Jackson Square. They didn't really have breakfast food, so I had a Cajun crepe--a crepe with rum-soaked pecans, chocolate mousse, whipped cream (more like vanilla mousse), and powdered sugar--and coffee. On the wall of the restaurant was a plaque that said, "On this site in 1897, nothing happened." The restaurant didn't have air conditioning so the double doors on the two external walls were open and the ceiling fans were going.

We got to the Ranger Station early by about an hour so we walked through some of the stores, mostly of the Times-Square-junk variety. I bought some post cards and ended up in back of someone buying $75 worth of souvenirs--with a Visa card, no less! The rest of the waiting period we spent writing in our logs and posing with the statues in the courtyard. This is when Mark discovered that he had taken 36 pictures without any film in his camera. (Well, if the camera shoots, makes film-advance noises, and increments the film counter, what would you think?) Most of the shots had been of the river and the French Quarter, so he'll have a chance to re-shoot them.

The 11:30 AM tour topic was "Indians." While the subject was interesting, the guide was not particularly knowledgeable and the need to walk through the French Quarter while he told us information totally unrelated to what we were seeing remains unclear. In addition to being somewhat incomplete on his subject, the guide was also bigoted, not only against Indians (he seemed to emphasize their "savagery," not exactly what you'd expect from a National Parks ranger), but against others as well (he talked about "jewing someone down" in the marketplace). Naive person that I was, I thought that phrase had pretty much disappeared--I hadn't heard it in over twenty years. Then again, maybe that's a function of New Jersey versus Louisiana.

I have referred several times to the National Park and perhaps I should explain this. The French Quarter (a.k.a. Le Vieux Carre) of New Orleans has been declared a National Cultural Monument (or something like that). No changes can be made in the structures without permission (I think that's permission from the city rather than from the Federal government, though). Actually the whole southern half of Louisiana seems to have been declared "special" by the National Parks Service, and they have many programs set up throughout the area without having any actual "park" there.

We did see a few interesting sites on this tour: huge strings of garlic in the Farmers' Market (the French Market), the Beauregard-Keyes House, and Jackson Square, where the guide talked about the Act of Removal which Jackson signed that drove the Indians to reservations. Dave knew as much about this as the guide and probably could have given a better tour in general.

In spite of the disappointing first tour we decided to take the basic French Quarter tour at 1 PM. This was somewhat better attended (we were six out of seven on the first tour) and the guide (Kendall Thompson) was much better. He had better jokes and also a better grasp of his territory. We saw mostly Jackson Square and its surroundings while hearing the history of New Orleans. Since the history of New Orleans is readily available, I won't bore you with it. He did emphasize that history was not what you find in history books, but rather what the gossip is. This is basically what Josephine Tey was saying in THE DAUGHTER OF TIME; if the history books say Lady Smith died childless and a seamstress's bill indicated, "6d for ribbons for Lady Smith's newborn son," you can bet Lady Smith did have a son.

I probably should describe the French Quarter. It is the oldest section of New Orleans (hence the name "Le Vieux Carre") and is mostly brick buildings with ornate ironwork balconies or galleries. (A gallery has supports to the ground; a balcony does not.) At one time all the buildings were wood, but two disastrous fires changed that. The first destroyed 80% of the buildings. Then they were rebuild and a few years later the second fire destroyed 50%. We saw the oldest wooden building in the Quarter, Madame John's Legacy, so named because it was supposedly the "severance pay" given to the mistress of a certain Creole gentleman when he finally married. Apparently this sort of arrangement was quite common and the financial terms of such agreements often negotiated at "quadroon balls," where the Creole men would go to meet the "available" quadroon women. (I realize the term "quadroon" has gone out of fashion but it would be extremely difficult to describe any of this without it.) Whether the story of the house was fact or fiction wasn't clear, since our guide seemed to be talking in part about the novel CREOLE DAYS set in New Orleans which was so unfavorably received in New Orleans that the author had to leave town.

At the end of the tour, the guide finished up in the courtyard of his house. Though not at all obvious from the street, all the homes have interior courtyards in the Spanish style. When building here, ventilation was a major concern. Now all buildings have air conditioning, though the units are not visible from the street, but project into the courtyard instead. This is undoubtedly another regulation to maintain the appearance of the Quarter as it was. Of course, it's harder to limit the businesses and so there's a disproportionate number of T-shirt stores and souvenir shops. There are also a lot of antique shops.

After the tour was over, we walked back along Bourbon Street (named after the Duke, not the drink), now pretty much the T-shirt center of the world. We rested for a couple of hours in the hotel, then took a cab to Tipitina's.

Tipitina's was featured in THE BIG EASY. In that film it was a glitzy nightspot with fine wine and fancy food. In reality, it's a run-down bar that serves beer in bottles or plastic cups, has an exposed ceiling, dishes up its food on paper plates, and needs a coat of paint--but it has wonderful music. We were there for the regular Sunday night fais-do-do, which runs from 5 to 9 and includes red beans and rice during the break. Bruce Daigrepont was playing and the music was continuous except for a half-hour break in the middle. As Dave said, we got a lot of music for our $4 cover charge.

Mark and I tried a couple of dances but Mark claimed that there were too many experts on the floor and he needed to practice more. At one point we saw a couple dancing in which the man stood still while the woman did all the steps and Mark said he could do that. Dale and Jo did more dances than we did, many of them on the second floor balcony, which was less crowded and a better place for beginners to practice than the main dance floor which was full and overflowed between the tables and practically out the door. Everyone was very enthusiastic and even those of us who didn't dance had a good time.

We left about 9 and hailed a cab--they know when Tipitina's lets out and show up then. Then back to the hotel and sleep.

August 29: Mark, Kate, and I had breakfast at Mother's. It was very crowded since there were two conventions in nearby hotels at the time--a missionary convention in the Sheraton and the CWA convention in the Marriott. I had grits and debris. Debris is the stuff left in the slicer when you slice roast beef for sandwiches; it's sort of like having pot roast for breakfast.

After breakfast the four of us took the St. Charles streetcar to the zoo. The streetcar is very old and made of wood with wooden seats. (Actually , there are many different cars, but you catch the drift.) We want through the Garden District, where the rich Americans built their homes after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Canal Street forms the dividing line between the French Quarter and the "American Quarter." There is no canal--the man who claimed he was going to build one ran off with the money instead. Canal Street is as wide as it is (the widest main street in the United States) with the neutral zone down the middle, because it really did serve as a boundary between two warring factions. But I digress.

The zoo is at the back of Audubon Park, which is across the street from Tulane and Loyola Universities. We took the shuttle bus from the streetcar stop to the zoo entrance.

The New Orleans zoo is rated third in the country, though until recently it was much lower. The sorts of cages you saw in CAT PEOPLE seem to be gone, replaced by moated areas with trees and such, though they're still fairly small. The elephant enclosure in particular is far too small--this seems to be true of elephant enclosures everywhere. the North American and African grazing animals seem to get the most space, but the hippos could barely turn around in the pool they were given. The Louisiana Swamp exhibit was something different than you find in most zoos.

Part way through it started to rain so we took shelter under an awning for about a half hour. When it eased up we finished the zoo, getting down about 3 PM. The cruise back to the city didn't leave until 5 PM, so this gave us time to see the exhibit at the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane. This exhibit consists of forty display cases along the fourth floor hall of the geology building which contain Central American artifacts. When we arrived there was no one else there, not even any staff, so we had the opportunity to see something without competing with tons of other people.

In addition to the Middle America exhibit, there were also some fossilized skeletons on the second and third floors and water fountains with cold, rather than lukewarm, water.

At 4:40 we went back to the zoo to pick up the cruise. While walking through the zoo, we met Jo and Dale, who had also gone to the zoo and were taking the cruise back. The boat, the Cotton Blossom, left at 5 PM and paddled its way downstream to the Canal Street dock, arriving about 5:45. Most of what we saw, again, was industrial and commercial rather than anything resembling Huck Finn. We did, however, see the river upstream of Canal Street where before we saw the downstream part.

For dinner, the six of us went to Olde New Awlins cooking. I had blackened redfish and Mark had fried redfish. We also shared an appetizer of alligator sausage. The sausage tasted like Italian sausage (it did contain some pork because alligator by itself is too lean). For dessert people got lemon crepes or peanut butter cream pie. Our waiter was very outgoing and enthusiastic and we had a good time as well as a good dinner.

After dinner we went on to Preservation Hall. Neither Mark nor I is a major jazz fan, but it did seem like the thing to do in new Orleans. Imagine a hall like that in Lincoln Center. Got it? Now imagine the janitor's closet for that hall. That's what Preservation Hall is like, except not as fancy. Preservation Hall is about 20' by 30' with a couple of rows of benches, a couple of rows of cushions, and the rest standing room. The walls haven't been repaired since jazz was first invented (forget papered or painted at all). There is no air conditioning and the one fan doesn't put much of a dent in the New Orleans heat.

Kate and I managed to get seats on the cushions. The band that night was not the Preservation Hall Jazz Band but rather a Preservation Hall Jazz Band, there being five or six groups who play there. For $2 you can stay from 8 to 12:30 or until the heat drives you out. Mark and Dave left after the first set (each set lasts about thirty minutes and has about six pieces). Kate and I stayed through three sets; Dale and Jo stayed even longer. The second and third sets had some better solos than the first, which seemed sort of bland by comparison, or at least seemed as if the band were still getting up to speed. One might almost think they were saving their energy for the more serious fans who stayed, while the tourists who just wanted to say they had been there left after one set. The clarinetist (I think his name was Randy White) had a great solo of Alabama Jubilee" in the second set and was the best of the band in my opinion, though it seemed that the trumpeter (Wendell Brunious, I think--I didn't write down the names at the time) was the "lead" player.

Throughout the first two sets, a five-year-old in back of us kept talking and asking to leave. His parents were obviously bigger jazz fans than he, having come from France and not wanting to miss this, but finally they gave up and left. Not only did this make it quieter, but Kate and I managed to grab their seats, which made us a lot more comfortable.

One behavior of Brunious' that I found distracting was that he seemed to get distracted easily. He would talk to people while other people were soloing and would even interrupt himself to tell people not to use flashbulbs. While it's true that people should not have been using flashbulbs, interrupting the music to tell them that seems peculiar.

We left about 10:30. I suspect that the aura of Preservation Hall is greater than the actuality of the music played there, but I will leave that to the jazz experts to decide.

We stopped in an incredibly crowded A&P--crowded not with people, but with shelves. Square footage is at a premium in the Quarter, and so the shelves are very close together. Then back to the hotel to rejoin Mark and Dave, who were not carried off by trolls on their way back.

August 30: Up early for our swamp tour. We couldn't get breakfast at Wendy's because the line was too long, so I got an over-priced coffee in the hotel lobby instead. The bus was supposed to pick us up between 8 and 8:15 AM but didn't show up until almost 8:30, by which time people were convinced that the driver had gone by the hotel at 30 miles per hour, glanced out the window, not seen any people with big signs saying, "We want the swamp tour," said, "Oops, no one here," and kept going. However, this turned out not to be the case.

After the four of us were settled in the van, the driver had to pick up a dozen more people at various hotels in the French Quarter. Because of all the one-way streets and almost what seemed like poor planning on the driver's part in the order that he did the pickups, we got a pretty thorough tour of the Quarter. Finally everyone was collected and we left the city to head southwest.

As we drove, our guide/driver told us again of the history of New Orleans. One item I forgot to mention earlier was that the two big fires were during the Spanish rule which is why the homes all have the Spanish-style courtyard--they date from that time. In the Garden District west of Canal Street, the post-1803 Americans built their homes with the lawns and gardens in front of the houses rather than inside, hence the name.

When the levees were built up, it became possible to settle this area. However, it also increased the current, particularly as bayous were closed off from the river, and this is leading to major erosion of the coastline. A complicated system of spillways and drainage ditches complicates the problem.

As we drove through Marrero and Westwego we saw a lot of Vietnamese stores and businesses. It would be interesting to know if the conflict between the recent immigrants and the long-time residents is as strong here as some other areas.

We arrived at Bayou Segnette and boarded our boat (also called the Cajun Queen, just like the one on the first day). This one was more like a raft with benches and an overhead covering than a boat with a distinct bow and stern.

The first mile or so of the bayou (swamp) was filled with shrimp boats and other fishing boats. But very soon these disappeared behind us and we were in something that looked like a Louisiana swamp.

Along the banks (and in some parts in the center of the bayou as well) were large green patches of duckweed, which in pictures looks like a light green scum on the water. On the banks were cypress trees, often covered with Spanish moss (which is no, strictly speaking, a moss, but rather an air plant).

We saw a couple of alligators, a three-footer and a fivefooter. We didn't see any snakes but we weren't very close to the banks. Occasionally we could see pipelines and we passed one oil well and an oil treatment plant, but this tour was through a much more isolated area than the earlier Cajun Queen tour.

We spent about two hours on the swamp, then returned to the bus and continued "deeper into Cajun country," as the brochures say. We drove west along the southern bank of the river, which runs west to east at this point, through sugar plantations. Actually, they're not plantations in the usual sense, but just large farms. In some of the ditches we passed we could see turtles on logs, and egrets.

It took us about an hour to get to Oak Alley Plantation, where we had lunch. During this ride we got a very thorough history of the Cajuns. Descended from Vikings and Celts in northern France, they preferred to keep to themselves and avoid organized government whenever possible. This caused conflict in France and they were exiled to what is now Nova Scotia. There they lived in an uneasy juxtaposition with the other French settlers until the British took over. Because of their independent natures and because they were Catholic and would not convert to Protestantism, they were persecuted for many years. Finally, the British government expelled them, burning their farms and intentionally splitting up families in the hope of destroying their identity as a distinct group. Most were returned to France, where they were not welcome and were eventually sent to Louisiana where they were reunited--by pure accident--with others who had traveled directly to Louisiana.

The name Cajun came from "Acadienne" which in turn came from the Indian word for the area in Canada where they had settled. The French already in Louisiana and the Creoles looked down on the new arrivals and they were forced off the land along the river and back into the bayous. Until the 1930s, the Cajuns kept to themselves; then the oil and gas companies moved in and started hiring Cajuns, who started speaking English and sending their children to schools which forbade them to speak Cajun. So by the late 1950s to early 1960s Cajun--a mixture of 17th Century French, Spanish, German, English, and various Indian dialects--was a "dead" language. Now there is a revival and many people are insisting that Cajun be taught in the schools as a required second language. Whether they can actually revive Cajun remains to be seen. Certainly there are still some people who speak it as a first language, but not many, and most people would rather learn a "useful" language such as modern French than a language of limited use such as Cajun. How many people learn Hopi?

In many ways the history of the Cajuns is similar to the history of the Jews, I suppose. But their smaller numbers and limited geographical distribution made it easier for the assimilation of some to result in the disappearance of the group as a whole.

Oak Alley Plantation is a Tara-style plantation, named after its rows of live oaks. (Why are they called "live" oaks? It's not like the others are dead or something.) Mark and I shared a gumbo and a catfish sandwich and I also had a piece of pecan pie. After lunch Mark got to talking to the driver and got some recommendations for Cajun music.

We didn't tour the Oak Alley house itself because its furnishings are all post-plantation period. Instead we went to San Francisco Plantation. This entailed crossing the river by ferry. (There are several free ferries across the river.) Unfortunately, we missed the 1:30 ferry by about a minute. For some reason, it did not come directly back and so there was no 2:00 run. By the time we got across at 2:30 we were running an hour late. While we waited the driver played Cajun music on his tape deck so it wasn't a total loss.

San Francisco is so named from a corruption of the French phrase which means "everything he has," meaning the owner put his whole fortune into building it for his new wife from Germany. The front lawn and gardens used to extend to the levee, but have been supplanted by the road. The furnishings are all authentic, but are much like the other restored homes of the period in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world.

Then back to New Orleans and a repeat of the French Quarter tour as we dropped people off. I'm sure there must have been a more efficient route. In the process of riding around, we saw Dale and Jo looking at the architecture, but they didn't see us.

After resting up in the room we went out and wandered through the French Quarter. Mark, Kate, and I ended up eating at the Gumbo Shop. Then we wandered around some more, mostly on Bourbon Street- -not all that interesting, but the most lively of the streets. Eventually we returned to the hotel.

August 31: Our last pre-convention day! We started with beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde. Kate was less than thrilled- -she prefers a heartier breakfast and complained that the powered sugar was trying to crawl up her nose.

When we went to the Ranger Station we discovered there was some confusion over our reservation. We had asked the concierge to make reservations yesterday, but our names weren't on the list and the tour was full. Kendall (our previous ranger and a science fiction fan--he's apparently attending the convention) said to stay around and he'd see what he could do. When Dave met us he said the hotel called the room at 8:45 AM to tell us we didn't have spots on the 9:30 tour. However, Kendall came back and gave us spots--literally. They use stick-on dots to identify the tour members. I guess they decided that there would be enough cancellations or no-shows.

Our guide was named Evelyn Turner (catchy name, that). We began--you guessed it--on the levee. There apparently are tours that don't start on the levee but we didn't take any of them. The first white settlers buried their dead in the levee, but the first time it flooded all the bodies floated into town. (The Indians burned their dead, having realized that the below-sea-level land wasn't suitable for burying.) The next step was burying in the church but space was really limited. A cemetery was set aside "back of town," but the water table was a problem. Just burying the body didn't work--at the first rain it would "bloat and float." Weighting the coffin, or drilling holes in the coffin to allow drainage, didn't help. Finally the city built a brick wall around the cemetery to contain the bodies when they floated around during the rain. Even that didn't solve the smell problem, so eventually the cemetery (and all the bodies) were moved even further "back o' town" to St. Louis Cemetery #1. Here there are three types of tombs. Wall crypts are the simplest, but they cannot be reopened and re-used until a year and a day have passed. At that point, if there are pieces of the coffin which haven't decayed they are removed, but the remaining remains (as it were), if any, are swept to the back and the new coffin inserted. Then there are shelf vaults in which the top two shelves are mesh, and as the body and coffin decay, the pieces fall through to the bottom section and the shelves are ready for re-use sooner. Finally, there are society vaults in which those who were too poor to pay for their own crypts paid a small amount each month as insurance that they would have a burial crypt. These are circular crypts with shelves around the outside and a central chamber for the collection of the undecayed remains when the shelves around the outside are re-used.

The same cemetery was used for Catholics and Protestants, though the latter had a separate section. All free people of any color were buried in the same cemetery as well, but slaves had a separate cemetery. The Jews (or the Hebrews, as our guide first called them/us) also had a separate cemetery as well as the additional complication of requiring the burial to be in soil. So they built up mounds, but it wasn't clear from the description we got whether the mounds we all soil or based on rocks or something else with soil on top or in it.

After we left the cemetery we stopped at a cafe for a chance to rest our feet. Kate and I got fruit salad, which got Mark worried that we wouldn't want to eat lunch. We also ran into Dale and Jo there; we can't seem to avoid them!

The Voodoo Museum was next. This is what Fodor's describes as a commercial museum--three small rooms in back of a voodoo shop. The labels were not always readable because the lighting was extremely poor, but there was a surprising amount in the rooms. The visit tied in nicely with the cemetery, since in the cemetery we saw two of the tombs of Marie Laveau, the leading practitioner of voodoo in the last century. Both tombs were covered with voodoo "wish marks," either three X's in a row, or an X with a circle around the center. Laveau had fifteen children in twelve years, so I'm sure her fertility potions sold well.

After the museum--I'd describe it but I can't help but feel that any description of a voodoo museum would sound more ridiculous than religious (but that that's proably how an impartial description of a church would sound too)--anyway, after the museum, we walked along, stopping at Tower Records and getting yet more Cajun cassettes, then stopping at El Liborio, a small Cuban restaurant, for lunch. Mark and Kate had the roast pork (the nibble I had was very good) and I had black beans, rice, and plantains. Dave went elsewhere since he wasn't interested in our next (and last) sightseeing stop, the Confederate Museum.

The Confederate Museum was only a few blocks from the hotel but the walk was through a fairly sleazy part of town. We arrived to find that the museum occupied an old building that was being renovated. This meant that part of the museum was closed off, so we got in for half price. The renovation consisted of adding air conditioning. This meant that there was no air conditioning yet. It was hot.

We returned to the hotel about 4 PM. Thus endeth the sightseeing. Here beginneth the convention, details of which are in a separate report.