Vampires, Voodoo, & V. Smooth Jazz, New Orleans

{Written to the sound of Spotify’s Jazz Playlist}

You won’t need a signboard to tell you that you’ve reached the French Quarter when you drive into this deliciously bacchus, notoriously lively, and richly historical part of New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA).

There’s a spicy smell of jambalaya in the air, pouring out of Cajun restaurants left and right of Royale Street. A trumpet touts a cheeky flair mixing with the gliding tones of a jazz band that’s claimed its right over this corner of the street. A soothing laziness hangs like the purple cherish cat’s slow smile over the alleyways’ late afternoon vibe. Above us, ivy tendrils curl over wrought-iron balconies fashioned by 17th century French architects. Absinthe pours green over an ice-cube in a corner bar by author William Faulkner’s home, tucked away in the maze of colorful streets. True to stereotype, old southern ladies cut through the languid hours with a sharp squeeze of lime in their mint juleps, watching the world  go by from their rocking chairs on verandahs, taking little notice of us as we walked back sticky-fingered from Café du Monde’s famous powdered-sugar-covered beignets to Jackson Square.

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Clockwise: Jazz Combo on Bourbon Street; Artwork on Jackson Square; Fam & I enjoying some Hurricanes & Cajun cuisine; Mardi Gras beads shop; Grits & Creole cuisine, Bartender pours absinthe behind Faulkner’s House

As we near the jazz combo, the trombone begins experimenting over the drummer’s baseline, above the slight rustle in the trees. Some members of the band nod appreciatively as the audience in Jackson Square contributes to the loot in a bowler hat. Artists tap along to the lively beat, selling their colorful canvases of jazz musicians, dancers, and sea creatures along the square’s perimeter. Adding to the atmosphere brimming with creative energy are the numerous tables and tents of fortune tellers, palmists, tarot card readers – and even Trump voodoo dolls.

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The fortune tellers shuffle their ornately decorated decks with hands covered in henna or over-sized rings, peering at passerby’s, humming their own tunes along with the ever-changing whimsy of jazz in the air. Given my love for horoscopes and all things mystical, I settled down to a low table heavy with various purple and gold scarves, a human skull, and a paper-mâche elephant. Across these artifacts, my palmist spent some time extracting meanings from the lines across my palms. By the end of the reading, dusk had fallen…and a new energy swept across the French Quarter.

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Lively jazz, mischievous R&B, and sensual Blues clamor against each other as we turned back towards Bourbon Street where every side is packed with “dueling pianos” bars, nightclubs, and restaurants all boasting the talented live musicians that made NOLA the birthplace of Jazz. People brim across the busy balconies and patios as menus pop with names like alligator poppers, crawfish étouffée, dirty rice, and jambalaya. Chatter, hoots, and laughter add to the night, and neon lights shine under placards such as Patrick O’Brien’s – the originator of the famous boozy Hurricane.

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Bourbon Street comes alive at night {PC: Miami Herald}

Colorful lights beneath fountains bring another element of whimsy charm to the outdoor bistros, and revelers throw green, gold, and purple beaded necklaces from balconies down to the partiers below reminiscent of the Mardi Gras parades that boisterously made their way through these streets in February. Karaoke singers distinguish themselves from the Cat’s Meow’s open French windows as we make our way back into the now crowded streets after dinner, to go for the Vampire and Ghost Tour.

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Masks, beads, and boas! All the party favorites at NOLA

There is a reason New Orleans is so often featured in literature like “Interview with the Vampire” and TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and American Horror Story. No other city hosts as many secret societies, old Orders, and cult origins as NOLA. Steeped in its reputation for supernatural activity, vampiric cults, and Voodoo practitioners, parts of the French Quarter are eerie. A street away, the shadow of Christ looms large over the St. Louis Cathedral graveyard a mere block away from the the festivities on Bourbon and Royale Streets. The zest for life and mysteries beyond death exist side-by-side as the Haunted Histories’ tour guides’ stories – categorized by ghost, voodoo, or vampire – tell of the beings that potentially straddled the dangerous zone in the middle.

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Spooky “Touchdown Jesus” looms just past boisterous Bourbon Street (PC: TravelGardenEat)

Away from the revelers of Bourbon Street, our tour group makes its way through the darker streets. Like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, many of NOLA’s streets sport dual identities: the calles/rues carry two names – vestiges of a double heritage of Spanish and French colonialism remembered by blue mosaic tiles. We pass ominous stores selling charms, bottled ingredients, and trinkets wanted only by a voodoo follower. Tales of inexplicable and grizzly deaths haunt the streets, as our guide narrates 17th century duels behind the churchyard, effects of “Romeo spikes” on old Spanish houses, and riotous Prohibition-era parties by mysteriously charming, pale faced Transylvanian hosts whose guests woke up with no recollection of why they had awakened with bloody fang bites to their necks and wrists… By the time we get back to the still buzzing energy of Bourbon and Royale Street, I am thoroughly SPOOKED out and thrilled to be back with the boisterous living and noisy dueling pianos!

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Spot the Ghosts! {Me during the Haunted Histories Tour}

My three days in lively, spooky, and delicious New Orleans, Louisiana were absolutely amazing and did everything from make my hair stand on end in a voodoo shop, remind me that I’m a light-weight when it comes to Hurricanes, a sucker for a colorful art & jazz show, and above all a lover of living life to the fullest.

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This post would be incomplete without a solid vouch for Cafe du Monde’s beignets 🙂

Author: Nikita Taimni

A Dubai-based blogger, I write about travel, theatre and lifestyle in the cities I explore around the world. Follow me on Instagram @nikitalyfe and follow via email if you enjoy reading my posts!

7 thoughts

  1. I loved reading your blog on NOLA. It took me back to the time that I went there myself and your descriptions were so true to life that I was able to enjoy the French Quarter all over again!!

    Very enjoyable and spirited writing style!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. what an enchantingly beautiful piece on such a lively and boisterous city!! You have done NOLA extreme justice with your amazing writing style and vivid imagery! Reading your post transported me to NOLA and I loved every word of it!! You’ve just a new subscriber! Can’t wait for more of your blog posts to come!

    Liked by 1 person

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