My Life and Other Stuff

New Toadleans

Our next stop was New Orleans, Louisiana. The city has a very interesting history. You can really see what it got from the different ethnic groups that lived there. New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718. From 1718 to 1763, the French ruled the city. From 1763 to 1803, it belonged to Spain. The original New Orleans, which we now as the French quarter, was built by the French and Spanish. It kind of looks like an old French town. The streets and sidewalks are really narrow, and there are no gardens, only tiny backyards (like the one in the picture with the toads). The houses are usually really colorful, but they're kind of small, their doors open to the outside (so when they open they don't take up the space inside the house), and they're buit wall to wall.

For 20 days in 1803, France had their city back, but then sold it to the Americans in the Lousiana purchase. The Anglo-Americans built the Garden Disrict, another neighborhood. The houses are more beige and white, but there are actual gardens, and they are huge! The streets and sidewalks are larger and there are a lot of trees.

Ever heard of the Cajuns and Creoles? The Cajuns were French colonists who were kicked out of Canada. They are actually the ones who founded New Orleans. The Creoles were a mix of the French and Spanish. We also had a chance to try some dishes from Cajun and Creole cuisine. Cajun cuisine has cheaper ingredients, most of which could be collected from the area. Creoles were typically from wealthier families and had more access to more expensive and imported foods. Of Cajun and Creole food, I ate alligator nuggets, jambalaya, crawfish etoufee and gumbo. Believe me, you have to try it!

Yet another ethnic group in New Orleans was black slaves. The history of slavery in Louisiana is a little different from other states. Under French rule, the slaves had more rights than in other colonies. For instance, their owners couldn't torture them or separate families. It may not seem like a lot of rights, but in the English colonies, they didn't even have that. Under Spanish rule, the slaves were even allowed to save up the money they earned and buy their freedom. As a result, there were a lot more free black people in Louisiana than in other states.

A shop that sold voodoo dolls

The blacks practiced voodoo. It's some Afican religious practices mixed with some Christian traditions. They have voodoo tours in New Orleans, but we didn't have a chance to go so I don't know much about it. New Orleans was actually the only place in North America where slaves were allowed to practice voodoo. The voodoo drum rhythms combined with tunes that the local people played and created a new type of music: jazz. Jazz is very energetic and lively. This made it very different from the kind of music people used to play. Jazz became very popular, spreading around the country very fast. The people that live in New Orleans are very proud that jazz was born in their city. They remember all the famous jazz musicians that were from their city.

For example, there was Louis Armstrong. While we were in New Orleans, we went to a park named in honor of Louis Armstrong. It's a beautiful park, as you can see from the photos.

You've probably figured out by now that jazz was very poular in New Orleans. This is where New Orleans gets the nickname The Birthplace of Jazz. Which brings me to the next part.

The city has a lot of nicknames. The most well known is The Big Easy. It basically means that they don't do things right when they're supposed to. A good example is Canal street. They were supposed to build a canal there way back in the 19th century and that street is still completely dry!

Another nickname is the Mardi Gras City. Mardi Gras is a festival in March. People have a huge street parade, throw beads of various sizes, and wear masks and costumes, like at a carnival. The city is decorated in the traditional New Orleans colors: purple, gold and green. They actually originated as Mardi Gras colors. They mean justice(purple), power(gold), and faith(green). The beads are also a symbol of Mardi Gras. Even after the festival, the city is still decorated with them.

But don't get the impression that the history of New Orleans was all festivals and music. Back in 1788 there was a fire that destroyed a large part of what is now known as the French Quarter. 856 buildings were burned. In 1794, there was another fire. This one destroyed 212 buildings. In 1811 the greatest slave uprising in America took place in Louisiana. A group of black slaves marched from their plantations to New Orleans and killed 2 white men.About 90 black people were executed. Talk about unequal! Let's not forget the Civil War, when New Orleans supplied a lot of soldiers for the Confederate army. At least at the beggining. Soon after the war started, New Orleans was captured by the Union. We even saw a house in the Garden District that had been taken from its owner at the beggining of the war to give the governor a place to live.

In 1853, there was the yellow fever, an illness that wiped out a lot of the population. It was carried by the mosquitos. It also spread into other states and all the way to Memphis, TN, where we first heard of it. The city also suffered many hurricanes, the latest and most well-known being hurricane Katrina, which happened in 2005. It flooded an estimated 80% of the city. About 1,500 people were killed, and that's only in Louisiana. About 700 are still missing, and hundreds of thousands were left unemployed. Hurricane Katrina wrecked quite a lot. They actually still haven't gotten around to fixing some things.

Absolutely all the tours of New Orleans include at least one cemetery. Their cemeteries have tombs instead of graves. If you're wondering why, which you probably are, it's because in New Orleans, if you dig 6 feet you hit water and the bodies float back up. One time when they still had graves the cemetery flooded, and tourists don't exactly rush to see a city where dead hands and feet stick out of the ground.

New Orleans nature, like plants and animals, also suffered because of hurricane Katrina. The saltwater from the ocean mixed with gasoline from the destroyed gas stations and some household chemicals created a mixture people called "toxic soup". It killed a lot of trees and other plants. When we saw the City Park, our tour guide told us about some really old trees that were killed by Katrina and the toxic soup. Now, however, the park has recovered and is a great place to sit and rest. A part of the city park is known as the Sculpture Garden. In case for some reason you can't guess what it is from the name, here are some photos:

Turns out the Chicago
Bean has a cousin!

In this picture, you can
clearly see why the statue
is called Blue Dog.

A statue of a person made out of letters. Maybe it represents knowledge?

"Mom, this statue is called Blue Dog."
"Okay, which one of us is colorblind?"

Katrina also killed a lot of trees and animals in the wetlands and swamps. However, New Orleans is still surrounded by wetlands. On our first morning, we took a swamp tour. The guide fed sausages and marshmallows(get it? MARSHmallows?) to the alligators. He let us kids feed them marshmallows too. He told us about the trees, animals and just the swamp in general. We saw a lot of cypress trees growing in the swamps. There are these things that grow above cypress roots and stick out of the water, looking kind of like knees. That's where they get their name: Cypress knees. The cypresses in the swamp attracted many types of birds, animals and even parasites! We saw an ibis, a stork and a few other birds. We also spotted some water lilies, spider lilies, and even a type of fungi parasite that was growing on one of the trees.

What does this look like to you? A
huge fish? A giant heap of palm
leaves? A swamp house that was
attacked by Katrina? Answer:
Swamp house.

An alligator.

The parasite I mentioned

A swamp house.


A boat for catching shrimp.

Those things hanging off the trees are Spanish moss. It's actually not moss at all, but a kind of vine. The first colonists used it to insulate houses and to stuff mattresses.

New Orleans is sort of...unusual. For example, it's probably the only city where people brag about having a haunted house. It's also one of the few cities that still has streetcars. This was actually the first time I ever saw one. There's also this house that's paited 9 colors. You can see about 4 colors on the outside.

We spent 2 and a half days in New Orleans. It was pretty fun. Then we packed up and drove to Pensacola, Florida.