A Date With Death

Everyone knows that they do funerals with style in New Orleans. The jazz cortège leading a parade through the street and all the showbiz that goes with it. And they may be gone, but they’re certainly not forgotten, as illustrated by the elaborate headstones in Lafitte Cemetery.

Some of these memorials aren’t that old, but many look worn and sadly unloved. There aren’t loads of flowers or other tributes here. I’m not sure if this suggests the families no longer care, or they spent every last cent on building these tombs. But despite the morbid subject, it’s a peaceful place as a cemetery should be. The tourists here show respect.

It’s partly because many of the cemeteries are well away from the gaudiness of the French Quarter (with a couple of notable exceptions). Lafitte is in the heart of the garden district, where the houses speak for themselves.

A few blocks south of the cemetery is Magazine Street, one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the whole city. The road is lined with antique stores, clothes shops and lots of diverse restaurants – in just a couple of hundred yards I can choose from Vietnamese, Chinese or Ethiopian cuisine. There’s plenty of home comforts too, especially at the District bar and diner.

The house speciality are home-made donuts, priced according to decoration : simple, fancy or extra special. They also do a great selection of sliders, small bites of burgers, and hot dogs.

Public transport is always a subjective thing in any city. On me previous visit, one local man complained about the slowness of the streetcars. They might look nice enough, and as a tourist they’re a great way to get around. But commuting on them every day would soon get frustrating, with the cars seemingly stopping at every junction and the drivers having to negotiate intersections with regular traffic (the streetcar almost always wins). But for $3 a day, you can use any of the four main streetcar routes, or take any bus.

As for the train? Well, that’s not really an option, unless you have a couple of days to spare. It’s possible to travel to Chicago, Los Angeles or New York from New Orleans. In fact, it’s one of the better connected cities in the States for rail travel. But today the Amtrak station is virtually empty. Just a few people are milling about, waiting for long distance bus connections.

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