So, I’m getting ready to wrap up my latest novel, a paranormal romance set in New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter. I had the unexpected privilege of visiting the area last year, and along with a few souvenirs, I walked away with inspiration like I’ve never known.
I’m not much of a “city girl.” The fast pace, overcrowded, maze of buildings is overwhelming, and people who poop in the streets make me nervous. I’ve been forced to visit Chicago on many occasions, and San Diego once. I never had any desire to visit New Orleans. The only things I knew about New Orleans I learned from watching reruns of “Cops.” Beads, a million rowdy people screaming and vomiting in the streets, and one of the highest crime rates in our nation isn’t really my scene. I’m more of a get-lost-in-the-trees, sleep-under-the-stars kind of girl. But as usual in life, fate had other plans.
When I first heard I would be forced (by my husband) to visit New Orleans, I started my research. First I Googled “is it legal to murder your husband if he’s making you go into the city.” It turns out murder is illegal with pretty much no exceptions. Then I googled the city itself and learned a few things. First, it’s extremely dangerous there, statistically speaking. Also, there was something about scammers trying to guess where you got your shoes, basically waiting to rob you if you didn’t fall for their riddle. I don’t know, it sounded like you just shouldn’t talk to anybody. Second, it has a deep, rich history. And third, it is full of myth and folklore, mostly vampires. What?! Sold! Screw the statistics, they can have my dumb shoes…I want to see history and hear legends! I love a good story.
The first thing I learned is that New Orleans isn’t any more dangerous than any other major city. In my own experience, I never once felt threatened (by neither people nor the supernatural) or as though I was in danger. I should mention I kept my ass off Bourbon Street and followed common sense practices that should always be applied when in a new location jam-packed with unfamiliar people and places. I found New Orleans was pleasantly slower paced than other cities I’ve had to visit. (I mean, they don’t call it The Big Easy for nothing!) People were super laid back and friendly.
I’m not the type to ever venture out into a city by myself, but here, I was comfortable enough to grab my two kids and hop on the trolley to the Garden District. I was expecting it to be like the South Shore (train) in Chicago…eyes down, face forward, talk to no one. But it was more “smile at everyone, shake hands with strangers, young people giving up their seats for the elderly.” Our mission: to view the house where American Horror Story: The Coven was filmed. Any fans?
My daughter and I got hooked on the series, and we were so excited to be standing in this location. We did not see any witches, in case you’re wondering. But if witches are your thing, I highly recommend checking out my book, The Grimm Curse. And of course, season three of American Horror Story. Each episode has a hint of historical truth mixed in with its creative paranormal aspect.
Next stop, Jacques St Germain’s old place.
Gorgeous house, no? You can see the inside here. So in a nutshell, mysterious, aristocrat newcomer brings a horny chick home from Bourbon Street. She jumps screaming out of a second story window, breaking both legs in the fall. She claimed the guy attacked her with superhuman speed and strength, trying to bite her neck. When the police came by to investigate, he had disappeared, leaving behind barrels of wine that turned out to be blood. I guess he turns up every hundred years or so. You can read more about him here.
Next stop, Madame LaLaurie’s mansion, allegedly one of the most haunted places in America.
You can read more about this crazy lady here, but basically, she was accused of horribly abusing and torturing her slaves at this location. Her story is both repulsive and heartbreaking. Madame LaLaurie is a main character in AHS: The Coven, so it was a must see for us.
Our tour guide said Madame LaLaurie is buried here, and I’m pretty sure the iron bars are there to keep her evil spirit locked inside.
We couldn’t resist stopping by the Ursuline Convent, home of the Casket Girls legend.
They say that vampires are locked inside the attic, and the shutters are sealed shut with nails blessed by the pope. The convent says there are no vampires in there, and the shutters are just average, everyday hurricane shutters. Personally, I’m not sure why the convent would want to keep pet vampires in their attic, but who knows in today’s world.
Other cool highlights from the trip:
The streets themselves inspired feelings of desolation, in a lonely, romantic kind of way. The flickering lanterns cast dancing shadows on the old, historical streets. My imagination went wild with the endless possibilities of what could be lurking in the shadows. Mostly rats, I’m sure.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was by guided tour only, so as to protect us from getting mugged. By Ghosts.
Nicolas Cage’s future resting place. Some people say he’s a vampire, based on this photographic “evidence.”
Next up…Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen! It was interesting to hear about voodoo and its relationship with the Catholic faith in the French Quarter. People still come from all over to desecrate her grave in the hopes she will grant their deepest wishes. (I believe what you’re searching for is a lamp with a genie in it?) Seems like an odd way to gain favor from a powerful spirit, but what do I know about the afterlife?
Cafe Du Monde. These beignets were so flipping delicious, I didn’t even care that I looked like I’d snorted a pound of cocaine when I finished eating.
The following is the view from my hotel, The Doubletree, just across from the French Quarter. It was a nice hotel, and the best part was they gave you free chocolate chip cookies, served warm every time you came up to the desk! We stocked up and ate cookies for breakfast and lunch every day that week.
Here’s a creepy crow that kept screaming at us. Its shrill call echoed across the empty streets. It followed us for blocks, flying rooftop to rooftop just watching us and yelling. I’m not sure what I did to offend it, but the crow was definitely targeting me, and it freaked me out, how long it stayed with us. His creepy ass made it into the novel.
This building was so beautiful in a lost and haunting sort of way.
Pirate Alley. Historical shit went down here. A man ranting on a set of steps tried to lure my little guy over to him. We politely declined, and the gentleman inspired a character for a brief role in my novel.
The railings on the galleries were so intricate, I’ve never seen anything like it! And the ferns! Those ferns hung everywhere. I had a fern once. It didn’t make it.
I hope to visit this amazing city again one day. We walked away with some amazing memories. But best of all, I walked away with loads of inspiration for my latest novel, set to be released this October.
Have you been to New Orleans? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!