Fallin' for New Orleans

Nick&Natpack 6th Annual Minicon Report
New Orleans - September 19-21, 2003

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Hardly original, but as a first impression, if I had to sum up the character of New Orleans in two words they would be "parallel opposition". The very thing in fact that attracted me to Forever Knight to begin with - the struggle between Nick's vampirism and his humanity, between life and death, good and evil, right and wrong... but I digress.

From my very limited knowledge of the tumultuous history of New Orleans, and its precarious geography, it shouldn't come as a surprise that every aspect of life in the city, from my perspective, was one of opposites. The locals either love tourists or hate them. The French Quarter is the ultimate tourist destination, but has the worst sidewalks. The sales clerks were either very pleasant or very rude. The tours, food, and prices were either really good or really bad. In the middle of an area rooted in Catholicism with streets named after Saints, lies the notorious Bourbon Street - loud music, sex shows, and plenty of booze. (Some of our less fortunate members out on late night strolls down Bourbon Street got first hand views of why the streetwashers are so busy at 4 AM.)

The Hotel

We stayed at the Dauphine Orleans in the French Quarter, (1 block from Bourbon Street) and it was a good location for getting around by foot. The rooms were large, there was a free shuttle available to drop you off anywhere in the French Quarter, and the hotel staff were friendly. The Cafe was open for breakfast from 6:30 to 11:00 and again for tea from 3:00 to 5:00 so it gave us plenty of opportunity to hang out in small groups without having to crowd into someone's room. A small building at the back of the hotel, next to the pool, housed the (haunted) May Bailey's bar/library, and the meeting room. The hotel has another building on the other side of the street and a large courtyard with plenty of tables, a couple of fountains and a hot tub. Most of us had a small balcony with either doors or a very large window to access it.

Thursday, Sept. 18

In the morning some of us went shopping for t-shirts and souvenirs, and I bought a voodoo doll (haven't used it yet <g>). Five of us took in the Aquarium of the Americas which was very interesting. Along with seeing a white alligator and happening to be there during feeding time (the rays started munching their fish right on the glass which was kind of bloody and gross), we learned that seahorses are not only unusual because the male gives birth, but because they mate for life, and that every morning they do a little tail dance with each other for several minutes before carrying on with their day. Seahorses are very romantic.

Later in the day most of us got together for dinner at Deanies - a seafood restaurant. The food was good and the prices reasonable, but the acoustics sucked. Either before or after dinner, I can't remember, we walked down Bourbon Street and the first victim of the streets took a fall. This street is horrible for missing and broken bricks (and large sections of missing brick) - and it's not the only one.

Scariest Moments: Every time Soulseeker goes into a store, this woman loves to shop and will spend hours doing it.

Friday, Sept. 19

On Friday morning the bus picked us up for the Super City & Cemetery Tour. Believe it or not, we were all ready and waiting before the bus arrived! I think this is a first in our Minicon history.

Our tour guide, whom Katherine later dubbed Mrs. Sunshine, was in Carrie's words, "death obsessed". Yes, a certain glee seemed to creep into her voice when she started telling us of historical slaughters, decapitations, and the "bake and shake" burial practice in NO. I had always assumed that once a body was loaded into the tomb, it rested for eternity; but apparently eternity lasts only 1 year and 3 days here. At that time, the coffin is removed and the remains swept to a hole in the back where they fall to the earth, making the space ready for the next tenant. The tombs are family owned, but if someone's ready before the current resident has vacated, there are rental spaces available. (I was too afraid to ask Mrs. Sunshine what happens to the left-over coffin).

We got off the bus at St. Louis Cemetery #3 and had a short tour around it. We headed over to see a new tomb under construction, but the guys working on it chased us away. Soulseeker, whom Mrs. Sunshine would no doubt be proud of, stuck her video camera right in there. Ugh.

We saw a lot of interesting buildings, including some of Anne Rice's homes, and caught a passing glimpse of the cemetery where Double Jeopardy was filmed. We learned a lot about the history of New Orleans and it's current predicament - that it's sinking at the rate of 1" per year. Mrs. Sunshine suggested we get as many pictures of the French Quarter as we could, because in 30-40 years it will be covered in swamp and we can make a killing selling photos on E-Bay.

After the tour some of us went to Pat O'Brien's for lunch - another restaurant with good food, good prices, and a bonus view of the water. Some went to Cafe Mespero for the $1.00 strawberry daiquiris. This restaurant also has good food and prices.

Later in the day another person fell victim to the crumbling sidewalks. (A third fall also took place, but I can't remember which day). I suppose at this point I should say that none of the victims had been drinking. (A helpful taxi driver later told us that was the problem - if we'd been drinking we would just stumble around and avoid falling.) No, Soulseeker and I believe there are more sinister forces at work in New Orleans. Small, invisible entities that lurk beneath the sidewalks during the day and work together at night loosening and removing bricks to facilitate their evil scheme. Every time another victim falls and the blood flows, these lightning fast, knee-sucking vampires gorge themselves.

Ahh- Friday night was the vampire tour, led by aspiring actor Rene and his dog, Zena (or Xena). Rene, apparently, is moving to LA as he has some kind of a role in a TV show this fall. (Sorry I can't remember more than that, maybe someone else can fill us in). This was a great tour and we heard many grisly historical tales of mysterious men, blood-drinking murders, and nuns suspected of smuggling vampires in coffins into New Orleans. We also saw a couple of places that were used during filming of Interview With a Vampire.

Scariest moment: Carrie got an eerie chill when she leaned against a wall - before we even knew it was a haunted house!

Saturday, Sept. 20

Nothing was scheduled until the Auction at 1:00. One group went to have their tea leaves read, but I wasn't among them so can't fill you in. I can tell you though, that the Nick&Natpack was back to its tardy self as all of the Tea Room visitors were late. Marci helped me set up for the auction and we got underway about 1:30 or so. The auction, as usual, was a lot of fun and I'm sure there will be lots of good quotes, but I'll have to get Soul to go through the video cuz I can't remember, I just can't remember.

At one point, our racket attracted a little girl to the outside doors and we all made ghostly noises. She was undeterred, but Marci and Soul eventually scared her off. (I later heard that an old lady complained about us making noise while she was trying to nap, but the hotel staff told her it was 3:00 in the afternoon and it was New Orleans so too bad).

That night everyone but Anne, Cindy and I went on the Crescent City Nights Tour. This was the first bad tour experience - steep stairs, moldy bread, and salty food at the restaurant, late for the Jazz Club, and everyone passed on the Cafe du Monde segment because the tour was running late and they would have had to line up. (I've sent a letter of complaint, so we'll see what, if anything, they say.)

The "strange brownie" eating took place sometime today, but I wasn't there.

I heard a rumour that after the tour some people went to some kind of an entertainment establishment, and that afterwards, someone passed around anti-bacterial hand cleanser; but I have no first hand knowledge of these events or if in fact they did occur.

Scariest Moment: Probably the moldy bread, but I was enjoying big, fat, tasty shrimp at Deanies.

Sunday, Sept. 21

Early Sunday morning we went on the Oak Alley Plantation Tour. This was another filming locale for Interview with a Vampire (the first 15 minutes of the film I think the driver said).

It was quite a long bus ride out of town, especially since the driver was out of sorts after putting up with a real obnoxious woman (not one of us BTW). He finally told her he doesn't answer questions, just narrates and drives the bus - which seemed a rather unprofessional way of handling the situation. We saw fields of sugar cane and learned about plantation life and about how slavery was somewhat different in Louisiana than in other parts of the country - that slaves could not work on Sundays and must be paid if they did, that they weren't to be abused, and that they could earn money and eventually pay for their freedom. The huge old oak trees and the house were beautiful, although the house itself seemed small to me. I think, on TV, these plantation mansions/houses seem much bigger.

Some of us went to the French Market after the tour. It's basically a huge flea market that sells typical flea market wares - fruit and veggies, jewelry, etc. Things you won't see everywhere include alligator heads (common in most souvenir shops), voodoo dolls and charms, and every kind of hot sauce under the sun - I picked up some VampFire and Bat's Brew for next year's auction.

On Sunday night we took our second Haunted History Tour which was a complete disaster. The tour guide, who said she usually does witch/voodoo tours told us it was her first ghost tour. She was the total opposite of Rene - very monotone, drifting off in the middle of stories, and getting dates and facts all mixed up. We also didn't get the full tour as the one ahead of us left 20 minutes before us and arrived back 10 minutes after us. I think she might have gotten lost at one point. Several people thought she was on drugs and that when we went for our "bar break" she went up to her apartment for a fix. After the bar break we went back to Pirate's Alley and she offered the Haunted History ghost books for sale. Marci picked one up and read some of the stories to a few of us back at the hotel by the pool - this is where we discovered what the real stories were and how many screw-ups this tour guide made. (I've sent a letter of complaint about this one too.) At one point, the bartender came outside after locking up and told us his own ghost story - how on October 1st, he unlocked the bar to discover bottles had been inexplicably rearranged and placed out on the counter during the night.

Scariest Moments: Toss up between the bartender's ghost story and worrying about falling asleep during the ghost tour.

Monday

Several people left Monday morning and those who remained took a jazz cruise on the Steamboat Natchez which was very, very relaxing. I made a point of bringing my camera, but there wasn't very much scenery - lots of barges and industrial lands. I did get a nice shot of a water tower, however! Some of us hung out in the Cafe long past tea-time, but we were never kicked out which was really nice. We later had dinner at the Red Fish Grille which was really, really good.

Tuesday

By Tuesday afternoon there were only three of us left and we went on a Swamp Tour. We either passed on our curse to the next group or the knee-sucking vampires in this locale are amphibious because there on the dock this woman was trying to take a photo and backed up one step too many - straight down into 5' deep swamp water. She eventually got toweled off and into the boat. We saw a few gators, blue herons and other birds, and turtles, along with a "Cajun" village of both newer homes and run-down shacks (with satellite dishes!), some used as cottages and some as year-round homes.

Wednesday

Left NO for Buffalo with a stop-over in Atlanta where I picked up a book called "Single White Vampire". Soul was reading it on the plane and filled me in on these interesting facts - Lucern is the vampire's name, Toronto is his home, and his brother - who is also a vampire - is married to a Coroner!

--- The End ---

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