Vacation days a precious, especially for those of us stuck in the working class. Impromptu rendezvous cost more than just gas money and pricey plane ticket, the real cost are the days off. Up until last year, my time was rather free. My vacation days were not monitored and so I took frequent escapes - to the likes of Paris and Turkey then regional treks to Asheville or Athens. Of course, I would have rather have been lost in arrondissement of Paris or napping on a sun scorched beach of Costa Rica - I couldn't, I only had 4 vacation days. Finding an exotic location within driving distance from Chattanooga is a tasking duty. My childhood was spent in the South, therefore most of the locations that were brainstormed, I had already been to. I wanted to experience the exceptional and new.
Strangely, I had only briefly visited New Orleans. Since it was only 7 hours from home - the decision was made. It rained the first day, all day. With umbrella in hand, I wandered through the streets of the French Quarter. The ongoing drizzle kept the streets empty, which left room for my imagination to take up extravagant narratives. The ever-lively Bourbon Street was abandoned. Christmas decorations lingered throughout the city, with wreaths gracing the doors and garland dancing along the ironwork. It was a different kind of South than what I was familiar with. I know the farming countryside South, but New Orleans felt like a small French village uprooted and shipped to Louisiana. The two-story town houses and cobblestone sidewalks were historically transcending.
Roaming through the Garden District reminded me of the fancy neighborhoods in Southern novels. I could spend hours eating beignets in cafes with penny tile floors and iron-based cafe tables dusted with powdered sugar. Camellia flowers of blush and magenta were still in bloom - perhaps New Orleans was having an uncommonly warm winter. After finding myself drifting through the rows of house, a cemetery would pop up taking up one street block. This one, Lafayette Cemetery, was similar to the plots at Paris' Pére Lachaise. Walking up and down the aisles evoked my memories of my Parisian summer in an apartment across the street from Pére Lachaise. I would wake early and stroll through the expansive grounds. Oddly, I've always found cemeteries calming perhaps it is the weight of time heavy on my mind but it allows me to be there and no where else.
New Orleans stole my heart, the same way the old European cities have. It provided an escape, displayed a slow life with historical ghosts still wandering about. Perhaps I like old things because I have an old soul - but I don't see how someone couldn't be taken by the charm of New Orleans.