Standing on the corners in and around the French Quarter observing the city in action is an eye-opener. Nowhere in Canada will one ever see vacationing pedestrians strolling down the street drinking liquor and beer from bottles and glasses, and obviously enjoying their experience. For the price of one drink, one may sit in a lounge for hours and listen to topnotch jazz musicians. If you become bored just order another round and wander out onto the street, drink in hand.
The in-town traffic moved slowly and calmly through the streets. There were no horn blowers! It was as if the drivers had all the time in the world. They politely deferred to pedestrians. But nowhere had I ever seen so many black and white police cruisers nonchalantly parked along the streets, with officers inside quietly observing the action.
Looking one way along a street there was a multitude of low-rise buildings from a by-gone era, elaborately adorned with an intricate profusion of decorative iron grills. The buildings, not in great condition, but still functioning, added to the charm. Voodoo shops filled to overflowing with grotesque needle dolls were prominent. Not far away, but unexpected, several ultra-modern skyscrapers pierced the blue sky.
All of a sudden, someone shouted: “The parade is coming.” Hundreds of people jostled to line the street to observe the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It consisted almost entirely of 20 or more high school bands in gaudy uniforms. Without exception the bands played well. Interspersed were badly-decorated vehicles loaded with students throwing hundreds of beaded necklaces into the crowd. Without much effort, my friend and I snatched about a dozen of them that were hurled in our direction. Without any need for this large collection, we donated them to tiny tots in strollers.
After watching the parade, we found an ancient hop-on, hop-off tram just a few blocks away. For only three dollars, it transported us down the middle of an expansive boulevard for a perfect view of other parts of the city. The quick ride opened our eyes to the fact that this was a lovely city, a place where it would be so easy to feel very much at home.
The tram ride terminated at an enormous cemetery, open to the public. We wandered around, surprised to find that all of the deceased were buried in above-ground vaults because of frequency of floods in low-lying New Orleans. Most were bulky, low-lying rectangular cement encasements resting on a gravel or soil surface, with names and dates etched on crosses or stone slabs. They were crammed together with wide paths separating row after row of similar-looking plots. Scattered here and there were a few imposing mausoleums as large as two-car garages. This innovative cemetery plan was dreamed up by early settlers to keep their dearly departed from lying for all eternity submerged in water.