By Arjenae Walker
“All aboard the Nawlins’ Express!” Which in reality is a 6 passenger Tahoe. At 6:45 we piled in ready to begin our journey to New Orleans, LA for the Southwestern Social Science Association Conference. But along the way we had to stop at the famous Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, LA. I’d heard about it before but wasn’t expecting what awaited me once I stepped inside…BLUE DOGS EVERYWHERE! In every piece of art you could imagine, Blue Dog on the Bayou, Blue Dog painted in American Gothic, Blue Dog with Presidents Clinton and Bush, and Blue Dog at the Capitol Building…
If the décor wasn’t memorable enough the good service and even better cuisine certainly topped it off for me. Satiated and sleepy we continued our journey to New Orleans.
“Beep Beep!” A reoccurring sound coming from the ever pleasant drivers of the “Big Easy”. You would’ve thought we were on the set of The Fast and Furious when we made it to the city. Pedestrians darting in and out of the street casually daring anyone to hit them, and cars flying around corners and flooring it down the roads.
Once we go settled in to our rooms we took a self-guided tour of the downtown area. In the heart of the French Quarter we stopped at Jackson Square, named in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. The focal point of the square was the famous Clark Mills’ statue of Jackson atop his horse.
There are four identical replicas of this statue in the U.S. today. Throughout the square is beautiful landscaping but another thing that caught my eye was the architecture of the St. Louis Cathedral that stands right behind the square. When we entered the sacred place the ceilings were breath taking. Such intricate and celestial paintings in a place already intrinsically beautiful.
Right before you exit the cathedral sits a prayer room sealed by glass, it belonged to the Venerable Henriette Delile, a candidate for sainthood. She was a free woman of color who lived in NOLA. She and the other women of her family followed the placage system. (This means colored women “in concubinage” with wealthy white men.) When she was 24 she underwent a religious experience leading her to open up the first Catholic home for the elderly who took in women who needed more than visitation in America. Her cause for canonization is the first of a US born African American to have been officially opened by the Catholic Church.
Walking down the French Quarter we hit a well-known twilight zone called Bourbon St. Sporadically we saw street performers of all variations from dancers to characters, most who seemed to have had “a few too many chocolate milkshakes,” as Chris Tritico would put it. But still entertaining none-the-less. As you walk down Bourbon you can see French architecture everywhere with the double gallery house like buildings. We ended the night at the Oceana Grill for a Taste of New Orleans. For the first day I’d say we’re off to a great start.