I spent the final day of the Excellence in Journalism Conference tooling around the city on an air conditioned bus on one of the VIP City Tours. The tour guided conference attendees through the French Quarter, the neighborhood of Treme, the Garden District, St. Louis Cemetery #3, City Park, The 9th Ward, and the Lake Front area of Lake Pontchartrain. The bus stopped at both the cemetery and the City Park.
According to the guide, St. Louis Cemetery #3 is one of the most well-kept cemeteries in New Orleans. The tombs in New Orleans cemeteries or “cities of the dead” are above ground because of the high water table. The plots hold entire families, sometimes fifty or more. In addition, for a one-time fee, tombs may be marked with a ‘perpetual care’ plaque and remain cared for forever.
The City Park is one and a half times larger than New York’s Central Park and is lined with moss covered oak trees and duck ponds. The park has a carousel, Morning Call cafe and holds the New Orleans Museum of Art. The New Orleans Museum of Art features a free statue garden.
The tour bus was full, but air conditioned and punctual. After pronouncing us his family (because everyone in New Orleans is family) the tour guide shared insight into New Orleans’ history, culture, and sports. Driving through neighborhoods affected by hurricane Katrina, we saw the poverty, the rebuilding efforts and the changes the storm made for the city. Through the Garden District we saw the best of the Greek architecture New Orleans has to offer and the beads hanging in the trees for years to come.
Although some tour members were lost to the heat and exhaustion, eventually falling asleep during the tour, I received an interesting perspective into the history and culture of New Orleans. The tour featured information that set New Orleans apart from the rest of the world and gave everyone a taste of what it’s like to live here.