I spent Halloween in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans! We flew in on a Thursday evening and, after dropping off our bags, headed down in search of our long-missed Bourbon street. Even though Halloween was still days away, the party had already begun!
My friends and I have a tradition in New Orleans, to begin each trip at the Acme Oyster House, featuring some of the best cajan cuisine to be found in the Crescent City. We indulged in starting the meal with fried crawfish tails and followed it with po’boys and a large platter of fried fish with hush puppies. Everything was wonderful as we enjoyed each bite before wandering down the crowded party street, admiring early costumes & happy resellers (and grabbing a margarita…to go)!
We also discovered the French 75 Bar. As a lover of crisp, dry bubbles and sparkling cocktails, it was a must-stop on our trip!
The next morning, Friday, we took a day to explore some familiar places. We began at the Carousel Bar inside the historic Hotel Monteleone. A sparkling jewel of the French Quarter, the Hotel Monteleone is one of the last family-owned-and-operated hotels in New Orleans, and has been since 1886. The bar inside is on a moving platform, where guests are rotated in a full circle once every 15 minutes. With a traditional champagne cocktail, we enjoyed the luxurious decor and took a spin or two before heading to a late lunch at Brennan’s.
Another staple of the New Orleans food scene, Brennan’s features an innovative creole menu which combines both French and Spanish influences. Our brunch menu included Eggs St. Charles (composed of catfish and a poached egg, topped blood orange hollandaise, served over a bed of cremed spinach) and Eggs Hussard (like a traditional Eggs Benedict, but with a rich red wine sauce as well) The result – scrumptious!
As it turned out, in addition to being Halloween weekend, it was as the fourth Friday of October…also known as international Champagne day! So in the courtyard, the restaurant manager taught a group of customers how to properly sabre open a bottle which bartenders proceeded to pour from!
We then proceeded to walk the rows of Bourbon and Royal Street, enjoying people watching and dropping into a few shops to peruse the fantasy and gothic offering of the city.
Saturday morning was a meeting with friends over breakfast. The group included members of the Anne Rice scene like coven members Michelle, Vampires Louis du Pont du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt (No. Seriously. It’s their actual names!).
Our group close friends usually meets in New Orleans once a year, but have been unable to do so due to Covid. It was great visiting and renewing old friendships as we caught up on each other’s lives.
Then, we ventured to Metairie Cemetery on a more solemn and important pilgrimage.
As we reached the cemetery entrance, the sun vanished behind dark grey clouds and the sky opened around us. As the rain poured down, our group of four wandered through the sacred grounds in search of the Rice Family Mausoleum. It took time to find it, the patter of splashing rain surrounding us before we finally gathered at the final resting place of our beloved Anne Rice.
For those who don’t know, my MA dissertation and a portion of my PhD studies centered on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Meeting Anne was one of the greatest moments of my life, and being an invited guest to her ball for several years was one of its greatest honors. She was a woman who inspired both my academic and creative work. A writer who taught me about the kind of author I wish to be. The time I was granted with her, and the conversations we had, are cherished memories which are dear to my heart.
Almost a decade ago, Anne also introduced our small group, and it was with sombre, but grateful, hearts that we laid flowers upon the mausoleum steps, the final resting place of the woman who had meant so much to us on so many levels of our lives. Together we paid our quiet respects, speaking our farewells and thanks to Anne, for all she had given us and the numerous ways she, and her enduring legacy changed our lives for the better.
The following morning, Sunday October 30th, began on a lighter note, as my husband and I took a riverboat jazz brunch cruise down the Mississippi. With good food and lively music, we took in the sights along the river and enjoyed a few rays of sunshine.
We then headed to the Garden District Book Shop, hosting the memorial second line in honor of the late Anne Rice. Nearly a thousand people showed up to honor the life and legacy of the writer who had immortalized New Orleans through her novels, as much as the immortal creatures within them. It was an incredible and humbling site to see how many gathered to honor Anne, and I was grateful to be a part of the event. (photo with Sue Quiroz)
After, we grabbed a quick bite a our favorite hole in the wall, The Howlin’ Wolf. With gator dogs, fried crawfish and local beers, it’s a great place to grab a quick bite in the city.
We then returned to the hotel to get ready for the Dark Gift Alliance Resurrection Ball. Hosted by our friends Michelle and Lestat, the event was a gorgeous gathering of those who love the gothic, vampiric, and the soul of New Orleans. Everyone was dressed to the nines, from gothic costumes to dazzling ballgowns. Featuring an array of live music, good food, and friends, the event was lovely and one I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun Halloween night.
At the end of the night, as October 30th transformed to Halloween Night, attendees of the ball left the ballroom and ventured to our outdoor location on the banks of the Mississippi River. Lead by the master of ceremonies, Madame X, a tribute was held to honor Anne Rice. I was one of three featured speakers at this memorial event. I was honored to have been asked, and to share my memories of Anne with a group of those who held her in similar fondness.
When the event wrapped up, hugs were exchanged with heartfelt thanks and goodbyes as we ventured back to the hotel and began to pack for the journey home.
The trip was an amazing assemblage of renewed friendships, reminiscing old memories, and honoring the memory of Anne Rice. It was a trip which filled my heart with happiness, comfort, and healing. I am grateful for being able to venture to the city which shall always hold a piece of my heart, and the many whose friendship has come to mean so much over the decade since my first trip.
Until our next meeting, my dear New Orleans.