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New Orleans Tree of Life, Audubon Park. Voodoo vampire shops, Jackson Square cats, Katrina homes.

la carmina hair, beauty, makeup

I’ve always been fascinated by how themes of life and death are expressed so vividly, in New Orleans. This is a city where locals party hard, and play jazz in the streets. At the same time, NOLA is famous for cemeteries, haunted houses, voodoo shops and vampires. 

To celebrate Mardi Gras, we’ll climb the Tree of Life…

glowing lights new orleans night walk

… and then wander through the French Quarter’s dark side. At the end, we’ll take a frank look at the Katrina aftermath, and the struggle to rebuild neighborhoods destroyed by the hurricane.

black fringe sleeve dress

– I’m wearing a dramatic KillStar dress, similar to this black dress with long fringe sleeves. You could also wear a black leather jacket with fringe down the arms for a similar look.

❤ Shop my style below ❤

audubon park bridge

My friends and I rode the historic St Charles streetcar to the Garden District, about 20 minutes from the stop near the Hotel Modern. It’s a scenic ride that costs only $1.25 each way.

We passed by grand Southern houses (some photos at the bottom of this post), the Eiffel Society, and the Loyola and Tulane university campuses. We got off at Audubon Park, and found ourselves surrounded by majestic trees and lakes.

audubon park duck pond

“I’m like a bird…” A variety of creatures make the park their home. We spotted a Great Egret soaring above the water, and a mother duck with a row of babies swimming behind her. Do you see the squirrel on my left?

new orleans lake

This land was once a plantation. In 1871, the city purchased it, and made it into a park. It’s named after John James Audubon, an artist / naturalist who lived in New Orleans at the time.

nola garden district park

The more time I spent in New Orleans, the more sides I saw of the city. I wish I could have stayed longer, to explore more of the outer neighborhoods and nature sites.

southern oak trees, louisiana

Like Elaine from Seinfeld, I don’t use the word “breathtaking” lightly… but it seems like the right word to describe this pathway, shaded by Southern oak trees. 

killstar model, goth dress

The twisting branches and soft, mossy canopies are a quintessential part of Louisiana’s landscape.

climbing tree of life

After walking for about 15 minutes, we reached the Tree of Life. This immense oak is the size of a building, and the branches dip to the ground — the ultimate invitation for climbing.

dress with fringe sleeves

Beneath these powerful, century-old branches, you can’t help but admire nature’s grandeur.

kill star model, alt modeling

I braided part of my hair, to show the contrast between purple and blue, over red. My hairstylist is Stephanie Hoy at Vancouver’s Stratosphere salon.

❤ Click below for details of my clothing ❤

black silver japanese boots

– My boots are from Japan, and similar to these leather buckle ankle boots by Jeffrey Campbell.
– Find cross print tights like mine here, as well as sheer crucifix stockings.

new orleans big tree

The Tree of Life is a popular spot for couples to get married. According to legend, someone planted this tree to honor his new wife, during the days when Audubon Park was a plantation.

girl yoga on tree branches

Molly (who took the photos of me in NOLA) says “I know nothing about Audubon Park from a history angle, but let’s just discuss how much fun I had climbing that tree.” 

paule ka purse leather

– I turned of the knobs into a make-shift hanger for my handbag. (It’s by Paule Ka and available here.)

wood sunglasses, pink floyd iphone case

– My wood cat-eye sunglasses are from British designers, Moat House Eyewear.
– The Pink Floyd “Division Bell” iPhone case is from SVNTYHere are more photos of me with my wood phone case.

hanging tree girl

Molly tried out some pole and yoga moves on the branches.

sleeping girl in tree

Nature makes the best seat in the house.

witch vampire dress

The trailing fringe from my dress mimics the strands of Spanish moss, hanging down from the trees.

giraffes audubon zoo new orleans

Next to the tree of life is Audubon Zoo. The giraffes are so tall that you can see their heads poking out from above the fence!

goth alternative girls

It’s disappointing when visitors to New Orleans never leave the French Quarter. Less than 30 minutes away, Audubon Park is a joyful place that shows a different slice of life.

fancy southern plantation home

The surrounding homes are stately antebellum mansions with columns and gardens. Since the Quarter and the Garden District are located on high ground, these upscale areas escaped the devastating flooding from Hurricane Katrina. 

hurricane katrina cross markings

Molly and I felt it was important to see the areas of New Orleans that were most heavily hit by Katrina. Taxi driver David Hammer gave us a 3-hour personal tour, which took us to the Lower 9th Ward, the breached levees, and more. (To arrange for one of his city tours, phone David: 503 931 0323)

A local who is versed in the history of New Orleans, David didn’t shy away from speaking about the ongoing problems with rebuilding. We saw homes marked with “X-Codes” or “Katrina crosses,” which rescuers used to indicate if there were hazards or deaths within.

katrina destroyed homes

Ten years after Katrina, many of these neighborhoods remain destroyed. Some homeowners came back and tried to rebuild, but lack of funds forced them to abandon their properties. We drove on bumpy roads, warped by the water. We passed overgrown and empty lots, followed by temporary housing, followed by ghost-houses like the one above — hazards for vermin, squatters and other dangers.

new orleans delapitated house roof

Molly reflects, “It was really painful to see a house, then a space where a house used to be, then a house, then more space. I kept thinking about what it must be like to come home to a house next to a space. Was it lonely? Scary? Do you wonder if Katrina will happen again? I used to not understand why someone wouldn’t come home if you could, but now, I think how do you come back to a place that completely fell apart? Aren’t there times where you just have to start over?”

katrina reconstruction houses

“So, I guess what I mean is that both the spaces and the rebuilding make sense to me.” Yet there is still so much that needs to happen, before these neighborhoods are livable again. There’s a lot more one can say about the impact of Hurricane Katrina, but I’ll wrap up with the photo above: a reconstruction attempt that was abandoned probably due to lack of funding, and left as a decaying shell.

new orleans misissippi river bank

That feeling of life, death and all the areas in between come to the forefront at night, in New Orleans. Not far from Jackson Square, you can buy a hot buttered rum to go (alcohol is allowed in the streets here), and walk right up to the banks of the Mississippi River. Yes, that’s a rainbow on the top right.

new orleans waterfront night

The streetlights give off an eerie glow. They illuminate the history of the city, from old rail tracks to new hotels.

st louis cathedral nighttime

The castle-like Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest in North America, established in 1720. A horse and carriage raced across, taking us back several centuries.

mask shop window display

The spirit of Mardi Gras haunts the city all throughout the year. A feathered mask peers out of a window.

rev zombie's voodoo shop

I was keen to learn more about voodoo, which has roots in African spiritual/folk traditions, and took on a life of its own in Louisiana. We popped into Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo shop (723 St Peter St), which offers readings and rituals.

new orleans voodoo dolls

Gris gris (talismans or amulets), voodoo dolls, and powerful queens like Marie Laveau are part of this tradition. While some of New Orleans’ voodoo shops have a touristy feeling, there is a tangible power in the masks and dolls we saw..

occult new orleans esoterica

I was in my element, visiting these occult, spiritual, witchcraft and esoteric shops.

ghost vampire cemetery tours

Another way to experience the darkest side of New Orleans is by joining a ghost, vampire, cemetery and voodoo tour. Some are on the cheesier side, so I recommend doing your research and looking for niche tours run by insiders.

jesus statue shadow st louis church

How spooky is this image of New Orleans? It’s a marble statue of Jesus with hands aloft, casting an ominous shadow onto St Louis Cathedral. 

witch stores goth new orleans

Don’t be surprised if you run into skeleton hands and witchy-women, in the streets of the Quarter.

vampire shop

Vampires are a major part of the culture of New Orleans. This city is not just a setting, but almost a character in the novels of Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned) and Poppy Z Brite (Lost Souls).

new orleans vampire culture, store

We visited Boutique du Vampyre (709 St Ann St), a collection of all things bloody (fangs, candles, handcrafted gifts).

vampire wine

There’s also a strong vampire subculture here in New Orleans. Members belong to Houses, and some engage in ritual blood-drinking.

jackson square cats

I leave you with the stray cats of Jackson Square. Quite fitting that cats are associated with witches and the spiritual world.

new orleans stray cats

I hope you’ll come to New Orleans, one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever encountered. Joyeux Mardi Gras, everyone!

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27 Comments

  1. Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Great post as usual, it’s great to see how much fun you had in New Orleans =)

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much, I appreciate it! I had an amazing time in the city.

  2. Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    WOW the fringe dress is WOW!

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:46 am | Permalink

      Was really fun to take pictures in it. :-)

  3. Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    adorable. :)

  4. Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Happy New Year Lacarmina

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      Happy Chinese new year to you

  5. Posted February 16, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Amazing! Great photos. Loved the blog post ♥

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      I love the city!

  6. Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Um, awesome as *always!*

  7. Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    <3<3<3<3<3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    safe trips Ms. Carmina

  9. Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Great post! love your poses in that beautiful background and what an entertaining shopping district :)

    • Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      I thought of you a lot in the city, you would love it! When I walked past the witch women store, I thought you would fit right in

  10. Posted February 18, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for showing us a little bit of the different areas of New Orleans. I love how the city itself remains in it’s roots embracing the occult/voodoo/esoteric/vampyre culture. After seeing your post I can’t wait to visit my first stop will most likely be a Vampyre shop.

    • Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Hooray! Let the good times roll :)

  11. Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    y So exciting, can’t wait to see your next destination.

    • Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Can’t wait to announce it!

  12. Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    LOVE New Orleans

  13. Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    We just call him “Touchdown Jesus” back there behind the cathedral!

    • Posted February 21, 2015 at 1:25 am | Permalink

      hahah yeah! Love it.

  14. Posted March 14, 2015 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Hi. I took this pic during Mardi Gras this year. Does anyone know the story behind it or who created it? Fascinating work! Also, the eyes of the actual statue are blank. However, after looking at the pic, it seems the statue was looking back at me! Check it out for yourself.

  15. Posted March 14, 2015 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    One more…

  16. Posted April 9, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I certainly agree to some points that you have discussed on this post. I appreciate that you have shared some reliable tips on this review.

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