Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Season for French Quarter courtyards

Hotel Provincial courtyard invites a slower pace

Courtyards in the French Quarter are high on my list of favorite things about visiting New Orleans. But my interest is limited to about October through April when heat and humidity ease off.

On an end-of-October jaunt, Husband Walter and I enjoyed perfect weather for leisurely continental breakfasts in the Hotel Provincial’s courtyard. Brief visits to two other courtyards during a guided walking tour of the French Quarter were welcomed chances for me to sit and rest a minute.

Courtyard of the 1850 House

After walking from our hotel to Jackson Square, Husband Walter and I waited in the courtyard of the 1850 House, a typical Creole townhouse, for our historical walking tour to start. Our guide’s description of the small courtyard’s role in the daily life of the townhouse residents corrected some of my assumptions.

Tour begins

Nancy was our guide and a Friends of the Cabildo volunteer. She painted a more accurate picture of the courtyard for me. Instead of the leisurely scene I had imagined, the area had been a much used work space for laundry, meal preparation, other housekeeping tasks and even housing animals.

A NOLA second-story garden

Another French Quarter feature that I enjoy is the abundance of lush gardens on balconies of residences fronting the Quarter’s streets. On our tour I learned that not all of those outdoor living spaces that I called balconies really are balconies.

Tour guide Nancy said that a balcony is narrow and sticks out from the building’s wall. It has no posts or columns that reach from the balcony floor to the ground. 

In contrast, galleries have the posts or columns that give platform-to-ground support. Most galleries I saw were also wider and would overhang the width of the sidewalk.

Another gallery garden (Photo:Walter Skupien)

About an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour walk, Nancy invited us into the courtyard of her condo, part of a traditional French Quarter residence converted into two condos on the “quiet” end of Bourbon Street.

Nancy's courtyard

The blocks nearer the other end of Bourbon Street closer to Canal Street are home to bars, restaurants and strip clubs. They can be calm during the day but turn boisterous at night, especially during Mardi Gras and other New Orleans festivals.

At the end of the tour, I was zapped and chose to tour the 1850 House on another visit. It is the only residential unit open to the public in either of the two historic and picturesque Pontalba Buildings that flank the upriver and downriver sides of Jackson  Square.

I was captivated by our guide’s knowledge and her flair for presenting the stories of people and groups who shaped the history of the city and the French Quarter. Plus, on our early morning midweek tour, there were only four of us tourists. I have trouble hearing when a group is large. No problem this time.

I am eager to sample another New Orleans walking tour and to make our postponed visit to the 1850 House in the French Quarter, maybe after Thanksgiving and Christmas are behind us.

Jackson Square from a popular photo vantage point (Photo: Walter Skupien)

Happy members of the tour, Walter, left, and Linda


  1. Just wonderful. Thank you so much for the photos and the tours. I love it all. When I was last there, I didn't appreciate the city. It rained buckets....LOL, and I had a severe allergy reaction to a fish. Ah well.

  2. This looks like such a wonderful trip. I have got to go to New Orleans.

  3. I have never been to the French Quarter, but I thoroughly enjoyed tagging along with you on the tour!!
    What a wonderful city!!

  4. I had your same misconception about courtyards. Interesting when you have such a knowledgeable guide.
    That first picture looks like you had just dropped down into the past.
    Someday I hope to make that trip.

  5. I like those 2nd floor gardens. Lovely!

  6. Oh I do love this place. Been away too long. Dianne

  7. I've never been to New Orleans, so I enjoyed your photographs of the tour! Those gardens seem to be doing quite well on the balconies, too!