Dine With A Ghost

You know there are TONS of ghosts in NOLA. Ghosts, voodoo, spirits, you name it, they got it. Some stories are down right scary and some are a bit, hmmmmm, not so sure about that one – skinned rolled back to look like a caterpillar?? You can take the stories with a grain of salt or you can fully believe or you can relax enjoy the ride and who knows! Maybe you will feel a cold hand on your shoulder or take a picture and when you look at it later you do see some kind of apparition. I believe in ghosts. One day I will tell my ghost story.

I think the ghosts tours are pretty much the same no matter which company you choose. We saw people on other ghost tours and they were all stopping at the same places we did. Now you MUST read this in a spooky and sinister voice.

Here are the stops we made:

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – In 1823, Louis Dufilho became America’s first licensed pharmacist and opened his apothecary shop on Royal St. But he is not the one haunting this place, that would be Dr. Dupas. The mysterious Dupas bought the pharmacy from Dufilho right before he died. According to legend, Dupas did many experiments on pregnant women and slaves. It was said, you would go in healthy, and never be seen again. It seems, he was conducting experiments on people upstairs, giving them large doses of his voodoo medicine. He is usually seen in a brown suit and likes to move potions around on the shelves and sometimes throws a book. I had a strange experience there while trying to take a picture of the inside. My phone did over 60 photo bursts, I’ve looked through them and maybe I see something near the back in the middle, but I’m not sure. What do you see?

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Zach Bowen/Omni Hotel – Zach Bowen joined the military to support his wife and two children. He did a tour in Kosovo and a tour in Iraq (parts of which were spent at Abu Ghraib), where friends say he changed. Upon return he became a bartender in the French Quarter of New Orleans and soon after he separated from his wife. He met Addie Hall, a fellow bartender and the two of them liked to party – drinking a lot and doing cocaine. Also, Hall was said to be a mean drunk and abusing Bowen. Hurricane Katrina hit and they were one of the few who stayed and weathered out the storm. Many people said that going back to “real life” after the tragedy of Katrina was their downfall. On Oct. 5, 2006, they got into a fight (Hall claimed he was cheating on her) and Bowen strangled Hall to death before cutting her up into pieces. He placed her head in a pot on the stove, her feet and legs were either in other pots or in the oven where he tried to cook the body parts. During the next two weeks he spray painted messages on the walls, wrote his five page suicide note and went out drinking, getting strippers and doing drugs with friends. Late October he went to the Omni Hotel, had a drink and then threw himself out of an upstairs window where he landed on the roof of a parking garage. Police found the suicide note and where to find Hall’s body. Some claimed he had been possessed by a demonic spirit that was terrorizing them from the voodoo shop that was below their home. Was it that? Was it PSTD from his two tours overseas? We will never know. But there are still claims that people see someone jump from the Omni Hotel window. The police will show up but there is never anyone there.

Muriel’s Restaurant – Here you can dine with a ghost. The restaurant that is now Muriel’s went through many changes, owners, etc. On March 21, 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire started on Good Friday and burned 856 of the 1,100 structures in the French Quarter, and one of these was a portion of Pierre Phillipe de Marigny’s mansion that was burnt. During the next decade the city was trying to rebuild and Mr. Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan purchased the property from Marigny. We will call him Antoine from now on (why did they all have such loooooong names back then). Antoine LOVED his home but he was a huge gambler. In 1814 he wagered his home in a poker game and lost. He was devastated and before vacating the premises he went up to the second floor and hung himself. Supposedly he haunts the second floor – he can be seen as a bright glimmering light. In the past he would throw wine glasses off tables, but ever since the restaurant set up his own table, leaving bread and a bottle of wine (he prefers Cabernet) every night the “tantrums” have diminished. You can have a private dinner with Antoine but you need to call Muriel’s to set it up. Whether or not Antoine will show up, it is still one helluva a good promotion.

The Ursuline Convent – I thought this place was truly freaky. Here is where vampires arrived from the Old World to the New World. This three-story Colonial masterpiece (no nuns live here now) sits behind a high wall with gothic gates and a big courtyard. In 1727,  France sent young women (very poor and possibly homeless) to help populate the city of New Orleans. When the girls arrived they came with casket shaped boxes supposedly holding their belongings and both (the girls and the casket boxes) were placed at the Convent for the nuns to watch over them until they found a husband for them to marry. Thereby earning them the name of the Casket Girls. After they arrived the mortality rate skyrocketed – because what was in those caskets were vampires. Once the girls found suitors the caskets were opened and were found empty. Dum dum Duuummmmmm. Fear of what had escaped from those caskets brought the Archdiocese to the convent. He had them immediately moved to the third floor, where to this day unless you are from the Vatican you cannot go up there. Plus, the shutters are continuously closed. And on top of that they have closed them with 800 screws EACH, that supposedly the Pope blessed. That’s 8000 Pope blessed screws keeping whatever needs to be kept in there! But locals have witnessed the shutters fly open in the middle of the night. I could stop there, but there is one more story to this. Back in the 70s a group of paranormal researchers came to NOLA to check out the convent. Two stayed overnight, in front of the convent to finish their research. The next day they were found dead, and drained of their blood. Drained of their blood!! Now, nothing can be found on the news about this from the 70s but the people in New Orleans say it happened.

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Alright, finalizing things up. If you watch American Horror Story you might have heard about this last one, or at least about the lady – Madame Delphine Lalaurie.

The Lalaurie Mansion – This haunted history is perhaps New Orleans most famous ghostly tale. For more than 150 years, the Lalaurie House is said to be the most haunted location in NOLA. Delphine married her third husband, wealthy doctor Louis Lalaurie in 1832. They threw lavish parties and everyone wanted to be invited inside their gorgeous three story mansion. People started wondering about all the slaves that were being bought – they saw them go in but never saw any go out. Once in 1833, a neighbor saw Delphine chase her 12-year old slave around the roof with a whip. The child jumped to her death and was buried in the courtyard. Investigators came to the house and punished Delphine with a fine and making her sell all her slaves. Unbeknownst to authorities she had relatives buy them and she got them back. In 1834 the truth came out. A fire was started in the kitchen by her cook who was chained to the stove. When authorities came they found a very grisly scene in attic – slaves chained to the walls, badly scarred and starving. It gets worse. Reports say one man had a hole drilled into his head with a wooden spoon sticking out (to stir the brains), another woman had her arms amputated and her skin rolled down making her look like a caterpillar, a woman with her stomach cut open and her intestines wrapped around her body and another had her arms and legs broken and reset so she looked like a crab. Horrifying! Gives me the creeps. After finding this an angry mob grew outside the Lalaurie mansion, soon Delphine and her children came roaring out in a carriage and Delphine was never seen again. Some say she died in France, some say she is buried in a New Orleans cemetery. After we left, Jeannie told me she had felt a very cold breeze go by her. Here is where most people do feel something or see something.

Spoooky stuff right there. And even if you don’t believe, it is still some fascinating stories. Next time I think I will do the vampire tour. Do you have any ghost stories? I would love to hear them. BOO.

 

 

Restaurant ~ Stoop Your Head in Skerries, Ireland

After Newgrange we were hungry but we wanted something with a bit of a nice view. We took the “scenic” route, scenic to us because this was all new! And tried to drive along the coast as much as possible. We came into a small fishing village on R 127 called Skerries. It was almost too perfect. We spotted a restaurant by the harbor. It’s name – Stoop Your Head. Awesome name, must be an awesome place. My friends, it did not disappoint. Everything was so delicious.

Apparently we weren’t the only hungry ones. The place was packed. It isn’t that big of a place but it does have an outside patio to eat at too. But the weather was a bit chilly so we waited for a table to open up.

Finally one did. Hooray! I had my usual Ireland drink order – Guinness with black currants. And we each ordered the seafood chowder and I ordered the Rockabill Crab sandwich on brown bread. They have quite the full menu – everything, really. From soup, salad, sandwiches, appetizers of paté and falafel to main courses of tempting fish pie, baked salmon or Irish fillet steak. My mouth is now watering thinking of the savory foods!  All of their meat is fully traceable from farm to fork. And they only use Free-Range Chicken and Eggs.

You must check this place out. It is only a 20 minute drive north of Dublin. And about the name – well, it is true, some of the doorways are a bit short. And you MUST STOOP YOUR HEAD! Enjoy. And don’t forget about the Guinness!

Newgrange

The next day was Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. Because of time constraints, I had looked into the places my mom wanted to go to, but never into much extent. So I was usually pleasantly surprised when we arrived to these sites, they were so interesting. Newgrange was the first of these stops.

Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance. It is one of the two UNESCO sites in Ireland. Newgrange is also called Brú na Bóinne.  It is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, about a 30 minute drive from Dublin.  It was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids! The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by engraved kerbstones. There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice.

There is no direct public access to Newgrange by road. Visitor access to Newgrange is only by guided tour from the Visitor Centre on the south side of the river Boyne. Newgrange is on the north side of the river Boyne, visitors cross the river by pedestrian bridge and take a shuttle bus to Newgrange. Tickets are sold at a first come, first serve basis and we were told to arrive early as tours do sell out. We arrived at 10 a.m. and had no problem with getting tickets. Adults are 6 euros and children are 3 euros.

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Aren’t my parents adorable? 🙂 There behind them is the circular mound and within the mound is a chambered passage, which can be accessed by an entrance on the southeastern side of the monument. The passage stretches for 19 metres or about a third of the way into the center of the structure. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off a larger central chamber, with a high corbelled vault roof. Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat “basin stone”, which was where the bones of the dead were possibly originally deposited, although whether it was actually a burial site remains unclear.You can’t take pictures inside but here is one of the entrance.

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Do you see that large stone in front? Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it which provide decoration. These carvings fit into ten categories, five of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms and dot-in-circles) and the other five of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines and offsets). They are also marked by wide differences in style, the skill-level that would have been needed to produce them, and on how deeply carved they are. One of the most notable examples of art at Newgrange is the triskele-like features found on the entrance stone. (See above pic) It is approximately three metres long and 1.2 metres high, and about five tonnes in weight. It has been described as “one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art.  Archaeologists believe that most of the carvings were produced prior to the stones being erected in place, although the entrance stone was instead carved in place before the kerbstones were placed alongside it.

Check out the kerbstones, the Neolithic art, the possible tombs surrounding the mound and the structural slabs in the next few pictures. What was amazing to me was that geological analysis indicates that much of building materials used to construct Newgrange were littoral blocks collected from the rocky beach at Clogherhead, County Louth, approx. 20 km to the north-east. The blocks were possibly transported to the Newgrange site by sea and up the River Boyne by securing them to the underside of boats at low tide. Can you imagine? Remember this began around the year 3200 B.C. I was astounded.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed seeing this place. It is a mysterious and fascinating site! I hope you will one day see it too. Until the next post, CHEERS!

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DUBLIN

Hello fellow readers! I returned from visiting the green island of Ireland a few weeks ago. I hope to take you through every area we visited in my next few posts. So keep in touch.

First of all, the Irish people are THE NICEST people I have ever met. I have traveled a lot (not to brag, but I have done a decent share – but that said, so much more still to see) and I have never had such a pleasurable experience with the people of a country. Not a single rude person. Everyone was friendly, helpful and most of all, funny. It was such a fantastic trip.

Let me just preface that I was traveling with my parents, not that THAT is bad! I just wanted you to know who I was with on this adventure. I love my parents and we had a lot of fun. Since moving to Europe ten (!) years ago, I have traveled with my parents a lot on this side of the pond.

So, let’s get down to it. Flying from Mallorca to Bilbao to Dublin I landed around 5:00 pm at the Dublin airport. And my first experience with Aerlingus. Nice airline – they had leather seats throughout the entire aircraft! And of course, friendly. Then I had to pick up the rental car from Hertz. And this was my first experience of the steering wheel on the other side and driving on the other side of the road. My parents had landed earlier in the day so they were already at the hotel. It was me and the rental car driving on the wrong side of the road together. YAY! Already friends.

Finally arrived at Clontarf Castle and went up to the room. Dad was still sleeping and mom was getting ready for dinner. We unpacked, talked about the trip to Dublin and went down for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Good food, good service and guess what – friendly people everywhere!! What is in the water? And can I get some shipped to the island of Mallorca?

Dad and I started off with a Guinness. Because if you are in Ireland, you drink a Guinness!! And by the way, have you tried Guinness with black currants!? DO IT NOW. You can thank me later. The most deliciousness of Guinness you will ever have. Yo.

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We called it an early night because we had to begin the day around 8 a.m. (pretty much every morning for the rest of the week). I did like that we each had our own single bed. Usually when it is three people one person gets totally shafted and has to sleep in that crappy cot (extra) bed. You know what I am talking about, right? And it really sucks. And is really uncomfortable. And it is always ME that has to take this bed because I am obviously the youngest – but not that young!! But here at the Clontarf Castle we each had a lovely single bed. A good nights sleep if only my dad didn’t snore!

DAY TWO: Hop On – Off (HOHO) Bus in Dublin. Some people don’t like these buses but it is an easy way to see the city without paying too much money. Just as the name states, you can get on and off when and where you like and walk around for as long as you want and then get back on. Of course, keeping with the bus time schedule. I think they start around 9 a.m. and end around 8 p.m.

Clontarf Castle has a free shuttle early around 8 a.m. But we wanted breakfast and then took a taxi took the HOHO Bus. The first place we got off was Trinity College. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest university. It was originally established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows, Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 190,000 m2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large squares and two playing fields.

The main reason we stopped at Trinity College was to see the Book of Kells. This book is believed to have been created ca. 800 AD. Amazing, right!? The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin. It contains the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables.  The manuscript today comprises 340 folios and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are on high-quality calf vellum, and the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures and mark the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art.

While they had two books on display (under bullet-proof glass) it was difficult to see with the amount of people trying to crowd in and look …. for hours. But I did get a peek and it was beautiful. A picture from a page in the Book of Kells from educationscotland.gov.uk.

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.Connected to the area to see the Book of Kells is the Long Room. The 65-metre-long (213 ft) main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, was built between 1712 and 1732 and houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. This was actually my favorite part of Trinity College. While the Book of Kells was so interesting and beautiful it also had so many people wanting to see it, read about it, learn every single thing possible. The long room was more calming and just so many books! My heart was happy.

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Back on the bus! We drove past tons of gorgeous places – St. Stephen’s Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Zoo in the huge Phoenix Park. But then our next stop was the Guinness Storehouse. Did I mention the Irish people were friendly and funny? While leaving our guide mentioned to all getting off that the last pick-up from Guinness was at 8 p.m. Hilarious. 🙂 I thought we would be able to just go straight to the Gravity Bar at the top but you must buy a ticket to go there. Adult tickets are 18 euros each and you get a ticket for a free pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. The self “tour” was fine, interesting if you want to know how they make Guinness. We went through it pretty quickly and headed to the top. Here you can receive your free (with your ticket) pint of Guinness and look out over all of Dublin. Great views!

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Our last stop was Temple Bar. Not really to see the area – because it is mostly bars and retro clothes shops. Which if that is your thing, this is your stop! But there was a big hurling game happening and we wanted to check it out. What is hurling, you may ask? What you DON’T know!? What planet are you living on!? Okay, kidding. We had no idea but there was a big game and our taxi driver told us all about it. Hurling is called the fastest game on grass.

The objective of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than four steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession. It was a lot of fun to watch and to try to understand what exactly was happening. The big game was between two rivals Kilkenney vs. Tipperary. And it ended in a tie, something that is very unusual I was told.

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.Flags flying for their/your favorite team. That concludes my first day of Dublin post. I hope you enjoyed it. Next up is Newgrange and surrounding area of Dublin. Please check it out. Good night!

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Brought to you by the Klapperstorch

Der Klapperstorch or the White Stork to us English speaking folks. It is called der Klapperstorch in German because of the sound it makes with its beak. The adult White Stork’s main sound is noisy bill-clattering, which has been likened to distant machine gun fire. The bird makes these sounds by rapidly opening and closing its beak so that a knocking sound is made each time its beak closes. The clattering is amplified by its throat pouch. Used in a variety of social interactions, bill-clattering generally grows louder the longer it lasts, and takes on distinctive rhythms depending on the situation—for example, slower during copulation and briefer when given as an alarm call. Like the adults, young also clatter their beaks.The up-down display is used for a number of interactions with other members of the species. Here a stork quickly throws its head backwards so that its crown rests on its back before slowly bringing its head and neck forwards again, and this is repeated several times. The display is used as a greeting between birds, post coitus, and also as a threat display. Breeding pairs use this display, as well as crouching forward with the tails cocked and wings extended.

Wouldn’t that be awesome if humans used those behaviors to show greetings, or post coitus or when threatened? Your mate throws his head back and forth showing pleasure from the moment – or when greeting his best friends? Doesn’t  matter which, it is all the same emotion.

Back to the birds. When my parents and I were leaving Poland my mom shouted (way too early in the morning), “Did you see that?!”. I flipped the car around and lo and behold there was this stork nest!! Have you ever seen a nest with storks in it? The nest was huge and these two adorable (yes, adorable) storks just hanging out.

The White Stork breeds in open farmland areas with access to marshy wetlands (this nest was next to a large pond), building a large stick nest in trees, on buildings, or on purpose-built man-made platforms. Each nest is 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) in-depth, 0.8–1.5 m (2.6–4.9 ft) in diameter, and 60–250 kg (130–550 lb) in weight. Nests are built in loose colonies. Not persecuted as it is viewed as a good omen, it often nests close to human habitation; in southern Europe, nests can be seen on churches and other buildings.

I had noticed these large nest of twigs, mostly on top of homes, where the chimney was, I wondered why they would leave the nest there, because you cannot use your chimney with a stork nest on top of it. But since the storks do migrate to Africa in the winter maybe they would take the nest down when the migrated? And put it back when it was spring? Not sure, but once I first saw them, I noticed the nests everywhere.

Storks!! They bring babies, have you heard? According to northern European legend, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. The legend is very ancient, but was popularised by a 19th century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks. German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. These caves contained adebarsteine or “stork stones”. The babies would then be given to the mother or dropped down the chimney. Households would notify when they wanted children by placing sweets for the stork on the window sill. From there the folklore has spread around the world to countries such as the Philippines and South America.

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Now We Go To Poland, eh?

Ah, that headline sounds more Russian, no? Which reminds me of this movie clip I keep seeing with Anna Farris (love her). In the movie, What’s Your Number, there is a scene where she runs into an ex-boyfriend who is British and apparently he thinks she is British too. Until she can’t keep up with the accent and breaks out into a Russian accent saying, “What do you say, a little dancing, eh?” Makes me laugh every. time.

POLAND! I wish walls and trees and roads could talk. Lots of wars here. There was such a drastic difference between Germany and Poland. While Poland is clean and the people seem happy the buildings, roads, cars, fashion all seem a bit stuck. The buildings are mostly bland, grey concrete or just older and a bit rundown. The roads are bumpier, smaller and people just pass when they want. A car in the opposite lane would pass a car in front of it with me coming straight towards them. Everyone just moves as far to the right so literally three cars can pass each other at once. And all of the buses looked they were from 1970.

Nevertheless, I had a lovely time in Poland. Szczecin was first stop.

Our main reason for stopping here was so mom could find more information on her (my) relatives. She made a contact, his name was Marek, and he helped her by speaking to the office that holds all of the registry books. We were able to see books documenting marriages, births, deaths anywhere from the year 1800 – 1920. We would have never been able to look at these books without Marek’s help. The Polish people don’t speak much English and even if they did Marek had to fight a bit to allow the clerk to let us see them.

So the three of us; my mom, my dad and myself poured over these books for several hours. It took awhile to get used to handwriting and exactly what you were looking at; whether it was a marriage or a birth, etc. And anything that had the name Schultz or Müller was something to write down for mom to go through later to see if anything matched. My mom actually found the something she had already known about, her great great great grandparents wedding but to see it written down in this book was an inspiring thing indeed.

After about five hours of researching we finally were finished with what we could find. We did a bit of sightseeing and we were again on our way, deeper into Poland towards the town of Bytow.

Saw the Prussian eagle everywhere
So many beautiful and very old buildings here in Szczecin

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