Beignets, the Mysterious Helene, and the LaLaurie Mansion

It wasn’t that long ago that my travels took me to the city of New Orleans.Image What amazes me the most about this city is how you can feel the soul of the city as soon as you step off of the plane.  The history, the legends, the mystique of the city is glorious but can be quite overwhelming. During this particular visit, I played the diligent employee and spent most night at my desk in a corner room of the J W Marriott overlooking the magnificent downtown skyline.  Occasionally, I would wonder out to Canal Street for dinner, a quick stroll, or to browse through one of the many eclectic gift shops.  On the last night of my visit, I decided to delve a little deeper into the city and indulge in the city’s fine fare.

ImageOur first stop of the night was Cafe Du Monde, the home of the legendary beignets.  On this particular night, the tourists were out in force at Cafe Du Monde.  Of coarse it didn’t hurt that the evening was gorgeous and the moon was full.  As we stand in line at the outside carry-out window, I can’t help but to watch the bustling waiters/waitresses in their green, white, and black attire delivering fresh from the fryer beignets, drenched in powdered sugar, to the masses.  There are more waiters/waitresses here than I think I have ever seen at an establishment and most are extremely busy.  Their uniforms are very reminiscent of the style from the 1960 soda fountain clerks would wear, including the paper triangle hat.  (Of coarse you do realize that I was not around in the 1960’s so I can’t do an official comparison, but this is the feel of the place.)  We order our beignets “to go” so that we can be good little people and eat dinner before desert – all the while listening to our beignets call out to us begging to be eaten.

With our beignets in hand, we head down the street in the search for a restaurant for dinner.  One thing I have learned when traveling, is that you should pay close attention to the number of patrons at a restaurant in order to determine whether it is worth chancing fate.  Using this, we pass up several establishments that were empty during what should be a bustling dinner time.  We walk up to a third restaurant and peer inside the window to see quite the crowd.  Looks good, so we take the leap and ask for a menu.  The server informs us that they “have no menu” but instead offer a 5-course dinner with a small selection of entrees (beef, fish, duck, lamb, and something else I cant remember).  Why not?  We take our seat at a table, where our dinner begins to turn a little odd.  The waiter arrives to take our orders, yet we don’t really know what is on the menu or the price points.  It seems strange and uncomfortable that we have to actually ask for the prices.  Do people just come into this restaurant and trust that they will be charged fairly?   In any case, I choose the filet as my entree, as it seems like the safest choice.

Now the fun begins.  Our 5-course meal includes:

  • a strange form of shrimp cocktail
  • leek and potato soup – This was actually very good.  A bit too spicy for my palette but very good, nonetheless.
  • a one square inch cut of beef brisket – I believe they actually used a ruler as it was almost in perfect cube form. This was very tender and flavorful also.  I think I could have enjoyed another cube.
  • the entree was served – My choice was Filet Mignon with seasonal veggies.  I will say that I have had much better filets at much cheaper establishments.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t even close to the best.  Definitely over-rated and way over-priced.
  • banana bread pudding – Very, very good.  I am not a fan of anything banana flavored (except the fruit), but this was mouthwatering.

Along with our meal, we were offered the privilege of enjoying a hotel sized glass of water and ONE (that’s right ONE) glass of tea.

The best part of the entire dinner came when I spotted a picture on the wall of a young woman who “appeared” to be a movie star from the 1950’s or 60’s.  I asked the waiter/bus boy who the person in the picture was.  He responds that he thinkImages the picture came with the frame.  After inspection, I don’t think so.  He takes the picture down and written on the back was the name ‘Helene’.  On the face of the picture, there was once a handwritten note and autograph.  While the ink was no longer visible, there was a clear imprint of the message that could only be seen when holding the frame at the right angle.  The message read something to the effect of “my love for the boy is as much as the family will allow. Love  Helene.”  I take a quick snapshot because I feel destined to uncover this picture’s true identity.  I have searched and searched and searched to figure out who this person is.  No luck.

Our last stop of the evening is probably the most memorable.  Earlier in my visit during one of my nightly strolls, I found a book about the history of a very famous house in New Orleans, the LaLaurie Mansion.  This house is said to be one of (if not the) most haunted houses in New Orleans.  As the legend goes, Delphine LaLaurie chained her servants in the attic where they lived in horrible conditions until the house burned down.  As the house burned, the servants perished because she refused any attempts to rescue them.  It is believed that the spirits of the servants still inhabit the house to tImagehis day.

After reading about the history of this house, there was no way I could leave New Orleans without visiting the house for myself. So off I went in search of 1140 Royal Street.  A few minutes later, we see the house.  In the moonlight, it appeared very majestic and quite beautiful.  I have no idea who the owners are but they seem to be doing quite well at maintaining the exterior of the building.  It is evident that this house is on the agenda for every ghost tour available in New Orleans.  There were at least four large groups of people walking by and listening intently to their guides as they told the lore of the building.  I snap a few pictures and then decide to call it a night heading back to the J W for one last night.

I don’t think twice about my pictures until I get home.  That weekend I’m syncing my phone to my desktop and take a look at the various pictures I had snapped throughout the last couple of months.  I pull up one of the shots of the LaLaurie house and in two of the windows, it really looks like someone or something is peering back at me through the window.   Very spooky!!! Could this be my imagination after reading the book or is this evidence of a ghostly world inhabiting the legendary LaLaurie Mansion?  You be the judge… I would love to hear your thoughts.