I left my visit with my new vodou priestess friend feeling educated and thirsty. For that reason, and to quench my everlasting curiosity about all things curious, Lib and I rolled just a few blocks down the old, worn out streets of the Vieux Carre’ to LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Built in 1722, it is one of the oldest buildings, if not the oldest, in Louisiana, predating St. Louis Cathedral as well as the Cabildo. It is now one of the oldest bars in the U.S. I left Lib outside and went in, for a Coca-Cola.
It stands on the less frequented north end of Bourbon Street, at the intersection with St. Phillip Street. The rumor is that it is also one of the most haunted places in NOLA, with a very quiet female ghost upstairs and the ghost of Jean LaFitte himself making appearances downstairs, where I was. I wasn’t there at night given the timing of my stop in NOLA to visit Ms. Glassman, so I saw no evidence of any ghosts, even though there is no electrical lighting in the place, which leaves it rather dim and foreboding even in broad daylight.
In case you didn’t study Louisiana History or general pirate history, Mr. Lafitte was a notorious pirate in the 1800’s who partnered with his brother, Pierre, to use this building as a blacksmith shop and a front for their smuggling business. Since Lafitte and his men had control of Barataria Bay during the War of 1812, the British paid him to guard it for them, but he turned on them and sided with Andrew Jackson fighting against them. President James Madison commended the pirate turned war hero, and then Lafitte returned to the pirate’s life, controlled the town that preceded Galveston, Texas, and then after attacking a few U.S. ships, burned the town and sailed south never to be seen again.
Today, he is rumored to appear on occasion in dark corners of the blacksmith shop. Again, I didn’t see him myself, so I had a picture taken with his portrait.
Upon leaving the blacksmith shop, I made quick work of getting through the centuries old streets, past an angry Lyft driver, and onto the interstate over the swamps where I could pick up the pace, make up for lost time, and move on to Natchez, MS to meet my brother-in-law for a hamburger at The Camp, under the hill on the Mississippi River.
If you find yourself in Natchez, The Camp is a great spot for a great burger and fries. In keeping with my previous stop, the Under-the Hill area was the original Natchez, and was known as a hangout for pirates, gamblers, and prostitutes.
I finally drew the seedy portion of my trip to a close, and spent the night at the home of my perfectly respectable in-laws before starting the final leg of my trip home. As is common on my Florida trips, I ran into thunderstorms on the route north, and at one point pulled over for shelter under the portico of a Days Inn in Dumas, Arkansas. Once the rain calmed a little and the front desk worker made it abundantly clear that she would rather not have a biker who’d been hanging out with voodoo priestesses and pirates and insurance salesmen in her lobby, I made my exit back out into the rain, and rode home to a warm family, a hot shower, and some dry clothes.
I’m always grateful to make it home alive, and then it’s back to work, and of course the maps to plan the next adventure.