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New Orleans news from Royal Carriages Tours

Discover the French Quarter through the eyes of our tourism team. Our guides, mule groomers, tour sales reservationists, and everyone in between are a family who takes pride in our culture and giving back to the community. Check back often to get the latest in our New Orleans news!

What's the big deal with cemeteries in New Orleans?

Posted by Website Admin on December 13, 2016

“The first thing you notice about New Orleans are the burying grounds - the cemeteries - and they're a cold proposition, one of the best things there are here.” - Bob Dylan

What makes a graveyard attract more than a hundred thousand visitors each year? In New Orleans, most will say “The Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau”. It’s true that the legend of a powerful and influential voodoo priestess has enchanted spectators since her death in 1881.

Top rate cemetery tours in New Orleans show visitors Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen's family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1 

Tall tails were weaved by locals and visitors resulting in a tradition that encouraged visitors to leave their mark behind in the form of XXX on the tomb in exchange for a wish granted. With more than thirty years of graffiti, the tomb of Marie Laveau finally received a much-deserved restoration in 2014.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 isn’t the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. The original graveyard was located two blocks away in the French Quarter and is now home to condos and a swimming pool. Unlike the original St. Peter's Cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery #1 was established in Spanish Colonial Rule and built in a swamp, resulting in strange above-ground tombs that resemble “Cities of the Dead”. Above-ground burials are efficient since each tomb can be used countless times.
 

Top rated on Trip Advisor, Bare Bones Walking Tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans shows visitors Nicolas Cage's pyramid tomb

Beside a renowned voodoo priestess, who else is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1?

  • In 2010, actor Nicolas Cage purchased a lot of land in the cemetery and commissioned a pyramid-shaped tomb to be built as his future final resting place
  • The plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights
  • A womanizing gambling political millionaire who’d challenge anyone to a duel
  • An architect who allegedly became one of Jean Lafitte's pirates
  • Earliest World Champion of Chess
  • Chief of the Golden Star Hunters and President of the Mardi Gras Indian Council
  • The Governors Wives who both died of Yellow Fever
  • The first mayor of New Orleans also doubled as a wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry
  • New Orleans first African-American mayor

Recent changes to St. Louis Cemetery #1 require that all guest must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide working for a tour company registered and approved through the Archdiocese of New Orleans. While this may seem strange, supervision and education by a licensed guide have reduced the amount of desecration by tourists and vandals to the sacred burial ground over the past few years. The money paid to the Archdiocese by each tour company also pays for full-time security at St. Louis Cemetery #1. 

Join us as we walk amongst the orphaned and abandoned tombs, the disrepair, and decay. The architecture and symbolism found throughout the cemetery are utterly fascinating. Did you know that a flame or candle can represent the spirit?


 

Royal Carriages provides the most affordable tour of St. Louis #1. Our 1-hour Bare Bones Walking Tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 is only priced at $15 per person. While other tour companies have tour groups of up to 25 participants, we believe in providing smaller group experience. Often times our groups are no larger than 10 participants total. 

Click here to buy tickets for an upcoming tour. 

Enjoy Royal Carriages Bare Bones Guide to St. Louis Cemetery #1

Royal Carriages Bare Bones Walking Tour of New Orleans' St. Louis Cemetery #1 Fact Sheet

10 Reasons Why Mules are like 1500lb Toddlers

Posted by Website Admin on December 06, 2016

 New Orleans French Quarter Carriage Mule Stables Royal Carriages

10 Reasons Why Mules Are Like 1500lbToddlers

  1. Oversize fears of everyday objects. A plastic bag blowing down the street or a discarded couch on the sidewalk can send a mule into a full-on panic tantrum. A few words of encouragement usual helps us get past the scary plastic bag. 
  2. Speaking of tantrums, if you think that a spoiled toddler in the checkout line can create a lot of drama, just wait till you see a mule demanding a treat with every trick at his disposal. 
  3. Dirty diapers. We're talking ten pounds of wet stinking mule poo in a single dump sometimes! It's our job as carriage drivers to keep the diapers empty. 
  4. Hating baths. (To be fair some mules -- like some toddlers -- love baths.)
  5. Needing routine. Even minor changes to a route can sometimes be stressful. 
  6. All-around stubbornness, which is also a sign of their intelligence. 
  7. Testing limits. 
  8. Putting every disgusting thing they can find in their mouths.
  9. Rough/mean play. Ever wonder where the expression "horseplay" comes from? 
  10. BUT... at their best they can be incredibly sweet and affectionate. 

 

When I started driving the carriage four and a half years ago, a colleague said to me, "Working with a mule is like working with a 1,500 pound 3-year-old." Four and a half years later I'm still discovering how true it is. 

Written by Mark Orfila 

Veteran Carriage Driver & Tour Guide at Royal Carriages. 

Honoring Our Veterans: Bob & KJ

Posted by Nancy on November 11, 2016

Being a Veteran owned company, Royal Carriages holds a unique respect and appreciation for those who serve in our Armed Forces. We'd like to take this moment to recognize two incredible Veterans. 



 

Bob French Jr., a Supervisor at Royal Carriages, served in the United States Army working as a Secure Communications Repair Technician, serving two tours of Germany 1985-1986 and 1988-1991 in addition to a tour of Korea in 1994. Bob has a great sense of humor and knows exactly what to say to make our customers smile. At Royal Carriages, Bob is responsible for managing 13 carriages, drivers, and mules each day. 
 

Former Carriage Driver, Kevin “KJ” Joseph, was recently promoted to Supervisor at Royal Carriages due to his natural leadership abilities thanks to his service in the Air Force. As a carriage driver, KJ entertained everyone who rode his carriage. KJ worked as a Military Intelligence Office for the Air Force and through his years of service, KJ traveled to Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Liberia. 

“The Air Force was the most attractive branch that I saw at Grambling State University. I joined to have a way to pay for college initially; then decided to have a career to take care of family.” said KJ.

Together, these outstanding men supervise and manage the day to day street operations of our family-owned carriage tour company. They are both recent graduates of the 2016 Royal Carriages Mule School, which takes place annually in Poplarville, Mississippi. Mule School focuses on improving our education, handling, and relationships with our carriage mules. 

To honor and show our appreciation to both Bob French Jr. and Kevin Joseph for their service, Royal Carriages has provided each Veteran with complimentary tickets to the WWII Museum, which attracts more visitors to New Orleans each year than Mardi Gras itself. 



Royal Carriages would like to remind everyone about our Veterans Ride Free Program. All US Veterans receive complimentary 30-minute carriage tours of the French Quarter, and $20 OFF all other carriage tours, with Military ID.

On this day, and every day, we salute you.
Thank you!

Travel Tips: Family Fun in New Orleans

Posted by Nancy on June 09, 2016

"If a fact-filled wander about town sounds like pure punishment, think again. For children, learning about the past can be fascinating, if the setting is right. Taking in the sights from a carriage is decidedly cool. So is picking out the mule leading your expedition."

It's true! A fantastic article written by Amy Tara Koch for The New York Times features a whole slew of must-dos for families planning to visit New Orleans.

The article, published in The New York Times on June 1, 2016, gave an honorable mention to our hard-working mules and the carriage drivers that love them. 

What a great description of our carriage tours! 

In just 30-minutes, our carriage tour covers more ground and history than a 2-hour walking tour! Each tour discusses history, culture, architecture, and dabbles into the subjects of voodoo, food, music, and more! These mule-drawn excursions are perfect for kids of all ages! 

In addition to recommending a mule-drawn carriage tour of the French Quarter with Royal Carriages, the article also suggests phenomenal New Orleans traditions such as beignets at Cafe DuMonde, an overstuffed po'boy at Johnny's, dancing and dining at Three Muses on Frenchmen, and more.

For fun culinary experience the whole family can enjoy, we agree with the selections of Dat Dog, Sucre`, and Jacque-Imo's Cafe for fun atmosphere and flavorful dishes that even the pickiest of eaters can enjoy! 

The New York Times also suggested that New Orleans is considered one of the Top 5 Family Vacation Alternatives to Disney World! 

Click here to read the article: The New York Times "New Orleans is a Party for Families"

Kim's Story: How I Became A French Quarter Carriage Driver

Posted by Nancy on January 04, 2016

For as long as I can remember I have always been in love with equines.  As a child, I begged and begged my father for a horse.  I believe he thought I would grow out of it, but by the time I was eight years old, he realized this wasn’t a phase.  We lived on a small farm about twenty miles West of Casper, WY that my father purchased when I was about six.  One of the first animals my father got for the farm was a Shetland pony named Shorty who taught me as a small child all the easy and difficult things about having an equine friend.  My body still bears a few scars from our original adventures together.

It was when I set up wood fence rails on top of buckets and short posts and started teaching my pony to jump that my father decided it might be time for a full-size horse.  This started an adolescence of competitive jumping and showing.  We never had mules on our farm although we had friends with mules who participated in mule day’s events and pack horse races around the country.  I remember competing against a girl who had a mule that she jumped with.  Yet, like most people, as a youngster, I remained pretty snobbish towards the long ears and their abilities.  

As I reached adulthood, I would’ve liked nothing more than to make a profession in animals but, agricultural opportunities were slim in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and my parents urged me on to college where I just couldn’t decide on a major.  Eventually, I became a paramedic and moved to New Orleans, LA where I worked for the city of New Orleans until 2010, including during hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Time and circumstances will eventually take its toll on a paramedic’s body and mind and as my mother was aging, I felt the pressure of a job that has little room for family leave wearing on me.

One night my partner and I were driving the ambulance down Decatur street in the French Quarter and as we passed Jackson Square I saw the carriages lined up there and thought back to a time about fifteen years earlier when I’d seen an ad in the newspaper for carriage driver positions.  In New Orleans, the carriages use mules to pull them (it has been a law since the early 1980’s) and I loved walking around the square and taking in all the smells and affections of the horse hybrid that brought back memories of my childhood.  Walking by Jackson Square was just about the only equines I got to experience since the days back on the farm of my childhood.  Although I’d been interested in the carriages all those years ago when I saw the ad, I thought there was no way that I would ever be hired for the position since I’d never driven a carriage, much less in city traffic.  Something in me that night in the ambulance was different and I decided that carriage driving was the alternative I was looking for.  

The next day I started checking into the process and found out about the licensing for tour guides.  I signed up for a class through the Louisiana State museum system that trains tour guides on the history of the French Quarter.  After a month long every day of the week intensive program, I arrived at the offices of Royal Carriages armed with my tour guide license, my resume, and a staunch determination to become a carriage driver.  A couple of days later I was learning how to drive a mule!


Pictured is Blue who assists Kim in training new mules

My trainer told me to throw away anything I ever knew about horses because mules were totally different.  I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to throw away all your equine knowledge but it wasn’t long before I realized how incredibility smart and special mules are.  My childhood experiences came flooding back to me and just like when I was a child I wasn’t nearly satisfied with just holding onto the lines while my mule leisurely ambled around the French Quarter.  I found myself consistently working on my technique to improve my line handling and communication with my mule.  My mule partners impressed me daily with how smart and responsive they were to me.  I love to call the mules connivingly smart.  As time passed, I was handed more and more challenging mules based on my ability, until I was driving the newly trained mules.

In July of 2013, the trainer suffered a debilitating hand injury that required surgery and in the days following, I arrived at the stable to help him groom and dress the mules that he was currently training, as his bandaged hand made it impossible to do some tasks.  I also rode along with him in case he needed help during the process. Before long everyone considered me the assistant trainer, helping with the daily training even after his hand had healed. In April 2015, the trainer left the company and I was promoted to his position.  I wasn’t quite sure I was ready but, we had nine mules in the wings waiting to be trained so it was time to step up to the task.


Week 2 of Training Elizabeth 

The hardest part about training the mules is the location I’m training them in, the French Quarter.  The mules come to me with some training already but they’ve never been in a city, or seen traffic, street construction, or pedestrians in feather boas with hurricane cocktails on Bourbon Street.  The mules and I are on stage every day in front of thousands of people who know nothing about mules much less the training process.  That means that nothing can go wrong once I’m out in the French Quarter with a new mule.  If people feel the mule is sweating too much or if it has a little white saliva around its bit from working, or it struggles with an obstacle, I’m suddenly the center of attention and advice.  That aspect alone was nerve racking at first because I was so afraid of making mistakes and having the general public go crazy yelling at me.  These days my skin is much thicker and I’m often so focused on my mule that I rarely hear comments from the sidelines.  Most individuals although well intentioned, are grossly uneducated in mulemanship and they all come bearing an opinion.


Week 1 of training Foot Loose

I love training the mules. I love watching them progress as they learn new tasks and become familiar with their new jobs.  It’s amazing to me when I see them learn something and remember it and when I watch them figure out an obstacle while those long ears I love to call radar turn forward and back while they think and listen to directions.  I love the bonding process with the mules when I recognize that they’ve begun to trust me and depend on me for direction.  There is something very therapeutic to my soul every morning when I walk into the stable, and I’m greeted by their beautiful faces. Each one hanging their head out of the stall looking for their morning affection.

I don’t miss being a paramedic, I realized what I was missing in my life was the fulfillment that working with a mule brings.  So many of my co-workers are the same way.  Many leaving professional careers like teaching, drafting, and the legal field to work with mules guiding visitors around our magnificent city.

-Kim Weikum, Stable Manager at Royal Carriages

I loved it because we were in the action of the French Quarter but we were able to hear and get a great perspective from our seats in the carriage. It helped that our driver was personable and full of interesting stories.

Lynn, Wisconsin, USA

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