Sounds like a date night that wouldn’t end well, doesn’t it?
Saturday in New Orleans was a busy day! And a beautiful one at that. We spent it all outside- getting plenty of sun, walking, and good food (of course).
First on the agenda was a tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1. There are numerous cemeteries throughout New Orleans. Each one is filled with hundreds of years of history and they’re all intriguingly gorgeous.
Most are open to the public, but Cemetery #1 is only open to tour groups due to vandalism over the years.
Our tour began at the beautiful Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel. Outside stands a towering (apparently largest in the country) shrine of St. Jude.
Then we headed into the cemetery. Many southern cities- most commonly swampy areas and Key West- are known for their above ground cemeteries. Informally known as “cities of the dead” because they look, well, like small cities.
The most obvious reason for the above-ground tombs is New Orleans has a very high water table underneath the soil. That makes traditional burials tricky (although still possible). But the tombs actually serve for more functional purposes.
**Skip this if you don’t want to read tomb-talk!*
Still reading? Great! During the summer months, temperatures rise up to 500° inside the tombs, making them natural crematoriums. It takes a year for the deceased to become cremated within the tomb. They’re then swept into a small bag and placed back into the tomb (sometimes in a pit below the tomb) so the tomb can be reused. Many tombs have 20+ family members inside! Talk about an efficient use of space, especially with such large families back then!
Tomb-talk over, carry on
A famous plot within the cemetery is Marie Laveau’s. Marie was a well-known voodoo priestess who is still thought to have powers beyond the grave. Hundreds have done a ritual on her grave hoping she’ll grant their wish.
The ritual is simple: mark 3 X’s on the walls of the tomb, spin in a circle 3 times, knock, yell out a wish, and offer Marie a gift.
Apparently she likes bobby pins and money.
But wait, where are all the X’s? The tomb became so covered that an unknown man came in to paint over it. The church has since kept the it clean. And since the cemetery is closed to the public, not many people get away with marking it anymore.
You can see traces of the X’s close up, though. Look below the sign.
Can you guess whose spot this is? Think National Treasure.
Yep, it’s Nicholas Cage’s. Of course he’d go all out! His tomb happens to be the biggest single-family tomb in the cemetery. They’re not sure if anybody else will be buried with him…or even if he’ll use it. Only time will tell.
Most plots in the cemetery are family plots, but some are reserved for entire communities and are the final resting spot for thousands.
One well known community plot is the Italian Benevolent Society tomb. Does it look familiar??
It’s featured in the movie Easy Rider. As you’d expect, the scene isn’t PG-rated.
We were hungry after the tour! Fortunately we knew exactly where to go: Killer Po’Boys. It’s one of the only po’boy shops that serves artisan (or at least semi-healthy) po’boys among the sea of deep fried sandwiches everywhere else.
I had the BBQ chicken and Marcus had the grilled shrimp. I wasn’t a fan of the sauce they put on the chicken and thought the grilled shrimp was better.
We left straight from lunch to tour the swamps!
No surprise, New Orleans is surrounded by water and swamps. A quick 45 minute drive outside the city led us to our tour. We hopped on an airboat and hit the waters.
We immediately ran across a gator! He was eager to swim up to the boat and grab a quick snack.
The gators were out in full force. Some were active and followed us down the bayou. Others preferred to sunbathe.
Alligators weren’t our only guests. This wild boar wanted to say hello!
We floated past a town of small homes and fishing villages. While it may be a peaceful life, I’m not sure how I’d feel about having alligators and wild boars in my front and back yards (literally!).
Talk to you soon,
Question: Have you been on any fun tours?