Cities of the Dead Part 2: Lafayette Cemetery

The second of this two-part series takes us to one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. Built in 1833, Lafayette Cemetery doesn’t have the “tour-guide escort only” policy, although the church is working towards changing that. This cemetery held many beautiful monuments to the dead and looked to be less vandalized than St. Louis Cemetery Number 1. (To see pics from last week’s story on St. Louis Number 1, click here.) I suspect Lafayette has been left alone due to the fact that there is no one particularly famous buried there, however pedestrian traffic is still taking its toll on the grounds.

We took the streetcar over and enjoyed the sunny streets with trees and phone poles draped in colourful Mardi Gras beads.

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Upon arrival we had free reign to explore as we wished and so we did. I’ll let the pictures walk you through.

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Right across the street from Lafayette Cemetery is a restaurant called the Commander’s Palace. We were intrigued by the teal and white striped awnings and went over to check it out. We discovered the structure was built in 1880 by Emile Commander for his daughter. No one seems quite sure what the building hosted for its first 3 years but as of 1883 it was officially an upscale creole restaurant. Some say it was always a restaurant, while others say it may have been a brothel during those first murky years.

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However it came to be a place of nourishment, it remains an absolutely stunning place to enjoy fresh seafood and fine dining. A note to travelers, casual clothing is acceptable for lunch but dinner service prohibits jeans and t-shirt attire. Entrance to Lafayette Cemetery is free but if you dine at the Commander’s Palace prepare to drop some dollars.

Next week we’ll visit another slice of New Orleans and this time I promise to take you somewhere with a pulse. Until next time, be well Dear Readers.

Cities of the Dead Part 1: St.Louis Cemetery Number 1

While in New Orleans, my friend and I got wind of a tour company that delves into the dark side of the city, called Haunted History Tours. We signed up for an afternoon tour of St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 and later that night, another tour about French Quarter ghosts and legends. Both tours were awesome and well worth the $25 (USD) but I’m going to tell you about St. Louis Cemetery Number 1. New Orleans is unique when it comes to their dead. New Orleans’ cemeteries have been called the “cities of the dead,” a name given by travelers who said the above-ground tombs in the graveyards look like little cities for the dead from afar.

Our tour guide, Trevor.

Our tour guide, Trevor.

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Their cemeteries are designed with above-ground tombs and mausoleums due to heavy rains and a high water table in the region. If their loved ones were buried six feet under like other cemeteries, remains of the deceased would eventually float to street level in extreme weather. As a solution the people of New Orleans implemented above-ground tomb designs to help keep their loved ones where they were laid to rest.

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St. Luis Cemetery Number 1 is only accessible through a guided tour led by a certified cemetery guide. The reason you can’t go solo to St. Luis is due to past bad behaviour from visitors. Much of the vandalism happened around the assumed burial place of a renowned voodoo priestess. Her name was Marie Laveau and she was the spiritual mother of New Orleans in her time.

The tomb of Marie Laveau.

The tomb of Marie Laveau.


Somehow a legend got started after her death in 1881 that if one went to her tomb in search of a favour and got it, 3 x’s were to be written on her tomb in thanks. This has led to a growing number of defaced tombs: hers and the others nearby as well. Higher-ups in the church wanted to ban all visitors to St. Luis unless they could prove they had a relative buried inside. The tourist industry folks were against that so as a compromise, only guided tours allowed and guides pay an annual fee to the church that goes towards cemetery clean-up.

A guard makes sure no-one enters without a proper guide.

A guard makes sure no-one enters without a proper guide.

Behold, for we also saw the pre-paid tomb of actor Nicolas Cage. Apparently, he purchased this item while in the midst of filming National Treasure (2004).

Nicolas Cage's tomb.

Nicolas Cage’s tomb.

I highly recommend getting a tour (or 2) with the Haunted History Tour company. It’s run by locals who are deeply passionate and well-versed in the history of their city and state. Both of my guides (Travis for the cemetery and Wendy for the ghosts and legends) were great story tellers and had the whole group engaged. To check out more about Haunted History Tours, click here.

To request a free copy of the New Orleans Official Visitors Guide magazine with coupons for this tour ($3 off) and others inside, click here.

A view of the French Quarter

Last week I was able to check another city off my list of places to see before I die. That city was New Orleans in the state of Louisiana. V.C. Andrews’ Ruby took place in Louisiana and after reading that series in high school, I was hooked. After 20 years of dreaming, I finally set foot in Ruby‘s world. I did several tours which I will tell you about in upcoming articles but for now, I’d just like to show you around the French Quarter; the heart of New Orleans.

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The Quarter is New Orlean’s most popular place to hang out, thanks to the food, music, entertainers and locals. There are sights to see on every corner from live music and buskers on the street to hot sauce-tasting and voodoo dolls in the shops.

A man stands frozen in position on the street, a bucket in front that reads "Tips for Pics."

A man stands frozen in position on the street, a bucket in front reads “Tips for Pics.”

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Throughout the French Quarter you can see different styles of residential architecture. This is because many cultures have left their footprint on the streets of this town and the whole state. Louisiana fell under ownership of the French when the explorer Robert de La Salle claimed the land in 1682. It remained French-owned until 1764 when Louisiana came under Spanish rule. The Spanish had control for only 36 years, when it was sold back to the French in the year 1800. Three years later Napoleon sold Louisiana to the USA and so it has remained since 1803.  Today visitors can enjoy the mix of French, Spanish and Creole designs which makes for one breathtaking city.

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Jackson Square is a famous park in the French Quarter. Built in 1721, it sits right in front of the beautiful Saint Louis Cathedral. The Square actually became a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for being the location where Louisiana was made a part of the USA in 1803.


Old-fashioned streetcars run through the French Quarter (and beyond) for a nice scenic tour of the town. One-way fare is $1.25 (USD) and an all-day pass goes for $3(USD).


Night life is hopping in the Quarter as well! With or without Mardi Gras, the streets come alive in a whole new way once the sun goes down. Buskers pack up and go home while bars pump live music and sell drinks for here or to-go. It’s very common to see patrons grab their drinks in a big plastic cup and take it out to the streets. The downside to this culture is that the streets get a bit rowdy as the night goes on so for my friend Bal and I, we bailed on the night life pretty early.

Live blues at the Funky Pirate.

Live blues at the Funky Pirate.

Yours truly with a funky pirate.

Yours truly with a funky pirate.

Enjoying a "hurricane," the famous drink in the French Quarter.

Enjoying a “hurricane,” the famous drink in the French Quarter.

This is just a glimpse of the various things going on in the French Quarter. Whether it’s art, fashion, antiques or people, I promise you’ll never run out of things to see in this part of town.

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