I always make a point to visit graveyards and cemeteries when I’m traveling. They are some of the most peaceful and thought-provoking places in the world. I find myself relaxing, remembering. Contemplating.
I had thought my visits to NOLA cemeteries would be more atmospheric somehow. Scratch that. I should say “differently” atmospheric. Because they definitely had atmosphere! I had pictured them grey and wrapped in the stereotypical fog. Sinister. A fitting place for vampires. You know. But it was so warm and sunny, they were almost welcoming me in. I suppose I should go back at night for the atmosphere – but the pics wouldn’t be nearly as good.
The above-ground crypts of New Orleans are particularly interesting. They feel like wee little cities, monuments to the dead layered side by side one on top of the other, like high rises in New York. Some crypts have more real estate, and others crowd around each other, filling all the nooks and crannies.
Geography was the deciding factor in the first two cemeteries I visited. I’m staying Uptown – near St. Charles Avenue and Jefferson – so when I looked on a map and saw Lafayette #1 and #2 close to the nearby Garden District, I felt a walk in the 24C sunshine was in order.
So, I wandered eastbound on a lovely side street toward Lafayette #2. It was only a 20-minute wander. Lovely houses, pretty gardens, giant trees. Even an Italian coffee house to add further enjoyment and fortification.
Sadly, about 5 minutes away from the cemetery, the neighbourhood took a turn for the worse. I always forget that about US cities. How you can be in a safe neighbourhood one second, cross a street and be in a bad one. It’s a good reminder to be more careful and less complacent (I am a woman of relatively small stature, after all).
Anyway, I got to and from the cemetery without incident. And it was creepily beautiful. I would soon find out that it was smaller than Lafayette #1, with far fewer trees for shade.
Onward to Lafayette #1. Quite a different experience. There was a history student hanging out around the entrance talking to people as they left. Visitors were everywhere, wandering the laneways. Tours were being conducted. Giant trees overhung the outside of the cemetery wall (it had a wall rather than just a fence). Lafayette #2 had been completely deserted – and given the neighbourhood, I guess I can see why.
I spent a lot more time in Lafayette #1. It was beautiful, serene. And it had plenty of shady spots to rest at for those of us still among the living and feeling the heat.
Can’t wait to see what else the City of the Dead has to show me.