New Orleans: Oak Alley & the Louis’s

We got up super early, 7am, both of us in a pissy mood… Then, I realize that our time it was actually 5am – I didn’t feel so bad once I figured that part out. We grabbed a brochure for the plantation tours from the kiosk the day before. I knew there were several plantations I wanted to see: The Evergreen, which is still a functional sugar cane plantation with people working and living there, Destrehan, and Oak Alley.

The problem is, all the plantations are about an hour outside of town. They’re all basically on the same road, but they are fairly well spread out and each tour is roughly 90 min.

Which meant, we could do all the plantations, but wouldn’t have time to still visit the cemeteries… See my dilemma. So, we chose one plantation, and two cemeteries (more to add to the next visit list). I chose Oak alley because of association – Oak Alley is the plantation they filmed part of “Interview with a Vampire”, and the wedding of Bo & Hope on “Days of our lives”.

Oak Alley Plantation

We walked down the brick path between two perfect rows of 300-year-old Oaks, 28 trees in all, and I knew exactly which scenes from the movie they had shot at this spot. The tour itself was fairly interesting, they talked about the history of the house, grounds, sugar, and family that lived there, but what I found amazing – there is ONE piece of furniture actually belonging to the family that occupied the house. Unfortunately, no photography allowed inside the mansion, curses foiled again! I did manage to get a few good photos of the exterior and what’s left of the grounds.

There were a few little snags on the way back to New Orleans, first – the pesky tire pressure light kept coming on in our rental car, and second was getting pulled over for speeding. 12 mph over… Thank you St. Charles Parish Sheriffs Office.

I had mixed feelings, I consider myself a professional speeder – really. This is only the 2nd time I’ve ever been pulled over – ever! And then there was mom’s reaction (good times), and the appearance of the trooper that made it a little bit tricky.

I was actually more pissed about the car in front of us, which was going at least 90MPH, was not who he was after, but me – going 77 in a 65. And, yeah I know, I was still speeding, but the faster driver is still the one who should have been pulled over – that’s what would have happened in California!

So the super trooper – straight out of the movies (complete with the hard brim hat and aviator sunglasses) gives me the ticket, and we drive away. See Katie, they DO give out speeding tickets in Louisiana. By the way – It was $138 for 1-13 miles over the limit, and just continues to go up from there… might I recommend going the actual speed limit?

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Cemeteries

St. Louis Cemetery #3

St. Louis #3 is, awkwardly, right off the freeway in a fully residential area. I always wonder what it would be like to live in a house with a cemetery for your backyard… would you be haunted on principal?

We got there just before closing and the last tour bus leaving, so it was pretty deserted of the living. I remain intrigued by the way the tombs are lined up. There are these decrepit, decaying, crumbling tombs standing right next to brand new ones, shiny marble ones.

Dates ranged from 1800’s to 1990’s, some of the damage was simply time and the wearing away from elements, and some of it was damage from Hurricane Katrina. I read that this cemetery was lucky, and only had minor damage from the flood.

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(Speaking of, we did not take the Katrina tour, but there is a tour of the path of destruction from the Hurricane. But, from what I could see & the places we visited, New Orleans, for the most part, seems to have recovered nicely)

This cemetery could be a small city all it’s own, mom hung near the front gate while I explored and took my photos. It was almost twenty to 3, and we had to make it back to the French Quarter and St. Louis #1 before it closed, or I would be going in the morning before we left!

St. Louis Cemetery #1

I went in alone, in search of Marie. Mom said she felt uncomfortable in St. Louis #3, and didn’t want to go in this time. So she waited outside the gate. When you walk in there is a large pyramid shaped tomb with a sign next to it that says where you’re standing used to be the middle of the cemetery… this got me very curious. I had no idea where to go or where she was, but I found the statue that it on all the cemetery brochures right away.

The area of town is just past the French Quarter and it does look a little shady, but the police station is literally across the street, and there were plenty of other visitors today.

  • Jennifer (our ghost hunt tour guide) advised us to skip St. Louis #2 because it’s an unfriendly neighborhood, but to not miss #1 & #3.

The feeling and vibration of this cemetery is different than any cemetery than I’ve ever been in, both in atmosphere and style. It was 10 to 3, and I was worried that I wouldn’t find Marie before closing since I had no clue where she was. I turned and walked back the way I’d come, I literally asked aloud for Marie to help me find her. I just walked straight, and then to the left of the entrance, and looked down one of the aisles. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a freestanding sign, I took a step back and went down that aisle.

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Then I saw it – the famous XXX’s…

The sign I saw was the notice to the public stating it’s illegal to deface or mark a tomb (obvious, this is something that’s highly discouraged, but not followed at all). There’s a plaque commemorating the Greek revival tomb being built for Marie Laveau, and a very brief paragraph of who she is/was. Scattered on the ground in front of her resting place are offering left from people who’ve asked the Voodoo Queen for favors and prayers. There were flowers, beads, pennies (which apparently are her favorite), keys, candles, shells, feathers, there was even a pair of reading glasses, and a tube of Chap Stick. I left her the change that I had in my pocket.

Now, I’ve heard two different stories about what to do when you ask Marie for a favor:

  • knock 3 times on her tomb, greet her and tell her what you need, spin around 3 times, leave your offering and mark the tomb w/ the 3 Xs.
  • Second, is pretty much the same, except without the spinning, and after she’s granted your favor – then you return to her tomb, and mark the XXX with chalk or brick.

I’m not sure which is right, but I did ask her for a favor.

The thing that amazes me about this particular cemetery is its size. My curiosity definitely got the better of me – the cemetery is about the size of a square block, but holds over 100,000 dead. I had to find out what happened to the rest of it, and where did those tombs & bodies go?

Well, I found out…

Apparently, the reduced size is from stacking bodies… as in, stacking the next generation right on top of their other family members – because of the limited land space available. And, I mean, literally stacking them, like… bodies in the same tomb. Eww.

Google sez the cemetery got smaller “due to the development of the land around”, meaning the housing/residential area I assume. Supposedly they moved some of the bodies to St. Louis #2, and possibly #3. But it almost looks like they just moved the crypts & vaults closer together to make room. But then, they could have just moved the tombs and stones–like they did in poltergeist?

We had an early dinner at The Corner Oyster Bar & Grill (on Decatur St.) We both had an omelet w/ grits, and mom had some really amazing gumbo, which she let me taste. I have to say – best omelet I’ve ever had! I’ve never tried Grits before, lightly buttered, touch of salt, and they were perfection!

This place falls more into the category of “sports bar” than restaurant, complete with almost every teams flag (baseball, football, and soccer) hanging from the ceiling. It was quiet; there was plenty of room, no waiting, and fast service.

Unfortunately for me, the most memorable part of this place was actually the bathroom. It was, quite literally, a small closet with a toilet. No arm room, no knee room, you really only have room to turn around and sit down with your feet sticking out into the bar area, as you pray to God the door doesn’t just swing open since it opens OUT… if I could have maneuvered it, there would be pictures of that too…

Only one day left, i can’t believe it!

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