Riding The Rails…The Cemeteries

Disclaimer: this post contains way more words than pictures.  But it tells quite a tale.  Quite a few tales actually.

After we got off our Steamboat Natchez tour, we set off in the direction of food.  It was well past lunchtime and some of us were very hungry.  Sis and BIL had told Hubby about the fabulous hamburger with all the fixings they’d had at Fatburger in Harrah’s casino and he wanted to experience one for himself.

To back up a little, I don’t think I explained about Harrah’s.  It’s located on Canal Street, just a block from the riverfront.

228 Harrahs on Canal Street

It’s also wonderfully (frigidly) air-conditioned.  The previous day we’d gone in there to cool off, with the bonus of free drinks while playing the slots.  Sis and I savoured a couple bottles of icy water, while BIL enjoyed a beer or two and Hubby chugged back at least six cranberry juices.  Harrah’s had a promotion at the time, if you registered for a Harrah’s card, you had a chance to win several different options.  I registered and won $10.00 in free play, of which I promptly paid back $5.00 while rehydrating with free water.

So, that afternoon, we headed back to Harrah’s for burgers.  I’m not a real fan of big burgers and the heat had sapped my appetite, so I asked Hubby to order a chocolate shake for us to share, with the idea that I’d also nibble a couple bites of his burger and we’d both be good to go.  He returned to the table with not one, but two massive shakes along with his equally massive burger.  As a result, I drank a very tasty, very large shake all by myself.  I don’t want to even think about how many calories and grams of fat were in it.

My sister’s a pretty smart cookie, and one of the smartest things she did on that trip (besides asking us to go along with them, of course) was to pick up Jazzy passes for the trolleys.  This pass enabled us to get on and off the trolleys as much as we wanted for three straight days.

232 French Market Trolley Station

The Riverfront Streetcar runs along the riverfront (duh) from right next to our hotel to Canal Street, near Harrah’s.  The St. Charles Streetcar runs along St. Charles Avenue (duh again) through the Garden District.  And the Canal Street Streetcar runs along Canal Street (you get the pattern, right?).  There’s actually two routes for the Canal Street Streetcar, one runs the length of Canal Street to the cemeteries and the other branches off at Carrollton Avenue and goes to City Park.

After lunch, we decided to ride the streetcar to the cemeteries.  Cemeteries are really popular in New Orleans.  There’s lot of them.  And there’s lots of stories about ghosts and hauntings as well.  The cemeteries are also beautiful and interesting places.  The one we went to was called the Cyprus Grove cemetery.  It’s much smaller than the more famous St. Louis and Lafayette cemeteries.  Here’s BIL and Hubby getting a close-up look at one of the more elaborate tombs.

197 Cyprus Grove Cemetery

While on our trip, we learned some very fascinating facts about New Orleans cemeteries.  Because of the low water tables, almost all gravesites are above ground, in tombs.  The family is responsible for the upkeep of the tombs, so some of them fall into disrepair over time.  With this being a small older cemetery, we saw many crumbling tombs, but we also saw some beautiful ones.

199 Cyprus Grove Cemetery

200 Cyprus Grove Cemetery

The most fascinating tidbit we learned was about a phenomenon called “Natural cremation”.  Most tombs only hold two coffins, yet they are the final resting place of many generations.  How can that be?  By a process of natural cremation.  Because of the intense heat inside the marble vaults, it takes approximately one year for a coffin and its contents to be reduced to ashes.  All that remains are the coffin’s hardware.  When another coffin needs to be placed in the tomb, the ashes of the previous occupant are swept to the back of the vault into a little catch basin where they mingle with the ashes of its ancestors.  If a family has the unfortunate need for the tomb three or more times in one year, most cemeteries have condo vaults where you can rent a spot for several months until there’s room in the family tomb.  Rather bizarre and macabre, but a practical means to a necessary function.

I had read somewhere that there was a Katrina memorial grounds for the unclaimed victims of that tragedy, and I’d hoped to go there to pay my respects but wondered if we’d be able to find it during our short visit.  So imagine my pleasure when I spotted this from the trolley car.

201 Katrina Memorial

It was a little tricky backtracking to where the memorial grounds were located once we’d gotten off the trolley car, but we managed.  The memorial is inside the Charity Hospital cemetery on Canal Street.

202 Charity Hospital Cemetery

The Katrina Memorial is a touching and respectful tribute to the victims of the hurricane and the final resting spot for many of the unclaimed.

203 Katrina Memorial

205 Katrina Memorial

Because of the intense heat, we ended up spending less time then we’d intended at the two cemeteries, so we decided to explore the other part of the Canal Street line in relative air-conditioned comfort.  We hopped on the trolley and successfully managed to get off at the correct stop to make the transfer.  Both trolley cars say “Canal Street” but one also says “Cemeteries” and the other says “City Park”.  We wanted “City Park”.  But, rather than making a right-hand turn onto Carrollton Avenue, our trolley carried on straight down Canal Street.  Oh-oh.  In our enthusiasm, not one of us noticed we’d gotten back on a “Cemetery” trolley.  Oops.

We had to laugh about it.  Four sets of eyes and not one realized we’d boarded the wrong trolley.  In fairness to the hubbies, for the most part they were simply our willing shadows, there for the ride and not overly involved in the decision process.  Off we got again, and there we waited in the blistering heat for a return trolley.  Trolleys run up the middle of Canal Street in each direction and there’s not a lot of shade available at the stops, so we crossed to the sidewalk where a large tree offered some relief.  But with Hubby’s bad knee not allowing him to hustle, we soon returned to the sun-scorched stop – just in time for a trolley to arrive.  We stood there in open-mouthed disbelief as it whizzed on past us.  Nooo, it was much too hot to be left behind!!  Thankfully, another trolley arrived moments later and we were whisked back to our next stop.

This time we all insured the car we boarded said “City Park”.  All too quickly, we had to exit its air-conditioned interior when we arrived at the end of the line at City Park.  Rather than just board the trolley again, we opted to enter the park in search of refreshment.  What we found were marvellously clean and air-conditioned washrooms, but we had to settle for lukewarm water fountains because the location of the park cafe eluded us and it was far too hot to search for long.  Back we went to the trolley stop and our (thankfully) uneventful return trip.

212 City Park, end of trolley line

The trolley conveniently stops right in front of Harrah’s so we ducked in there to cool off and quench our thirst.  Hubby registered for his Harrah’s card, in hopes of winning some playing cash; instead he won a free dinner buffet.  It was about dinner time, but after having such a large late lunch, we decided to use it much later that evening.  We left Sis and BIL in the casino and ventured down to our favourite spot on the waterfront.  Hubby could probably sit for hours on a bench watching the river traffic go by.  We had the added attraction that day of spotting some glorious thunderheads.

217 Thunderheads over the Mississippi River

Hubby took a picture of me taking a picture of the Algiers ferry.

219 Algiers Ferry

220 Algiers Ferry

By time we left the riverfront, it was getting dusky.  We’d had plenty of adventures already that day, but little did I know, I was in for a couple more.  The intersection in front of Harrah’s always confused me, no matter how many times we crossed it, I could never figure out how the lights worked.  Not only did we have to watch for cars coming and going from several directions, there were also trolleys to look out for.

223 Harrahs on Canal Street

As Hubby and I stood at the corner, waiting to cross, I spotted a green light off in the distance and figured that meant we had the right of way.  As I stepped off the curb, my very strong hubby grabbed my arm in a vise-grip and pulled me back onto the curb just as a stream of cars roared around the corner over the very spot I’d stood mere moments earlier.  Too frightened to scold me like he sometimes does, he felt bad that I’d probably sport bruises on my arm the next day (I didn’t), but I was more than thankful for his quick action.  Never again did we cross the road at that location.

As we were about to enter the casino I glanced across the street and noticed how picturesque the RiverWalk sign looked with the casino fountains in the foreground.  I told Hubby I’d just be a moment and I went over to the fountains to take a picture.  For those who don’t know, I have serious depth perception problems in low light.  I also suffer from vertigo when standing at the edge of something if there’s no railing.  So what do I do?  I go right to the edge of the fountains, moving along it without looking as I try to compose my shot.  Recipe for disaster.  Naturally I almost took a header in to the water, and only by some miracle I managed to save myself and my camera from a late night dip.  What a dummy.  And after all that, I didn’t even end up with that great of a shot.

225 River Walk

To wrap up a long, long day, Hubby and I had a spectacular meal at the casino buffet all for about $20.  Neither of us were very hungry, but we filled our plates with tiny samples of as many delights as we could manage.  Never had I had such tasty broccoli and beef.  And the baby carrots were to die for.  I make a great sweet potato dish, if I do say so myself, but theirs was simply incredible.  Everything was so very good, I could go on and on.  What a fantastic way to top off a fantastic day.

Jump to next post HERE or start from the trip’s beginning HERE.

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2 thoughts on “Riding The Rails…The Cemeteries

  1. Pingback: The Year in Pictures | joyceholmes

  2. Pingback: The Steamboat Natchez | joyceholmes

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