Boo hoo! Friday, February 15th would be our last day of sightseeing in New Orleans. Because of that you’d think Mother Nature would have cooperated, giving us a bright sunny day. But nope, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead the skies were overcast and very gray with threats of off and on showers all day. But that was okay – our plans included a visit to a City of the Dead so a dreary day would be more fitting and set the proper atmosphere for our plans.
Rob had found a breakfast joint that was cheaper than others we had been to so once we parked the van in the lot near Cafe du Monde, we headed towards Bourbon Street. It would be a short walk, about .3 of a mile to the restaurant.
Boy, this wasn’t the Bourbon Street that I remember! There was construction everywhere because crews were rebuilding the roadway and repairing underground sewer and drainage pipes making it difficult to walk down the street. BTW we heard that they did put the streets and sidewalks back together for Fat Tuesday so happy revelers wouldn’t hurt themselves.
According to the Clover Grill website, since 1939, this open all the time restaurant has been home to the best breakfasts and burgers on Bourbon Street. Besides their food, one of their claims to fame is that this quirky, tiny restaurant was featured in the “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Breakfast (two eggs any style, bacon or sausage, hash browns or grits, & toast) was very good. And for $6.59 you can’t beat the price (at least not in New Orleans)!
But after breakfast despite the construction, we had fun strolling along Bourbon Street and looking in the shop windows. If you want a spiritual, psychic or tarot reading or want a voodoo doll, be sure to stop by Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo! We had no need for any of it, so after checking out the items in the window and doorway, we kept on walking.
Crawfish were getting a bath in a boat in front of the Saints and Sinners Restaurant
Musical Legends Park is dedicated to New Orleans musicians such as Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Fats Domino, Chris Owens, Ronnie Cole, Louis Prima, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas.
At the end of Bourbon Street we crossed Canal and walked down to the Sheraton where we hopped on the sightseeing bus at stop #6. Our plan of the day was to return to the Garden District to do the self guided tour of the Lafayette Cemetery #1. Note that this cemetery is still open to the public and is free, others such as the St. Louis Cemetery #1 can only be accessed (per order of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans) via a guided, licensed tour due to vandalism in the past. Tickets for the St. Louis Cemetery are $20 at Basin St. Station, or only $15 when you purchase a Hop-On Hop-Off three-day pass. The organization Save Our Cemeteries which is “dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and protection of New Orleans’ historic cemeteries through restoration, education, and advocacy” also offer tours of all of the cemeteries.
Lafayette Cemetery #1 is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and was just a short walk from the #12 Garden District bus stop and kitty corner from the Commander’s Palace Restaurant. If you go, be aware that the entrance gate is at 1420 Washington Avenue, not the gate on Sixth Street.
Established in 1833 by the City of Lafayette (which is where it got its name) as a secular cemetery on the grounds of the former Livaudais sugar plantation, this cemetery which only occupies one city block contains approximately 1,100 family tombs and 7,000 people. Although it is New Orleans’ oldest of seven municipal city-operated cemeteries, it is still a functional, working cemetery today.
Our self guided tour sheet explains the burial traditions:
“Each tomb is built over a below ground vault known as a caveau (French for “cave”). After a year of burial due to the heat and humidity, tissue is quickly decomposed leaving nothing but skeletal remains. When the chamber is needed for the next interment the remains are placed in the caveau, clearing the vault for the next.”
In addition to the family tombs, the cemetery has three other types of graves: society tombs, coping tombs and wall vaults. Society tombs belong to groups or clubs with various purposes for the living – service organizations, religious groups, immigrant groups, trade unions. Examples of society tombs include the Jefferson Fire Company No. 22 Society Tomb and the Society for the Relief of Destitute Boys tomb.
Coping tombs were the solution when, for religious or personal reasons, someone wanted or needed to be buried in soil but had the misfortune of dying in New Orleans. With the high water table, in-ground coffins have been known to float to the surface during a flood. In this type of tomb, the coffin is sealed off from pending water levels by walls made of plaster-sealed stone, marble, or granite. Sometimes the walls rise above grade. Because the tomb is sealed from water intrusion, a casket can be lowered in, and soil or gravel can then cover the casket.
Wall vaults were the tombs of the lowest ranking tier of “society” and were the lowest in cost to the owners. Reuse of the vaults require the undertaker to open the chamber to push back the remains of the previously buried body using a ten foot pole. These vaults often served as rentals for those who did not have space in a tomb. After one year and one day, the remains would be located to another repository, either the caveau in the family tomb or in a vault owned by the cemetery for the remains.
The vacant cemertary lot below has been used by movie producers for films such as Live and Let Die, Deja Vu, Interview With A Vampire and many others. An artificial tomb was created (out of styrofoam) for the movie, Double Jeopardy, in which Ashley Judd’s character was imprisoned.
The Secret Garden is a large plot with four tombs surrounded by a hedge. These are the tombs of four wealthy philanthropists who formed a society known as the “Quartro”. Guess they are BFF’s forever! Their philanthropy was a closely guarded secret and to this day, which organizations or what people benefited from their works is unknown because all of their records were destroyed by the last surviving member.
This self guided tour website provides much more detail and history about each of the tombs.
After finishing the tour, we walked around a bit, heading to Magazine Street where we thought we would find a restaurant for lunch but none of the restaurants there appealed so we headed back to the bus stop.
Darn! Drizzle! Shortly after we boarded the bus, sitting on the top deck, it started. UGH! Fortunately our tour guide had a stash of ponchos that she handed out to everyone. That helped a bit.
Deciding where to eat in New Orleans is tough but it is a foodie’s heaven. There are so many restaurants, you could probably eat at a different restaurant every day. Because Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras Street had been recommended by friends, we decided to walk there for lunch. Mother’s is a casual, counter-style restaurant, that has been around since 1938, when it became a famous hangout for the working crowd. It is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and Mothers Day). Breakfast is served all day.
It is so popular there’s always a line no matter what time of the day. Sure enough there was! Thankfully it moved pretty fast – good thing, after a morning of sightseeing, we were hungry! The worst part of waiting in line was standing next to the food prep area – it was a little bit of torture seeing the plates of food being prepared as we waited. Once you place your order, you are given a number to put on your table so a server can bring your meal to you.
With such a varied menu, it was difficult to decide what to order. Since the restaurant is known for their po’ boys and is the home of the “Famous Ferdi Special” Po’ Boy ($13.50), we both chose one of those. The Ferdi Special is a po’ boy packed with baked ham, roast beef, the original debris (the roast beef that falls into the gravy while baking in the oven) with au jus gravy, and served dressed. It was named for Ferdinand Stern, a regular customer at Mother’s.
Tasteeeeee! We even had plenty left over for dinner. Definitely will go on our list for a return visit! To see photos of some of their other dishes, check out their Facebook page.
By the time we finished lunch, the drizzle had stopped so we walked back along the Riverwalk to the parking lot. Back at Pontchartrain Landing, we prepared for our departure the next morning.
We had such a great time, we were sad to be leaving. Adieu for now, NOLA! Until the next time….