Friday, February 27, 2015

Touring New Orleans – St. Louis Cemetery #1

As you may know, cemeteries are definitely different in New Orleans and throughout the bayou country.  Cemetery tours are big business for many. These guided tours satisfy curious tourists, history buffs, believers in the supernatural as well as those who lend credence to the practice of voodoo or black magic.

Laurie would have preferred a nighttime ghost tour…but to be honest, I wasn’t sorry that we visited this cemetery in the daytime.  Maybe she’ll get her ghost tour on our next visit to New Orleans…

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana.  All of these graves are above-ground vaults with most being constructed in the 18th century and 19th century.  As we learned, the custom of above-ground burial in New Orleans and south Louisiana is a mixture of folklore and fact.  These vaults were built above ground due to French and Spanish tradition, not because of a high water table.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest and most famous of all the New Orleans’s burial grounds.  It was opened in 1789, replacing the city's older St. Peter Cemetery, (no longer in existence), as the primary burial ground when the city was redesigned after a fire in 1788.

Use your imagination as you view the preceding photos.  Pretend that it’s a dark and rainy night, maybe with a little lightning, and you’re lost…just wandering down these dark and spooky aisles.  I’m not easily ‘spooked’, but this nighttime setting would bring out any latent fears that I might be suppressing!

The lady with the badge hung around her neck was our guide for the tour.  She was very knowledgeable and she knew her history as well as tomb architecture… We opted for the Historic New Orleans Tour group/Save Our Cemeteries vs. the Haunted History or Voodoo Cemetery Tour.

This is the tomb for Pierre Derbigny and his family.  Pierre Augustin Charles Bourguignon Derbigny was born in France in 1769 but he fled France in 1791 during the French Revolution.  Derbigny was one of the representatives of the new Americans in Washington seeking self-government for the Orleans Territory.  He was the 6th Governor of Louisiana…

Derbigny supported the reopening of the slave trade and, as the territory was integrated into the United States, he opposed British common law in Louisiana and defended the retention of civil law practices established during the French and Spanish colonial periods.  As a consequence, Louisiana is unique among the 50 U.S. states in having a legal system for deciding private disputes that is primarily based on French and Spanish codes and ultimately Roman law, as opposed to English common law. 

FYI…These tombs usually contain more than one deceased member from the family, in fact there are normally several corpses are interred in most of these structures.  The remains are basically stacked on top of each other… 

With its multitude of large and small structures, spires, towers, multi-story tombs and monuments, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is indeed a city of the dead… The tall brick structure on the right is a ‘tomb apartment’.  If you couldn’t afford a family tomb and you couldn’t convince a friend to ‘share’ their tomb with you, these stacked apartment burials provided an optional solution. 

This is an example of a shared tomb, with the owner of the tomb sharing it with a friend.  As is the practice, visitors or family members have left flowers, beads and other mementos…such as this bottle of champagne…as gifts to the deceased.  

Our guide informed us that many families actually gather by their family tomb each year to commemorate/celebrate the dead and to have a picnic.  She had come across one such celebration only a week earlier…

This is the “Musicians’ Tomb”.  It’s big and quite new… Back in 2004, local community activists answered the call to properly honor those who gave the city its anthems.  This 18-vault tomb bears a plaque designating it as the Société "L'Union Sacrée"/Barbarin Family/Musicians' Tomb.  A larger plaque lists New Orleans musicians as they are entombed at the site. Inclusion in the tomb will not be limited to those who can't afford another place for burial but most New Orleans musicians are neither wealthy nor international celebrities.

This is the tomb of Jean Étienne de Boré. (1741 – 1820) He was a French planter who was known for producing the first granulated sugar in Spanish Louisiana, essentially making sugar cane profitable as a commodity crop. He was prominent at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in 1803 the American governor of the territory appointed him the first Mayor of New Orleans under United States administration.

This is the de Marigny family tomb.  Jean-Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, (1785–1868), was a French-Creole American nobleman, playboy, planter, politician, land developer and President of the Louisiana Senate. 

Bernard was also a big time gambler.  He actually introduced a dice game (craps), into New Orleans.  He had so many gambling debts that upon reaching legal adulthood, he divided his family plantation into small lots on what was then the outskirts of early New Orleans.  His development was very popular and it is now called the Faubourg Marigny…a neighborhood in the city.  Jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton was from Faubourg Marigny.   

Among other family members buried in this tomb is Homer Plessy. (1862 – 1925) He was the American Louisiana Creole of Color plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.  Arrested, tried and convicted in New Orleans of a violation of one of Louisiana's racial segregation laws, he appealed through Louisiana state courts to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. 

The resulting "separate-but-equal" decision against him in 1896 had wide consequences for civil rights in the United States.  The decision legalized state-mandated segregation anywhere in the United States so long as the facilities provided for both blacks and whites were "equal".  This ruling stood until the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. 

There are also a number of ethnic or society tombs in the cemetery.  This is the Italian Society's version…

Society tombs for professional or benevolent societies were common in the early history of New Orleans and served to administer to the burial needs of the individuals who belonged to them.  There are many historically important ethnic groups as well as such groups as volunteer firemen that are represented by these tomb styles.  A society tomb is a multi- layered tomb wall that contains several burial vaults.  They are like mausoleums…except that most people in a society tomb are connected in some way.

Scattered tombs throughout the cemetery have slowly collapsed as families either fail to maintain them or family lines have faded into obscurity.
Initial burials appear to have taken place in a haphazard manner, leading to the current maze of tombs and aisles.  Current theories about tomb and site evolution suggest that initial burials took place below-ground or in low, quasi-above ground tombs that only held one burial.  As the needs of the site grew, existing burial plots were added on to create additional burial vaults while retaining the original tomb footprints.  So, the one tier semi-below ground burial space became the fully realized above-ground tomb now found throughout the cemeteries of New Orleans and bayou country.

This pyramid is one of the most unusual tombs in the St. Louis #1 cemetery.  As it turns out, this is the only property remaining in New Orleans that is still owned by actor Nicolas Cage.  While he lost his home and other properties in bankruptcy, apparently pre-purchased tombs are exempt from the law.
If you’re wondering about all of those stains on the tomb, just click on the photo to enlarge it.  You will discover that those are lipstick imprints… Yikes!

This is the Glapion family tomb.  Allegedly, best evidence indicates the renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, (1794 – 1881), is interred in the Glapion family crypt.  There is still some debate regarding the whereabouts of Marie and her daughter’s remains…but she had a lover, Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, and they had a plethora of offspring.  

Two known descendants of Marie Laveau (II) supposedly still practice Voodoo.
To learn more about Marie Laveau (I), the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, go to

The Laveau-Glapion tomb is a focal point for commercial ‘voodoo’ tours. Some visitors leave small gifts at the site-coins, Mardi Gras beads, candles, etc.-in the tradition of voodoo offerings. Many follow a custom of making a wish at the tomb.  In 2013, this tomb was painted pink by a vandal and it cost over $10,000 to remove the paint and refurbish the tomb.

This is another tomb that is somehow alleged to be connected to the voodoo practices of Marie Laveau and her daughter.  The XXX markings are supposed to bring good luck and there are other rituals that go along with that.  Several tourist operations over the years have sensationalized the voodoo aspect of the cemetery, some going so far as to encourage people to mark on the tombs or even to knock openings in the bricks so they can extract bones to show the tourists…

If you’d like to learn more about Voodoo in New Orleans you can go to

From what we were told, many of the tombs used to be painted and a few families still maintain the practice.  This particular crypt is littered with offerings and gifts.

In January of this year, the Roman Catholic archdiocese announced that, as of March 1st, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 will no longer be free to the general public.  This is to protect the cemetery from further desecration.  Tour companies that operate in the cemetery will be required to register with the archdiocese at a cost of $450 a month, $1,200 quarterly or $4,500 a year. People with family members buried in the cemetery also can register for free passes.  To learn more about this new policy, you can go to

We did enjoy our tour.  The “Save Our Cemeteries” organization supports the new controls in St. Louis Cemetery #1 despite the additional costs.  Our tour guide was very good although another ‘guide’ tagged along, interrupted and was a general nuisance.  To learn more about this group and their tours, go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and accompanying us on our tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A New Bakery and Sandwich Shop!

Some months ago, while dining at the Foothills Milling Company in Maryville Tennessee, our waitress told us that the owners of that fine dining restaurant were planning to open a bakery.  Well, that promise has come to past and a couple of weeks ago, we decided to check it out…

Unfortunately for us, the new bakery is on the opposite side of Maryville.  That is a good thing from a dietary point of view as bread and baked goods are a shared weakness.  Our other two favorite bakeries are Fresh Market in Farragut and Tellico Grains in Tellico Plains Tennessee.  All of these bakeries are at least 30 minutes from our home…

The sign was a surprise as we didn’t expect this to be a sandwich shop/bakery combined!  The building doesn’t grab your eye, but you should never judge a book…or a bakery…by its appearance.

The inside of the Foothills Milling Co. Bakery/sandwich shop is pretty basic…it’s a working bakery with supplies, ovens and a few tables for lunch time diners.

The lunchtime sandwich menu is posted on a big blackboard and printed copies are available on the counter.  All 13 sandwiches are served ‘hot’ and cost either $8.00 or $9.00 and chicken salad is available in the cooler.  Enlarge this photo to check out the menu!

Unfortunately, we had just eaten a late breakfast so we weren’t hungry so our feedback on the sandwiches will have to wait for another posting.  We did note that these are not basic ham and cheese, bologna and mayonnaise or turkey club sandwiches… For example, how about ordering a Bologna and Truffle Cheese sandwich…or a Benton’s Bacon Pimento Cheese sandwich?  This is an ‘upscale’ sandwich menu at very reasonable prices.

Then there are the bakery display cases…full of goodies calling out to the hungry masses!  Loaves of bread are displayed on racks behind the bakery counters.  We had a hard time making a decision what to buy while at the same time limiting our purchases so as to avoid too much of a good thing.

These are the sweets that we purchased.  There are 2 Molasses Spice Cookies and 2 Oatmeal Raisin Cookies at 75 cents each.  The Butterscotch Blondies were $3.00 each.  The Raspberry Jamaretti cookies were 50 cents each.

Laurie liked the Spice and Oatmeal Raisin cookies but they were too sweet for me.  We both really liked the Raspberry Jamaretti cookies…basically a shortbread and raspberry jam combination of flavors.  The Butterscotch Blondies were, what can I say…only Excellent!! 

We asked what the most popular bread was and we were told that it was the Sweet Sourdough bread.  We bought a loaf ($6.00) and had it sliced for us.  For us this bread is just a little sweet and we couldn’t pick up on the sourdough flavor.  It does toast very nicely…

Several other types of bread are available and the next time we visit this bakery, we’ll go with our instincts for our bread choice.  Of course, we’ll also try out a couple of those very imaginative sandwiches!  We noted that lunchtime was approaching while we were making our purchases and the parking lot was getting busy fast…Foothills Bakery had only been open for about a month when we stopped by.

More on this bakery, both about its sandwiches and its baked goods will follow our next visit.  Should you want to give it a try in the meantime, Foothills Bakery is located at 1420 East Broadway Avenue in Maryville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-724-2073.  I could not locate a website for the Bakery…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, February 23, 2015

Venice Louisiana: The End of the Road!

I have this love of taking the road less traveled…checking out places that the average tourist doesn’t visit.  In Louisiana, those roads usually end up in a swamp, against the Mississippi or at the Gulf of Mexico.  Louisiana State Highway 23 manages to provide all three end points…

This is the Venice Marina and Restaurant in Venice Louisiana.  Starting in Houma, we’d circled up to the south shore of the Mississippi just across from New Orleans and then we headed on down LA Rte. 23 to the last town (and place to have lunch) on the Mississippi before it empties into the Gulf.

It was just about 10 days before Christmas so the Venice Marina Restaurant was cheerfully festooned with holiday decorations.  Appropriately, the restaurant has a ‘fishing camp’ look to it.  The actual name of the restaurant is CrawGator’s Bar and Grill.

Our friends Big Dude and his better half Beverly, (, had visited this restaurant at one point and knowing that we were heading down to New Orleans, he’d asked if we were planning to make this drive to Venice.  Mission completed!

It was a little too brisk to eat outside on the deck but I imagine that it and the restaurant would be packed in season.  Venice, with the surrounding waters, is a major sport fishing destination and the waitress told us that this place really rocks in season!

For more about sport fishing and visiting Venice Louisiana, just go to

Venice also serves as a port for the trawlers and fishing boats of those who fish to provide seafood for us landlubbers…

Note: All the buildings down at the south end of the Mississippi Delta are built up on stilts or pilings.  The land is just above sea level and this is Hurricane country!

Standing on the deck of the Marina and looking back to the west…all you can see is more water, Cyprus trees, swamp and some oil related structures on the horizon.  At this point, the actual land area is no more than 200 or 300 yards across...

Venice is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.  As of the 2010 census, its population was 202.  The ‘town’ is 77 miles south of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River.  Venice was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Since then, significant rebuilding, reopening, and reoccupation has taken place.  Fortunately the high bridge leading to Venice was not destroyed during the hurricane.

There were lots of birds around…enjoying the plentiful food offered by the swamp and adjoining waters and catching some rays.  This brown pelican posed nicely and patiently for Laurie.  It is just one of eight species of pelicans and it is the State Bird of Louisiana.

We didn’t know what to expect re: the quality of the food at this ‘end of the road’ restaurant.  Laurie ordered a Margarita Daiquiri and I ordered a Miller Lite to go with these appetizers. (She loved her Daiquiri!)

Dawn wanted to have some Mozzarella Sticks so we ordered a small portion of those ($6.50) plus an order of the Alligator Kickers…stuffed alligator bites. ($7.00) The mozzarella sticks were just fine and we really liked the alligator bites!

Dawn Marie ordered a cheeseburger on Texas toast. ($7.00) It was pretty good…juicy and flavorful.

I ordered the Fried Fish Basket. ($13.00) Wow!  It was huge, the breading was very good and the fish was excellent!  The French fries were good too!  I was a very happy traveler…

Laurie also went with a seafood option.  She ordered the Grilled Shrimp Salad. ($13.00) The shrimp were fresh and plump and this dinner salad was very satisfying! 

Sometimes, restaurants in locations like this just pump out mediocre food because they can…with no competition.  Not in this case.  Overall we were very pleased with the quality of the food at CrawGator’s Bar and Grill (aka. the Venice Marina Restaurant).  Service was friendly and the food we ordered was not only satisfying but very good indeed.

This restaurant is located at 237 Sports Marina Road in Venice Louisiana.  To see the menu for CrawGator’s Bar and Grill, just go to

If you miss your turn and drive on past the Venice Marina on LA Rte. 23, you won’t go too much further.  This sign confronts you just a little past Sports Marina Road… Both the road and the dry land end here!

There were plenty of birds all around us in the swampland.  We saw several anhinga’s in the water and then there was this one up in a Cyprus tree.
The anhinga is sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey.  The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.  It is a cormorant-like bird with an average body length of 33 inches and a wingspan of 46 inches.  When swimming the reason for the name ‘snakebird’ is apparent.  Only the neck appears above water and the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.  The anhinga hunts by spearing fish and other small prey with its sharp, slender beak.

The road along the end of Highway 23 is lined with Cyprus swamps.  Even in the winter, there is a stark beauty and perhaps a hint of mystery to this place.

Laurie also spotted this osprey high in another tree… Given all of the lakes and rivers around us where we live in East Tennessee, we have osprey in our neighborhood…but you usually can’t get this close to them.  I didn’t realize that ospreys can be found on all continents except Antarctica.  However in South America the osprey occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

As we left Venice and headed back up LA Rte. 23, I couldn’t resist having Laurie take another boat photo for me.  The ‘Master Myles’ is a towing vessel that is 46 feet long that was built back in 1969.

I turned off the highway to check out a sign pointing to the Delta National Wildlife Refuge.  As it turned out, there wasn’t much to see… It was just this sign and plaque looking across the water in the direction of the actual refuge.  The refuge itself is only accessible by boat. 

The Delta National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935.  Its 49,000 acres were formed by the deposition of sediment carried by the Mississippi River. This area combines the warmth of the Gulf and the wealth of the river.  Its vegetation is the food source for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and animals.  Delta is the winter home for hundreds of thousands of snow geese, coots and ducks.

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for our drive to the end of the road!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Streetcars/Trolleys in New Orleans…Plus!

Certain large cities in the USA are special or different than the “typical” metro area.  Certainly New Orleans fits this image.  San Francisco also immediately jumps to my mind.  Both cities have something in common…an old time, unusual and related mode of transportation.

San Francisco has its Cable Cars and New Orleans has these old fashioned streetcars or trolleys. Both are very popular and are heavily utilized.  I think that they really add character to the city scene… This 2000 series trolley is operating on the Canal Street Line.  It’s a replica of the original 900 series that was built in the mid-1920's. (FYI…New Orleans’s residents prefer the term ‘streetcar’ vs. trolley)

With one exception, New Orleans’ trolley or streetcar lines were replaced by bus service in the period from the late 1940's to the early 1960's.  However, in the later portion of the 20th century, trends began to favor rail transit again. Service was returned to Canal Street in 2004…40 years after it had been shut down.

To check out the 4 New Orleans streetcar lines now in use, as well as fares and schedules, just go to

This is the front of the interior of one of the original 900 series trolleys.  It is one of approximately 35 original units that are still in service. 

These early streetcars/trolleys were built by the Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Inc.  This company was a 20th-century builder of wooden and steel streetcars.  It was based in High Point, North Carolina.  The company later transitioned to building school buses…as Thomas Built Buses.  That company is now a division of Daimler Trucks North America, the parent company of Freightliner.

This is a view of the back of one of the original 900 series trolleys.  All of the trolleys, original or replica, seat 52 passengers.  On our ride on the St. Charles Avenue line out to the Garden District, it was late in the morning and the passenger load was light…

Streetcars in New Orleans have been part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century.   Currently, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority operates 4 distinct trolley lines.  While impressive, it’s a modest operation when compared to the number of lines in operation back in the system’s heyday when there were at least 2 dozen routes.   

While I prefer the streetcars, Laurie would prefer this alternate method of transportation…be it via mule or horse drawn carriage.  Carriage rides are available at Jackson Square in the French Quarter and rides are available from 8:45 am to around 11 pm. 

Despite the fact that I also like horses and mules, one reason that I prefer the trolley is the price!  A half-hour carriage ride is $18.00 per person (plus tip) but to be fair, it is also a tour with the driver acting as your guide.  However, the price of the trolley is a bit more doable as riders can buy an all-day Jazzy Pass for only $3.00!  In this day and age, that is a bargain…

At the end of our second day of walking, walking and walking…first throughout the French Quarter and then throughout the Garden District and part of Uptown, I can’t tell you how glad I was to see old number 920 coming down the tracks on St. Charles Avenue!  It was ‘rush hour’ and the streetcar was crowded with local residents on their daily commute… I was glad to see how popular it was. 

The St. Charles Avenue line is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world!  It is also the longest line in the system.  Preservationists were able to convince city government to protect the St. Charles Avenue Line by granting it historic landmark status.  The historic landmark status also applies to the original 900 series streetcars, with 35 or so currently in operating condition.

I was happy to capture this contrasting photograph…an old time replica streetcar trundling along toward us side by side with a Burlington Northern/Santa Fe diesel locomotive.  Unlike the other 3 streetcar lines, the Riverfront Line operates on an exclusive right of way, (no cars and trucks to share the road with), along the river levee beside New Orleans Belt Railway tracks.

The Riverfront Line started service in 1988.  This line uses another 900 series replica streetcar…the 457-463 Series.  It was the third line that we used during our visit.  It operates from the Convention Center past Jackson Square to the far end of the French Quarter.

With the addition of the Riverfront and Canal lines, more streetcars were needed for the system. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s shops built all of the replica streetcars.  They've constructed a total of 31 streetcars to date.  The replica streetcars/trolleys can be distinguished from the older vehicles by their bright red color.  Unlike the original 900 series exempted under historic landmark status, the new streetcars are ADA-compliant and the Canal Street cars are even air conditioned.

Note: The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a Class III switching railroad with the primary mission of serving the Port of New Orleans and local industries. The NOPB has direct connections to six (6) Class 1 Railroads.

It may not look like it but this is the former Basin Street Railway Station which is located just outside the French Quarter.  A tour guide explained that the 4th floor is an addition to the original structure.  This structure was also formerly known as the New Orleans Terminal Company/Southern Railway Freight Office Building.  It was built in 1904. 

The sign above the archway is inscribed ‘Basin Street Station’.  Actually this re-purposed building contains elements of 5 different railway stations that once served New Orleans but which have now been demolished.  To view old photos of some of the original railroad stations, you can go to

For railroad aficionados, there is a giant showcase containing some very nice model railroad equipment and rolling stock.  Other exhibits, maps and information can be viewed while exploring the building or waiting for tours.  Seating consists of what appears to be old railroad depot benches. 

Today, this historic railroad building is staffed with travel counselors, murals, art, music, crafts, refreshments and entertainment.  Coffee and snacks are also available.  I think that while it’s a positive thing that the building has been re- purposed and it’s well used, it just doesn’t feel like a railroad station.  

FYI…tours of historic St. Louis Cemetery #1 start here.  The cemetery is located right next door. (More on the cemetery tour in another posting)

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a streetcar ride!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave