Around The World In 13 Cemeteries

I’m not a goth. I don’t listen to death metal music. I don’t hold séances or have a Ouija board. I don’t cast spells, curse ex-boyfriends or make animal sacrifices. I am, however, fascinated with cemeteries.
 
Every time I travel to a new city, I always make a point of visiting one or two. I don’t know how to begin to explain it; I just feel weirdly comfortable amongst the tombs and hidden pasts. It’s a sadly outdated misconception that cemeteries are always dark, dingy places to be avoided at all costs. The majority of cemeteries are set on grounds beautiful enough to rival the city’s botanical gardens. Cemeteries aren’t just a place for the dead, the mourning and the creepy; they’re also brilliant destinations for photographers, history buffs and botanists. These are some cemeteries I’ve loved from my travels over the past decade…
 
 

1. Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans, USA

5100 Pontchartrain Boulevard, New Orleans, LA
Claims to fame: Eve Curie (Marie Curie’s daughter), Louis Prima (jazz musician)

The Metairie Cemetery used to be a racetrack, but was converted to a burial ground after the Civil War. It’s known as one of the oldest and most beautiful cemeteries in the city, with enormous open grounds and some seriously impressive mausoleums and tombs.

2. Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, USA

https://www.green-wood.com
500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY
Claims to fame: Jean-Michel Basquiat (artist), William “Boss” Tweed (politician), Elias Howe Jr (inventor of the sewing machine)

Just over half the size of Manhattan’s Central Park, Green-Wood cemetery is one of the most beautiful green spaces in Brooklyn. It’s open to the public all year round, and with no entry fee charged. And if you’re not into the tombs and mausoleums, it’s a lovely, picturesque place for a walk.

3. Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland

https://www.dctrust.ie/
Finglas Road, Dublin
Claims to fame: Brendan Behan (poet, writer), Luke Kelly (singer)

Glasnevin has finally realised the potential it holds as a tourism drawcard as well as a burial ground. They started restoration work on the cemetery 30 years ago, aiming to make it not only a top visitor attraction, but to have it recognised as a National Park and Botanic Gardens.

4. Hólavallagarður Cemetery, Reykjavík, Iceland

http://www.kirkjugardar.is/sida_en.php?id=3
Suðurgata, 101 Reykjavík
Claims to fame: Jón Sigurðsson (led the independence movement)

This is a seriously beautiful cemetery, away from the centre of the city, which gives it that extra-eerie vibe. None of the graves are particularly lavish or gaudy, and most of them are tucked under a carpet of green moss. If you’ve driven around Iceland, you’ll notice that there aren’t many trees around – I think that’s because they put them all in the cemetery to protect the graves. Bonus points if you can get there in winter while the snow is falling.

5. Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, USA

https://www.gracelandcemetery.org/
4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL
Claims to fame: Jack Johnson (boxer), Roger Ebert (film critic), Augustus Dickens (brother of Charles)

Another burial ground taking its commitment to taking the taboo out of cemeteries seriously is Graceland. Set on some of the most magnificent grounds I’ve ever seen, Graceland is a certified arboretum as well as a cemetery – they even offer the option for an arboretum tree tour of their 2000+ trees. Throw in a sparkling lake and tombs designed by some of the world’s best architects, and you’ve got a great day out in Chicago.

6. Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France

https://www.paris.fr/equipements/cimetiere-du-montparnasse-4082
3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris
Claims to fame: Simone de Beauvoir (writer), Charles Baudelaire (poet), Susan Sontag (writer), Jean-Paul Sartre (philosopher), Samuel Beckett (writer)

The second biggest cemetery in Paris, Montparnasse was built on what used to be farmland. The grounds are now covered in trees and flowers instead of bales of hay, and the residents include writers and philosophers instead of cows and horses.

7. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, USA

http://www.lafayettecemetery1.com/
1400 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70131
Claims to fame: The Brunie Family (musicians)

This might be New Orleans’ most culturally diverse cemetery – it’s non-denominational and non-segregated. It sits out in the Garden District, so you can expect some beautiful greenery in and around it, and it was also a filming site for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.

8. The Imperial Crypt, Vienna, Austria

https://www.kapuzinergruft.com/site/en/home
Tegetthoffstraße 2, 1010 Vienna
Claims to fame: The Habsburgs – Austria’s Royal Family

With around 600 years of rule over Austria, the Habsburgs needed a fairly impressive final resting place. And a crypt beneath a church in the middle of the city, filled with the most intricately made metal sarcophagi, more than fits the bill. This would have to be the most fascinating burial grounds I’ve ever seen – the art work on these sarcophagi was beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

9. Marble Cemetery, New York City, USA

https://www.nycmc.org/
52-74 E 2nd St, New York, NY 10003
Claims to fame: Stephen Allen and Isaac Varian (former mayors of NYC)

This tiny cemetery just pops up out of nowhere – it’s rarely open to the public, its residents are buried in vaults underground, and the plaques list only the families who own the vaults, not the people who are actually interred in them.

10. Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

http://www.cemeteryrome.it/about/about.html
Via Caio Cestio, 6, 00153 Rome
Claims to fame: John Keats (poet), Percy Bysshe Shelley (poet), Giorgio Bulgari (businessman)

A cemetery in Italy. That sits behind an Egyptian pyramid. Filled with beautiful greenery. Swarming with stray cats. And home to artists and scholars from around the world. Random and fabulous enough to get your attention?

11. Pére Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France

https://www.paris.fr/equipements/cimetiere-du-pere-lachaise-4080
16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris
Claims to fame: Jim Morrison (musician), Edith Piaf (singer), Marcel Marceau (mime/actor), Oscar Wilde (writer), Frederic Chopin (musician), Honore de Balzac (writer)

This is the most visited cemetery in the world – the grounds (all 110 acres of them) are spectacular, and guest list (over a million are buried there) is incredible, and it’s been used as a filming location quite a few times. Just go and visit, ok?

12. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, USA

425 Basin St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Claims to fame: allegedly, Marie Laveau (Voodoo priestess) and eventually, Nicolas Cage

This is the city’s most famous cemetery (and the oldest), and one of my favourites from this list. Unfortunately, you can no longer enter the grounds without paying a fee and employing the services of a tour guide, but it’s worth it.

13. Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., USA

https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/
Arlington, VA, United States
Claims to fame: President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy

I usually find cemeteries to be a place of peace and beauty, but Arlington was heart breaking. It’s the only cemetery I’ve visited to date that was a truly sad place for me to be in. To see that many graves representing lives lost at war, in a country that was not my own, was a lot more overwhelming than I’d ever have expected.

Bookstores of Melbourne

Melbourne was designated a UNESCO City of Literature back in 2008, and it’s no wonder why.

Melbourne is home to Australia’s oldest public library, the State Library of Victoria. It’s home base for Lonely Planet and the Wheeler Centre. Host of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Location of Scribe Publications, Affirm Press, and Penguin Random House Australia, among other publishing houses. We have world class bookstores dotted all over the city, many of them located near cafes serving world class coffee.

One of my favourite hobbies is bookstore browsing, so I’ll do my best to keep this list of my favourite bookstores updated for my fellow booklovers.

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City Basement Books

342 Flinders St, Melbourne
http://www.citybasementbooks.com.au/

The entrance to City Basement Books is located on Flinders St, and if you’re not looking for it, you’ll probably miss it. Down a big, steep staircase, what lies beneath Flinders Street is a veritable cornucopia of books. So many, there is literally not enough room for them on shelves; they overflow in piles all over the place. Heaven.

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Fully Booked

824 High St, Thornbury
https://www.yelp.com/biz/fully-booked-thornbury

Fully Booked in Thornbury is one of those old bookstores that makes you feel like you’ve fallen right down the rabbit hole. It’s a little space packed with an insane amount of books, and the range is excellent (war-fi to jazz music to expedition travel to insects, and everything in between). The lady who runs it is delightfully helpful, and they have the added advantage of being very close to quite a few excellent places to eat and drink.

Gone But Not Forgotten…

Grub Street Bookshop, Fitzroy

This was my happy place. The place I could never leave empty handed. The place that I always had time to visit, even when my parking was about to run out.

They had more books than they could fit on the old shelving, piling them up on the floor, on small tables, in cardboard boxes and wherever else they could fit them. You’d find second hand books on everything from cooking to history, art to travel, crime novels to science fiction, and literally everything in between, as well as some beautiful vintage first editions. I loved everything about this shop, from the creaky floors to the smell of the old pages, and I’ll miss it dearly.

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery
16 Rue du Repos, Paris
http://www.pere-lachaise.com/

Starting to look a bit morbid here, with another post about cemeteries, aren’t I?! I guess that’s at least partly true; I’ve always had a bit of a weird fascination with death. But that aside, I still maintain that cemeteries are very overlooked sites to visit when you’re travelling. They can give you a pretty good sense of a place and its history (are there Catholic crosses on the tombs? Coptic crosses? A Star of David?), what types of hardships its residents have been through (are there a lot of dates of deaths around the time of a war or pandemic?), and they’re more often than not in some of the city’s more beautiful park-like settings. Case in point: Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery.

It’s less than 10km from the Eiffel Tower, and you can get there easily enough on the no. 2 or no. 3 metro train lines. There’s no entry fee and you can walk around at your own pace, but it IS a big cemetery, so if you’d prefer to have someone show you around, there are plenty of companies that offer guided tours.

The grounds are open all year round, but visiting in autumn didn’t hurt as you can see by the perfect gold and red leaves throughout my photos. It’s become well-known as the final resting place of creative celebrities like Jim Morrison (photo below), Edith Piaff, Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust.

Another popular grave is that of Abélard and Héloïse, which I read about in Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad:

“Yet who really knows the story of Abélard and Héloïse? Precious few people. The names are familiar to everybody, and that is about all. With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that history… to show the public that they have been wasting a good deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily.”

Turns out a lot of people know them as a love story, a Romeo and Juliet type love story. The real story as told by Mark Twain? He seduced her, they ran away, had a child. They got married, but were soon torn apart by his meddling uncle. She entered a convent and heard nothing from her lover for a decade until a letter arrived. They wrote to each other for a while, but would only meet again in death, when, as per Héloïse’s last wish, they were buried together…

 

13 Cemeteries to Visit in New Orleans

I love New Orleans. And cliché or not, I love it for all the things it’s built its reputation on: good food, great music, and death. Visitors usually go for the first two, but many find themselves oddly drawn to the third in little ways – past life tarot readings, voodoo customs, and the city’s cemeteries, many of which are now now popular ‘tourist’ attractions. The people of the crescent city have developed unique rituals that are both deeply fascinating and incredibly beautiful around the celebration of life and death.

Continue reading “13 Cemeteries to Visit in New Orleans”

RUOK? Mental health in the year of COVID-19

RUOK? Day is a cause close to my heart (this post I wrote a few years ago is still one of the most viewed on my blog), and this year it’s going to be more important than ever. I never struggle to ask if people are doing ok, but I still struggle to answer honestly when I’m asked. If I knew my friends were struggling with mental illness, having thoughts about ending their own lives, having a hard time coping day to day with even the most mundane tasks like doing their grocery shopping or hanging up the laundry, I’d do whatever I could to help. But for some reason, I don’t feel deserving of the same help and support in return. That’s how depression and anxiety get you; they make you feel you are not worthy.

Compounding my silence even more now is the fact that I now have a son; if I spoke out about just how badly I’m struggling, people might think I’m a bad mother. Then I catastrophise: what if people don’t trust me with him? What if they think I don’t love him? What if someone tries to take him away from me? I should just keep quiet, because no good can come from me being honest about the deep dark hole I find myself in from time to time. Postnatal depression and anxiety is horrific. So is regular depression and anxiety. And eating disorders. And personality and mood disorders. All mental illness is a terrible thing. It robs you of your sense of self, your passions and hobbies, your relationships, your will to get up and make the most of the day; sometimes it even robs you of your life.

So today, let’s not just do the token RUOK? sms to everyone, and let’s not send the token “yeah, doing great!” in response. If you are having a hard time, that’s ok. Let’s normalise the fact that mental illness is a real and dangerous thing. Let’s not sweep it under the rug. Let’s stop telling people to just try and stay positive, or that we’re all in the same COVID-19 boat, just because these dark feelings are uncomfortable and difficult to talk about. Imagine if that was the last thing you said to someone you loved before they took their own life. Let’s try to just be empathetic and kind today. If you don’t know what to say, a simple “I’m really sorry you’re going through this, I love you and I’m here for you” can go a very long way. And if you’re having a hard time right now and struggling with the isolation and loneliness inherent in both mental illness and COVID-19, here are some things that might help both you and the people around you…

 

Send some love out into the world to the ones you know who maybe aren’t doing OK:

1. Send postcards to your friends.
Postcards aren’t just for when you’re on holidays, and think about how awesome it feels to check the mail and find something other than bills in there! This isn’t a sponsored post, but I really love Red Bubble for fun postcards – there is literally something for everyone on there, and writing a postcard is a lot more manageable that writing a full letter when you’re struggling to know what to say.

2. Write a letter to a stranger.
If you find yourself with a bit more time and mental energy, think about joining in on the Connected AU Letterbox Project. It’s easy for most of us to just send a text or have a family Zoom session, but there are a lot of Australians who either don’t have the access or ability to use technology to keep connected. This project is a way for those of us with an extra 10 minutes to remind those Aussies that they’re not alone. Writing a letter too hard? Maybe send a copy of your favourite recipe, a drawing, or some photos you’ve taken.

3. Send a regular weekly or fortnightly or even monthly “check in” text to friends you know might be having a hard time.
You know the friends I’m talking about. The one with kids at home who’s struggling to keep them entertained. The one working in a higher risk environment. The one who owns a small business and doesn’t know if it will survive this. The one with family overseas or with elderly parents they can’t see. And it doesn’t need to be an essay. You can literally just sent a text that says “hey, just checking in to see how you’re doing :)” Sometimes all we need is to know someone is thinking of us.

4. Cook up a bit of extra food when you make dinner, or an extra big batch of cookies…
… and drop it off to a neighbour. If you’ve read any of my blog before, you’ll have noticed that I love exploring the ways that food connects us, and right now, that connection might save someone. Even a little plate of choc chip cookies and a kind note on your neighbour’s front doopstep might make the world of difference.

5. If you have loved ones further away, send food anyway!
We live in the time of UberEats and MenuLog – there are also a HEAP of amazing small hospitality businesses who are cooking up delicious meals and delivering them. If you suspect a friend is really struggling to keep up, having one less meal to cook can be a huge help, so if you’re in the financial position to help by sending them dinner one night, that can be something quick and easy you can do for them!

Do something for yourself when you’re the one feeling not so OK:

1. Turn off the news and turn on some mindless TV for a mental break.
First up, take a breather. I know how tempting it is to stay tuned for every update. I also know how bad it is to read nothing but pandemic updates all day, every day. Sometimes even reading a good book can be too mentally taxing right now, sometimes you just need to watch something on TV that requires no thinking – now’s the time to get addicted to Top Chef, Making It, The Amazing Race and Bluey. And that’s ok – you don’t have to be productive all the time!

2. Use technology work for you instead of against you.
If you’re going to have a mindless scroll, mindlessly scroll through stuff that isn’t going to make you feel worse! Here are a few Instagram favourites to make you smile and support your mental wellbeing:
@selfcareisforeveryone
@charliemackesy
@wawawiwacomics
@theblurtfoundation
@thehappynewspaper

3. Create something.
There’s a good reason art therapy is used in the treatment of many mental illnesses. You don’t need to be good at creative pursuits to benefit from them – write a few lines a day in a journal. Draw your breakfast every morning. Listen to your favourite music while you’re doing the laundry. If you’re a bit more ambitious, try a new creative hobby – lino printing, water colour painting, hand sewing, knitting, learning a language or a musical instrument… it can be a very cathartic experience, not to mention a really nice distraction from the sadness to create something beautiful.

4. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
A friend posted something on Instagram the other day that got me really good – it was along the lines of comparison being not only the thief of joy, but the thief of grief, too. If you’re having a hard time, that’s ok. You don’t have to buck up and get over it; you’re allowed to feel sad and hurt. You also don’t have to buy into all of your painful thoughts and feelings – this is where mindfulness comes in. There is obviously a LOT of information out there on mindfulness which I’m sure you can easily Google, but one of the easiest ways you can start is to just notice your thoughts and feelings, and to let them pass without judging them.

For example, if you’re feeling anxious, instead of getting really worked up about it and catastrophising, you might just say to yourself “hmm.. I’m noticing that I’m feeling a bit anxious right now. That’s making my stomach feel really tight and uncomfortable. I’m going to take a few slow breaths and count to 5 on each inhale and 5 on each exhale, and focus just on that counting instead of the anxiety, just for 30 seconds.” After you’re done with that breathing and counting, you might decide you don’t want to go back to the anxious feeling, or you might decide you want to poke around and work out why you’re feeling that way. Either way, it’s good to take a quick step back before these feelings get really overwhelming.

5. Reach out for help.
You don’t have to seek out help in person. It doesn’t need to be with family or friends if you’re not comfortable confiding in them yet. It doesn’t need to be a super formal thing. We live in the technology age, and that makes help more accessible than ever, so use that to your advantage.

Beyond Blue
Phone support service: 1800 512 348
Web chat support service: https://cmwssonline.beyondblue.org.au/#/chat/start
Online community forum: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/online-forums/staying-well/coping-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak

Lifeline 
Phone support service: 13 11 14
Web chat support service from 7pm – midnight: https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat/
SMS support service from 6pm – midnight: 0477 13 11 14

SANE
Phone support service: 1800 18 7263
Web chat support service from Monday to Friday 10am – 10pm: https://www.sane.org/services/help-centre#
Online community forum: https://saneforums.org/?_ga=2.9719285.116053902.1597979668-381352914.1597979668

More options for support can be found at https://mhaustralia.org/need-help