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 It’s a sadly outdated misconception that cemeteries are always dark, dingy places to be avoided at all costs.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.

Stay here: Bunjil Farm, Victoria

Bunjil Farm
Kyneton-Springhill Road, Lauriston, VIC
http://bunjilfarm.com.au/

 

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A beautiful drive up through Macedon, Woodend and Kyneton brings you to Bunjil Farm, run by the lovely Lyn Stephenson. Lyn’s property is open, lush and absolutely stunning. It performs double duty as both accommodation for city escapees needing a break, and a hemp farm.

Hemp, for the record, is not the same as marijuana; Lyn’s crops are grown under license, subject to strict testing, and are used to produce, oil, textiles and building materials. You learn something new every day…

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But, back to the accommodation. Paying homage to the original owners of this nation, the farm was named after Bunjil, the creator of the earth (you can read more about Bunjil’s story here). It’s instantly clear that so many details of the farm have been carefully thought out with respect for the earth in mind. There are a few options for accommodation at Bunjil Farm; when we visited, we stayed in the Settler’s Hut. Having visited in winter, the fireplace was a big selling point.

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This beautiful little hut has been carefully restored and kept as close to the original 1850’s version as possible, without compromising too much on modern comforts. There’s no TV or stereo or central heating, but there are very comfy couches, the aforementioned magnificent fireplace, and plenty of space to read, write and draw. The stone floors, while beautiful, are also pretty cold if you visit in winter, so pack your wooly socks.

The kitchen is spread across the hut, with a big wooden cabinet holding your breakfast provisions, tea, coffee, flatware and what not. The water in the hut is bore water, so a large glass jug full of fresh drinking water is provided, too. A sink over in the opposite corner, however, holds modern luxuries like a toaster, mini fridge, electric kettle and dishwashing detergent.

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The bathroom is stunning, with the original plumbing still on display in the shower, but with modern plumbing actually in use, which means there’s not long to wait for a nice, hot shower. Thank goodness. Soft, fluffy towels are provided for you, as are some good, old fashioned hot water bottles to keep you warm and toasty at night. I hadn’t used a hot water bottle in YEARS, but was incredibly grateful that Lyn had the foresight to mention them as the temperature dropped later in the evening.

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The bedroom is simple and the bed is very comfortable – lots of big pillows to rest your heads on and a double doona will keep you warm overnight. There’s also a very efficient plug in heater that warms the bedroom up perfectly.

And don’t forget to head out the back and say hi to the neighbours – we met the most beautiful horses that Lyn keeps on her property for one of the city’s horse-and-cart owners. One was a bit feisty, but the others were incredibly placid and sweet-natured, and very photogenic. This gorgeous red-head followed us along the fence line, gently nudging our hands with his nose, to get a bit of a pat.

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You can also expect breakfast to be a pretty impressive affair, with Lyn providing everything you’ll need; yoghurt, fresh milk, eggs, a very fresh loaf of bread, jams, butter, muesli, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, even Vegemite. You might be picturing an elegant, civilised breakfast in front of the fireplace, and maybe that’s what your breakfast will look like. In our case, it looked more like two large, pyjama-clad kids wolfing down fresh toast like they hadn’t eaten in days. And this kid polished off the marshmallows that Lyn kindly left on the table, along with some nice, long metal swords, so that I could toast them over the fire.

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When we visited Bunjil Farm, we both desperately needed a break from life. Being able to literally switch off from life with no TV, put our phones away, not have to rush around to see or do anything, and just BE was the perfect way to reset. Lyn’s created the most wonderful atmosphere at Bunjil Farm, making you simultaneously feel like you’re totally comfortable and at home, and a well looked after guest at the same time.

Photo Journal: Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Australia was basically founded as one big convict colony island. Despite the fact that we’re a really quite a young country, there really aren’t many (any?) places left where you can see that side of our history.

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From the website, “The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830. Originally designed as a replacement for the recently closed timber camp at Birches Bay, Port Arthur quickly grew in importance within the penal system of the colonies.”

And who was shipped off to Port Arthur?
“After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send her convicts to America, so after 1788 they were transported to the Australian colonies…. The convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land were most likely to be poor young people from rural areas or from the slums of big cities. One in five was a woman. Numbers of children were also transported with their parents. Few returned home.”

And walking through the remains of the colony, from the prison building itself to the church, the asylum, the staff and family housing and the beautiful gardens, you start to get a real sense of how different things were for the convicts as opposed to the officers. Looking out over Carnarvon Bay, it was honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It must have been such a bittersweet feeling, arriving into this picture-perfect place, knowing that you’d most likely never see freedom again.

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You can read about the rest of the history on the website, but the thing that really surprised me about the site was just how beautiful it was; I had no idea. It has been really well looked after and restored, but even if it had been left to fall to ruins, the stunning natural setting is something else, particularly in Autumn when the sun is still shining and the leaves are turning.

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Photo Journal: Tasmanian road trip – Hobart to Port Arthur

Port Arthur gained attention for all the wrong reasons 20 years ago. On 1996, it was the site of Australia’s worst massacre. But I’m not here to write about that. I want to tell you about what Port Arthur should be known for; it’s BEAUTIFUL, and the site of one of Australia’s best-kept convict colonies.

But first we have to get there. We drove from Hobart, which is only about a 90 minute away, but we decided to drag it out and stop off at as many sweet little towns as possible on the way, including…

 

Sorell
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Forcett

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Copping
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Bream Creek
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The Federation Chocolate Factory

Pirate’s Bay

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Tasman Arch and the blow hole
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Honestly, this was one of the best parts of the trip. Having the car meant that we got to stop off whenever we wanted. Any beautiful scene we drove through, we stopped to enjoy it. Yes, you can absolutely get there quickly; hell, you can even do it as a day trip from Hobart if you want. But why would you when you can take the slow path and enjoy every step?

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a day in Healesville

Founded in the mid 1800s, this sweet little town was born after a rail line was built through it to service the surrounding goldfields. The gold may have long since dried up, but Healesville now lives in some of the state’s best wine country.

Healesville is one of my favourite places to get away to. It’s a little over an hour out of Melbourne’s CBD, making it far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet, but not so far that it’s a hassle to get to. And now that Victoria is opening up again, it’s the perfect time to go and explore for a night or two.

 

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK:
– Innocent Bystander Winery
Amazing wine, pizzas, cheeses, breads and pastries. It’s not cheap, but it is quality.
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– Mocha & Lime
Gorgeous little café that serves up a tasty brunch, it’s simple food done well. They also cater extremely well for special diets, including gluten free and vegan options. Bonus points for the floor to ceiling bookshelves at the back of the café where you can browse second hand books while you wait for your coffee.

– Healesville Harvest
A personal favourite of mine – incredible sandwiches using the very best ingredients, and a cake cabinet that’ll make your jaw drop. And yes, those lamingtons are as good as they look.

– Beechworth Bakery
Duh. This place is an institution in Victoria, as anyone who’s ever been on a road trip will know. Bottomless cups of tea, freshly baked bread, golden-crusted pastries, and a fireplace for winter visits. Perfect.

 

WHERE TO SHOP:
– Healesville Jewellers
My favourite jewellery shop in the world. They do they most beautiful pieces with precious stones, and they’re very reasonably priced. They also do a lot of one-off pieces, and can adjust ring sizes on site.


– Connection

A gift and homewares boutique where you can find some seriously unique trinkets. Brass globes, antique-style wooden desk sets, leather notebooks, llama jewellery dishes, and everything else in between.

– Verso Books
I’m a sucker for a good independent store. Verso stocks new releases in fiction, beautiful books in arts, gardening and cooking, and a brilliant collection of children’s books.

 

WHAT TO DO:

– Take a drive our to the Redwood Forest in East Warburton
Once you’re done walking and eating your way around Healesville, head out to the Redwoods. It’ll take you around 40 minutes to drive there, but it is more than worth the effort. Just make sure you bring an extra layer of clothes – it’s always quite a bit cooler in there tucked away under the trees.

– Visit the weekend market
Because everyone loves a good market! You can pick up some absolutely brilliant little treasures there, too, if you have time to dig around a little…

– Stop at the Yarra Vallery Chocolaterie on the way home
Because their chocolate is a thing of beauty. You can select a box from their Great Wall of Chocolate (I recommend the Tantalising Toasted Coconut Slice), watch the chocolate artists at work through the giant kitchen windows, grab a light lunch or dessert and enjoy the views from their gardens…