We have always wanted to tour one of the old New Orleans cemeteries but have been a bit concerned about the constant references to muggings and crime. On our most recent trip we decided to go with the Save Our Cemeteries Tour and were glad we chose this group.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the closest cemetery to the French Quarter and is an easy walk. However this cemetery is located in what became the Storyville area (the famous red light district) and when the brothels were torn down project apartment complexes were built in the area. Guidebooks recommend people only visit with tour groups and on the Sunday morning that we were there we saw at least two groups besides ours so probably visiting on your own would be fine IF you go when other guided tours are there.
Based on the commentary from our guide and what we heard from other guides nearby each group received pretty much the same information. What we liked about our chosen tour is that the group is a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore the cemeteries. Plus since our guide was a volunteer with the organization his genuine enthusiasm for the history was apparent.
The cemetery was very interesting. We were surprised to learn that it is still in use and that families and societies who own the tombs may re-use them. Many of the tombs are in ruins but some are well kept. The tomb of famed voodoo queen Marie Laveau has been covered in voodoo symbols (not authentic however) even though Marie herself was a Catholic and therefore was privileged to be entombed in the more prominent Catholic section near the front of the cemetery.
On the walk to and from the cemetery our guide also told us interesting tidbits of history about the French Quarter area and the landmarks we passed. He was especially open to answering questions and we enjoyed his friendliness. I would recommend this tour to anyone who is interested in the real New Orleans history without any theatrics.
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