Friday, March 15, 2013

Fri 15 Mar - Memphis, TN

We are returning to another city of the dead in New Orleans this morning, to Saint Louis number 1 cemetary, (in)famous for connections to voodoo among other things.

A guide told us that they now close up the cemetery's at night because of vandalism and theft. This family weren't taking any chances with their lovely gate, note the big chains on each side.
We specifically came to find the grave of Marie Leveau, the witch queen of New Orleans. She's reputed to be buried in the Leveau family toom below, but nobody really knows for sure. Anyway, Di is offering beads that were thrown to her from a balcony on Bourbon Street.

More details of Marie Leveau on the plaque attached to the grave above.

And the necessary self portrait.

Voodoo is a recognized religion and about 15% of people in New Orleans list it as their religion in the latest census. This is a catholic cemetery but any grave in disrepair seems to attract voodoo markings and offerings. See the 2 additional examples in photos below. If nobody is named, it must be occult, right?

This pyramid is the future burial place for Nicolas Cage who bought the plot and had this built. Of course, totally out of character with anything else in the cemetary.
And this monument, the Italian Mutual Benevolent Society Tomb was apparently used in the movie Easy Rider featuring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Of course, no permission was sought and the movie had Peter Fonda climbing the monument, with the result that the Italian Society was outraged and the Catholic Church then prohibited all future filming at the cemetary, a veto which is still in place today.
We don't know the background to this monument, but we thought that it was interesting and certainly different.
And this... If what is stated on the grave is true, Louis lived to a grand old age of 106 years.
After our visit to Saint Louis No 1 Cemetary, we walked to our local grocery store to pick up dinner for the train and snacks and water. We then wander back to Chateau Dupre for the last time. We are happy to be leaving this hotel but felt we could have spent more time in New Orleans. The hotel was probably our worst on this trip. The bed and location were good but staff and service made us laugh - so bad!
We take our bags and check out close to noon and then take the streetcar from Canal St to Loloya, which is the streetcar station for the combined Amtrak and Greyhound in New Orleans. Our train "The City of New Orleans" goes between New Orleans and Chicago and draws an inevitable comparison with the movie Silver Streak where the train slams into Chicago's central station.
Fortunately, we are not going that far, 8 hours to Memphis rather than the 21 hours to Chicago. Here is the queue of punters waiting to board the train in New Orleans.
Well, we had to do a self portrait on the train itself. The seats and leg room are a dream compared to a plane.
We found a somewhat convoluted system of managing seatings on the train. It went like this:
  • When you book, you do not get a reserved seat, only a confirmation that you will get onto the train.
  • You pass the first guy, who scans your e-booking or paper booking and directs you to a carriage.
  • You go to your allocated carriage and are given yellow paper tickets listing your actual seats
  • You sit down and a train conductor appears and asks where you are going - Memphis for us and be writes "Mem" on a white paper note and sticks it in a space above your seating
  • He also takes your yellow paper tickets that you were given when you boarded the train and sticks them next to the "Mem"
  • A little later, another train conductor returns and takes down the yellow paper tickets and throws them all away in a bin
On the outset, there has to be a smarter way...
We pass through some beautiful swampland and waterways just north of New Orleans. Here are a few shots from the travelling train...
We stop at a few tinpot towns along the way, only one more in Louisiana and then we are into the state of Missisippi. After some 3+ hours, we arrive at the only town of any magnitude between New Orleans and Memphis, which is Jackson, Missisippi.
The train has a longer stop there for disembarking and embarking passengers as well as for a smoko for those who need that.
We are looking for some photo opportunities in Jackson, MS, but you can see little from the Amtrak station. So we take some photos from the station instead.
Di was asked to take a group photo so Hans took a photo of Di taking a group photo.
At the very end of the platform in Jackson, MS, you could lean forward and get a photo of town so this is it.
The train continues and in Yazoo City, MS, the bloke below was hanging on the fence checking it all out...
Yahoo City was not really a city, and looked more like one of those places you try to escape from as soon as you can. Perhaps, take your guitar and go to New Orleans and play for tips in bars... It has been tried before to varying success.
The Missisippi we see from the train is very green, wooded and quite beautiful outside of the small towns. Here is another shot from the train.
Finally, we arrive in Memphis, some 10 minutes before scheduled arrival time which was 10pm so that was good. However, the process of getting back your checked luggage from Amtrak was another process leaving a lot to be desired:
  • We were told to wait inside the station building for our luggage to arrive, which would take 20-25 minutes according to the announcement..
  • Everybody's luggage finally arrive and they bring it all inside the station building
  • They then proceed to take one single piece of luggage and pass it through a small opening one at a time while calling out the number of that particular ticket
The whole process felt like playing bingo and it obviously took a while. Our luggage arrived relatively quick so that was good.
We had been chatting on and off on the train and also in New Orleans with an Indian family, mum, dad, son in year 6 (that's Indian as the subcontinent, not Indian as Native Americans).
They also had checked luggage and when we saw them again inside the station building, they offered to give us a lift to our motel downtown, which was extremely nice as we could see no taxis around. Thanks heaps guys. Very much appreciated.
There were plenty of Memphis cop cars parked in the Amtrak parking lot (we are talking several ten's of them), but we could only see one single cop. Not sure what the story is there. The Indian couple also mentioned that fact.
We finally arrive in our room closer to 11pm and have a relatively peaceful night's sleep despite that we are on Union Street, only 3 parallel streets from Beale Street, Bourbon Street of Memphis and it is Friday night after all. Good night.


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