Tag Archives: Normandy

The 10 Most Beautiful Cemeteries in the World

3 Apr

While it might seem like a strange thing to add to your vacation to-do list, visiting cemeteries when you travel can be an interesting way to learn about a place’s history – not to mention see some of its most beautiful landscapes.

Primosten Cemetery, Croatia. Photo by Jessica Speigel

Primosten Cemetery, Croatia. Photo by Jessica Speigel

Of course, what constitutes a “beautiful” cemetery will depend on the viewer’s opinion. Some will be painstakingly landscaped, some will be historically meaningful, some will be haunting, and some will have stunning views. But in this selection of final resting places around the world we think everyone will be able to find one that deserves “beautiful” as a descriptor.

Père Lachaise – Paris

Père-Lachaise cemetery. Photo courtesy of extranoise via Flickr.

Père-Lachaise cemetery. Photo courtesy of extranoise via Flickr.

Père Lachaise is one of the world’s most famous cemeteries, largely thanks to its long list of famous residents. Fans of the late singer Jim Morrison have made pilgrimages to his grave for decades, painting other graves en route to his with Doors-inspired graffiti. Other famous names on Père Lachaise headstones include Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Eugene Delacroix, Sarah Bernhardt, Colette, Isadora Duncan, Moliere, and Marcel Proust. There are also many graves and tombs of people you won’t know that are even more beautiful than the famous ones. Take the Paris Metro to the Philippe Auguste stop, near the main entrance, and buy a cemetery map before you enter.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – New Orleans

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo courtesy of JasonParis via Flickr.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo courtesy of JasonParis via Flickr.

You almost can’t go wrong with the cemeteries in New Orleans. They’re above-ground cities of the dead, thanks to the city’s low elevation, and every bit as hauntingly beautiful as you’d expect from a place steeped in Voodoo and vampire lore. St. Louis No. 1 is home to the tomb of Marie Laveau, the 19th century Voodoo priestess. There are other famous names from New Orleans’ history buried here, but its appeal is far greater than just local history. The cemetery is just outside the French Quarter, and guided tours (of this and any cemetery in New Orleans) are highly recommended.

American Cemetery – Normandy, France

American Cemetery - Normandy. Photo courtesy of stephenminnig via Flickr.

American Cemetery – Normandy. Photo courtesy of stephenminnig via Flickr.

Just up from Omaha Beach, where so many young soldiers fought and died during the Normandy Invasion in 1944, there’s a plot of land that’s US soil even though it’s well inside French borders. Across the pristine lawns of the 172-acre American Cemetery and War Memorial there are more than 9,300 simple white crosses and Stars of David, most of which mark the graves of men who died during the Normandy Invasion. Also in the area there are cemeteries for the fallen soldiers of Canada and Great Britain, as well as the largest (and most haunting) cemetery in the area – for more than 21,000 of the German soldiers who died in World War II.

La Recoleta Cemetery – Buenos Aires

La Recoleta Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Liam Quinn via Flickr.

La Recoleta Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Liam Quinn via Flickr.

The cemetery in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires is entirely composed of above-ground tombs, giving La Recoleta the same “city of the dead” feel of Pere Lachaise and the cemeteries in New Orleans. 94 of the tombs have even been added to the list of National Historical Monuments. Among the famous graves at La Recoleta you’ll find Eva Peron – known popularly as Evita – and many presidents of Argentina. You can take the bus to Avenue del Libertador and walk up the hill. Buy a cemetery map before you enter.

Primosten Cemetery – Primosten, Croatia

Primosten Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Gruenemann via Flickr.

Primosten Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Gruenemann via Flickr.

There are no famous names on the headstones in the tiny cemetery next to the church in Primosten, but should you end up in this tiny hill of a town on the Croatian coast it’s well worth a visit anyway. The small church and adjacent cemetery sit on top of the hill, affording all of those graves with a stunning view over the Adriatic Sea toward the islands just offshore. And because Primosten is so small and not a popular tourist stop (unlike nearby Split or Trogir), you’re likely to be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the hilltop cemetery and its sparkling view.

Kokai Mausoleum and Okunoin Cemetery – Mount Koya , Japan

Okunoin cemetery. Photo courtesy of Stéfan via Flickr.

Okunoin cemetery. Photo courtesy of Stéfan via Flickr.

Japan’s largest cemetery is located at the mausoleum of Kokai, a 9th century Japanese monk, scholar, and artist who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism on Mount Koya. The Okunoin Cemetery contains more than 200,000 gravestones and 120 Buddhist temples, and Mount Koya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the things you can see in the Okunoin Cemetery are tombs with statues of UFOs, coffee mugs, and hundreds of statues of a Japanese deity who is supposed to protect children who have died – he is represented in the cemetery by small statues wearing articles of children’s clothing. You can reach the Okunoin Cemetery via the Nankai Electric Railway from Osaka’s Namba Station, followed by a cable car up the mountain.

Highgate Cemetery – London

Highgate Cemetery. Photo courtesy of loretahur via Flickr.

Highgate Cemetery. Photo courtesy of loretahur via Flickr.

You could be forgiven for mistaking London’s Highgate Cemetery for a park that happened to have a few graves in it rather than a cemetery that looks like a park. In fact, this Victorian cemetery is a nature reserve and is registered as a park. The fact that it’s also the city’s most famous cemetery is almost beside the point. Highgate is separated into two sections – the East Cemetery and West Cemetery – and you can only visit the latter with a guided tour. People buried in the West Cemetery include the wife and parents of Charles Dickens, but most of the famous graves are in the East Cemetery – including Douglas Adams, Malcolm McLaren, George Eliot, and Karl Marx. Highgate is near Waterlow Park, and the closest London Underground station is Archway.

Bonaventure Cemetery – Savannah, Georgia

Bonaventure Cemetery. Photo Courtesy of ann gav via Flickr.

Bonaventure Cemetery. Photo Courtesy of ann gav via Flickr.

The city of Savannah is widely known for its beauty, and that extends to the Bonaventure Cemetery. Bonaventure used to simply be an historic cemetery in an historic city, but after the success of John Berendt’s novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” the cemetery became a major tourist attraction. The book’s cover was a photograph of a statue called “Bird Girl” that had been in the cemetery for more than a half-century. When the book became a best-seller and the statue increased tourist traffic into the cemetery, it was moved to Savannah’s Telfair Museum of Art. Bonaventure Cemetery is still worth a visit for its historic significance, its huge live oaks dripping with moss, and the grave of Johnny Mercer.

Panteón de Dolores – Mexico City

Panteon Civil de Dolores. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Panteon Civil de Dolores. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Mexico’s largest cemetery, Panteón de Dolores, is crowded with more than one million interments and 700,000 tombs covering 590 acres. This is where you’ll find the graves of muralists Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, opera singer Ángela Peralta, and many other notable Mexicans in the “Rotunda de las Personas Illustres.” The Panteón de Dolores cemetery itself is park-like in many respects, but it’s also sandwiched between two sections of the enormous Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Especially in a city as big and busy as Mexico City, having a park as large as Chapultepec is a welcome respite – and almost as an added bonus, there’s an historic cemetery in there, too.

Capuchin Crypt – Rome

Capuchin Crypt. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Capuchin Crypt. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

While not exactly a “cemetery” in the truest sense, Rome’s Capuchin Crypt can be considered beautiful – as long as you’ve got a strong constitution and enjoy a little whimsy with your macabre. The row of small chapels underneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini is decorated with the bones of the more than 4,000 Capuchin monks who had been buried in the crypt in the early 17th century. When newly deceased monks were buried, old skeletons had to be removed – and as those bones were removed, many of them were used in designs on the walls and ceilings of the chapels. The patterns are quite elaborate, and any student of the human body will likely enjoy identifying which bones are which. The faint of heart may want to skip this, but if your interest is piqued the Capuchin Crypt is on Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini. Donations are strongly encouraged.

The 10 Most Beautiful Cemeteries in the World Buenos Aires , croatia , France , Georgia , japan , London , Mexico City , new orleans , Normandy , Paris , Primosten , rome , Savannah

10 Mouth-Watering Food Festivals of Normandy, France

6 Mar

In a region of rolling farmlands, cows grazing in pastures and family-run orchards, it’s unsurprising that Normandy is renowned for its cuisine – even the region’s most famous exhibit, the Bayeux Tapestry, is filled with deftly embroidered banquets. The Norman palette is defined by local produce – rich, salted butters and creamy cheeses from local dairy farms; cider fresh from the apple orchards and an impressive array of seafood.

There are few things that the French enjoy celebrating more than their cuisine and Normans regularly don their traditional costumes and haul out the cider barrels in ode to their homegrown delicacies – a fun way for visitors to not only taste the food, but to get a sense of its history. From cheese-eating and shrimp-shelling competitions, to a procession of ships in honor of the mackerel harvest, here are 10 of Normandy’s most unique food festivals.

1. Festival of Norman Gastronomy, Rouen


Escargots. Photo credit: Fabio Sola Penna via Flickr.

The oddly named Fête du Ventre et de la Gastronomie Normande (literally: Festival of the Stomach and Norman Gastronomy) is a great introduction to the region’s historic foods, celebrating age-old culinary traditions alongside local produce. Held annually over a weekend in late October in the old market square of Rouen, the event dates back to 1935 when farmers the area and the neighboring Seine Valley would congregate in the town to feast on the best of the year’s harvest.

Today, hundreds of exhibitors line the streets, many dressed in traditional costumes and accompanied by their farm animals. Watch butter and cream being whipped up by hand, marvel over curious vegetables once used in ancient recipes, sip freshly brewed cider, and enjoy cooking demonstrations. Local seafood, apples and honey take center stage, alongside some more curious French delicacies like foie gras and stuffed snails, and they’ll be plenty of free tasters available.

2. Apple Festival, Vimoutiers

Normandy cider

Cider in Normandy. Photo credit: Jérôme via Flickr.

The humble apple has long been a staple favorite in Normandy, with hundreds of acres of apple orchards throughout the region and a number of famed local apple varieties. Most celebrated are the acidic green apples that make Normandy’s famous Cider and regional specialties Calvados, an apple brandy, or Pommeau, an apple aperitif.

A number of apple festivals take place throughout the region, but the Foire de la Pomme in Vimoutiers is one of the most popular, featuring decorative barrel-making displays, cider tasting and competitions, and a range of food and artisan stalls. Apple lovers will discover there’s far more the fruit can turn its hand to than a simple apple pie – poulet au Calvados (chicken with apple-brandy sauce) is sure to be on the menu, or snack on apple fritters, apple crepes (pancakes) and a variety of creative apple breads and pastries.

3. Cheese Festival, Livarot

Livarot cheese

Livarot cheese. Photo credit: Alpha via Flickr.

Few products remain as quintessentially French as cheese and you’ll be hard pushed to find a Frenchman who doesn’t revel in the country’s number 1 export. Normandy is home to a number of renowned cheeses, most famous of which is Camembert, and regional villages host several festivals devoted to local cheese.

Best of the bunch is the Foire Aux Fromage (cheese fair) held in Livarot each August. The town might be most renowned for its eponymous cheese, but they’ll be a range of produce on offer – Camembert, Pont l’Evêque, the spicy Pavé d’Auge and creamy Neufchâtel are sure to be available, and look out for ‘Fromage de Monsieur’ created in Rouen by the aptly named Monsieur Fromage (Mr. Cheese). The big event however, is the cheese-eating competition where hardy farmers compete to consume as much Livarot cheese as possible in a 15-minute time frame. Past winners have downed a belt-popping 2 kilos!

4. Shrimp Festival, Honfleur

Shrimps, or Crevettes, as they are called in French, are the food of honor at Honfleur’s annual Fête de la Crevette held each fall. Get your hands dirty by joining in the shrimp peeling competitions; explore the ancient fishing vessels moored along the banks of the Vieux Bassin d’Honfleur harbor; enjoy seafood cooking demonstrations and sample a variety of shrimp-themed dishes to the tune of local musicians. Be sure to try the famous ‘little gray’ shrimps, too – a regional favorite.

5. Honey Festival, Clères

The botanical and zoological gardens of Parc de Clères host an annual Fête du miel (Honey Festival) where visitors can get up close with the bumblebees in the park’s apiary. Held in March, the festival aims to not only educate guests on the art and science of beekeeping, but to allow hands-on experience with the beehives, honeycomb collecting and honey making. If you prefer to steer clear of the bees themselves, you can take a honey cooking class or head for the sample stalls instead, where you can purchase a range of homegrown honey products and taste a variety of honey-infused treats.

6. Herring and Scallop Festival, Dieppe

Coquille Saint-Jacques

Coquille Saint-Jacques. Photo credit: david__jones via Flickr.

Dieppe’s annual Foire aux Harengs et de la Coquille Saint-Jacques (Herring and Scallop Fair) is held on the last weekend of November, attended by crowds of 100,000. In ode to the region’s ‘red label’ scallops (designating the highest quality in French food), the fair offers an incredible assortment of seafood cooked up creative marinades and quirky spice blends. Explore the exquisite boats displayed in the harbor, watch cooking demonstrations and buy paper cupfuls of smoked herrings to munch on while you enjoy the live entertainment.

7. Festival of Ancient Cider Making, Orne

Calvados distillery

Calvados distillery. Photo credit: iamkaspar via Flickr.

You can’t visit Normandy without at least a sip of the famous local beverage – cider has been produced in the region since the 1600s and it’s renowned as the best in the country. It’s the ancient art of cider making that’s celebrated at the Fête du Cidre à l’Ancienne each November, offering a fascinating glimpse into historic production methods. Local farmers get in the spirit with traditional dress and a number of ancient machines are resurrected for the festival.

An enormous ancient apple press and an 18thcentury wooden gadage (horse-driven mill) take center stage, producing fresh apple juice throughout the day. Visitors can also learn how to distill cider into Calvados apple brandy; taste a range of flavored and hot ciders; sample regional foods and enjoy plenty of street entertainment from traditional dancers to live music.

8. Black Pudding Fair, Mortagne-au-Perche

Black pudding

Black pudding. Photo credit: Roberto Verzo via Flickr.

A sausage made from blood, fat and onions might not be cause for celebration for the weak of stomach (or vegetarians for that matter), but lovers of black pudding flock to this fair, where the prestigious ‘International Black Pudding Championships’ have been held since 1963. La Foire au Boudin is held each March, drawing hundreds of butchers from all over Europe to compete for the title of the ‘best pudding’ – a much coveted accolade amongst those in the know.

Today’s 3-day event sells over 5km of black pudding, in an unbelievable array of varieties – raw onion and brandy black pudding, black pudding pocked with raisons, prune and apple black pudding and even a chocolate black pudding were all on last year’s menu.

9. Carrot Festival, Créances

Vegetarians choosing to avoid the Black Pudding Fair might prefer the distinctly less grisly Carrot Festival (Fete de la Carotte), held yearly on the second Saturday of August in the small town of Créances, supposedly the producer of the ‘finest carrots in France’. A small celebration in comparison to some of the region’s other festivals, the event is none-the-less unique, featuring vegetable displays and competitions, a cooking competition, live music and a parade of carrot growers.

10. Mackerel Festival, Trouville


Mackeral. Photo credit: New Brunswick Tourism via Flickr.

For a peek into the hearts and minds of Norman sailors, head out to the diminutive fisherman village of Trouville for the annual Fête de la Mer et du Maquereau (Sea and Mackerel Festival). Held each July to celebrate the seafood harvest the weekend festival revolves around the traditional blessing of the boats and sailors, decorating the vessels with flowers as they sail through the harbor.

A mass of seafood tasters (make sure you sample the region’s famous grilled mackerel), stalls selling sea-related crafts, local choirs singing sea shanties, and a memorial for those who’ve died at sea, all provide interest, but to really get into the spirit, join the fishermen on their boats on the final day and help bring in the season’s first catch of Mackerel.

10 Mouth-Watering Food Festivals of Normandy, France festivals , Food and Drink , France , Normandy