Halifax Harbor

From the wilds of Cape Breton, we traveled to Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax. We arrived in the late afternoon, so after we checked into the hotel, we wandered down to the harbor (or harbour, as the Canadians would write). We passed by the Old Burying Ground, so of course we had to stop because I love a good, old cemetery.

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It was a really pleasant walk down to the harbor, and I loved seeing some of the historic buildings.

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But it didn’t compare with the view of the harbor.

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It was a perfect evening to relax near the water.

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It was a promising introduction to Halifax.

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Avonlea Village

I expected Avonlea Village to be a little cheesy, but I didn’t realize how much I was looking forward to the cheesiness until it wasn’t really there. Granted, it was a rainy Sunday morning when we stopped by before leaving Cavendish, but it was also peak summer tourist season. I wanted to see Anne and Diana running around. Maybe Mrs. Rachel Lynde? Gilbert? Maybe some buggy rides? Turns out, I was working on old information. In 2015, they got rid of the characters and turned the buildings into private shops and restaurants. At least the buildings were still there and quite pretty.

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Not to mention the flowers.

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We couldn’t leave Cavendish without paying our respects to L.M. Montgomery.

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Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague

I believe my love of cemeteries has been very well documented, so you can imagine that when I first saw photos of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, it quickly topped the list of places I wanted to see. After walking across the bridge, it was a short walk to the cemetery. If you know where you’re going, that is. I, however, didn’t realize we were so close, and we hopped on the nearest tram to ride up one stop. We ended up crossing the bridge and heading up a hill before we were able to get off and turn back around. But you know, I kind of like getting lost because we ended up seeing a different part of the city than we otherwise would have. We stopped into a bakery for some breakfast, and it was super cheap, but we ended up being disappointed with our choices.

We backtracked to the cemetery (turns out, the stop where we hopped on the tram was actually the stop for the cemetery) and looked around for the entrance. It wasn’t immediately noticeable, but we found two windows – one for tickets and one for the entrance. The ticket window looked unoccupied, so we went directly to the entrance. We asked for tickets and were told, “Kasse! Kasse!” So we walked back over to the ticket window, only to discover that we didn’t have quite enough cash (and of course, they didn’t take a card… the entrance was only about $2.50 anyway). So we went in search of an ATM and passed a bakery with such delicious looking food that we had to stop in. I was glad we found something else because I hate wasting an opportunity for good pastry.

On our third try, we finally gained entrance to the cemetery. First, we walked through the Pinkas Synagogue, which is a memorial to the 80,000 Jews in Bavaria who were killed during the holocaust. When I first read the number of those killed, I am a little embarrassed to say that 80,000 didn’t seem like that much when you often hear about hundreds of thousands or millions. But then we walked inside. In the memorial, the name of each person is engraved on the walls. And every inch of the synagogue is covered in names. It was incredibly moving and overwhelming to recognize what the number 80,000 actually means. It’s a sobering realization.

We walked through the synagogue into the cemetery. It was established in the 15th Century and contains about 12,000 tombstones. Although, there are considerably more people buried there.

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We were curious about why the tombstones are so close together, so Cristen did some internetting and discovered that when they ran out of room for graves, they would essentially create a new layer by adding soil on top of the existing graves. According to Jewish custom, they cannot remove the tombstones, so they would just raise the tombstone up to the new layer, so that’s why they are crowded together like that. Normally when I visit cemeteries, I like to read the names and dates on the stones and think about the people. I find it fascinating to imagine their lives based off the sentiments engraved. That wasn’t really possible at the Old Jewish Cemetery because I couldn’t read any of the tombs, but it was still interesting to think about the people buried there. It’s amazing that the cemetery is over 600 years old. It kind of boggles the mind.

Highgate Cemetery, London

Ever since my friend Alene told me about Highgate Cemetery, I’ve been wanting to visit it. She actually told me about it right before my last trip to England in 2008, but we never made it there. It’s a little out of the way and when you read the instructions on their website, it seems somewhat complicated to get to. It doesn’t help that it also holds kind of odd hours. But since I love cemeteries and this one seemed so incredible, it was one of my top priorities for this visit to London and we went there on the first day.

Turns out, it wasn’t that hard to get to, really. You just have to make sure to catch the right buses and then it really is a pleasant walk through Waterlow Park. There are two sides to the cemetery – the East and the West. The West Cemetery, I believe, is the older part of the cemetery and it is accessible by guided tour only and the tours are only once a day on the weekday. Plus, the website explains that you aren’t free to take photos except as part of the tour. We opted to visit the East Cemetery so we could wander freely and take as many photos as our hearts desired.

One of the things that I love so much about cemeteries is the sculpture you find there. Highgate had some exceptional examples of sculptures depicting grief. I find them so sad and beautiful.

There are actually a few famous people buried in Highgate, although the gatekeeper told us we probably wouldn’t know most of them because we were American. And you know, he was right. We hadn’t heard of most of the people on the list. But this guy needs no introduction:

How great is this huge head of Karl Marx? I think it might be one of the coolest memorials ever. I would like a huge head of myself when I die. Just so you know. (Maybe… I haven’t quite made up my mind, but it would be pretty rad.)

This lady is also buried there:

Hi George Eliot… I still haven’t finished any of your books even though I’ve started three of them.

I also found a few really beautiful gravestones. I especially love this book one. Maybe that’s what I want when I die.

But this one is also pretty cool. I like how straight-forward it is.

Incidentally, it is the burial place of the artist, Patrick Caulfield.

But mostly, you can get lost wandering the little mossy paths and looking over the ivy-covered gravestones. It was very peaceful and lovely.

Next time I would love to visit the other cemetery. I’m dying to know what I would find.

total eclipse

I got so excited when I found out there was going to be an eclipse and that Utah was right in its path. I ordered some special eclipse glasses all the way back on May 3rd and then got more and more anxious as they failed to arrive. They finally showed up on Friday afternoon… just in time. They were kind of unwieldy things, so this evening I tied some elastic to the back. It made it much easier to keep them on, even if they did look a little dorky.

I really wanted to find an awesome spot to view the eclipse. I thought about driving out to the salt flats, but it’s kind of a long drive for the whole family (including a niece and nephew with early bedtimes), and it was more important to me to share the experience with my family. During dinner we decided to head up to the top of the Salt Lake Cemetery since it has such a great view of the valley.

It was so hard not to peak at the sun while driving. My mom and Claire kept oohing and ahhing about the eclipse, and I was worried I would miss it all on the way to the cemetery. I didn’t want to go blind, though, so I resisted until we found a spot. We found a nice little bench that read, “Off on a new adventure. God be with you till we meet again.” My mom and Claire took a seat and watched the eclipse while we waited for Matt, Izzy, and Liam to come.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the eclipse. I remember an eclipse back in junior high and we all got out of class and some teachers had pinhole boxes so that we could view the reflection of the eclipse. I guess I was imagining being able to actually see the eclipse with my naked eye. I thought it would be huge and fill the whole sky. But really, it was just super bright. The only time I could actually see the eclipse was through the eclipse shades. The sun was a reddish-orange and the moon silhouetted against it. We watched it go from looking like headphones over a man’s head to a perfect crescent.

Despite how bored Claire looks in these pictures, she said it was one of the coolest things she had ever seen. The hardest part of the experience was that it was impossible for me to capture the image with my camera. I know that others will produce (have already produced) amazing images of the ring of fire, but I couldn’t capture it. It’s something I will just have to hold in my memory. I often prefer to hold an actual photo. But at least I got images of the experience. It was so fun to see everyone out and about with their eclipse shades sitting on blankets in parks and churchyards and front yards. I loved that we were all experiencing it together. At the cemetery, a man and his daughter were walking around. They asked if we could actually see anything, so we loaned them our eclipse shades so they could see it for themselves. Without the shades, it just looked a little something like this.

Oh, how I wish I could show you what it looked like through my shielded eyes.

the salad days

Brigham Young’s Grave

I recently wrote about how I saw the graves of many past prophets at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, but the grave of a significant figure in Utah’s history is not there. Brigham Young is actually buried closer to the city in a small little park. I decided to visit last week just so I could complete the experience. Brigham Young’s grave is located on First Avenue. I haven’t spent much time in the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake. (side note: I realized the other day that even though I’ve always claimed Salt Lake City as home, I really have only lived here for a combined two years out of the past twelve. I’m realizing just how much there is to this city that I’m actually not familiar with.) So when I was headed west on First Avenue, I was taken by surprise and a little awed by the spires I saw rising in front of me.

I decided to park further back and enjoy the evening with a little walk. I ended up parking right behind another set of beautiful spires.

These belonged to the Cathedral of the Madelaine.

I also walked past this cute little market.

All the while the temple grew larger in front of me.

Brigham Young’s grave is kind of nestled in between some apartment buildings. You wouldn’t even notice it unless you were looking for it. There’s a more general pioneer memorial in the front, and then the graves of Brigham Young and some wives in a more private area.

There’s a sculpture of Brigham Young reading to some kids.

And there is some beautiful bleeding hearts, snowballs, and little buds that look like transparent pine cones.

And there was the grave.

Did you know that I love lamp posts? I don’t know what it is, but there’s something magical about them. Maybe it’s because of Narnia. Maybe it’s their pale glow. Maybe it’s because they so often incorporate beautiful design. It’s probably all of those combined. I just love them.

After milling about for a bit, I walked back to the car and headed home. Do you ever take photos while driving? Or at least, while stopped at the light? I can’t help it sometimes.

Salt Lake Cemetery

Last week in church, a new friend overheard me telling someone else that one of my favorite things in New Orleans is the cemeteries. This is a case where eavesdropping paid off because it led to a few of us getting together last Monday night to explore Salt Lake’s best cemetery. The Salt Lake Cemetery is the final resting place of prophets and apostles and pioneers. We went armed with a map of the burial place of some of the Church’s most notable members. Here’s the monument for President David O. McKay, who led the church from 1951-1970. (And behind it, you can just make out President Hinckley’s monument.)

I love the monumental size of it. I should have had someone stand next to it for scale, but it’s huge! I also love that it’s simple. It’s also a great little spot for resting and pondering.

President Howard W. Hunter’s marker, by contrast, is very unassuming.

But could you ask for a better epitaph?

Early Mormon family burials can be very interesting, too, because of polygamy. Here’s the grave of Joseph F. Smith and some of his wives.

I found it interesting that the first, third, and fourth wives were all listed on the back of this gravemarker….

while the second wife got the prime spot on the front. Maybe it’s because she had the most kids.

Something that I very much dislike about the Salt Lake Cemetery, though, is that during the sesquicentennial someone thought it would be a great idea to go around and put these tacky pioneer plaques on all the gravestones of people who crossed the plains with the pioneer. Ugh, they are so ugly! And ruin the beauty of the markers! Take a look at this example:

This marker features one of my all-time favorite graveyard symbols, the hand clasp. And it’s also interesting because the clasp is between the two graves instead of just on one, which opens up some beautiful interpretations. But it is almost ruined by the presence of those tacky faux brass plaques. They are all over!

I also found it interesting that someone (or some people) have started replacing some of the oldest markers with newer ones. For example:

At least the newer one is placed discreetly below the old one. And I do like that it makes it easier to read, but it just kind of takes away the charm. Just a little.

I liked this golden tombstone.

Turns out, it was made of laquered wood. It’s rather unique. And then, of course, there are the lovely gravemarkers. (Despite working for a company that owned cemeteries and funeral homes for almost three years, I still struggle with my cemetery terminology. I’m never sure what to call things.)

I couldn’t help but feel like the cemetery still doesn’t quite compare to the ones in New Orleans, but it does have something that New Orleans just can’t replicate — an amazing view of the Salt Lake Valley.

I love how cemeteries are a little peak at hundreds of people who once lived. Even though there’s not much to a gravestone, there’s often just enough information about someone to stir the imagination. I liked thinking about these people and what their lives were like. I know that Lillian Shirley K. Little loved music.

And apparently, this teenager (sad!) was a Dr. Pepper lover.

I think Bonnie is still climbing every mountain in search of her dreams. I hope she finds them before she comes to rest here.

We weren’t the only ones at the cemetery last Monday. There was a little family there, probably having family home evening.

And a tour group hanging around Porter Rockwell’s monument.

We saw quite a bit as we wandered around, but the sun was starting to set.

It was time to leave. I guess I’ll just have to go back again. I still want to find Wallace Stegner’s relatives.