Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Walking Dead' may close for season but tours will not

Season 5 is ending! How will we survive?
            Once again the advent of spring brings sad news to “The Walking Dead” fans. The 90-minute finale of the most popular show in television airs Sunday, March 29, and will disappear for months!
            But it doesn’t have to mean the end of Rick, Carol, Daryl and the rest of those heroes until fall rolls around. You can visit film sites in Georgia and recreate the dark apocalypse all year long.
            Atlanta Movie Tours offers Big Zombie Tours that includes the hospital where Rick, our favorite sheriff who’s gone off the deep end this year, was first seen when the series debuted. There’s also the Center for Disease Control (it really didn’t blow up), downtown Atlanta and other location hot spots.
            The Southern Hollywood Film Tour also offers a Dead walk and includes the town of Harralson where 17 episodes from seasons 2-5 were shot.
            A lot of the series was filmed in Senoia, a small, quaint town outside of Atlanta that’s now being doubled as a film backlot. Fans can call Senoia “Woodbury” since it was the location for the Governor’s cozy little enclave, but seasons 3-5 of “The Walking Dead” were filmed here. Senoia — if those of you dead heads care — was also the backdrop of films “Drop Dead Diva,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and many more.
Well, maybe not everyone is friendly.
            The Georgia Merchantile tours Senoia film locations, and guests can pick up some Georgia-made products at the same time. A great place to s"pend the night is The Veranda Bed and Breakfast where its believed author Margaret Mitchell interviewed Civil War veterans when she was doing research for “Gone With the Wind.” And don’t miss shopping at the Woodbury Shoppe, which sells “Dead” paraphernalia such as a Daryl Dixon claimed banner and “Walker Bait” caps as well as books on where the series was filmed so you can do your own touring. You can even become a member of The Woodbury Shoppe and be first in line for autograph sessions with cast and producers of the show, discount on products and other special privileges.
            One of our favorite stops in Senoia is the Senoia Coffee & Café, which not only serves up a mean cup of java, such as the Zombie Dark, but a tasty menu too — try the Senoia fried green tomato BLT!

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Little cemetery houses a grave affair in Louisiana

Credit: Stacey Scarce
            In South Louisiana, even the dead want to come in from the rain and cold.             
            There are two cemeteries that contain grave houses, structures that cover the graves of South Louisiana residents. At the Talbert-Pierson Cemetery near Pitkin, a row of graves are sheltered by identical houses. In Mermentau Cove, the Istre Cemetery contains grave houses that include windows and locks on the doors.
            Grave houses, although rare and usually found in older cemeteries, were simply structures designed to protect a gravesite or several graves from the elements. According to the historical marker at the circa-1889 Talbert-Pierson Cemetery, “the origins of grave houses are uncertain — some tracing the beginnings to European or Native American roots. Other sources simply attribute the custom to a form of protecting the graves before cemeteries were commonly fenced. Grave houses were a part of the Upland South tradition: this custom also included decorating the graves with shells.”
Istre Cemetery
            The houses had to be built before sunset on the day of the person’s burial, the marker claims. Since there was additional cost involved in creating both a grave and a house, the grave houses were reserved for important members of a family or community. The 15 grave houses at Talbert-Pierson were built from hand-cut wooden pickets with gabled roofs, the construction dating between 1889 to 1949.
            The Talbert-Pierson Cemetery contains graves of the Talbert and Pierson families who first came into this area of Louisiana known as “No Man’s Land” in the 19th century. Vernon Parish and the region along the Sabine River that borders with Texas was once a land of dispute between the Louisiana Territory belonging to the Americans and the Spanish in Texas. Pioneers of this “Neutral Ground,” many from the Upland South, attempted farms while criminals, runaway slaves and military deserters were attracted to the lawless country.
Istre Cemetery
            Meanwhile, over at the Istre Cemetery in Mermentau Cove, down in deep Cajun Country, “Petite Maisons” cover the graves of Cajun settlers. These cypress structures resemble homes that live people use — only on a miniature scale. The houses the size of a child’s playhouse one might see in a backyard often include windows, doors and working locks and shingled roofs. Peek inside and you’ll see the graves.
            Istre Cemetery is one of the last remaining examples of this unique custom; there used to be grave houses all over Cajun Country. The cemetery began in 1886 and was home to nearly 40 of these petite maisons, but today only three remain. South Louisiana filmmakers Zach and Jeremy Broussard examine these last remaining houses and the culture surrounding them in their documentary, “Little Houses.” Proceeds help preserve the remaining structures.
            Broussard has also written a book about the phenomenon.
            "There are theories that they were purely practical, to protect the graves from animals or the elements,” Broussard said in a 2013 interview with WVUE TV in New Orleans. “And there are theories that they were meant as shrines."
Talbert-Pierson Credit: Stacey Scarce

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is also the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why visit England? Stonehenge right here in America

      Stonehenge and those other rock-enhanced spiritual sites of the British Isles have always been a dream of mine to visit. In typical fashion, however, Americans have made it so we don’t have to cross The Pond to experience such ancient relics.
      Mark Cline has created a full-size replica of Stonehenge located in Natural Bridge, Virginia, which has to be just as good as the English model, even if it’s made entirely of Styrofoam. You don’t have to worry about upsetting an ancient site, either, because these babies emerged on April Fool’s Day, 2004. So get up close to Foamhenge and touch those stones.
      Another place to satisfy your ancient Anglo lust is Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska, built by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father. This replica of Stonehenge was created by burying vintage cars painted gray in just the right places — they even celebrate the summer solstice here. The circle consists of “three standing trilithons within the circle, the heel stone, slaughter stone, and two station stones and includes a ‘Car Art Preserve’ with sculptures made from cars and parts of cars,” according to the web site.
      Mark your calendars for Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, when the moon will align with the sun for a total eclipse and Carhenge and Alliance will be in the centerline of the eclipse’s path. The viewing is expected to be excellent.

      So save your pennies. Stonehenge and all its astronomical powers exist in America.