Pere La Chaise cemetery


This is the last week of my French holiday. I am in Paris, staying in an apartment in Montmatre. The apartment is at the top of a steep flight of stairs on the way up to the Basilica Sacré-Cœur. My legs are getting a work out though I did cheat today and come up on the funicular as I was carrying groceries. It’s good to be able to cook a meal in the evenings and not have to think of which restaurant to go to, especially as it has been so cold. I’m loving my morning cuppa too. What a creature of habit, even in Paris!

Spooky arms

On Sunday I took the metro to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery. I had on several layers of clothes and was wishing I had a pair of gloves. It seemed like good cemetery weather, gloomy, damp and with the threat of rain. People visit Père Lachaise because of all the famous people buried there. It covers 48 hectares and, when it was founded in 1804, no-one wanted to be buried there as it was too far from the city centre so the authorities exhumed the remains of a few famous people and buried them at their newest cemetery as a draw card. It has been a last fashionable address for over a million souls ever since.

Some of the elaborate tombs are the size of small houses. Others look like those fancy lifts with glass doors. Hopefully, only going up. Some were spooky, such as the arms emerging, as it were from the graves. Unfortunately for me, champion map reader that I am, the famous I wanted to see were positioned all over the 48 hectares. Even with the map held upside down as a help to my navigation skills I still missed a few. I missed composers Bellini and Bizet but saw the tomb of Chopin. His grave was a mass of flowers, tributes from a still appreciative audience. I would liked to have seen the graves of Maria Callas, Stephen Grappelli and Isadora Duncan. Their names appear on the list but have no number next to them so I didn’t know where to look. Jim Morrison’s grave, ex-Doors member who died in Paris in 1971, is the most visited in the cemetery. Wonder what wild lad Jim would think of that?

The singer Edith Piaf, the Little Sparrow, was the one I most wanted to see. I arrived at the same time as a group of French people. A couple went up to the foot of the grave, the man removed his cap and they each placed a hand on the tomb and stood with heads bowed. It was very moving. I hummed a bit of ‘La Vie on Rose’ before wandering off to look for Oscar Wilde. His tomb is covered in graffitti, lipstick kisses and messages. The tomb has a naked winged angel on the top, formerly well-endowed. It was considered so obscene that the appendage was lopped off and used by the cemetery director as a paper weight. (according to ‘Lonely Planet’)


You could spend a day at Père Lachaise but this is Paris and there is so much to see, plus it was just toooooo cold to hang around with the deceased, famous or not.


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