Père Lachaise: A Guide to Paris’ Most Famous Cemetery 

Have you ever had the urge to just grab a horror novel and leisurely stroll through a cemetery? Perusing the graves, book in hand, admiring the beauty of each grave? No? Just me then? Well okay.. Let’s go ahead and change that right now.

I’m about to walk you through the most famous Parisian cemetery and you can decide for yourself at the end whether or not you’d actually fancy the idea of a good scary read in the middle of a beautiful cemetery lined with graves.

Here we go.

Père Lachaise cemetery opened in 1804 in Paris and is located in the East of Paris in the 20th arrondissement. It holds over 1 million graves and inside there is located a crematorium and columbarium. In addition to many famous names buried inside, the cemetery also contains multiple World War I memorials.

Last weekend I spent an afternoon perusing through the numerous graves, finding famous souls of the past and viewing the monuments and buildings it has to offer. 

 As you can imagine, this is a vastly large cemetery and if you’re planning to visit to see one of the famous names buried there, I highly recommend grabbing a map at the entrance. The plots of well-known names and figures from history are listed alphabetically and can easily be found if you just follow the map.

I say easily.. but..

I started out searching for Chopin. He was the closest to the entrance and I thought he’d be easily found. After many hills of exploration and about twenty minutes of blind plot searching, I decided he couldn’t be found. I can only chalk this up to the fact that he’s just not there (it certainly wasn’t due to my poor navigation skills).

After failing to find Chopin, I decide Jim Morrison is up next. I’d already previously found his grave on a different date but went back again anyway because I was with friends who hadn’t yet seen it. This time I easily found my way to his blocked off grave, cluttered with gags of people around hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous rocker and member of the 27 club. His grave, notably one of the most visited in the cemetery, is buried beneath arrangements of flowers, lipstick kisses and street graffiti. All expressions of undying love for The Doors’ frontman. It’s oddly beautiful for an immense target of vandalism. You know that even though the grave is decorated with spray paint and lipstick, every single line and letter is love and admiration personified in colorful streaks. 

 

Next up, Oscar Wilde. I’d heard his grave was of extravagant nature but I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams just how extravagant. The tomb was designed by sculptor Jacob Epstein and his focus for the tomb is derived from Indian and Egyptian art for their nature of primal sexuality. The tomb is a sort of angel bird hybrid that was originally completed with full male genitalia – this bit has since been vandalized and the whereabouts are now unknown. Again, littered with flowers and lipstick prints of affection, it’s a spectacle of odd beauty. The epitaph on the back reads,

“And alien tears will fill for him

Pity’s long-broken urn,

For his mourners will be outcast men,

And outcasts always mourn.”

This is a verse from “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a poem by Wilde. Stunning don’t you think? 

   

Finally we come to my lady Edith Piaf. In an entirely different realm design-wise, her grave was simple and elegant. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you wouldn’t even know it was her. Just a normal grave, save for the vase situated on top with the initials “E.P.,” she’s buried with her daughter, father and second husband. I took a short moment here to pay my respects to my dear beloved lady, and what a lady she was. 

   

Among the other graves discovered were Honoré de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright, and Gilbert Morard, father of the modern French metro. Morard’s grave was incredibly interesting – it was buried beneath hundreds of used metro tickets. A spectacle, definitely. 

   

I also walked past the crematorium and columbarium, each grand and magnificent. 

   

So, there you have it. If I haven’t convinced you that cemeteries are beautiful and wondrous and the best place to curl up with a horror novel within this post, then I’m afraid there’s truly no hope for you.

Edith Piaf, Long Lost Professors and Living the French Life

It has occurred to me that I should probably update all of you on what I’ve been up to the past few days – and it’s been a lot. First, let’s start off with the most recent French film I went to (alone again, because that’s my new favorite thing) – “La Tête Haute/Standing Tall.” Centering around a troubled young boy just trying to find his way in the world. He’s abusive and temperamental and a disaster to be around but by the end he’s grown into himself. Full of anger, hatred, compassion, love and a happy ending, it was as uplifting as it was upsetting. Oh, how I love these French cinema experiences that I keep all to myself. Next, I spent my Saturday afternoon exploring the Edith Piaf exhibition. I’ve loved her for years; that dark, smoky voice and soothing lyrics – I’m a sucker for French classics. Immediately upon entrance I was handed an audio guide full of about 50 Edith songs to listen to while walking through the exhibit. With movie clips, vintage mementos and even a live karaoke box inside, I became lost within history. The exhibit even had one of her little black dresses (her signature look) hanging from above in one of the sections. I learned so much about her and her tragic life and I have a newfound respect for the glorious French singer. For those of you not familiar, here is one of her most famous songs, La Vie En Rose:

         Then, I spent all day Sunday running around in a real princess dress at another castle – Vaux-le-Vicomte – but that’s going into a separate post because it was so special to me and deserves more attention than a mention. Then, yesterday two things happened. One, I received my new custom made leather journal cover for my personal journal I’ve been keeping throughout my time here in Paris! I was so delighted when I saw the package sitting in my family’s flat that I literally squealed! It’s so beautiful and personal and everything I wanted. Thank you so much, Megan’s Mark for this wonderful work of art!     And then two, I met up with one of my French professors from university! She and her hilarious other half are in Paris for the week for the beginning of her last study abroad that she’s leading. This wonderful lady is one of the three main reasons I was able to go to France the first time two (!!) years ago and then decided to come back long term. She led my study abroad group back then and it’s only fitting that we met back up at a cafe for drinks while I’m living here.    Finally, last night I spent the evening with some of my favorite people in Paris just lounging along the Canal Saint-Martin having a picnic.       Honestly I couldn’t ask for a more perfect life to live, I thank God every day for my abundant blessings. I’m in awe at every moment of every day of this beautiful life I get to live because of Him.

Shakespeare and Company and the Beautiful Parisian Life

Tonight I got to check off yet another item on my Paris Bucket List: buying a book from Shakespeare and Company

 

I honesty only recently discovered the book lover’s dream near Notre Dame and am ashamed of myself for this fact. However, I know about it now and I believe we’re already in a spiral of endlessly unrelenting love. I spent my whole evening tonight curled up on one of the velvet couches upstairs with Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road.” The sporadic pianists who came through to test out their skills for those filling the room enhanced the night tenfold and the dark aroma of Paris’ sweet and sultry scent spilling into the room completed the evening. A literary enthusiast’s actual dream.

As I was perusing the shelves for my dark pleasure, Dracula, I stumbled upon the most perfect copy I’ve ever seen. Mysterious grey and hypnotizing black cloth envelop the pages in beautiful simplicity; I immediately plucked the book up and held it close, knowing my decision on what book to actually buy first had been made. My favorite book in the perfect wrapping, I couldn’t be happier. 

  

 Receiving the famous Shakespeare and Company stamp upon purchase, I strolled out into the Parisian night with a grand smile painted across my face. The only way to end this wonderful night, I thought to myself, is to stroll home in the beautiful weather, while listening to the crisp lullabies of Edith Piaf.

So that’s what I did.

I turned off the world and watched the crystal-lit Seine dance along with the lights of the city and hummed sweet French classics to myself in the night air.

Quite the perfect end to yet another wonderful Parisian day.