A grave story

On a gloomy, drizzling, cold day, in a place devoid of crowd, I found myself walking through the cobblestone paths of Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

I couldn’t have picked a better day to visit this “unusual” attraction—sunless, drizzling, a slight chill in the air. Where was I? In a cemetery. In Paris. Eerie?

Having visited the French capital several times and still looking for new places to check out, Jose, my nephew who grew up in the city said, “Go to Pere Lachaise Cemetery.” Eerie.

“Ok. Why would I want to go to some burial ground?” I asked. 

“Well, Jim Morrison is buried there,” he said. I nodded with a sorry-I’m-not-a-fan smile. “Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf.” No need to go further, I got up and went.

Tucked in between tombs is Jim Morrison’s plot.

I boarded the metro to Boulevard de Ménilmontant at the 20th arrondissement with La Vie en Rose tune playing in my mind. Eighteen stops from Porte de Champerret, I got off the got off Pere Lachaise stop and made my way to the high walls of the cemetery.

“You won’t get lost. Just follow the rest of the crowd. Chances are, they’re there to see the place as well,” said Jose, and I did just that.

Very few tourists were around when I visited the cemetery. Lucky me.


As I entered the cemetery’s side entrance, I didn’t mind the street vendor selling maps. Why would I need a map? My answer came when I took my first step on the hallowed ground.

Pere Lachaise’s biggest road.
You don;t know where paths can lead you. Just get lost & be amazed.

The Pere-Lachaise is HUGE, the largest cemetery and the very first garden cemetery in the city. It sits on a 44-hectare land with more than a million interments that includes prominent personalities in music and fine arts, science and literature, cinema and government, etc., names that are attracting tourists.

The garden rotunda, Rond-Point Casimir Prier.
 The monument of Pierre Philip at the center of the rotunda.
 The ossuary, Aux Morts or Memorial to the Dead, was sculpted byPaul Albert Bartholome.

It’s almost city-like. Even the planning and layout of the area is so— pathways are referred to as avenues and the blocks are numbered.

The Pere Lachaise cemetery roads & blocks are designated with numbers & avenues.

To be able to navigate an area as big as this, directions are needed. For this, Pere-Lachaise posted the map of the cemetery with the appropriate marking of “vous ets ici” (you are here) at the three entrances, quite helpful to both locals and tourists who wish to pay their respects to a departed. I would think that even the frequent visitors could still lose their way in this maze of tombs.

The main entrance of Pere Lachaise.

Beside the map is another signage with a list of well-known people “resting” in the property with a corresponding number by the name. These numbers are plotted on the map to make it easier for the visitor to locate. Now you have three choices—1. Proceed if you have photographic memory; 2. Retrace your steps and purchase that map from the vendor by the entrance; or 3. With you smart phone’s camera, take a shot of the map and list and explore. It was the third for me and I saved 5 euros.

The cemetery map posted at the entrances.
Select & go.
The cemetery’s famed “residents,” their designations & location (refer to map above)  within the compound.

More than a park and burial ground, it was like wandering through an outdoor museum with architecturally impressively mausoleums, artfully designed markers and beautiful sculptures adorning the gravesite. 

This cemetery is museum-like.

It was a relaxing and very interesting stroll along cobblestone footpaths and through winding roads as I searched and found the few plots that interested me. Yes, Edith Piaf was one of those.

Here lies the body of a French cabaret singer who sang La Vie en rose, Edith Piaf.
Chopin’s final resting place adorned with a symphony of flowers.
The Importance of Being Earnest…& different. A most unusual (& aesthetically out of place) modernist angel tomb designed by Sir Jacob Epstein for Oscar Wilde.
The grave of Louis Visconti, an Italian-born French architect & designer. He designed Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides & was briefly the official architect of the Louvre.

Gloomy, drizzling, cold, the place devoid of crowd, it was a good day to visit after all. And no, it wasn’t that eerie for I found the art consoling me.

Perhaps you have another trip to Paris and perhaps you would want t stray from the paths you’ve gotten used to taking, how about going to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It will be worth your while.

P.S. I call it “pearly shells” for easier memory recall. The “sounds like” term works for me. J

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/


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