Finding Paris’s most interesting people

Paris limits the number of burials within its city limits. In fact, more than six million skeletons were dug up and arranged in artistic piles in their underground crypts. However, as in life, some people get very special treatment after they are gone. One of the places very special people go when they are gone is the Père Lachaise Cemetery. As strange as it may seem, it is a major tourist attraction with millions of visitors each year (we have been there three times). We were near it this April and decided to walk through on our way to the metro.

Père Lachaise wasnt very popular when it first opened because, in 1804, it was too far out of town. In a stroke of marketing genius, the operators decided to dig up famous people buried elsewhere and rebury them in their cemetery. Two of the first were star-crossed medieval lovers Pierre Abélard and Héloïse d’Argenteuil. This really classed the place up. Now there are more than 800,000 people buried here.

There are supposed to be maps at the entrance but we couldn’t find one. That didn’t bother us since we were just taking an interesting shortcut. However, Père Lachaise never fails to delight (at least people taking a shortcut). One of the first graves we came upon was an angel who appeared to be giving us a thumbs up.

Passing the angel, we wandered downhill and found Oscar Wilde’s grave. It is interesting to note the lipstick on the tomb and the glass wall surrounding it. The tomb of his next door neighbor appeared to have been toppled by admirers climbing on it to plant kisses on Wilde’s avatar. Walls never seem to work.

A little farther downhill and we found a tomb marked by a large bronze pelican. We don’t know who this is but suspected he might have had something to do with pelicans. Alternatively, this could be the tomb of a very famous pelican.

The cemetery is full of broad avenues, side lanes, paths, and little trails. They are all full of tombs, a few simple but many ornate. The cemetery is huge but we could actually find our way — and a few interesting tombs — using Google Maps.

Many of the tombs would be at home in Disneyland, especially the Haunted Mansion.

When we found this tomb, we wondered if someone was trying to get in or if the occupant was trying to get out.

 

About two-thirds of the way down the hill, we found Jim Morrison’s (of the Doors) grave. It was relatively simple but seemed to be one of the most visited. It was surrounded by another fence which seemed to have no affect on passage to or from the grave.

The picture of a tomb for this post was one of the most ironic. The words above the door say “Perpetual Concession” (apparently, one can rent a temporary spot here). As far as we could tell, the tomb was empty and the door had turned to rust. So much for long term planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cimetière du Père Lachaise — Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Tombstones or Cemeteries

This is our entry in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Tombstones or Cemeteries.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise (the Père Lachaise cemetery) is a very popular site for tourists in Paris. The last time we went there, we took a small Kindle e-reader with a copy of Rick Steves’ Tour: Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. Because we entered at the Porte du Repos pedestrian main entrance on the Boulevard de Ménilmontant (exiting Métro de Paris at the Philippe-Auguste station on line 2), we walked through uphill, meeting all the other Rick Steves aficionados walking downhill (as he recommends) carrying his book.  (They entered at the north/back entrance close to the Gambetta station on Métro line 3; however, official maps are available only at the main entrance.)

Even in the rain (which adds to the mood), this is a fascinating adventure. Here are a few of our favorite tombstones.

Oscar Wilde at Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Oscar Wilde at Cimetière du Père Lachaise

 

Abelard and Heloise at Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Abelard and Heloise at Cimetière du Père Lachaise

 

Frederic Chopin at Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Frederic Chopin at Cimetière du Père Lachaise

 

Jim Morrison at Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Jim Morrison at Cimetière du Père Lachaise

The photos were taken on May 24, 2015 with an Olympus TG-3 camera.

For much more interesting information about this cemetery, visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery page at Paris for Visitors.  On page 2 of this site is a link to an online map where you can take a virtual tour and search for graves.

Rue Dénoyez: Paris Street Art

Before visiting Paris in September this year, I asked a fellow blogger where the best street art can be found. Without hesitation, the answer was Rue Dénoyez. This one-car-wide lane  is lined with abandoned stores with grilled and shuttered windows, with brick sidewalks indistinguishable from the street except for the shallow gutters and the stanchions that establish the pedestrian right-of-way on both sides.  A long stretch of sidewalk on one side is inexplicable blocked, tucked behind a temporary (?) metal panel and wire barrier, but the original wall behind is still visible. At least half of the length of this two-block street is covered in colorful street art – every wall, window, trash can, flower pot, and even some of the stanchions.

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Rue Dénoyez Long View from Rue de Belleville

At the entrance to the street from the Rue Ramponeau end, at 3 rue Dénoyez, is the trendy restaurant le Desnoyez.

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Restaurant le Desnoyez

While some of the foot traffic on Rue Dénoyez is clearly local citizenry taking a shortcut to somewhere else (this street is extremely convenient to the Paris Métro), there are usually a few tourists wandering slowly down the street and back, studying each image, trying to understand what it means to the person who created it. Is it a political statement or just humor? Who is the boy pictured lower right below? His eyes suggest a sad story.

We zigzagged slowly down the street, taking pictures of whatever caught our eye. There were only a few other persons on the street also interested in the art. It occurred to me that I might not want to be on this street after dark, but I felt safe enough in the bright sunlight. (Rue Dénoyez is located at the edge of the 20th arrondissement of Paris and is very near the locations of the terrorist attacks of November, 2015.)

Reaching the unofficial end of the display, I decided to take more pictures of art I had skipped on the first pass. I turned and worked my way back up the street, totally engrossed in capturing the extraordinary images. About halfway back, I became aware that we were the only two people on the street – except for four tall uniformed policemen carrying long automatic weapons and staring at us. They had appeared from nowhere! I “calmly” took one last photograph, and as we walked past them, I said “Bonjour” to one of them. We “calmly” walked back to the entrance of the street and turned to see the street empty behind us. They had vanished again.

If you are ever in Paris and would like to see the current version of this frequently-changing street art, then ride the Paris Métro to the Belleville station on Line 2 and Line 11. Exiting the Métro station, walk east one short block on Rue de Belleville, and then turn right (south) onto Rue Dénoyez.

You could combine a visit to Rue Dénoyez with a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, also a great photography destination. The cemetery is also on Paris Métro Line 2, only four stops away at the Philippe Auguste station, which exits at the main entrance to the cemetery. (The Père Lachaise station, while only three stops away on Line 2, exits near a side entrance that is closed to the public.)