My Travel Book - Paris - A walk around Le Père Lachaise

When you get to Le Père Lachaise, in the eastern part of Paris, this is part of what you see from the street because this high wall encloses 110 acres of ground, hundreds of trees and by the way, 77000 graves, the oldest one being 200 years old.

Actually, there is nothing more remote from a graveyard than Le Père Lachaise... It’s a beautiful park, a calm and quiet place where you feel miles away from Paris.

Lots of children walking around with their parents. Lots of old people chatting on a bench, here and there. Lots of tourists looking for famous graves.

And then people like me who love this fabulous place and never get tired of strolling through it. There always something new to discover, surprising graves and corners.

Just imagine 110 acres criss-crossed with small cobbled paths, lined with small and very old ‘houses’. So different that you tend to forget they are graves... And when you realize they are graves indeed, there is something so magical around that you feel really peaceful and you keep on walking. Nothing spooky there. Peace and quietness and reverence.

Then you find yourself in the middle of a 'city'... which will grow and grow in front of you as you keep on walking uphill.

You'll find squares here and there with friendly benches. It was very early in the morning so the benches are still vacant. But in the afternoon, people will use them until quite late, just to chat in a friendly, neighbouring way.

Le Père Lachaise really looks like a small city, but without the unruliness of our daily lives, especially in Paris.
Of course, it won't let you forget it is a graveyard, but so gracefully.

Many artists chose to be buried there. Chopin has a beautiful romantic grave always covered with fresh flowers. The day I took the picture was the day after the Polish plane crash in Smolensk hence the red and white bouquet, red and white being Poland's colours.

 I've seen many people come and cry and pray there. It is an extremely moving place.

Some graves are quite different. People want to be remembered for what was their deep interest in life, whether they were ethnologists or musicians. The names are erased by Old Father Time but the passions remain.

Some families want to to be remembered for what they did or gave. The Raspail family gave many political leaders to France. Some of them were jailed during harsh revolutionary times at the end of the XIXth century.

This impressive battlefield death may have been his dream. But Marshal MacDonald (one of Napoléon's great military leaders) died in his bed at a very old age.
It's one of the many examples that I've found in Père Lachaise. Playing around with reality.

Another old general has his lifesize bust on top of a huge monument on which a young girl writes how great he was. Men...

The girl is very pretty. I wonder who she was... But we'll never know. I think this is very unfair.

Lots of graves are extremely decorated and impressive. This was how you measured the family's wealth. The interesting point is that many names have disappeared and those graves remain monuments to the Unknown Wealthy Dead. Which would really have bothered them, I'm sure, had they known!

Last time I was there, I found an amazing grave. The guy's name was still on it (bronze doesn't disappear easily... Yes, his name was written with bronze letters). Sounded Brazilian. Too bad for him he died in Paris then. His monument is incredible:

Lifesize women at every corner, some weeping, one with children... Bronze drapery! And please notice the enclosure. 'My grave is my castle'. But to top it all, look at what was built right in front of it, so that you won't forget to stop and think about him for a while while you're resting.

A beautiful stone bench!

A month ago, I had been moved to tears when I discovered this old grave and its small bench. Obviously a couple's grave with no names on it though. I still keep wondering who died first and who came to cry on this bench.

Le Père Lachaise is very old. Nature sometimes claims back its rights.

Trees are deadly enemies for many small graves. Well, trees are alive and they need room. So they grow and the graves disappear slowly but surely.

Of course, it's much nicer when nature keeps growing flowers. The grave will disappear anyway. But in a sweeter and more poetic way...

I can't resist to show off my last discovery. I was walking around and kept seeing something red, floating in the air. I grew very curious. I had to know. It wasn't easy to get there but it was worth it!

Yes, this is a Christmas tree on a very sorry looking and unmarked grave. Who could have such a crazy idea... The tree is still alive. The ornaments are getting a little bit worn out.

This is Le Père Lachaise. So filled with life... Quite an achievement for a graveyard!

*Good Night, and Good Luck*

1 comment:

Mammodouy's Stories said...

Last night, right after writing this blog, I discovered who has put up this Christmas tree. It's a young woman by the name of Lison. She loves to decorate forgotten graves in Le Père Lachaise. Interesting idea!