My Travel Book - Paris - Graveyards can be fun... after all. (Part I)
Yesterday was a delightful day in Paris. A very sunny afternoon. A very beautiful and nippy autum day.
What would you do in Paris on a beautiful day? What do I do when it’s so nice outside?
I go take a walk... in a graveyard, of course.
Today, I went to the Montparnasse Cemetery, not very far from Swee'Pea’s apartment. I had never been to the smallest and oldest section yet. A street divides the two graveyards hidden behind high walls. It’s a little bit strange but that’s the way it is.
For two years now, I’ve been working on a new project and I need to roam ancient graveyards to achieve my goal. And no, I am not turning into a pervert! And yes, I love what I am doing.
Before taking the ‘real’ pictures that I will eventually exhibit, I need to go off to explore. I notice things that may be interesting. I take notes i.e. pictures with a light equipment. Then back home, I sort pictures and make notes about what I’ve seen and how to use my discoveries at their best to serve my purpose.
Once I’m happy with what I’ve found, I take off to do some real work. I usually carry over 20lbs of equipment on my shoulder and around my neck. Sometimes it is really hot. Sometimes it gets really cold. It is always exhausting but I love working on a project.
Le Père Lachaise and the newest part of the Montparnasse cemetery are very much like city parks. Lots of people taking walks. Children running around on the tree lined paths. Old people chatting on benches. Teenagers catching the sun by the graves. One thing though: No dogs allowed!
Today was exploration time. Two light cameras. Enjoying the weather, the light, the place, the peacefulness.
I did work a lot though, getting happier and happier about my findings... (and sometimes frustrated!)
While I was going from grave to grave, I had to be careful where I was walking because the ancient part of the graveyard is quite overcrowded. Since I was intent on taking very specific pictures, I didn’t really care about whose grave it was.
This part of the graveyard is packed with XIXth century graves. Lots of writers, artists, famous people from remote times.
And suddenly what would have been a mere afternoon of work turned out to be quite hilarious.
I was lost somewhere, facing a grave that could be an interesting item but... when I was suddenly brought back to reality.
The voice was coming from behind my back.
I turned around. The man was 40ish, very well dressed. Educated voice. Quite handsome. Friendly smile too.
‘Please excuse me for disturbing you...’
I was pretty sure that I knew what would be coming next. Questions about photography, etc.
How wrong I was!
I smiled at the man while I was swiftly looking around to check whether or not we were alone. We were very much alone in an overcrowded graveyard. But he looked nice.
‘Excuse me, Madame. Have you seen Guy de Maupassant?’
The guy had to be kidding. Maupassant, one of our great XIXth century novelists, has been dead since 1893.
‘Well, no. I’m sorry. Is he here?’
‘Oh yes. I’m looking for him.’
‘Anything particular?’ (Thinking: Interesting grave)?
‘Well, Madame. He’s Guy de Maupassant, you know.’
(I know. I know. Do I look this stupid?)
I smiled. A big friendly smile.
‘I know. Sorry. I haven’t seen him. But... I’ve seen Joseph Kessel over there.’
Brilliant answer. Kessel died in 1979. And he’s definitely not Maupassant. A brilliant journalist but not a novelist.
The guy looked at me, obviously very disappointed. I had not seen Guy de Maupassant. Seen Maupassant? Do you see people in a graveyard or do you happen to look at their grave?
I was a little bit spooked but I decided to be nice after all.
‘If you go to the other part of the Cemetery, you’ll see Baudelaire.’
Raptured look. Extremely happy smile.
‘I know. (Deep sigh.) I’ve seen him there already.’
By the way, last time I went past Baudelaire’s grave, a girl was sitting in front of it and she was crying her eyes out. B. is one of our greatest poets but he died in 1867, for goodness sake!
Now I had work to do and the graveyard would close in less than one hour.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you. I hope you’ll get to see him. Good luck and goodbye, Monsieur.’
He went his way and I went mine.
I worked for a while. Then I heard the bell that signals the closing time. (It’s a real bell, quite huge.) So I walked to the other part, opened the door to a young father pushing a baby stroller and found myself on the busy sidewalk, door closed behind me.
A woman was hurrying towards me. She was much older than me and somehow reminded me of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland!
‘Is it closed?’ she wailed.
‘The bell is still ringing.’
‘I have to get in. I have to. It’s my short cut.’
‘My short cut’? Where to?
I started giggling inwardly and quite nervously. By the time I turned around, she no longer was there. I guess she had found her ‘short cut’...
What a lovely day! A man who was there to 'see people’ and a ‘white rabbit’...
And I was bringing back a nice crop from an enchanted graveyard!
A very exciting day indeed.
*Good Night, and Good Luck*