I See Dead People

So for my last day in Paris, I did what any normal person would do – visit a cemetery!  Ok, maybe not everybody, but the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is like the Hollywood of cemeteries when it comes to famous people.  Basically, the crème de la crème of French society (and some international stars added for good measure) are buried here, and there is a waiting list to even be considered for an increasingly rare plot.  But the main reason why I wanted to go to Père-Lachaise is because my musical idol Frederic Chopin is buried there.  True, his heart is actually interred in a column at a church in Warsaw, but I can still claim to have visited his grave, right?

Palais Garnier under the morning sun on my way to the Metro stop.

Palais Garnier under the morning sun on my way to the Metro stop.

I got off at the Gambetta Metro stop which is very close to the back entrance of Père-Lachaise.

A mausoleum near the back entrance of the cemetery.

A mausoleum near the back entrance of the cemetery.

Visiting cemeteries is always rather awkward, but visiting a famous cemetery is even more so.  It’s pretty evident that I’m a tourist taking photos of various graves, but you also have to be respectful of the fact that it is a functioning cemetery and there are still funeral ceremonies taking place.

Oscar Wilde's final resting place.

Oscar Wilde’s final resting place.  Note the glass barricade that had to be erected to protect the grave stone from being defiled.

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Gertrude Stein’s rather plain-looking grave.

There is a section of the cemetery full of memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives during historical events such as the Paris Commune, but the ones honoring those who died during the Holocaust were some of the most moving and slightly terrifying memorials.

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Memorial on the left dedicated those deported to Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen.

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Auschwitz-Monowitz.

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Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Site of where the Paris Commune came to a bloody end.

Site of where the Paris Commune came to a bloody end.

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A tribute to the “steps of death” at the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.

I think this sort of hit a raw nerve in me because we rarely see memorials like this in the US.  Yes, we have the Vietnam War Memorial as well as plenty of other war memorials, but they are almost entirely dedicated to the servicemen and women who gave their lives during combat.  These memorials are completely different, paying tribute to civilians who were ruthlessly slaughtered thanks to the heartless convictions of extremists.  Also, the continental US has never been under occupation by foreign powers whereas continental Europe has seen its fair share of military occupations and war zones.  It just illustrates how fortunate we American citizens have been for most of our history.

As I turned the corner to leave this rather morbid and somber corner of the cemetery, I came across an oddly familiar sight.

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Hmm…could this be?

The last time I saw giant wreathes of flowers with ribbons was during my grandfather’s funeral back in Taiwan and as I got closer, the Chinese writing on the ribbons confirmed that a Chinese funeral rite had just been performed.

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Chinese-style tombstones.

Just beyond was the grave of La Môme herself, Edith Piaf.

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Edith Piaf buried in the family lot.

It's nice to see that people still leave fresh flowers at her grave.

It’s nice to see that people still leave fresh flowers at her grave.

Moliere.

Moliere.

Jim Morrison tucked away behind other graves.

Jim Morrison tucked away behind other graves.

It’s actually quite difficult to find certain graves in the cemetery because many paths are not clearly paved/marked and they may be located in the middle of a bunch of other graves.  So unless you know what the grave you’re looking for looks like, you might be spending a long time searching for it.

But this grave is unmistakable…

And this is when I flung myself at the foot of Chopin's grave...not.

And this is when I flung myself at the foot of Chopin’s grave…not.

Nearly 180 years after his death, it’s cool to see that music lovers still come to visit and pay their respects to the Franco-Polish composer.  The Polish flag is a nice touch.

A close-up of the muse guarding Chopin's grave.

A close-up of the muse guarding Chopin’s grave.

The final resting place of Abelard and Heloise, a medieval Romeo and Juliet.

The final resting place of Abelard and Heloise, a medieval Romeo and Juliet.

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Colette was a famous French writer known for her affairs with other women.

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Gioachino Rossini’s tomb where he was buried from 1868-1887.  His remains are now in Florence.

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Family tomb of the Haussmanns.  Baron Haussmann is most famous for his renovation of Paris under Napoleon III.

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Front entrance to Pere-Lachaise.

As it approached noon, I felt that I had enough of visiting dead people, so off it was to find some lunch.

A cute bistro called L'Artiste.

A cute bistro called L’Artiste.

Menu du jour.

Menu du jour.

I was tempted by the formule du midi, but I just decided to stick with a plat, namely the “beefsteack”.

Simple steak-frites, but delicious nonetheless.

Simple steak-frites, but delicious nonetheless.

With my belly satisfied, it was time to head to a much happier place – Montmartre.

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