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?
I got off at the Gambetta Metro stop which is very close to the back entrance of Père-Lachaise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just beyond was the grave of La Môme herself, Edith Piaf.
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…
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.
As it approached noon, I felt that I had enough of visiting dead people, so off it was to find some lunch.
I was tempted by the formule du midi, but I just decided to stick with a plat, namely the “beefsteack”.
With my belly satisfied, it was time to head to a much happier place – Montmartre.