After a month of days in Europe, first in Bulgaria, then in France, our time away had finally come to a close. We had part of one last day in Paris, before we boarded an afternoon flight back to New York City. And I thought the best way to use that time left was to see Père Lachaise Cemetery, a place I’ve never been which had been on my list of things to see in Paris since the first time I visited there in 2010.
If you want to travel to the cemetery by the Metro, the good news is that there are Metro stops that let you off at pretty much every corner of the cemetery. Coming from our hotel in the 8th arrondissement, what was most convenient for us was to the take the #9 line to the République stop, then change there to the #3 line, and take that to the stop called, conveniently enough, Père Lachaise (the other stops that serve the cemetery go by other names like Gambetta and Phillippe Auguste).
This stop left us just across the street from a side entrance to the cemetery. Nevertheless, while not the main entrance, there were still vendors there selling maps and memorabilia related to the cemetery.
I had printed out a cursory map of the cemetery from the Internet, so I elected not to buy a map. I had in mind some famous people’s graves that we could look for during our walk through the cemetery. But it became obvious to me pretty quickly, first, that my map wasn’t much help, and second, that even people with fancier maps were struggling to locate the famous graves.
While we did not have any luck finding the famous people buried there – no Jim Morrison or Sarah Bernhardt or even Edith Piaf (I got close to her tomb, but forgot that her married name is displayed, not “Piaf”) – we saw a great deal of fascinating sculpted gravestones. And in trying to identify the people buried there, I discovered some interesting things. For example, Eugene Spuller (1835-1896) was a friend to the Impressionist artists, and had his portrait painted by Renoir!
But even without knowing much about the people whose gravestones and mausoleums we saw, there was so much to see. Lots of beautiful wrought ironwork, ancient-looking obelisks, lovely stained glass windows.
And the ceramic flowers! Obviously, putting cut flowers (and even planted flowers) at a grave is a limited remembrance – even with watering, they don’t last long. But somewhere along the way, someone got the idea to make flowers out of glass – and once these are set on a tomb, they will be there for decades, if not longer. Here was one of my favorite of those displays.
And you know what? We did find one famous person’s resting place. Long after I had given up on finding any famous people, when we were worming our way back towards where we had entered, we passed the tomb of opera composer Georges Bizet.
I felt just a little more accomplished then. And determined that, next time we come to Pere Lachaise, we will set aside more time to explore, and bring a really good map with us!
It may be obvious from my wish for more time, but just to be more obvious – this cemetery is huge, and you could spend many many hours wandering through it. We had just a few hours, and covered lots of territory, scurrying a bit at the end to get back to the exit/entrance we had started from. Once there, it was a taxi to the hotel to pick up our luggage, then another taxi to Charles de Gaulle Airport, then a late lunch before boarding our flight.
Our flight, Air France 10, had a pleasant surprise for me. Sitting in seat 24C of this Boeing 777-200 meant not only that I was on the aisle, but also that there was no seat in front of me! That meant I could stretch my legs, making this one of the most comfortable flights I have ever had.
Other Boeing 777-200 flights may have this oddity – SeatGuru calls it “version 3” of the seat plan, and shows the seat as 14C (seat 14J also has no seat in front of it). My advice is, if you are flying internationally in a Boeing 777, look to see if you might be able to get a seat like this. I highly recommend it. I was sad to leave France and return to the real world, but this comfortable seat eased my pain in a very palpable sense.