Nom de Plumage

February 26, 2012

How Can a Place of Death Be So Beautiful? Pere Lachaise Cemetery


<img src="https://nomdeplumage.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/dscn0362.jpg?w=112" alt=" width=”112″ height=”150″ class=”alignnone size-thumbnail wp-image-317″ /> My new found friend Julianne was leaving today for her one year working holiday in Dijon. After we ate our breakfast, I helped her carry her luggage to the metro station and said our goodbyes. It was sad to see her leave as I enjoyed her company, but it now meant that I was on my own again and had to perk myself up and start the day. The Louvre seemed like a great place to start and an absolute MUST when in Paris. But unfortunately, it is not wise to show up after 10 am because the queue of tourists is RIDICULOUS! Not wanting to waste precious hours in a queue, I decided to come back another day. I walked down the Louvre’s boulevard of gardens and marbled white statues to the black and gold gated entrance and to the very heart of the French Revolution. A place synonymous with death and made famous by Madame Guillotine, Place de la Concorde. A magnificent grey stone obelisk (pilfered from Egypt I am sure?) stands proud in the centre of the Concorde, a stunning monument to the many who lost their heads and the brutality of the regime. Today was the start of what would dog me the next few months, grey cloudless sky, with no sign of the sun and it’s warmth. But it was also to be the start of my constant harassment of beggars and gypsies.
Throughout my travels, my main focus it to try and avoid looking like a tourist and therefore avoid being a target for thieves/pick-pockets. So no camera hanging around my neck, no shorts and flip-flops and no backpack. But at times the needy map needs to come out of my handbag, to guide me in the correct direction. As soon as I took out my map, I was pounced upon by a young male gypsy ( I saw him coming a mile off). He bent down in front of me and picked up a thick gold man’s ring. I knew that it was not there before, but he still insisted that it was and it was ‘my lucky day’? I wanted him to have it, as it is a man’s ring and continued walking. He followed me and was very persistent. To shut him up, I took the ring, stupidly thinking it would be the end of him, it was then he wanted money for FOOD? I threw the ring back and walked off angry. It took me a while to calm down and I needed a place to offer me serenity and I found it at the Cathedral Madalene. It is made more famous by the Da Vinci Code book. A beautiful and stunning cathedral with a magnificent alter piece in white pristine marble and Madalene’s arm’s open wide in invitation. Here I sat to enjoy the peace and beauty of the architecture.
The weather started to turn wet and cold and I also felt that I needed a day of relaxation. It just seemed so perfect to take the metro to Pere Lachaise Cemetery and leisurely walk between the tombstones and graves of the wealthy and famous. Let me start by recommending to any would-be tourist to the cemetery, buy the two euro map at the entrance, as it will be the best two euro’s you have spent and it will save you a massive headache. The cemetery is BLOODY HUGE! I had no idea and started to walk through it in my cockiness, only to get lost and wasted precious time. So I had to walk back to the entrance and start again (in a more orderly direction). How to describe the haunting beauty, peacefulness and magnificence of a place that death envelopes you and brings home what once was and now is forever gone. Beneath grey stone and under black marble, lays the mortal remains of many immortals, whose bones are all that is left of a brilliant career and life. The uneven cobblestone paths (murder for my blistered feet), lead me to the graves of those I admired – Edith Piaf, Bizet, Chopin , Murat and Rossini and to those I aspire to – Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Moliere and La Fontaine. Tucked away in an obscure place, is the grave of Jim Morrison. You can find it easily enough because there is bound to be ‘die-hard’ fans congregating nearby with a bottle of beer in their hand and reminiscing about the man, his music and early death. Oscar Wilde’s graves is an ‘eye-sore’ of massive rectangle stone tablet, covered in red graffiti. I spent hours navigating my way past family crypts, massive tombs, marbled white statues, decaying graves and falling leaves, all to the light music of rain and wind through my hair. A stunning and must-see when in Paris!

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