At 5:30pm, the guards at Pere Lachaise Cemetery ring hand bells to chase out the living.
|The bells of Pere Lachaise. They ring them when it's time to go.|
|Map of Pere Lachaise.|
I've enjoyed my afternoon with the Paris dead. I should have left more time, though. The place is huge, and fascinating. Packed full of graves, which tumble in historical abandon down the hillsides. One hundred and ten acres, in the 20th Arrondissement, and more than two hundred years old. Still in use, though their rules are strict and there's a waiting list to get in...
|A tumble of graves at Pere Lachaise.|
I braved the Metro for this trip, and it was amazingly easy, despite my lack of French language skills. I've taken public transit in a bunch of cities, and it really isn't any different here. Public transit is made to be simple, so the maximum number of people can figure it out. You just need to pay attention, read all the signs as best you can, and leave yourself time to be lost for a while. (A small aside: at Princeton U., they don't put the names of the buildings on the buildings they are clearly aiming in the opposite direction.)
|The streets and boulevards of Pere Lachaise are named, just like in any other city.|
|Crypts and trees, all in a row.|
This cemetery is a peaceful place to wander. Everything is so old and strange and full of ghosts. A clock somewhere chimes five o'clock before I know it, and I haven't found Jim Morrison yet.
|Who was she, I wonder?|
|Guarding the doors. But is he keeping someone out, or keeping someone in?|
|Where is Buffy when you need her?|
|Edith Piaf's grave.|
|Aux Morts. Monument to the dead.|
|Auschwitz Memorial at Pere Lachaise.|
|Ravensbruck Memorial at Pere Lachaise.|
I stumbled upon Edith Piaf, and the communist wall, and sad, stark reminders of those lost in World War II -- soldiers and resistance fighters and people in the death camps. So much history. So many dead.
But where was Jim?
|Angels guard the door.|
|Cul de sac.|
|A grand house for the dead.|
"Right there," he said. And I glanced between two stones, where he was pointing, and sure enough, a bunch of people were queued up.
|Jim Morrison's grave at Pere Lachaise. Someone has been toasting him.|
Yet another talented young person I wish hadn't done themselves in with drugs and alcohol.
Ce la vie. Perhaps that's the price of reckless abandon.
I found Chopin, too, before the bell began to ring -- a white rose and notes from young musicians decorating his stone. One of the notes was written on the back of a Metro ticket.
|Letters to Chopin in a dozen languages. Some with music.|
Come on, baby, light my fire?
|I <3 Jim Morrison.|
Want to see more? Go here for a virtual tour of Pere Lachaise.