Let me confess something up front. I’m a chicken. I hate the dark, I haven’t watched a horror movie since Michelle Pfeiffer’s What Lies Beneath (2000) and I’m scared of my own shadow so cemeteries are generally a no-go zone for me because I find them creepy and because they are a reminder of our inevitability, which terrifies me. Still, part of being in Paris requires you to know at least the “Classics” in the city and every guide I have read has made reference to this historical landmark. So in the spirit of discovery (I had never stepped foot in that part of Paris) N and I made our way to Père Lachaise for a walk through history and to pay homage to some of the Greats that have changed our lives.
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris, located in the North-Western side of the city in the 20th arrondisement. It is very easily reachable by metro as ligne 2 (blue) or ligne 3 (khaki) both lead to the Père Lachaise stop which is practically facing one of the many entrances of the cemetery. It felt huge just walking through it. The lanes leading from one area to another were extremely wide and traditionally cobbled making for a really whimsical and nostalgic experience. Père Lachaise is apparently the world’s most visited cemetery and attracts thousands of visitors every year to the graves of those who have enriched French life in some way. It is also the site of three World War I memorials.
Given the extreme cold, we strategically decided to walk the periphery of the cemetery and to visit only a few graves. We saw Oscar Wilde’s grave, which you may remember from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. We also paid Edith Piaf’s grave a visit. It was smaller and more obscure than I imagined it would be but still it was important to say thank-you to the quintessential Parisian voice who gave us La Vie En Rose.
I must admit it was not as creepy as I imagined although I won’t be returning any time soon. I must also say that the one thing that bothers me in cemeteries is that the size of the grave, headstone, number of flowers or elaborations almost signify the importance of one life over another and this notion bothers me. It’s true that in life, some people are more priviledged than others but I believe that in death we are all equal. For me, visiting these few Great’s graves made the experience a bit more personal because Oscar Wilde taught me that “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” and Edith Piaf taught me that regret is a waste of time and that La Vie En Rose will forever be my favorite French song and a personfication of this nation I am loving more and more every day.