"I want to go and visit the cemetery." Who says that when they're on vacation? Who says that when they're in Paris? Believe it or not, me. For the record, I absolutely hate cemeteries. I only go when it's necessary meaning people died. Plus, I hate the feeling that there are more dead people in an area than live ones. However, there are exceptions. Like...if I were ever to get the chance and see Michael Jackson's grave or Whitney Houston's. So many other famous people I admire as well like Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Tyler. So when the opportunity arose for me to go to a cemetery that holds many inspiring and talented people, I went.
The first time I went to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, I went with one of my roommates. Our goal was to see Oscar Wilde but after getting lost a few times we ended up at Jim Morrison's grave. His was gated off probably for safety reasons but people still found ways to set things on his grave. I felt bad for the tombs around him though because people would write and put graffiti on them just because they were right by his grave and I guess useful? I just found it disrespectful. Just because those people weren't famous like him doesn't mean their lives didn't mean something to someone. It's just rude. Unfortunately, we never made it to Oscar because the cemetery closed. Apparently this is an afternoon sort of trip.
No worries because this week on Wednesday we took a trip to Père-Lachaise for my class. It was a lot of fun with a group of people but it still didn't help get rid of the creeped out, spooky feeling I get in cemeteries. This particular trip had more of an educational purpose to it so it was more interesting than the previous visit I went on. It might have also had to do something with the fact that my professor can read a map (something we did not have on the first visit) and led us in the right direction. So basically, this trip was more productive rather than just aimless wandering.
Anyway, our first stop was the amazing Oscar Wilde. The tradition at Oscar's grave is to kiss the tombstone but the government decided to clean it a year or so ago and put plexi glass around it. That obviously didn't stop people from kissing it though. There were little messages all around the plexi glass and something that I found interesting was that people had started to use band-aids to write little messages before sticking them on the walls. So me and my friend Michelle decided to write our own little messages to honor the great man. I wrote "inspiring hearts everywhere" on mine and she wrote "mending broken hearts" on hers. I can officially say that I left a little piece of myself with Oscar Wilde.
Next on the trip was Gertrude Stein. She was a bit harder to find and I had to regrettably walk over and between some graves to find her. I apologized, no worries. I actually found Alice B. Toklas which led us to find that they were actually buried together. For those of you who aren't familiar, Gertrude Stein is a famous writer that lived in Paris in the early 20th Century and was known for her famous friendships and war efforts. Alice was her lover and they were the godparents to Hemmingway's and I believe Picaso's son as well. Alice went on to publish all the rest of Gertrude's work after she died and also published a few of her own as well. Their graves were not as visited or at least didn't seem to be as much as Oscar's. People don't leave much for her besides rocks and pebbles as you can see.
As we walked around we also passed several Holocaust Memorials. These were very chilling to me especially because they represented death. I understand that the Holocaust was full of terrible things I don't even want to begin to talk about but I would think that these people would want to be remembered for life. Maybe that's just the small amount of optimism that I actually have in me but that's what I would have wanted at least.
Anyway, last but very not least we found Edith Piaf whose grave was very hard to find. Thanks to a man visiting her that saw us we were able to finally find her. She was buried with other family which would have probably have made it harder if we had to keep looking. After Edith we went to find Jim Morrison for those who hadn't been here yet but they cemetery was closing, again. We made our way out past the Adam's family and went our separate ways.
I really don't like cemeteries but it's definitely nice to say that I have seen some of these great people. Many of the great artists from the 20th Century died tragically or just had sad lives. It's kind of depressing to think of it like that but what we should remember most are the great things that they have left behind. They may be physically gone but they live on through the pieces of art and literature and music that they left behind.