Carnavalet and Père Lachaise

Trip Start Jun 30, 2011
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This is What I Like: Quiet museums where there aren't a lot of people so you can actually read what it says about the artifacts and the artifacts aren't behind glass so you can look at them properly and take your time.

This is What I Don't Like: Wandering around in circles trying to find a rock with a dead person's name engraved on it and it's hot outside and there isn't enough shade and everything looks the same so you can't figure out where you are and the map doesn't make any sense.

Today I did exactly what I had set out to do which was go to the Musée Carnavalet and then go to Père Lachaise cemetary.

I really think it's wonderful how there are so many free museums in Paris... what a fantastic resource they are, and I'm sure they go a long way to make history accessible to people. The only bad thing about it was that the museum was short-staffed today so they had to close a sections, like the Louis XV section... but I saw all kinds of interesting things, and because it wasn't full of people, I could really take my time and look around. There was a very interesting medieval and Renaissance wing, with lots of paintings including a few that I found very interesting of Sainte Genevieve, who is the patron saint of Paris. In one, she was standing in a circular setting of monoliths (kind of like Stonehenge) and shepherding sheep within it. In another, in the background you could see the Huns fleeing Paris. But the really interesting thing is that someone painted over the painting and tried to turn it into a painting of someone else, a queen of France, I forget who now, but...

My favourite section of the museum was the wing on the French Revolution. There were many amazing paintings and artifacts,... my favourites were old flags and tapestries,... "la liberté ou la mort" type of stuff. I was looking at the tiny little stitches, and it reminded me what I love about history. Someone's hands made this. People fought for the meaning behinds these words. Those who went before us gave us what we have today, and we will hand off something to the next generation. Amazing.

If anything, the visit reminded me that I really, really need to brush up on my French history.

I am not exactly sure why the Père Lachaise cemetary is the third most-visited tourist attraction in Paris, but that is what someone told me today when I was there. It's just a huge cemetery. With some famous people buried in it. There are THOUSANDS of tombs and maybe only a dozen or so belonging to people I've even heard of. Like I said yesterday,... it's one of those things people do when they are in Paris, so I went. Also because Nat Small asked me to go write her name on Jim Morrison's tomb.

The cemetery itself is really off the beaten track, way out in eastern Paris pretty close to the Périphérique. On the walk from the metro I saw a lot of young guys with long hair wearing "The Doors" t-shirts. So you walk into the cemetery and it is SPRAWLING. I mean, I felt lost within 30 seconds of walking in. Plus which, it's sort of hilly, so you can't see any of the other exits and it has a very claustrophobic feeling, even though I guess it's spacious enough.

Some of the monuments are truly stunning, I have to say. And others are not. But after looking at a couple of hundred, they pretty much all start to look the same. And the map they give you makes pretty much no sense at all. There are 97 different numbered sections in Père Lachaise, so those numbers are on the map. And then the individual graves of the famous people are numbered, too. But they don't have their own number. No, that would be too simple. They are numbered within their section as #1, #2, #3 within their section. So, for example, Honoré de Balzac is #48 and #1. And Jim Morrison is #6 and #1. UGH.

Have I made it clear how BIG this place is?

Because I was feeling sort of overwhelmed from the get-go, I kind of skulked behind a group of people who looked like they were walking around with a purpose. Of course, this lead me to the grave of none other than the frontman of The Doors, Jim Morrison. There were maybe a dozen other people there, and a security guard. (This explains why I didn't get to write Nat's name on anything.) The grave is actually blocked off with guardrails so you can't get too close and it's some dude's job just to stand there and make sure no one does anything,... illegal, I guess. There was a half-full bottle of Jack on the tomb, and some candles and some flowers.

The next tomb I went to was the joint monument for Abelard and Heloise, the famous French medieval lovers who ended up becoming a nun and a monk, etc. It's a lovely, romantic, sort of gruesome story that reminds me of being in Liberal Arts. Who doesn't like a story about star-crossed lovers. Anyhow, they say that if you leave a note at the tomb, Abelard and Heloise will help guide you to your true love. So I left a note.

From there I went to Chopin's grave (really pretty), Sarah Bernhardt, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust and then, sort of the highlight of the visit, the tomb of Oscar Wilde.

I've got to hand it to Oscar-- his monument is of the "Go Big or Go Home" variety. It's very unique, and stands out amongst the others. Not only for the fact that it's covered in lipstick. The style is very modern and sort of pre-art deco, and it has an almost Egyptian-like angel on it. People have written all over the monument in Sharpie and in lipstick, and it's kind of fun, although like I said yesterday, it must be disgustingly full of germs. But it was nice, somehow.

...I ended up finally finding my way out of the cemetery, and by that point I was bone tired and kind of overheated. So I came back to Montmartre by bus, and ended up seeing some very modern, residential neighbourhoods on the edges of the city that I would have never seen otherwise, so it was good that I didn't take the metro!

And then I had supper, and now I am going to bed. It just rained, so it's nice and cool in the apartment. The bell tower of Sacre Coeur is lit up against the grey sky. It's beautiful.

I don't know what I will do tomorrow... any suggestions?

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Joolee on

You could go to "Disneyland Paris"? (Joking...)
But, apparently, there are guided tours of the sewers, so if your up for something a little icky, then this is an interesting idea!
And if you ever go out of Paris, for a small little while, you can go see Claude Monet's Garden (it's in Giverny though)!

Norma on

HEY! first, great musings, love the entries...I am so happy for you right now. it was total insanity leading up to this trip but it seems completely worth it now by your writing. I love the picture of the painting. .. and I could only imagine how wonderful the tapestry must be. And I will remind you that we must find a way to bring the Paris zen to Heritage. also be sure to take a picture of yourself in your new bleu shirt and post it!
I am thrilled that you are so happy and it makes me happy, too. oh, and I loved the fraggle rock reference, I get it. ;-)

Natalie Small on

Thanks for trying on Jim's grave...I appreciate the efforts...are there any vampires buried there I wonder? or Zombies? Would it be a good set for a vampire movie?
Keep posting...

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