I remember arriving late afternoon. I was fairly full from lunch and lugging my camera up the stairs from the metro station felt exhausting. I made my way over to the cemetery gates and walked in. It was as if by walking through the gates, I stepped into someplace different. The bustling noises were no more, people were no longer pushing nor shoving, and the quiet silence became the new deafening effect on my ears. The place was vast so I made my way over to the map to see if I recognised any notable names. Molière, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, to name a few. I tried to take a mental note of the map and headed in.
Most of the gravestones had a rather gothic feel to them. The dark, rusty grey rolling over the smooth and intricate details of the gravestones gave them that particular atmosphere. There were plenty of those whose names I did not recognise but I just stood in front of them and became rather hypnotised by the detail. Cemeteries are not exactly a go-to place for me, but there was a calming effect amongst this place. I felt comfortable walking through this place at a steady pace as the sun began to set slowly beneath the Parisian landscape.
Oscar Wilde’s tomb was larger than most and towered over me. A glass barrier was put around it to possibly prevent further fans of the writer to graffiti famous lines on his tomb. If my memory is as pitch perfect as it was long ago, a quote that was repeatedly written was about love. Perhaps: “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” It seemed that in the past, many visitors came to put lipstick kisses on the tomb to reflect the famous quote: “A kiss may ruin a human life.” The glass barrier has since prevented further kisses to be applied, and the tomb seemed to have the kisses of the past cleaned off it. Some have taken to kissing the glass barrier, starting a new phase of lipstick kisses to mark the famous line.
It was hard to get a good look at Molière’s grave as there was a guided tour blocking the surrounding area. It almost looked forgotten from the distance. There were no flowers or well-wishers placing their mark such as Wilde’s tomb. Yet, people knew of the place, and the dramatist well enough to warrant a guided tour to pass through.
Chopin’s grave was beautiful. Blooming flowers covered the grave top to bottom, almost giving the illusion of bringing the grave itself to life. Flowers of different colours saturated the place, and the additional visitor playing a cassette tape of Chopin’s works nearby made this a wholesome experience for various senses.
The cold was forgotten which made the walk easy. The view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower in the distance can be seen from a high point in the cemetery. If you are in Paris and just need some time to get away from it all, whatever all might be, then head down to this place. An unusual piece of advice perhaps, but this place with all sorts of talented people buried here will give you some sense of peace, and perhaps even inspiration.
Take Metro Line 2 to Père Lachaise station and walk.