Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05

Several years ago, Patti and I went to Paris to celebrate one of life’s little milestones. We went in late-November/early-December and it was, for the most part, cold and gray most of the time we were there. Towards the end of the trip, we made a stop at a location that all the books said was totally worth it: the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery. You may have heard of it. It’s best known among people of my demographic to be the final stop for Jim Morrison. We found it to be much, much more than that.

First off, it’s huge (over 190 acres). There are lots of other famous people resting here. One of the first we saw was the bizarre tomb of Oscar Wilde, which for reasons I can’t begin to explain was covered with the red lipstick impressions of hundred of lips (not all female, I suspect).

Oscar Wilde's lipstick covered tomb. Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05

Morrison’s grave was protected by some fans, all significantly younger than ourselves, to protect it from vandalism. At Chopin’s tomb, there was a little old man tending to the many fresh flowers (in December no less) and generally keeping things tidy for old Frederic. We strolled past the resting places of Abelard and Heloise, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, and many other graves, tombs and monuments of Parisian society. It was all pretty cool, even though it was our coldest day yet.

Chopin's monument is tended with great love. Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05

What surprised us the most, however, were the monuments to the losses taken in WWII. We ran across them early and often. There were many of them commemorating the victims of the camps, members of the resistance, specific incidents and who knows what else. And some of them, many of them, can only be described as surreal. Grotesque shapes, skeletons and weird art adorned them. It was quite sobering.

One of many sculptures honoring the lives lost in WWII. Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05

Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 12/9/05