Recently I realized I was born in the completely wrong century. The more I’ve wandered the street of Paris and read about its history, the more I wish I could have been an “American in Paris” in the early 20th century. Can you image the streets of Montparnasse, filled with the likes of Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald? Paris not yet the tourist spectacle that it had become today? Obviously Midnight in Paris has forever changed Paris for me, but still, I think it would have been pretty awesome.
Of course the mother of this whole “Lost Generation” was Gertrude Stein, who helped foster the career of many young and struggling artists and writers in Paris during this time. I really don’t claim to know enough about this amazing woman, but I’m trying to learn more and really, I think we had a little heart to heart the other day at her grave 😉
Gertrude Stein is buried at Père Lechaise Cemetary, something I didn’t know until I walked into this rolling green cemetery that is a really wonderful place to visit in Paris. No, one doesn’t usually think of a cemetery as being a really wonderful place to visit, but with the likes of Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and the famed Kurdish singer Yilmaz Guney (don’t ask my why, but there are surprisingly a lot of Kurdish and Iranian people buried there), Père Lechaise is an wonderful place to take a stroll on a sunny day.
My friend Allison and I started out jaunt at Père Lechaise at the southern entrance, wandering throughout the many different districts of the cemetery. There are simple tombs and basic headstones to elaborate chapels and towering monuments. Some of them are so old that it’s hard to read the writing of who is buried there. Sadly, many of the older tombs are not well taken care of, often covered in cobwebs and leaves and some even have fallen apart, leaving a pile of rubble in their wake.
Towards the north, the graves seemed to be much better taken care of than those further south. Allison and I pondered why this was – many of them still seemed very old, yet looked so much nicer and shinier. Any ideas?
During our walk, we saw the burial sites of Baron Hausmann, Oscar Wilde, and yes, the great Gertrude Stein. Of course, there were lots of tombstones we could have seen, but after a few hours of walking through such an immense graveyard; there are only so many more dead people you can take.
It’s still possible to get buried in Père Lechaise today, as there were some recent headstones from just last year, but I was reading online that space is so tight, some people are buried in the same tomb as previously deceased family members – not the most pleasant idea.
I would love to go back to see the graves of Edith Piaf, Moliere and Balzac to name a few. There was something quite serene about walking through it all on such a lovely sunny day. I could only imagine the ghosts that come at night though!