We just got back from a few days in France. Last Friday, right after a work we hopped onto our version of the happy train to Paris and spent the night in the Montparnasse area, which happens to contain an interesting cemetery and the Paris catacombs. Our only reason for picking that location was that our train trip to Bordeaux the next day left from Montparnasse train station (more on that trip on my next blog).
Saturday morning while strolling along looking for our next bar, we found what we thought was a park, which I guess is what a cemetery is after all, and spent over an hour visiting the dead we did not know. Including…
Oddly enough, despite the lipstick kisses, this was one of the least interesting tombstones we read. When you’ve got a mix of war heroes, politicians and prime ministers, artists, you name it, all sleeping side by side, and on top of each other it’s an orgy of interesting corpses.
Ricardo’s was the most interesting lover of cats, but there were more.
There were lovers of music and books and Christmas too…
I love this last one. If you look on top of the stone books, you’ll see that instead of leaving flowers someone left a modern book. Who doesn’t want to spend eternity keeping up with the latest?
There were also beautifully crafted crypts with wrought iron and stained glass windows, and then there were the sculptures.
She looks so bored mourning her keep while the city thrives behind her.
We also met an American actress who adopted Paris as her home thanks to her role in French New Wave cinema, and Paris apparently decided to keep her.
There were also those in denial…
And those, um, perhaps the world did not want returning…
Don’t know who this guy was, but there’s extra weight keeping him down. But, this family wanted the world to know that they indeed were cut from the same stone.
What I loved most about this shrine to those who came before us is it was so inviting for those of us still breathing that we want to come in and mingle with the dead, appreciating all the different ways their tombs reflect who they must have been.
Gotta love that there’s a dumpster to clear up any evidence of the midnight parties we mere mortals cannot attend.
So, if you have extra time in Paris, go say hi to our new friends chilling at the Montparnasse cemetery. It’s free, and they love the attention.
On our return trip from Bordeaux, we spent the night again in Montparnasse, so we could go beneath Paris to see where millions of its former residents are interred (many of whom met their end via guillotine or revolution). Long story short: in the late 1700s the centuries old, crowded cemeteries caused some issues — including vapors so bad they curdled milk and soured wine (um there’s no effing way Parisians are going to deal with rotten wine) — so in the dead of night graves were dug up and remains were dumped into an abandoned quarry in what was, at the time, outside the city. One of the guys in charge thought it would be cool to organize the bones in patterns and surround them with pithy quotes that would celebrate life and lol not make their chamber of death so gloomy.
From Paris with Love! Some of the skulls look like they’re laughing.
News flash for him: it’s still eerie as fuck. But, I appreciate the chance to go down there and thankfully make the climb back out. Of course if you want to learn more, I highly recommend you buy advance tickets to not feel like a zombie in the lines that lead to the entrance (although we totally lucked out and went on a day where there were very few of us visiting — maybe because it was Ash Wednesday?)
Next up? discovering French grape juice in Bordeaux…