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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

What better way to spend a wet day in Paris than with 1 million dead?

FRANCE | Monday, 26 June 2006 | Views [5393] | Comments [4]

Cimetiére du Pére Lachaise

Cimetiére du Pére Lachaise

I'm so over Paris. Seriously. Sunday, it's pissing down, and everywhere is shut. So much so that it was even impossible to buy a bloody umbrella. Have they heard of initiative in France?

Is it that I am still trying to kick this flu? Is it that I am here alone having not travelled alone for so many years? Is it that I have simply been here so many times that the wonder has worn off? Or is it that because I have always enjoyed it here, expectations are so high?

Even the works of the great impressionist masters didn't do it for me. After queueing for nearly two hours in the rain, the Monet water lilies that had taken my breath away 20 years ago, were, well, still the same water lilies. They might have spent millions renovating the l'Orangerie, but the works were unmistakably the same. It's really rather sad to lose that sense of wonder that first inspired my sense of youth.

What is it with being over 40 that leaves so much dissatisfaction? Here I am in Paris, a city I have always adored, but this time, for the very first time, I have found Paris to be rather dull where London was full of energy and excitement. Little has changed here; it is still full of amazing art, the wonderful boulevards are still tree lined and the cafés full of people watching people. But that is precisely the problem: little has changed from the very first time I was here over 20 years ago.

Cemeteries are not places I usually visit, but today a visit to the 'Cimetiére du Pére Lachaise' was just right for the mood of the day. This cemetery is vast, beautiful and famous for the famous who are buried here, among them Chopin, Max Ernst, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Apollinaire, Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. Even with a map, actually finding these graves is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Perhaps its my age, but a wet afternoon wandering around all these famous graves makes you seriously consider your own mortality, makes you consider that so many only achieved their best in their later years, makes you reflect on how little time we actually have in this world.

I stumbled upon the grave of Edith Lefel. I have no idea who she was except that she was a singer and she was born in 1963, the same year as I.

None of us know how much time we have left and we tend not to think about it too often when perhaps we should.

Tags: age, change, culture, dead, death, history, mood, philosophy of travel, reflection




Hey, cheer up! I have had almost a year to familiarize myself with the over-40-phenomenon and I know it's tough. Tough to realize that for passing teens you are old, that one of these days you will die, that your looks are not what they were (damn, I used to stop traffic) and that nobody cares about your intellectual capabilities - except at work. So a day in a cementery seems appropriate, if I may say this. 'I have been here 20 years ago' has a depressing ring to it and remains better unsaid. On the upside (yes, there is one) I can attest to the fact, that ideally one makes less really stupid mistakes and has increased their self value. recently I came across an African proverb: When it is time for the monkey to die, all trees get slippery.
So, yes, you are right, it does not make much sense to ponder on these things, and yet we do and that makes us - human.



  francesca Jun 28, 2006 12:46 PM


After many comments along the lines of 'sounds like you didn't have a very good time in paris' I thought I'd comment on this particular entry.

Life isn't always sunny and sometimes a black mood better reflects the time and is actually quite suitable. Any it certainly isn't a bad thing to consider how precious your time on this earth is and what you might like to do with what you have left, however much that might be.

A very good exercise to focus the mind is to be asked to write your own obituary. When it comes down to words on a page, somehow what we consider important in the day-to-day looks absurd.

An obituary tries to distill the essence of your life into a paragraph or two, which is a wonderful bull-shit filter when it comes to what you consider important to you.

  simon_monk Jul 14, 2006 6:09 PM


Wow, while I read your article all I could think about was how fortunate you are to have been to Paris so often. I was amazed reading about the cemetery and even the rain. It is a place I've dreamed about going to for as long as I can remember. In fact I keep a picture of it at my desk to daydream when needed. So while you didn't have the best time while you were there, be thankful you can go. I myself will be 40 in a few years and I just hope I get to see Paris whether I'm in my 30's, 40's or whatever.

  Jamie Aug 18, 2006 4:25 AM


I've been to Pere Lachaise quite a few times myself and This is one of the most amazing cemetery you can think of. It can be spooky at night (you need to climb the wall to get in), but during the day, it is relaxing and mysterious.
Once I went to the grave of Jim Morrison, and there was a whole bunch of fellows from different countries + a fan with a guitar singing some Doors songs. Jim was quite alive there!
Another interesting grave (for ladies) is that of this man whose bronze statue lays on top of the grave. He is laying down and you can see the shape of his "bistouquette" under his trousers. Touch it (you'll not be the first one if I judge for the colour of the bronze in that particular place) and your fertility is guaranteed!

  Chris Apr 3, 2007 3:03 AM

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