With the recent heat wave in Paris, I looked for ways to escape, and places with shady trees seemed like a great idea. My first stop was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement. I followed the Rick Steves walk for this and I recommend that anyone planning this visit do the same as Rick Steves very kindly arranges his walking tour so that most of it is downhill. Upon entering, I witnessed a current funeral in progress. I was a little surprised. It had not occurred to me that this cemetery was still in use, I had assumed it was historical. I quickly put my camera away and walked out of sight of the red-nosed, tissue holding, black-clad mourners and headed for the next stop. There were memorials to countries who had lost men while fighting with France in various wars. Of these, I was struck by the memorial to the Russians of World War II. Notice the many fresh flowers at his feet.
Next up was Oscar Wilde. Apparently power washed and surrounded by plexiglass, which had only a few lipstick prints on it.
Just after Oscar Wilde’s gravesite I was accosted by a strange long-haired gentleman, who insisted in some language that wasn’t English or French that I follow him with my camera. He had two other tourists hostage and gestured wildly towards this grave, telling us in broken various languages that this man was the REAL inventor of the Zeppelin. Sadly, I had followed this strange man because I thought he was talking about Led Zeppelin. I was thinking, “I didn’t know John Bonham was buried here”. He isn’t, but this man is.
I googled him (Joseph Spiess) and apparently strange cemetery man was correct. Moving on…
I saw Gertrude Stein’s spartan grave, as well as Alice B Toklas, whose name is engraved on the back of Stein’s, although I later learned that she is actually buried next to her, not with her.
Then came the memorials to the Jews who died in concentration camps. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Just around the bend from this area is Paris’s Alamo. Apparently, members of the Paris Commune barricaded themselves inside this wall, but were eventually overtaken and shot in this spot in March 1871.
I stopped briefly after this to have a small picnic on a bench. Then ventured further on, taking pictures of a few non-famous graves that I found interesting for one reason or another.
Now, I don’t want to alienate anyone here, but I have never really been a fan of The Doors, except for one song, and I just don’t get the fascination with Jim Morrison, so I walked past his grave without pausing. I walked on to Frederic Chopin and met a woman holding the same Rick Steves Paris book I was holding. We laughed and then talked a bit. She was newly arrived and asked if I had done any other tours, and if he was accurate in his recommendations. I told her that I didn’t like Montmartre, but she had been there the day before and liked it even less than I did, as she met a group of women, one of whom had been pick-pocketed and lost quite a bit of money. The only other thing I told her was that the famous #69 bus was just way too hot to ride this time of year. We said our goodbyes and I moved on.
My next stop was Abelard and Heloise, but I have recently learned in school that their relationship was possibly toxic; that Peter Abelard may have been abusive, so I didn’t feel any emotion at the tragic love story. In fact I ignored Abelard, and just looked at Heloise. I wasn’t terribly interested in the remaining graves on the walking tour, so I chose to exit here. It was hot hot hot, and even though I was walking downhill in mostly shade, it had started to feel like work. I got on the Metro and went to Parc des Buttes Chaumont since it was in the next arrondissement. This park was recommended to me by a former co-worker and now Facebook friend (Hi Roger!).
It’s a lovely park, from what I saw of it. Looking at the map, I think I only scratched the surface, although the heat, combined with the hills made it seem as though I had hiked the Himalayas. I took the Metro to the Buttes Chaumont stop and not surprisingly, found the entrance to the park very close to the Metro. I immediately climbed a mountain (okay so it was a small hill) and found nothing at the top but a few benches, that famous Parisian gravel, and lovers hidden in the grasses.
I felt a bit like a voyeur, so I trekked back down the mountain and turned left onto a path, which led me past bridges, tons of people laying on the grass, kids playing in a stream…..
Then another bigger bridge (designed by Gustave Eiffel) leading to the Temple Sibylle.
I think if I had known the history of this park, I might not have been so eager to see it. According to Wikipedia, it’s near a place where for around 400 years they used to display the dead bodies of hanged criminals, and then it was used as a garbage dump, a place to cut up dead horses, and to dump sewage. Nice, huh? I’m especially happy that I didn’t know this when I got mis-directed by some badly placed orange barrier fence and ended up basically climbing a dirt hill (along with another poor stranger who made the same mistake I did) to make it back onto a path and had to take off my shoes and shake all the dirt out.
Anyway, here are some views from the temple, including a view of Sacre Coeur.
And views of the temple from the lakeside
A dog chasing fish. I could have jumped right in there with him, it was that hot.
This is a beautiful park, with drink and snack stands as well as more than one cafe. In fact, on my way out, there was quite a party going on at one of the cafes called Rosa Bonheur. I didn’t get a picture because I was busy dying from the heat and my mountain climbing adventure.
But this park is definitely worth the Metro ride, especially if you pack a picnic, and just buy cold drinks and glaces when you get there.