Published: March 7th 2006February 26th 2006
That's me standing in the side entrance to Pere Lachaise.
Cimetiere de l'Est du Pere Lachaise
Day 3 begins. Our first stop this morning was the famous cemetary Pere Lachaise. It was rather close to our hostel, so a short walk took us to the cemetary. We didn't go in at the main entrance, but in one of the side entrances. We actually tried to enter in one place that just turned out to be a small park, but we eventually made it inside. The entrance we used was rather strange. After turning down a normal street, we were confronted with a wall at the end of the street. Set in the wall was an open door with stairs leading up beyond the door. Not really knowing what to expect (all I knew before going in was that the cemetary was well known, it was close to the hostel, and Jim Morrison was buried there...worth checking out) we walked through the door, up the stairs, and were yet again shocked by what lay beyond the wall. I had never seen a cemetary like this one. Nearly all of the graves were marked with these giant, tomb like, stone structures. It was very beautiful and disquieting at the same time. Although the
The road leading up to the entrance.
cemetary was huge, it was also very dense. By dense I mean that all of the grave sites were very close to one another. It was also difficult to figure out how, exactly, the deceased were positioned in the graves. At first glance the stone structures looked like tombs, but upon closer inspection it was evident that the above ground structures didn't actually contain any caskets. I assumed that the caskets were buried underneath. The only problem with this explanation was that many of the grave sites contained entire families. It was not uncommon to find a grave marker listing people who died in the 1700's all the way up to the 1990's and 2000's. So how do they get the caskets under the huge stone structures? Do they have to move the structure every time someone dies? I couldn't figure that one out.
We went to Pere Lachaise with the intention of visiting Jim Morrison's grave site, and then moving on. But it's strange how some things can unexpectedly intrigue a person. I was so entranced by Pere Lachaise that we actually stayed much longer than we intended. I'm not really sure what it was about the place
A more distant view so you can see the wall.
that I found so interesting, but I'm glad Daniel and Christina let me linger for a while. We eventually made our way to Jim Morrison's grave site. It was surrounded by a metal fence (I read somewhere that there have been problems with Door's fans vandalizing the area), and had several visitors other than us. The travel guide said that his grave is the most visited in the cemetary. He's definitely not the most important person buried in the cemetary, but I think his name is the most recognizeable.
By this time Daniel and Christina were growing weary of the cemetary, so we boarded the Metro and headed to...
Ile de la Cite
'The heart of Paris, Ile de la Cite is an island in the middle of the Seine. On this island you can find the Notre Dame cathedral, Ste-Chapelle, Palais de Justice, Conciergerie, the Pont Neuf, and the Hotel Dieu. After coming up out of the Metro, we bypassed Ste-Chapelle because of the line, and walked towards the Pont Neuf. The Pond Neuf (New Bridge) was near the downstream tip of the island, and provided a spectacular view of the Seine. After taking photos in this
Inside the cemetary was full of these large graves.
area we had to decide what to visit next. It was a shame that I didn't have an unlimited amount of time. I wanted to go inside all of the buildings on the Ile de la Cite, but unfortunately we had to set priorities, so we started walking towards...
When you're a first timer in Paris, the Notre Dame cathedral is likely going to be high on your list of things to see...and rightly so. Notre Dame is another one of those tourist sites that we've all heard about, and like the Eiffel Tower it completely blew away all of the hype. Notre Dame was beautiful. Again, I don't think that reproduced images do it proper justice. Inside, outside, front and back, the Notre Dame cathedral was visually stunning. The front, with its two giant towers and intricately carved stonework, was awesome. Inside, the huge stained glass windows and high vaulted ceilings were gorgeous. It was a Sunday when we visited, so there was actually a mass going on while we were there. It's funny, sometimes I forget that these cathedrals are not just tourist sites, but are still churches where people come to worship. I must
Was she the widow of the Edward Bancroft who spied for Ben Franklin during the American Revolution? I don't know.
say that my favorite view of the Notre Dame was from the back. Even after seeing countless cathedrals in Belgium, Notre Dame was still a treat for the eyes.
The Rest of the Day
After leaving the Notre Dame, we walked through the Latin District to visit the Pantheon. On our way we did a little shopping (much cheaper stuff than around the Champs Elysees) and ended up at the Pantheon. The Pantheon houses the tombs of important people of France. The inscription above the entrance reads "For Great Men the Grateful Nation". It also houses Focault's Pendulum, which proves the rotation of the earth. After the Pantheon we had dinner in the Latin District then went back to the hostel to take a break.
Paris at Night
I know I've already said a lot about how beautiful Paris is, but seeing Paris at night blew me away. Most of the monuments are illuminated, and everything just looks so much bigger at night. After leaving the hostel we took the Metro to the "Musee de Louvre" stop because I wanted to find the underground museum entrance for our visit the next day (I never found it). Once again
The full grave site.
the Metro contributed to the shock value of seeing Paris. We walked out of the Metro, and straight into the courtyard of the Louvre. The illuminated glass pyramid was right in front of us, and looking to our right we could see the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel Tower provides a little surprise at night for the uninitiated visitor, but I'll wait to talk about it because I have some folks coming this way in the spring and I want it to be a surprise for them like it was for me. All I'll say about Paris at night is that it is a treat for the eyes that you must see yourself to truly appreciate.
There are more photos below