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A walk to the past

A walk to the past

Winter in Paris is a good season for walks. Especially after the Christmas holiday lazy and New Year’s Eve crazy. Beginning of the year is a time to organize your thoughts and make a plan for the whole year. It is also a good moment for visiting your relatives…

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I’ve spent a lot of time with my family lately and I am never apart from my friends longer than three days. The beloved ones that I planned to visit are my masters, the masters of art of the 20th century. You probably think I am crazy, or that I will wander around in cemeteries. What can I say, I stand convicted: I will visit a cemetery today. Père -Lachaise is not an ordinary cemetery though. It’s the biggest and most popular cemetery in Paris. Founded in 1804 on the gardens of the villa Mont-Louis as a gift of Louis XIVth for his confessor, the French Jesuit – Père Lachaise. There you can find the graves of some of the greatest artists from the last two hundred years.

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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s grave. Photo: Maria Dzieduszycka for TravelbyArt

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Père-Lachaise is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Paris, so February is perfect for having a peaceful walk through the alleys of the cemetery. As the place is enormous, it is good to plan which artist’s graves you want to visit in advance. Maps available at the graveyard will be surely helpful containing a traditional list of graves in alphabetical order. You can also find all the information on the cemetery’s website. Of course I will follow the trail of 20th century artists such as: Guillaume Apollinaire, Amadeo Modigliani buried with Jeanne Hebuterne, Yves Montand with his wife Simone Signoret, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde. Each grave is a little piece of art, but Wilde’s tomb looks like a monument of worship! I have even bought a new lipstick for this occasion. Unfortunately, for the past three years you’re no longer allowed to leave kisses on the grave. It’s been renovated and protected with a glass barrier. Is this the end of leaving love letters, poems, and kisses? What a pity. There was something mystical in it. Probably young writers kissed Wilde’s grave hoping that a drop of his writing skills will fall on them. I admit I am expecting some grace, at least some inspiration for my further texts!

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The example of Oscar Wilde’s grave shows that the cemetery authorities have no easy life with the art lovers. Each of them would love to pay tribute to their masters in a special way. The biggest trouble they’re having is with Jim Morrison’s tomb. Young people are partying at the grave. Guards are collecting empty bottles, and even syringes. Rumor says that the authorities of Père-Lachaise wanted to hand the grave to the Americans, but as they also see what’s happening, they don’t want to accept the transfer. Well, there aren’t too many places on earth that are „home” to so many great artists. And we, the young, will always sigh, and pay tribute to our idols the way they’d probably like it!

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Yours Madeleine

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