Thursday, May 26, 2016

Graves, a church on a hill and more art

It was grey and drizzly in Paris this morning – quite apt given my first destination was Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris's largest and most famous cemetery and resting place of some very important people; Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison being the most well-known. But they do have a few actual French people buried here as well – Marcel Proust, Édith Piaf, the playwright Molière and one of the first filmmakers, Georges Méliès.

Everyone had said to start at the top of the hill the site is on rather than the bottom – so, I took the metro from Quatre-Septembre to Gambetta and headed towards it. The downside was that I believe the most obvious places to buy maps are at the bottom, and I didn't see anywhere near the top that looked like they'd sell any – perhaps unsurprisingly, all the open stores I saw were funeral service places and florists (which, after some checking online, I discovered probably had them for sale).

So, I took a photo of the big map at the entrance and made a list of the names I wanted to visit, and flipped back and forth between the two. It's really not the best way to see it; my advice to anyone considering going is to sit down with the map (you can download it), work out whose graves you want to see and then plan an efficient route. It will save you a lot of time and energy. That said, it's a great place to just wander around in.

Pictures from Père Lachaise. I'll note which ones are of famous people; the others I just felt looked interesting and/or impressive.

Oscar Wilde. Read about it here. If you think you see a yellow circle, you aren't imagining it; that's my umbrella reflected in the glass barrier they've put up around it to stop people kissing it. No, seriously. You can see the lipstick marks in the second shot.

About as close to a panoramic shot as I could get. It's quite high up and there are lots of trees.

Marcel Proust. No madeleines in sight.

Édith Piaf. A French Canadian (not pictured) asked me to take his picture beside it. We chatted a bit.

Molière. A guy who may or may not have been a tour guide gently chastised me for not taking the picture of the grave next to it (that of Jean de la Fontaine) who he said was very important too.

Eugène Delacroix – significant French painter. See my post on The Louvre for some of his paintings.

Georges Bizet. Composer of Carmen.

George Méliès. You can see wand at bottom right – he was a stage magician before getting into filmmaking. I'm particularly fond of him for his contributions to the art of cinema, and because I'm one of the few people around who seemed to like the film Hugo, in which he is a (very sympathetic) character, played by the great Ben Kingsley.


Jim Morrison.

Rossini, composer of operas. Though apparently the tomb is empty.

The front gates. Don't ask me to translate the Latin.

Next up was La basilique du Sacré-Cœur, which required another metro trip out to the important historical region of Montmartre. As you can see, it's quite striking.

The view from out the front, looking over Paris (it's on quite a high hill; if you look at some of my other pictures of Paris it stands out. The inside is suitably magnificent, but I don't have any pictures because they ask you to not take any. Not that that was stopping a lot of people, much to my annoyance. If they say no photos, don't take any damn photos!

The ceiling outside the main doors.

Oh, I almost forgot - you get up to the top via a funicular - a kind of railway that send small carriages up steep inclines. There was one in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Next up was the Musée de l'Orangerie, a small museum in the Jardin des Tuileries, which I blogged about a few days ago. It's most famous for having some of Monet's Water Lilies. But there's also a stack of other stuff by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. Lots of Picasso.

Monet's Argenteuil - see a better picture (and read about it) here.

The front of the museum.

From there it was only a short walk to the next one, the Musée d'Orsay. It has a lot of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings (names like Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Degas, Rodin, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin and Courbet), plus a swag of other famous and impressive works, across multiple art forms. And there are some nice views of the city from its windows as well.

It also has Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone, which is just captivating. I could have looked at it for hours.

And one of his self-portraits. I got more than a little affected by this. I'm torn between wanting to watch Vincent and the Doctor and worrying that I'll tear up.

The museum is a converted train station. Hence why it looks like this:

There's also a decorate arts section. This made me think of The Lord of the Rings.

Marcel Proust's portrait by Jacque-Emil Blanche. Grave and portrait in the same day.

Much to my surprise they have a massive sculpture of a polar bear there, Ours Blanc by François Pompon.

A shot from the walk home.

After such an uplifting day, I was determined I would make my way through the crowd of smoky French people to a bistro – and this I did, mangling French as I went. But they were quite nice to me anyway, and I ended up having a very taste duck breast in spiced honey with potato gratin and green beans (with a glass of red), followed by some blue cheese.

Oh, and there were a bunch of Australians there, who I chatted to for a bit.

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