Today we started out bright and early to make it it over to Notre Dame before the tourists showed up. We walked right in with no wait. The cathedral is impressive, especially when you think about all the historical figures who have walked down that aisle. The stained glass windows were incredible, with very intricate designs. I think my favorite part is what you see on the outside, the gargoyles, flying buttresses and the unique roof designs.
It was still early when we finished, so we walked around the neighborhood a bit and then decided to find the Pantheon. This building started out as a church dedicated to Saint. Genevieve, built by King Louis XV, but during the revolution was turned into a non-religious mausoleum for French notables. Madame Curie, Voltare, Rousseau and Victor Hugo are some of the people buried here. I don’t have a picture of the Pantheon to post, but here is a statue of a giant Mongolian man that was outside the Pantheon. It didn’t really fit in with the scenery.
After a lunch break, we decided to find Jim Morrison’s grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The cemetery was really beautiful and the mausoleums or crypts were very elaborate. We were wandering down one of the paths when a guy who works for the cemetery asked who we were looking for and after he vented for several minutes about tourists who couldn’t speak any language but their own, he took us on a really fast-paced tour of all the famous grave sites. We ran by Sarah Bernhardt’s grave, Oscar Wilde, some guy who’s name I can’t remember, but he was a journalist who bad-mouthed Napoleon III and was assassinated for his mistake, and Chopin. When we finally made it to Jim Morrison’s grave, there was a crowd around the site, and this guy walked right through them saying “I’m an official, step aside”, so they all moved out of the way and we walked right up to the front. It was really funny. At the end of our little unofficial tour, Steve asked the guy if he accepted tips and he never said yes, but gave us a story about how sick he was and even showed us that he was wearing the little sensors they put on your chest when you have a heart monitor connected. Now I’m no medical expert, but Steve and I had to walk as fast as we possibly could to keep up with this guy and we both walk pretty fast, so I’m not sure I buy his story about a bad heart. Steve offered him a couple of euro and the guy made a face indicated that wasn’t enough, so I pulled out a 5 euro bill to go with Steve’s and he took it. It was funny and we probably wouldn’t have made the time to find all the other grave sites he showed us. He also told us how the cemetery works. They have 100,000 gravesides at the cemetery and families pay thousands and thousands of euro to “lease” a site for 100 years. The graves are deep enough to bury 28 people, stacked on top of each other. Our guy told us that after 100 years is up, and/or the money to pay an annual fee runs out, the bodies are dug up and sent to “the barbecue”. He kept pointing out graves where you could see that work was being done, and said “they are off to the barbecue”. I asked what happens to the crypts when the family stops paying and he said they are torn down and the cement or marble is turned into bricks they use to build the paths, and then that spot is available for another family to lease. A little morbid, but interesting. Here is a picture of me with our crazy cemetery tour guide and Jim Morrison’s grave.
We needed a siesta, so after a nap and a rest back at the apartment, we are going out to see the Eiffel tower light up tonight.
P.S. Just got back from another climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, it was well worth the climb to see the Eiffel tower sparkle like diamonds.