The amount of people living on the streets in Paris is alarming and I feel compelled to donate to their cause.
Passing homeless people, tossing a few coins into their tins or bowls, is a regular occurrence, for me.
If you would like to give to the city of Paris in another way, I would highly recommend the Paris Greeter. A wonderful, donation based incentive. When I recently discovered the service, I was keen to test it out.
Patricia, an elegant, stylish French woman and an ex-school teacher, met me at Gambetta metro station to take me through Cimetiere du Père-Lachaise.
Strangely enough, many years ago, this cemetery was at the bottom of my list, of things to do and climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, was at the top of my list. Funny how life unfolds. I have now visited Père-Lachaise three times, and after twenty or more visits to Paris, I have never, climbed the Eiffel Tower – but that is another story.
Last time I visited Cimetiere du Père-Lachaise, I attended, George Whitman’s funeral. After the funeral, I decided to pay a visit to Oscar Wilde’s grave and got lost, as many do in the vast cemetery, but a very friendly attendant drove me directly to the grave.
A glass barrier installed around Oscar Wilde’s grave, to prevent it from lipstick kisses, was commemorated by Rupert Everett, in 2011, to keep the kissers at bay. Even although I had visited this grave before, I learned from Patricia, that someone had chosen to castrate the sculpture, more than once.
Getting lost in the largest cemetery in Paris, covering 110 acres, is not unusual for many or me.
She expertly guided me through the cemetery, with a wealth of knowledge along the way, telling me of the tragic love story of Heloise and Abelard, as we looked upon their magnificent tomb.
A month ago, I had informed Patricia that I had visited Cimetiere du Père-Lachaise before, however the elusive grave of Modigliani, one of my favourite artists, I had still not found.
Leading me through the cemetery, sharing her knowledge but also observing, commenting and discovering about other graves along the way, she apologises, she could not guarantee we would find Modigliani. She also gets lost in this cemetery.
She not only remembered that I would like to see his grave she visited the cemetery a week earlier, to try to find it, to no avail.
The fact that she had remembered and researched was enough for me, as we walked along, observing this and that, she says, I think it is here somewhere, and there it was. With that, we both learned, Modigliani’s lover, Jeanne Hébuterne, killed herself, one day after he died, six months pregnant with his unborn child, at the ripe young age of 22, she threw herself off the fifth floor of a building.
We stood, silent, as we pieced the ages and time frames together. Leaving the unremarkable graves, discussing our opinions of what was, what could have been, we moved on to another part of Patricia’s wonderful tour of the cemetery.
Leaving the cemetery, passing the square dedicated to Edith Piaf, we explored Campagne à Paris. Patricia tells me this was outside, what is now Paris, and factory owners built the houses for their workers. Now, this quiet area, with a country atmosphere, is home to both wealthy landowners and the families of previous owners.
At the end of our tour, we wrapped our cold hands around hot, steaming cups of hot chocolate to say our goodbyes. I hope it won’t be goodbye but à bientôt. A wonderful, interesting woman, who donates her time to share her love of Paris.
Being Sunday means dinner at Jim Haynes, even although I attend his dinners every Sunday I am in Paris, each dinner is always different to the last.
I met The French Historian at Alesia metro stop and we walked together in the cold to Jim’s apartment. I met The French Historian at Jims last year and it was nice that we attended together for what will be my last dinner at Jim’s for this visit. Seamus served up hot steamy plates of beef bourguignon, expertly cooked by Jim’s friend Antonia, just what we needed for a cold winters night.
Someone brought a guitar, and it seemed most of the people could play the guitar or sing, it added to a lovely atmosphere and another memorable night at Jim Haynes.