Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Searching For Celebrities At Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the largest in Paris and one of the French capital's most popular tourist attractions.

The 48-hectare (119-acre) site is located on the Right Bank of the Seine River in the 20th arrondissement and is easily accessible by subway or bus from hotels in Paris city centre.

Members of the Paris elite have been buried in Pere Lachaise since it was established in 1804, and visitors have been coming to see their grave sites in increasing numbers ever since. There are now more than 300,000 bodies buried in Pere Lachaise, and the remains of many more who chose to be cremated can be found in the columbarium.

One of most moving places in Pere Lachaise is the Communards' Wall. The Communards were more than a mid-'80s British pop music act fronted by Jimmy Somerville. The original Communards were a group of leftists that briefly took control of the city in the spring of 1871 before meeting a violent end. The  bodies of 147 dead combatants were thrown in an open trench at the base of a wall, which is now named in their honour.

Wear comfortable shoes, as there's a lot of walking involved if you want to take in the entire site. While strolling through the tree-filled cemetery, you're likely to come across the final resting places of many prominent people, including:

• 19th century French writer Honore de Balzac

• French actress Sarah Bernhardt
• Georges Bizet, a 19th century French composer best known for his opera Carmen

• American opera star Maria Callas (her ashes were stolen and only her empty urn remains)
• 19th century Polish composer Frederic Chopin

• American dancer Isadora Duncan
• French surrealist poet Paul Eluard
• German surrealist artist Max Ernst, one of the early pioneers of the Dada movement
• French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli
• 12th century French scholar and nun Heloise
• French mime artist Marcel Marcequ
• 17th century French playwright Moliere

• Italian actor and singer Yves Montand
• American singer, poet and Doors frontman Jim Morrison

• French singer Edith Piaf
• St. Thomas-born French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro
• French novelist and critic Marcel Proust

• Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, best known for his opera The Barber of Seville (his remains were moved to Florence, Italy, but his crypt is still in place)

• American author Gertrude Stein
• Alice B. Toklas, Stein's life partner and fellow writer
• Former Dominican Republic president and dictator Rafael Trujillo
• 19th century Irish writer Oscar Wilde

Pere Lachaise's hours vary slightly according to season, but the cemetery is open seven days a week throughout the year from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free maps are available at the main entrances and guided tours are available for a small fee if advance reservations are made.