Today we are being the tour guides and we had planned to rise early to cross Paris and meet up with Kathleen & Mick, Clare & Richard for a fun day out before another celebratory dinner for my birthday at the Eiffel Tower this evening. Ah yes, this big birthday celebration extends for the rest of this year!!! According to my husband and who am I to disagree with this being a milestone birthday.
Back to the days’ events…….we’d arranged to meet at the Batobus terminal at the Eiffel Tower stop, around 10.30am, given both couples were close to the Tower albeit on different sides of the river. The Batobus, for those who may not have been to Paris, is similar to a ferry and makes stops at all the main attractions along the River Seine. Made sense for us to go to them as we knew our way around this city of romance. Kathleen wanted to visit Jim Morrison’s grave..her only request.
Lesley and Liz had decided not to join us as Lesley felt she might be a liability given the speed I walk and the places we were going. Pere Lachaise was not a place for anyone not sure-footed with uneven surfaces and lots of hills. They opted to go to Montmartre and I had hoped we might also take our group there.
We arrived at the Batobus terminal at 11am, forward thinking found Richard almost at the head of the queue for the tickets….good man!!! The rest of us handed him the money for our tickets. We took the cruise along the river as far as Hotel De Ville.
As we left the Batobus we were passing a café/bar so I thought ” it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” and said to the others in the group ” Should we stop for a drink before we head to the metro?” Everyone agreed so we made a sharp left hand turn into the café situated on a small rise above the river.
The sign said ‘wait to be seated ‘ and we did as we were told…..they had no tables set up for 6 so we had to wait whilst the wait staff took a long time to move 3 tables and six chairs together. We would have done it but we weren’t allowed to move from the entrance….one foot over the invisible lines brought a number of requests to Please wait Monsieur & Madams’. Ok we’re waiting but we could do this for you – we were all thinking the same thing I’m sure.
Finally, our table was ready, now where’s the waiter to take our drinks order?? There were four of them wandering around – can someone catch their eye we’re all fading away from thirst?
Eventually our waiter returned to take our order. Everyone but Clare and I had beers, we had soft drinks and we were discriminated against. The waitress supplied coasters to all the beer drinkers but not for us.
Drinks finished, further chatting would have to wait until lunchtime. Time to move on to our first destination Pere Lachaise and the grave if the Doors singer.
Ty and I had already purchased our tickets for the metro, and other Paris transport options, this morning. We purchased 10 single tickets for the sum of 13.70 euros. These would give us 5 trips each.
We alighted at Pere Lachaise metro station and it was now well after 1pm, time for lunch before attempting the cemetery. We decided on a café across from the metro and chose alfresco seating. The baguettes were scrumptious and everyone was happy with the choices they made for lunch. The waiter was very congenial and we felt he deserved a tip….and we don’t tip willy nilly only service that goes above and beyond what is expected is deserving of our tipping!!! Richard found my idea of tipping amusing…….but we don’t have a big ‘tipping culture’ in Australia – we tip for exceptional service not for getting the service we expect.
One last thing to do before venturing to the cemetery and that was for us women to go to the toilette (I like the French spelling and pronunciation – seems so much better than toilet) well we don’t want to risk being caught short in the cemetery!!! Ok, now we’re ready to wander among the famous and not so famous dearly departed.
Jim Morrison’s grave was first on the tour. Morrison, The Doors singer, had moved to Paris several months before his death. Supposedly he went to Paris to write and possibly escape the trouble he’d had in Florida in 1969 which caused bad publicity and promoters to cancel many of his concerts. There are several different versions of what caused his death, no autopsy was ever performed so it remains speculation to this day.
This was my second visit to Pere Lachaise so I knew it was a huge cemetery and the road leading to the grave is, at times, steep and winding as well as having a very uneven surface….
As we approached the gravesite we could see barriers around the area…..it had been cordoned off with a number of other graves so I assumed the number of people visiting his grave was causing damage to other headstones around his. On my previous visit there was no such barrier. Security was also visible and the security car drove pulled up and stayed for some time watching the visitors.
We then proceeded to the resting place of Oscar Wilde…….hoping I could remember its whereabouts we headed off to the other side of the cemetery. We’d been walking for a while and still weren’t any closer. Richard thought it best to ask someone and I agreed, we could be here for days otherwise. A couple nearby were consulting their map so I listened to see if I could hear English being spoken. “I’m sure this lady is speaking English” I told Richard and then I went to her and asked for the direction to Oscar. The couple was in fact Irish. Off we walked with a bit more determination in our stride, and walked, until we were a little lost again, but as luck would have it Richard and Clare found a map just near the vaults that hold people’s’ ashes…..Maria Callas is one person whose ashes are in this hall but no one in the group knew who she was!!! We weren’t far from Oscar at all and his grave had a perspex barrier around it to stop women from leaving lipstick kisses. Previously women, and possibly some men, would leave a lipstick kiss on the monument. It was covered in thousands of lip imprints. Now, however, it had been thoroughly cleaned and the barrier erected. The plaque said it erected by the Irish Govt in respect of his family. We did notice that it hadn’t stopped very determined kissers though….a few imprints have been added a little higher above the barrier.
We had been in the cemetery for a couple of hours and time to head out….a different exit as there are several ways into Pere Lachaise and after wandering around it would be rare to end up back where you entered. We eventually found an exit and took it knowing that there’d be a metro close by. Any metro will take you to a connecting train. The exit was in a residential area, not the most salubrious of places and we did get a few odd looks from the locals but Mick, Richard and Ty were focused on finding a bar…..not too difficult anywhere in Paris and just past the hardware store there were 2 bars, one in each corner. No picking and choosing which one, couldn’t be bothered to cross the road so we chose the closest and sat at the nearest table. Beers all round, coffee for Clare and I but I didn’t stop at coffee, on the menu the café had what appeared to be lemon cheesecake (fromage ….) so “one of these please” I said to the waiter. When my cheesecake arrived it was a glass dish of what looked like cream…..we all looked at it and everyone waited for me to try it. It was a bowl of yoghurt!! Well that made everyone laugh but I had to eat it. The flavour grew on me but not enough to finish it all!! I really need to learn more French.
After a few more drinks someone looked at the time……it was almost 5.30pm and we’d better get moving, we’re on the opposite side of Paris to our accommodation and we have to meet at the base of the Eiffel Tower at 8.30pm for dinner.
We had planned to go to Montmartre today as well…..best laid plans!!! Our guests will just have to go back again for more of fabulous Paris.