We might not get off for Thanksgiving in France, but November 1st is a holiday here called Toussaint (All Saints' Day). This Catholic holiday is a time for people to visit the graves of their family members to pay their respects and often leave chrysanthemums flowers.
I took the opportunity to head over to the largest cemetery within the city of Paris, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. I've visited another time before, looking around for some of the famous inhabitants like composers Vincenzo Bellini and Frédéric Chopin, singer Édith Piaf, writer Oscar Wilde, and the list goes on and on. (Check out the impressive list on the bottom of the Wikipedia article on Père Lachaise if you want a fuller picture of the VIP's buried here.)
However, this time on Toussaint I came just to take in the beauty of this fall holiday. It was a gloomy, overcast day with periods of light rain - the perfect setting for a cemetery visit in my opinion.
The cemetery is built on a hill. When you climb up to the chapel, there is a view of Paris that even includes the Eiffel Tower. When I visited earlier this year on a warm April day, I was slightly perplexed by the picnickers on the grassy hill (the thought to picnic in a cemetery never crossed my mind). It was too cold and wet to picnic, but there are always people reading and enjoying the contemplative quiet of Père Lachaise.
The good news is you don't have to wait for Toussaint to explore this cemetery. Head over for free entry to stroll among the headstones and mausoleums that are works of art in their own right.
PLAN YOUR VISIT:
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
16 rue du Repos, 75020 Paris
Main entrance: 8 boulevard de Ménilmontant
Open daily; 3/16/2014-11/5/2014: Monday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm, Saturday 8:30am-6:00pm, Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm; 11/6/2014-3/15/2015: Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:30pm, Saturday 8:30am-5:30pm, Sunday 9:00am-5:30pm