London gets a bad rap for being grey and rainy, but Paris does not exactly enjoy tropical highs on a regular basis. In fact, sunny days with bright blue skies are remarkably rare in this part of the world, so when the sun does shine, there is only one place I want to be; outside! Mr French, who works outside the city all week, sees things differently, because while he is happy to see the sunshine, he has exactly 8 days a month in which he is out of the office. After doing a bit of sports, grocery shopping and running errands this does not leave him with much time to take advantage of everything Paris has to offer. Especially not art exhibitions, which is his second favorite hobby after rugby.
So when the sky is bright and the sun is high, we occasionally find ourselves facing a dilemma; he needs his fix for fine art and I stubbornly refuse to pass through a doorway. This is exactly what happened last week as we walked home after a leisurely lunch in the 14th,
negotiating a truce debating our options.
We were so wrapped up in our conversation, we almost didn’t realize that we were in front of the Montparnasse Cemetery. Even though it is a short walk from our front door, I’d never been inside, yet had always wanted to because I’d heard fabulous things about the Pigeon family grave. Trying to change the subject, I suggested we take a detour and quickly found that we’d accidentally stumbled upon our solution!
At the entrance of the cemetery, there is a guard’s booth where they offer free maps. Looking it over the long list of luminaries and celebrities, we were quickly enthralled and insatiably curious. Jean Paul Sartre is buried beside the love of his life Simone de Beauvoir. The poet Baudelaire, the singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, the actress Jean Seberg, and American feminist Susan Sontag all keep one another company.
As we strolled through the grounds, passing families with kids learning to master the tricycle, dapper seniors out for a stroll and the curious, like us, we came across famous names from the literary establishment. Names like the dictionary Larousse, as well as the editors Flammarion and Hachette. And I even found the Adams Family! Something about cemeteries brings out the kid in me. I felt slightly guilty about my laughter over the Penis family headstone, but was unabashed about taking photos of this phallus symbol, I mean really, it’s circumcised, there is no doubt about the sculptor’s intent!!
It took us a while to find “The Kiss”. Hidden in a remote corner of the cemetery, we kept looking down at the gravestones. Then Mr French had the bright idea of looking up for security cameras, which is when he spotted the statue. Simply breathtaking. We headed towards the exit, but just three tombs down from the work of art we spotted an empty tomb, with a note informing passers by that this lot is available for rent.
Mr French paused mid-step, “What do you think? We could be buried just steps from Le Baiser. The shadow of a kiss thrown across our tomb for eternity.”