Here are some statistics on Paris. There are 37 bridges in and around Paris; Paris boasts 30 million visitors a year; approximately 17,702 taxis operate in Paris; it is estimated 2,300 champagne bottles are opened in Paris cabarets every night; 30% of Parisians were born in the city; each year there are 300 organized fashion shows in Paris, and finally, the City of Lights is also know as the City of Love. L’amour est partout. Regardez!!! In the square of Notre Dame Cathedral with dozens of pigeons and total strangers in attendance, I found a young couple celebrating their marriage. Looking at the cathedral, one has to wonder at the enormous amount of faith and optimism it took to start building a structure in 1163 that would not be dedicated until 1345, two centuries later.
Just imagine, brick upon brick, stone upon stone….an unwavering commitment to something amazing.
No wonder people get married here….here they are in Notre Dame Square…nameless, but universal in their quest for a timeless commitment.
When my traveling companion and I visited Napoleon’s Tomb located in the Army Museum, I had no idea we would happen upon a wedding. After all, it is a museum that provides interesting historical backgrounds to several wars, and at its center is Napoleon’s tomb. Hitler visited here to get some inspiration, but made the same mistake Napoleon did with Russia. The entire complex is a testament to war, and the tomb itself is the largest sarcophagus I have ever seen in life. Look above the door at the inscription…Napoleon’s wishes. Then walk through the portal to see the tomb.
There’s a rotunda above, so you can even look down upon the final resting place of Napoleon’s ashes.
But hold on, there’s a dome chapel located adjacent to the tomb. This chapel was built for Louis XIV before there was a Napoleon. Part of the chapel was destroyed during the Revolution. Still, who would not want to get married here? For instance, the bride I encountered. This was a very large wedding…perhaps 300 people….and lots of press.
This bride was very generous, and so, I simply insinuated myself into the French press and took photos with my phone. Here they are, among family and friends, looking so very happy and in love and committed.
As I discovered, Parisians adore a great love story, especially one that reaches back to the middle ages. Heloise and Abelard are the oldest residents in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. This 100 acre cemetery opened in 1804, and 70,000 people are buried here. The cemetery was named after Father La Chaise who was the confessor of Louis XIV. There is no cost to enter the cemetery. During the two hours Bruce and spent there, the grounds were full of exploring people. You can get lost here; maps are handy. Without a map, one must depend on a helpful, friendly Frenchman for directions. A number of notable people are buried in this cemetery….Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, Chopin, Colette, and Moliere to name a few. Here is the grave of Moliere. I would have missed this site had it not been for a friendly French woman who was cleaning her father’s grave. To her, I say merci.
The graves are in various conditions. Some look as though they have not been touched in decades. There is no vehicular traffic in the cemetery; only the foot traffic has to contend with the ancient cobblestones.
The spot sits right above Paris, and from here the view of the city is quite nice.
A short distance from this spot, the tomb of Abelard and Heloise can be found. Abelard was a 12th century teacher and Heloise, 22 years his junior, was his student. Their student teacher relationship quickly turned into a hot love affair. (We all know that this never works…even in the 12th century.) They ran away from Paris, got married, and guess what??? had a baby!!!This all brewed into a scandal, and one night a small group of vigilantes attacked Abelard and castrated him. Heloise and Abelard were both disgraced; he joined a monastery, and she a convent. They both threw themselves into their religious lives, but remained devoted to one another for the rest of their lives. Their bodies were brought to Paris, and they finally were buried side by side. According to legend, the stones of their tomb came from Heloise’s convent and Abelard’s monastery. Lovers from all over the world visit the grave. Some leave flowers; some toss love letters at the grave. What a love story!!!! It took Bruce and I so long to find this tomb. We had almost given up, but persistence was rewarded.
Their fidelity to each other resulted in an uncompromising committment. Sometimes you have to go off the beaten path to learn about a destination and its people. As such, here I am signing off in a cemetery!!! Well, my belief is that Paris is the keeper of mighty cathedrals, fascinating museums, touching monuments, and countless love stories, all proving as the French are fond of saying, “Tout est possible.” Amier, Le Voyageur Non Assaisonne.