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If you find yourself in Paris on a gray day, take yourself to Papa Lachaise Cemetery.

It’s actually called Pere Lachaise. But in one of those self-indulgent “we’re so funny” moments, we took to calling it by the bad interpretation of Papa Lachaise, and it stuck.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery, named after a Catholic priest from the 17th century, was founded on the outskirts of Paris in 1804. Over 300,000 have been interred here, and it remains a working cemetery today. This was proved by the fact that we gingerly stepped around a funeral service during our visit. Full of broken cobblestones, crumbling tombstones, heaped up dirt and moss, it’s a fascinating walk through Parisian history.

Oscar Wilde's tomb, with fresh lipstick odes

Some tombstones were painstakingly cleaned, holding fresh flowers. And some were unrecognizable, having been torn apart by centuries of wear and forgotten by loved ones.

Morard, the father of the French Rail System, with metro tickets

You can find Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Moliere, Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Colette, Marcelle Proust, and more buried here. While famous names like Jim Morrison are all marked on a map at the entrance, the cemetery has more nooks and crannies to visit than a museum, full of abandoned doors, broken stones, mossy monuments, and names rubbed off by time.

I imagine it’s the perfect place to sit back and ruminate while watching the seasons go by. I imagine autumn and spring are the best times to visit. Autumn brings orange leaves to the pavements, turning brown and blowing on the tombs to obscure names. And spring bursts into the trees and moss with blooms and tulips. Since we were there on a cloudy summer day broken by a few raindrops, I’ll have to return to test my theory later.

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