A fitting finale for our last day in Paris is a visit to Père-Lachaise Cemetery. On the subway ride there, I begin to doubt the appropriateness of this trek. Are we squandering our time by looking to the past? Will the Senior Adventurer and the Youthful Adventurer, both on this trip, become bored or dismissive? Bottom line: Is this entry on our schedule going to be worth our time?
Within 20 minutes, it is. I have a small guidebook that I naively think is going to be sufficient to get us through our own self-paced cemetery tour, but the densely packed graves quickly indicate otherwise. When we can’t even locate Colette’s resting place even though it turns out to be pretty close to where we enter tells me that we’re going to need more than a tiny map on a tiny page in a tiny guidebook. By this time, though, we are searching for Jim Morrison, so we dispatch the Youthful Adventurer—still a teen at this point—to run to the entrance and buy a map with some of the euros we hand him.
That we do this shows just how easy and relaxed we are by this last day in Paris. We know the youthful one will find his way, will negotiate the transaction despite the language barrier, will find us even though we continue walking toward our goal.
We are about to be surprised by something more, though. Even with the map, and advice from other tourists, we are still a bit lost; the place is much bigger than I expect; we fumble a bit until an eccentric-looking stranger strikes up a conversation with the Senior Adventurer and she promptly accedes to his pitch to guide us through this place. My mother, who prefers well-lit streets to shadowy ones in the evening, who has read up on pickpockets and other thieves, easily says yes to this man, who looks like he might possibly be living in this cemetery. He then takes us on a very erratic—but thoroughly educational—zigzag through this 100-acre graveyard.
By the end of this trip, we can take the subways, we can talk to unusual Parisians, we can navigate with the help of strangers. We can while away an afternoon traipsing across a graveyard while imagining the past. We find le cimitière du Père-Lachaise very much worth our while.