As you all obviously liked my last post of ‘Pumpkin curry and the catacombs’ I thought I would prolong the pumpkin season and give you a glimpse into another less obviously touristy side of my adopted city.
Paris boasts numerous cemeteries, the most famous being ‘Pere Lachaise’ where flocks of adoring nubile, American teenagers (along with a few genuine old rockers) make an obligatory pilgrimage to the shrine which is the last resting place (or is it……) of the ‘Rock God’ who was ‘Jim Morrison’,
I personally find other graves far more interesting as the poetic tomb of the tragic ex President, Felix Faure, or the poignant grave of Edith Piaf. And, dabbling in writing myself, I am totally in awe to be at the side of Moliere and Oscar Wilde!
The most beautiful (and for the life of me I cannot find the photograph – I will have to return) Is that of ‘Abelard and Heloise’ the star crossed lovers, forced to live apart, but united in death in palatial splendour. And I urge you to read ‘Alexander Pope’s’ beautiful poem telling their tragic story. “Glance on the stone where our poor relics lie, Devotions self shall steal a thought from Heaven, One human tear shall drop and be forgiven”
Pere Lachaise may be the most famous, and it is without a doubt very beautiful and vast (if you go, it is worth spending the 10 euro or so to take a professional guide). But personally I prefer two other cemeteries.
The first being ‘Montparnasse’ that plays host to another pair of lovers who lived voluntarily apart and are united in death, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Satres, along with French musical legend ‘Serge Gainsbourg’ and numerous recipients of the ‘Legion of Honour’ It was here that I whiled away many a morning or afternoon with a book and sometimes my lunch when we lived in this part of the city, and I still consider it ‘my spiritual home’.
Lovely Montparnasse Cemetery with the Montparnasse tower in the background
Parisian cemeteries are places where the dead and the living come together. Montparnasse cemetery is a thoroughfare, where mothers push babies in prams, teenagers skateboard, people (like me) sit and read, relax, soak up the sun, eat their lunch.
I improved my French here, by reading and pronouncing the names on the graves, and I believe that each time I read someone’s name and wondered about their life, that for that instant, they were resurrected and lived once more.
My third cemetery of choice is ‘Montmartre’. The oldest and spookiest and in some ways the most beautiful. I remarked when I was there that every grave had a cat – it certainly seemed like it. I love the dark Gothic atmosphere here.
Montmartre Cemetery and on of its residents!
The creepiest and saddest of all is ‘Picpus’ in the 12th arrondissement which is a private cemetery and contains the headless corpses of 1,306 victims of the revolution who were executed at the nearby guillotine between June 14th and July 27th 1794. Now only direct descendants of these unfortunate innocents, are eligible to be buried here. The names of those executed are inscribed on the walls of the chapel and including 197 women, of which only 51 were from the nobility, 123 were commoners and 23 nuns! The cemetery is open to the public every afternoon except Mondays and bank holidays and there is an entry charge of 3 euro.
Now, here is the recipe for one of my favourite soups, guaranteed to bring you back to the land of the living…….
1 medium pumpkin / butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 handfuls of red lentils
750 ml of vegetable stock
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 heaped dessertspoon of curry powder
Dried coriander leaves
Freshly ground sea salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan
‘Sweat’ the pumpkin and carrots for 2-3 minutes
Add the curry powder and cook for a further minute then add the lentils
Stir in the (hot) vegetable stock then the coconut milk
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for around 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lentils disappeared.
Allow to cool a little then blend until as smooth as you like
Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper if required
Put back on heat to warm through and garnish with fresh or dried coriander leaves
Serve with naan or pitta bread
‘Souper’ as a lunch or supper dish, or as an entrée