Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Une Fondation et un Cimetière

I was nearly overcome by tears as I descended from the 4th floor terrace of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. The sky was overcast, the sun fighting to break through the haze. The air was crisp. I could hear the water gently rolling down the man made, stepped waterfall, the birds chirping, the various languages one hears in a museum full of the melting pot of people gathered to admire its contents. I was truly happy and surrounded by beauty. Hence the near trickle of tears that nearly dampened my cheeks as if it was a smaller version of the waterfall in front of me. 


The structure of the Fondation Louis Vuitton is itself a piece of art. If you're reminded of the Sydney Opera House when looking at the above pic you're in good company. I was too. Maybe that's because of the curvature. The curved glass portion of the upper levels of the Fondation are designed to look like sailboat sails inflated by air. The Opera House calls its roof "shells". Both look aerodynamically designed with wind in mind. 


Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH (Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton) the Frank Gehry (American) designed building is glorious and modern. Its design strikes a contemporary and artistic pose on the outskirts of an historic Paris. Although the metropolis of the business district can be seen from the second floor terrace, that image of glass towers is not the image so often associated with Paris. Which makes this contemporary structure all the more rapturous.


My wish would have been that the sun be a shining today and that I wouldn't have needed a jacket. That was not in Mother Nature's plan. As much as the sun fought to shine through the clouds the clouds proved a stronger opponent than the power of the rays.

However disappointed I may have been by the rain, I'm not sure I can say that it didn't create the perfect atmosphere for strolling through Père Lachaise Cemetery.


Two days in a row I roamed among the dead as they rest. 

On my last visit to Paris in Septembre 2015, I twice attempted a visit to this cimetière. My plans were thwarted both times so I was determined to make it this time. 

Cemeteries are like cities of the dead, don't you think? There is a design to the layout much like a city. The tombstones are monuments much like buildings. There are often flowers and in most cases grassy space--like parks. There are roads on which to drive or walk. It's a city of the dead. 


It's peaceful in a city of the dead. Think about it...one doesn't often hear raised voices or loud music in a cemetery. As I said yesterday, the dead are so respected. And they can't even appreciate it. They're dead! But I digress.


The cobblestone streets running through Père Lachaise were dappled with green grass growing between the stones, which were wet and slick from the pouring rain. The downpour shook loose the flowering buds in the trees mixing them with the rain as each fell to the ground, a mix of flurry and fury. 

To my right just after entering I saw the sign outlining the locations of the notables buried within the walls. Edith Piaf is there. Chopin, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Jim Morrison. Sarah Berhardt is there as well as Molière. These were a few of the names I recognized. I must confess though that it wasn't terribly important for me to see any of their graves. Maybe I would have felt differently if the rain hadn't soaked through my shoes to my socks. But I'm not sure it would have mattered even if the sun had been shining down on me. I just wanted to be inside the walls, see the burial markers. 

They are quite grand, most of them. Some reminded me of phone booths in their shape and height. Some of those had broken doors and revealed a space just large enough to kneel and, most likely, say a prayer for the dead. Not that they need the prayer. They are dead after all. 


Père Lachaise is quite congested with graves. There's barely a space between markers. It seems there are strict limitations to who can be buried there now and the lucky families can purchase in perpetuity or for 50, 30, or 10 years. Leasing for 30 years is a popular option these days. (You can lease your burial plot like you're leasing a new Fiat.) However, if the lease isn't renewed, or the 50, 30, or 10 year time previously purchased not extended, then the bones are dug up, moved to a modern day catacombs, and the grave sight sold or leased to another family. Moral of the story: death may not be the final resting place in Père Lachaise so if you want to stay there...pay up.


The day was filled with beautiful monuments although two quite different versions of beauty--the new and the old. The new modern structure of the Fondation Louis Vuitton was contemporary, if not futuristic. While the oldest structures in Père Lachaise (my favorites) were grand on a smaller scale, mixing centuries of styles and motifs, harkening back to many other times. I do love vintage.


Mon voyage se poursuit. Au Revoir.