Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Raphael, a 63 year old Parisian man, took my phone from my hand. ‘Go on,’ he said, waving me towards the grave of Victor Noir, a French journalist shot dead in 1870.

‘Rub him there – that’s right!’ he said, taking a series of photos. ‘Now you will have twins!’

No, that’s not a line from a novel, that’s my life.

I’m not sure how, for an afternoon at the end of November, it became my life, but it was quite good fun.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris

Victor Noir is buried at Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris and is widely recognised as a fertility symbol. Women come from miles around to rub his crotch, as you can see from the photo below. The story goes that two days after his death he got a massive erection, leading people to see him as something of an expert in the penile department.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris

I was in Paris for a blogging conference, but found myself one afternoon with a little spare time. I googled ‘cool things to do in Paris’, as you do, and Cimetière du Père Lachaise came up. It’s a vast cemetery on the east side of Paris and is home to a whole load of famous people. I like a good cemetery, so I decided to give it a go.

I was walking around on my own, admiring the rows and rows of what are essentially morbid stone beach huts, looking for Chopin. Fiance is a music person, so my plan was to take pictures of all the composers and then casually drop them into conversation to impress him, like I often just wander around European capital cities looking at musical landmarks.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, (possibly from a grave?!) popped up an eccentric looking old man with long, black curly hair and minimal teeth.

‘You are looking for Moliere Madame?’ he asked, sort of half crouched, ready to burst forth with a fact.

‘No, I’m looking for Chopin,’ I said.

‘No, no, no,’ he said, ‘you see Moliere! Come come!’ He grabbed my hand and scuttled off, Willy Wonka style. I had no choice really but to run along after him. ‘Shortcut Madame!’ he cried over his shoulder as we dodged tree branches and skipped up steps. ‘Shortcut!’

I will say one thing for Raphael, he certainly knew the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. I began to wonder whether he might actually live there, scampering between the tombs, foraging for berries, popping up at intervals to surprise unsuspecting tourists. He kept telling me how much he loved his ‘job’ at the cemetery, but I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone official actually knew he was there.

I’d already seen Oscar Wilde, but never one to let the reluctance of a stranger stand in his way, Raphael made sure to take me to see it again.

‘Shortcut Madame! Shortcut!’

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

At one point we attracted the attention of a group of Swedish tourists.

‘This is Tony Blair’s daughter!’ he said, pointing at me.

‘I’m not Tony Blair’s daughter,’ I said quietly, but the tourists looked confused.

‘She is pregnant with twins!’ he added, grabbing my arm and dragging me off to the next of his favourite tombs. ‘Shortcut Madame!’

‘I’m really not!’ I shouted over my shoulder, but I think they probably thought we were both lunatics.

If you ever visit the Cimetière du Père Lachaise do look for Raphael, but even without him it was amazing. There are over 70,000 people buried there, including people like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf.

And, of course, Chopin, who Raphael let me see eventually. (But only at the very end when he was done with me.)

Cimetière du Père Lachaise 

 

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8 Comments

  1. 6 April, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    That’s so funny- we are just back from Paris & took the teens to see Jim Morrisons grave and also ‘encountered’ Raphael ! He popped up from nowhere & we too thought he may live there, actually IN a grave! He was such a character & seemed to know so much. He also had us running about through the graves but insisted we see Chopin! I am still convinced that he’s some sort of trapped ghost from there trying to find his own plot!! Very funny & made our visit a talking point for days. The teens loved it.

    • Jo Middleton
      Author
      13 April, 2017 / 10:19 am

      Oh I’m so glad you saw him too!! I was kicking myself for not taking a photo, and beginning to wonder if I had imagined him!

      • Kevin
        21 June, 2018 / 10:27 am

        I’ve been 3 times (‘07, ‘12, and ‘14) and I’m pretty sure that’s the same guy I’ve run into each time. Always a fun time to be had with him.

        • Jo Middleton
          Author
          21 June, 2018 / 10:36 am

          Has he looked the same every time?? I’m wondering if he is a magical creature who doesn’t age…

  2. Lisa Walter
    7 December, 2019 / 9:05 pm

    My husband and I have just returned from Paris where visited the cemetery. Just as we were admitting we were lost, up popped Raphael like a grave pixie who entertained and educated us for the next hour. Wonderful! So glad we met him.

    • Jo Middleton
      Author
      9 December, 2019 / 1:52 pm

      Amazing!! I love hearing other people’s stories of him, otherwise I might think I imagined him!

  3. Mike Rogers
    11 February, 2020 / 9:17 pm

    We visited the Cimetière du Père Lachaise earlier today and we met Raphael who gave us the most wonderful tour of the cemetery.
    I had to Google him to try and and find out if anybody else had had the same experience, looks like we weren’t the only ones!
    We came away feeing the same way, was this guy actually real or was he a ghost that lived there..
    Wonderful experience anyway.. thank you Raphael :)

    • Jo Middleton
      Author
      13 February, 2020 / 11:59 am

      That was exactly how I felt! It was so surreal but a brilliant experience :-)

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