Favourite spot #3: Cemeteries

I am sure I’m not the only person in the world who likes to walk around cemeteries.

There are two main reasons why I like them: first, old cemeteries are hidden jems, witnesses of history and often, an art gallery in itself. And second, the silence. Going for a walk in a cemetery helps me focus and put some order in my head, and even if I don’t go there every week, it’s a highly appreciated promenade.

Old cemeteries are filled with surprises. Not only because of the famous guests you can find there – at Highgate cemetery in London there is Marx, at Père Lachaise in Paris there is Jim Morrison – but also because of the pieces of art that are built in memory of the loved ones. Most of the time, when visiting a new place, first thing on the list I will check is whereabouts is the oldest cemetery and how to get there. Of course, not always there will be an old fashioned cemetery to visit because some cities rather have the aseptic and “modern” version – with the white head-stones lying and the endless green park.

Among my personal favourites, Vyšehrad cemetery (Prague) and Montmartre (Paris) are on top of the list (the other two I mentioned above are fine too). Vyšehrad was a pleasant surprise because a) it’s on top of the hill; b) it’s filled with sculptures and pieces of art; and c) many people from the world of arts and sciences are buried there (like the composer Anton Dvořák). I got there by chance, just walking around and getting lost, but I had the perfect afternoon learning a bit more about the Czech culture.

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Then, Montmartre cemetery is a special one for me. Probably because the first time I was there it was snowing and it was the first time I experienced the snowy cemetery visit. What I also like is the geography of the place – the alleys are in different levels, so you go up and down the whole time, and there is a bridge outside and above from where you get a nice view of the cemetery. Although there are not as many ‘stars’ as in Père Lachaise, Montmartre has a list of interesting characters to pay a visit: Berlioz (composer), Degas (painter), Sacha Guitry (actor & director), Emile Zola (writer) and François Truffaut, to count some. Since it’s kind of a small cemetery, you can go there in the morning and afterwards walk ten minutes towards the Basilique du Sacré Coeur, to watch the sunset in Paris.

You can check here some pictures of the Montmartre cemetery under the snow.

What do you think? Are there other cemeteries you would recommend to visit?


Favourite spot #2: Métropolitain

Call it whatever you like. Tube, metro, subway, or as they call it in Paris, le métro. I could write pages and pages about the interesting experience that is using this urban transportation. It’s true, in Paris there are 14 lines that can make you feel a little crazy at first. In Prague, there are just three lines and you get as lost. In Santiago (Chile), there are four lines (plus one “auxiliary line”)…but le métro of Paris is a photographic experience in itself.

Once I was told that the subway service in Paris was not really clean. Well, this is true, but up to a certain point: it depends on the lines you’re moving within, the time of the day and your mood. For instance, the line 8 (the purple one) was launched on 1913, but it is still one of the cleanest.

The Parisian metro works until past midnight, so you can pretty much party for a while and then go back to your place like a Cinderella – or wait until dawn and take the first one by 5 am. The thing is that Paris is not a city as big as London (Paris intramuros, not the Ile-de-France), so you can walk anywhere if you don’t want to wait that long. And if you have to go outside the walls of the city, you have the RER, an urban train.

Among my favourite stations there is the Louvre-Rivoli, line 1, that has a permanent exhibiton of art (no wonder – it’s the station to get to the Louvre Museum). Or Bastille, on the same line, where you can see the Sena river through the large windows of the tube platform. And also, the “phantom metro stations”, that were built but never used or closed after a while – such as Saint Martin station.

When you just arrive in Paris, it is quite easy to get lost when trying to change from one line to another. Gare de Lyon, Nation, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord and Montparnasse are big elephants filled with three, four or five other lines. And if you try to change to the RER lines, bonne chance!

Travelling by metro it’s a sociological experience…or better, a zoological one. All you get to see in the underground Paris it’s impressive – from the tramps sleeping on the platforms to the musicians that range from very good to please-stop-playing. One does not simply goes out in Paris, one always gets surprised. Sometimes, when riding the metro, you will have a guy talking on his own sitting next to you. Then you have people reading in every language you can imagine. The colours, the smells, the looks and the horizons get mixed in the wagons…