au Cimtiere du Pere Lachaise

the most authentically gothic cemetery I’ve ever visited was that of Pere Lachaise in Paris. even thinking of it now conjures up images from The Woman in White (which, I know, I know, is set in London). it was one of the first places that Becca and I visited on our weekend trip to Paris. westayed at this thoroughly budget (but clean, and really not that bad) hotel just a couple of blocks from the cemetery and got there early in the morning. it was autumn when we visited, and wonderfully sunny that day. there were fallen leaves everywhere, giving that wonderful leaf-kicking crunch.

the cemetery has wide boulevards, off of which you can find many of the big-name internments, like Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balzac, Georges Bizet, Chopin, Saint-Cyr, Marcel Marceau, Moliere, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Pissaro, Proust, Seurat, and Richard Wright. but as we didn’t have much of a plan in mind, we wandered around the narrower paths of the cemetery.

established by Napoleon in 1804, Pere Lachaise is the largest cemetery within the city of Paris. it was named for Francios de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV. cemeteries had been banned within the city limits in 1786 on the premise that they posed a health hazard. this lead to the creation of the catacombs, as well as cemeteries that fell outside the boundaries of the capital (such as the one in Montmartre). initially, the distance of Pere Lachaise from the city center proved a major disincentive for funerals, so the administrators concocted a marketing campaign that, with great fanfare, transferred the remains of La Fontaine and Moliere to the cemetery. the move worked and, in 1817, they also orchestrated the relocation of the purported remains of Piere Abelard and Heloise to the cemetery. within a few years, internments went from a few dozen to more than 33,000. there are now over 300,000 “permanent residents” buried in the Cemetery, and even more cremated remains housed in the columbarium.

the Cemetery also has special meaning to the political left (apparently). in 1871, some 147 fédérés of the Paris Commune were shot and dumped into an open trench at the foot of a wall in the cemetery. leftist groups often hold parades through the grounds on the anniversary of the massacre (28 May), the largest of which took place in 1936 when some 600,000 people participated. in an ironic twist of fate, the man purportedly responsible for the events of the “Bloody Week” that culminated in the massacre at the Communards’ Wall (Adolphe Thiers) is also buried in Pere Lachaise.
(Pere Lachaise Cemetery on wikipedia and a tourist site)

one of my favorite things from our visit to Pere Lachaise, was this black cat. we actually saw several cats — surprise, surprise in a city full of feral cats — one of which disappeared into the tangle around a gated family tomb.

speaking of cemeteries …

the cemetery next to the King’s Chapel Unitarian Church in Boston is a prime example of what comes to mind when I think of a place with the weight of history.

stop number 5/6 on the Freedom Trial, the burial ground is the oldest in the city and was established in 1630. for thirty years, it was the only cemetery in the city of Boston and the remains of many notable 17th century Bostonians are apparently buried here. (the Granary Burying Ground, a few blocks away, founded in 1660, has more notable Revolutionary-era interments.)

this is the headstone of Joseph Tapping and, while more intricate than many other headstones in the ground, captures the tone of memorial stones of the period. and quite unlike someone in the twenty-first century might elect to put on their grave. on the face of the stone, a skeleton and Father Time battle over the eventuality of death. dead at 25 in 1678. from what I recall, he wasn’t much of a noteworthy at the time, but the elaborateness of his stone marks him out from all the other graves in the grounds. the image of death or a skeleton or Father Time was common on on markers of this period, but none that I saw matched the detail or artistry of Tapping’s.

for many years, it was believed that William Dawes rested in a tomb in the King’s Chapel Burial Grounds. along with Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott, Dawes was tasked by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride from Lexington to Boston to warn local militias of British troop movements, allowing them to mobilize — the famous midnight ride that kicked off the Revolutionary War and resulted in colonial victories in the Battles of Lexington and Concord. there’s a prominent tomb with an inscription honoring Dawes at the ground beside the King’s Chapel, but it has recently been uncovered that he might have been removed and re-interred in his wife’s tomb at Forest Hill in Jamaica Plain. urban sprawl has forced the relocation of many Revolutionary-era dead and, and might include Dawes. records at Forest Hill refer to a William Dawes (who died in 1799 as did Revere’s companion) whose remains were relocated from the Boylston Street Burial Grounds in 1882, but there is apparently no mention as to from the original location of the remains. some contend that he was never buried in the King’s Chapel grounds at all and that, in a fit of Revolutionary fervor, the Sons of the Revolution affixed a plaque honoring the midnight riders to the tomb of Dawes’ grandfather.

the full article from the Boston Globe on Dawes’ disposition is here.

Dick Mack’s, take two

my second night in Dingle, I came upon a group of ladies from Michigan in search of a pub listed in Rick Steves, reported to have good craic. since I’d been walking around town all day, I knew precisely where they were headed and offered to show them the way. turned out, there wasn’t any music on at the time we wandered through, so we ended up at Dick Mack’s again, just as their live music was wrapping up for the night. we got our pints and headed around to the front sitting room and chatted, and all the while the pub continued to fill up. apparently Wednesdsay night was good enough for going out, and for drawing all manner of visitors to Dingle.

we’d been sitting and chatting about travel, and Michigan, and the system of higher education in the United States, and my thesis (it was quite something to have someone express interest in learning more about my subject for the first time in a year and a half–leave it to someone who teaches on gender issues at the collegiate level to be interested, how fantastic!). just as we rid ourselves of the unwanted attentions of the pub drunk, one of the young women from a group in the next room over decided to pull up a rickety stool to the piano and began to play.

it was something you’d certainly never see in the states, and it wasn’t something that I saw happen anywhere else. this fashionablly dressed thing, who couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, pounding out reels on a creaky old piano, implored by her friends and other patrons of the bar to play one more, eventually inspiring someone to track down a guitar and other additional instruments to start up the music again. the reels got people talking about dance, and it came out that one of the pianists friends was quite the traditional dancer; after much imploring she was induced to take off her spike heels, take hold of her (very) short skirt (they were clearly out for a “girls night”, maybe even a hen party) and started dancing along with the impromptu music session. thad kind of stuff, that’s what people mean when they talk about the craic: my second night at Dick Mack’s in Dingle was definitely good craic.

Dick Mack’s, take one

after meeting up with Nico and Kelly in Cork (finally!), we made our way to Dingle on the *other* famous peninsula in Co. Kerry. we stayed at a great hostel called the Hideout that had, bar none (yes, that’s right BAR NONE) the best bathroom I experienced in my two weeks of travel. just thinking about it now is making me happy.
anyway, there’s not a lot to Dingle; it’s a tourist destination and it’s got a lot of pubs. probably about a dozen within a couple of blocks from the hostel. of course, most everything in town is within a couple of blocks of the city center.

after settling in and finding some dinner, we headed out to find some craic at one of the pubs. we’d all heard positive things about Dick Mack’s, so we headed around the block in search of it. at the very least, Nico wanted a picture in front of it, but there was some music coming from inside, so we thought we’d brave the entrance and give this, the first of the truly authentic local pubs we’d found a try.

originally, as with many pubs in Ireland, and many of the pubs in Dingle in particular, in years past, Dick Mack’s served a dual purpose. by day it was a leatherworks shop, and at night the cobbler’s tools were tucked away and the place opened up as a pub. the daytime uses have been retired, but the interior was certainly one of the most unique pubs I set foot in. in the main room, in addition to the bar and a fantastic snug, there’s a long work bench that doubled as space for musicians to gather (through the door on the right in the picture). around the corner, there are two sitting rooms (for lack of a better phrase); in one there’s a fireplace and in the other there are shelves (behind the window in the left corner). on the walls of both rooms, there are paintings that depict scenes of those rooms as it appeared in a previous life. and in these two rooms, our amusement of an evening occurred. twice. and both times my party was accosted by the pub drunk.

the first night, after Kelly flatly refused to respond to his persistent (and annoying) inquiries, he got a little belligerent and said some rather unflattering and rude things. after Nico told him in no uncertain terms to bugger off (subtlety did not work), though, he did. later on one of the publicans came through, collecting glasses, and after we mentioned the confrontation, he expressed a degree of sheepishness about the drunkard.
the second night, the people I was with (Nico & Kelly had already headed back to Dublin) seemed more inclined to engage him in conversation, despite the fact that he got a rather lecherous look in his eyes when the youngest of our party (a soft-spoken blond) got a fit of the giggles. discussion of Leonard Cohen ensued, but eventually the drunk moved on.

Croagh Patrick

Saint Patrick (c. 390-460 c.e.) is the patron saint of Ireland and there are many, many locations across the island that claim some affiliation and draw pilgrims. one of these is Croagh Patrick, a peak of just over 2,500 feet that lies five miles from the town of Westport in Co. Mayo on Clew Bay. on “Reek Sunday” (the last Sunday in July), some 15,000 pilgrims climb the mountain. the most penitent climb to the summit in bare feet. on my way up, I saw one guy coming down in that fashion, and I spoke with another Irish person who’d made the trip at least once.

during the 5th century, Patrick climbed to the top of “the Reek,” fasted for forty days and forty nights. at the end of the period, he rang a bell (or threw it off the peak, in some versions), knocked a she-demon from the sky and banished all the “snakes” from Ireland. there’s a chapel on the summit where they hold services on Reek Sunday, and on other occasions.

i’d already gone on two decent walks this day, and it was already about 4 pm when I arrived at the parking lot at the base of Croagh Patrick. but i’d driven all that way, so I thought I’d start walking and see how far I could get. my guide book recommended allowing three hours to get from the base to mountaintop chapel, and another two hours to get back down again. i knew i wouldn’t have enough time before the sun set to get up and back, starting at 4pm, but i thought i’d see how far i could get in an hour, before turning back around. an hour in, i was already about 2/3 of the way up, so i decided to keep going. made it up in a breathless and exhilarating two and a half hours, had good look at the views from the summit. the hour-long trip back down was rougher in a lot of ways — the whole “going down” strain on the quads. and the shifting scree was harder to predict on the way down, and my feet went straight out from under me at one point. thought i’d have a nice bruise on my tailbone the next day, but it turned out that the challenge of shifting (and walking) posed by my aching quads overwhelmed any soreness that might otherwise have occurred.

needless to say, i slept like a log that night. it was faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic.

Cork & St. Finn Barre’s

Cork is Ireland’s third most populous city — slightly bigger than Madison, and also a university town. It was initially established as a monastic settlement by St. Finnbar, for whom the cathedral here is named. it was granted a charter by King John in 1185 and, along with much of the southwest, has long been a bastion for rebels and rebelliousness. the Cork harbor is the second largest natural harbor in the world, after that in Sydney.
Cork is also home to a sizable university and classes had begun the day before we arrived. we went out for a drink in a pub in the center of town and it turned out that on Mondays they have pub quizzes! as big fans of such activities, Nicolette and I ponied up and got to participate. the other teams came up with quite an array of names, some witty, some scandalous, some corny, and some not so much. it didn’t bode well that the first question (given as a throw-away easy one) stumped us entirely. (who did Cork beat to advance in the GAA finals? the match happened two days earlier; Cork beat Tyrone.) we certainly didn’t win anything, up against Irish college students, passionate about their trivia and armed with iPhones, but we had a great time and generally impressed ourselves with the corners of our brains from which we extracted answers.
just as the quiz was wrapping up, a horde of students walked in; we learned from one of them that classes, in fact, began that Monday. and all these students, wandering in to a pub at at half ten, eleven o’clock on a Monday (when bar time is half eleven or midnight …), not only were they American (one was wearing his Greek letters — dead giveaway), but they were from the University of San Diego. Nicolette travels thousands of miles to get away from life in San Diego, and we end up at a bar with a gaggle of San Diego students.
but never fear, none of my other pub experiences involved Americans on such a massive or undesired scale. 🙂


survived my flights. the guy sitting next to me on the flight from ORD to FRA was Muslim and took time out and prayed twice during the flight. the Frankfort airport was unlike anything I’ve experienced in Europe before, but maybe I just don’t travel enough in Europe (many of the gates are just ‘gateways’ and you take a shuttle out on the tarmac to actually board the plane — more like what I experienced traveling to Venezuela).

took an earlier bus to Belfast, so I walked around the city centre while waiting to meet up with Nico. the City Hall is still under renovation, so there won’t be a tour tomorrow. the bus centre is behind the Hotel Europa, which is/was the most bombed hotel/building (the language is upstairs at the moment) in Europe during the Troubles. Wouldn’t necessarily know it now, though I didn’t go inside. the two French girls staying in the same room as me say that central Belfast is pretty standard as far as city centers go, and it’s once you get out west of the city that things get more interesting — Shankill Road, Sandy Row, etc. saw one Loyalist mural near the bus depot, and i’m planning to head out to Falls Road for a bit tomorrow.

went to the bus centre to meet up with Nico at the time the bus i was *supposed* to be on got in. waited about 50 minutes but she didn’t come, or i didn’t see her. caught a cab down here and booked a bed. the place is clean, but more ‘hotel-y’ than ‘hostel-y’, as the French girls observed. they spent 12 days traveling from Derry to Belfast by thumb and it sounds like they had a great time. not necessarily something that i’d ever want to do, but all the positive things they had to say about all the people they’ve met give me cause to think this will be a great two weeks.

hasta … ?