“I seldom go out, but when I feel myself flagging, I go out and cheer myself up in Père Lachaise…while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.”
— Honoré de Balzac, Père-Lachaise resident
What did I do with my lockdown time during COVID-19? I completed and launched the perfect travel guide for All Souls’ Day (November 2) with app developer STQRY. We have just released the City of Immortals GPS Tour App of the famed Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris for Apple and Google devices in French and English.
Based on my bestselling book, City of Immortals: Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, the app (priced at $2.99 USD) provides visitation and transportation details, the general history of the cemetery, and background on the designs of the 19th-century funerary art and architecture to be found there. In addition, it features images, biographies, and navigation details to the gravesites of the same 84 cultural icons featured in the book, which celebrates this legendary necropolis that draws millions of tourists to the City of Light each year.
If the word necropolis means “city of the dead,” then Père-Lachaise is indeed the City of Immortals. The deceased found within its walls do not rest, but instead live forever. My voluminous research and extensive photography of the cemetery over the last three decades has given birth to this GPS Tour app. It gives me great pleasure to share the beauty and mystery of this place with the goal of both simplifying and broadening the Père-Lachaise experience through the ease of using one’s smartphone or tablet. Can’t travel to Paris? Then enjoy a visit from the comfort of your favorite armchair at home!
The most famous and most visited cemetery in the world, Père-Lachaise is an eternal “salon” of luminaries from the worlds of art, design, literature, the performing arts, and more. Boasting the final resting places of more celebrated artists and thinkers than any other location in the world, the cemetery has, in the last century, become a pilgrimage site for visitors from all over the world to pay their respects. It is also a magnificent open-air museum of sculpture and architecture, representing the first revolutionary design in memorial parks and the fourth most popular destination for the 65 million tourists who visit Paris each year (behind the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe).
Perfect for travelers planning a trip to Paris, or those lucky enough to live in the City of Light, I present my more than 30 years visiting, studying, and documenting Père-Lachaise within a smartphone experience. It’s a travel tool sure to delight Francophiles, tourists, and armchair travelers, while also enriching the experience of taphophiles (cemetery lovers) and aficionados of art and architecture. Best of all, it is bilingual: it works in English and French!
In three custom tours, I feature the grave sites of 84 architects, artists, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers and actors, including: Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Frédéric Chopin, Georges Bizet, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, Isadora Duncan, Eugène Delacroix, Amedeo Modigliani, Sarah Bernhardt, Simone Signoret, Colette, Marcel Proust, and many more.
My fascination with Père-Lachaise began in the early 1980s while I was working at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where I met my future mentor, the late New York Times art critic John Russell. With Russell’s support and encouragement, I embarked on my research and photo documentation of the cemetery. The Corcoran’s conservator cum moonlighting travel agent sold me a bargain ticket to Paris. I set out to find the tomb of my literary hero, Oscar Wilde (which I did not find on that first visit). However, the pilgrimage started a more than three-decade fascination with telling the eternal stories of those responsible for and interred at Père-Lachaise.
I am thrilled to partner with the app’s developer, STQRY, a company that provides world-class digital solutions for destinations with stories to share and helps visitors explore further, engage deeper, and discover more. The STQRY team is made up of experts who are passionate about the arts, outdoors, and education who have worked on over 3,000 projects internationally since its inception in 2006.
I hope you enjoy what we have created. Bon voyage!