A Cemetery is a Great Place to Meet Someone

My favourite day in Paris was marked by an unexpected encounter while exploring a site for the dead.

But prior to that, I took the metro to an art exhibit that proved to be absolutely magical.

I saw pictures online of La Nuit Étoilée while researching my holiday and thought it might be hype to increase upfront sales when numerous publications warned to get tickets in advance. I did book MONTHS in advance, just in case (also because I’m “type-a”), and was relieved that I did because the exhibit was indeed sold out on the day I attended. I understood why when I entered; the animated exhibit is a completely immersive, multi-sensory show where the viewer becomes part of the artwork. Set in three parts—showcasing contemporary art, Japonaiserie and the iconic work of Vincent Van Gogh—this is something that must be seen to be believed.

Afterwards, my friend and I took a short walk to an unlikely tourist destination in Paris: Pere Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of artists, philosophers and rock stars of the ages. It’s such a landmark that people sell maps at the entrance. Being my frugal self, I pre-printed a map from the internet … that proved worthless. My friend and I quickly got lost while searching for the grave I wanted to pay respect to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré. As we walked amongst row after row of eerily creepy—often open—nineteenth-century crypts, I took a moment to rest against a tree and try to figure out exactly where we were amongst its 110 acres.

“Maybe a spirit guide will appear,” my friend commented.

And no word of a lie, within two minutes of her stating that a Frenchman approached us asking if we needed help finding anything.

He introduced himself as Glen and informed us he was a lawyer that lived and worked in Versailles. He debated traveling to Normandy that day for a dip in the English Channel but decided against it because of a questionable weather forecast, instead opting to visit one of his favourite places in Paris - this very cemetery. He then inquired about what grave we were looking for. When I told him “Gustave Doré” he was impressed; it was apparently a rarity that anyone requested to visit that site. As we made our way over, I noted that someone had once placed a small rock over a now weathered paper note left for the artist. Glen and my friend chatted while I also gave silent thanks to a man that has provided immense inspiration and wonder to my life.

After Gustave, my friend wanted to visit Pere Lachaise’s most famous (or infamous) gravesite - that of sixties icon and lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. This grave is quite controversial within the cemetery and there have been numerous calls to remove it over the decades since he passed in 1971. Today, one can’t even walk up to it. A steel fence surrounds it and several of the perimeter headstones in order to protect against further vandalism. Even in death, rock stars require crowd control.

Glen seemed keen to continue the tour and ended up showing us around for over an hour. As someone who appreciates the macabre, I specifically asked to be taken to the creepiest parts of the cemetery. He happily obliged. These included some truly beautiful and haunting headstones and crypts depicting ghosts, spirits and the afterlife. There was even a crypt with a stained-glass window detailing the folklore behind the will-o’-the-wisp, once believed to be a phantom light but since explained via science.

At the end of our day, Glen asked if we wanted to go for a drink but my friend was feeling a bit tired and we declined. Prior to parting, I exchanged my business card with him in the hopes of keeping a well-informed contact in the city but I’ve never heard back.

Was Glen a spirit? Was he an actual lawyer seeking reflection in the calm of the necropolis? Or was he just a dude trying to hit on two foreign chicks? All I know is that a cemetery is a great place to meet someone. Dead or alive.

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been  featured as artwork on album covers  (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been featured as artwork on album covers (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Disneyland for Foodies

La Grande Epicerie is a high-end, fine grocer in Paris’ 7th arrondissement that many describe as a “Disneyland for foodies”. It was high on my list to see as there really isn’t anything quite like it where I live. Anything one could possibly want from any culinary region of the world is available within its aisles from black truffles direct from Italy to Ethiopian passion berries (I bought both). There was even an American section that had overpriced Reese peanut butter cups and Hershey syrup, which offered great perspective on the food habits of North America compared to Europe. I never imagined I would take such delight in cooking after years of eating based just on convenience but now that my tastebuds have been awakened, I treat it less as a chore and more of an art form. The kitchen is now my canvas. La Grande Epicerie was the perfect place to evolve my palette further. My wallet and I came prepared.

At first I thought I would pace myself and wander before filling my handcart but after being met with the chocolate section, located right near the front entrance of course, that stance quickly went by the wayside. I must have spent at least twenty minutes studying all of the different types and their premium packaging. This wasn’t 7-11. Most of the bars on display here have won international awards for their taste and production, including the varieties I bought:

Bonnat Chocolatier Madagascar 100% Criollo: made with the rarest cocoa bean in the world, this bar was the silkiest I’ve ever eaten. Absolutely exceptional.

Chapon Chocolatés in Noir Fevory and Noir Bolivie: both winners at the International Chocolate Awards. The packaging for this brand is striking.

Dolfin Chocolate bars in lemon ginger, bitter orange and masala chai. Very flavourful.

Mademoiselle de’Margaux boxes in earl grey, raspberry and pear.

Indulging my sweet tooth was just the start though; the spice aisle is where my imagination really went wild! I bought several unique flavours of salt, including a pungent viking salt from Norway and a French espelette pepper salt that I now sprinkle on nearly everything, as well as spice blends from around the world, vanilla beans from Madagascar and Saint Lucia, black rice, smoked rice and even a pink rice coloured with beet juice that can traditionally be found at Indian wedding celebrations.

Besides all the ingredients I was set to haul home in a very, very packed suitcase, I also picked up a takeaway lunch from La Grande Epicerie’s in-house boulangerie. A simple sandwich with three visible components—roasted cajun chicken breast, guacamole and a fresh French baguette—I was so enraptured as I ate it that I completely zoned out of a conversation with my friend to focus on the flavour notes and mouth feel. It was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve since tried to replicate it at home but haven’t been successful (giving me reason to return again one day).

When I returned to Canada, the first meal I made with purchases from La Grande Epicerie was a lemon rosemary garlic chicken with a side of herbed vegetables and black rice, served with an après dîner drink of absinthe. It was great to bring a bit of France home to share with my loved ones.


My friend and I also visited the Palace of Versailles. This was my third visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and while it forever remains preserved in time, it is always fascinating to experience it again (especially the gardens, which is one of my favourite places in the world).

Continuing my culinary adventures, I also purchased more spices here as well as tea made on the grounds that is the same recipe Marie Antoinette favoured during her reign (black tea with apple and fragrant rose petals).

Selfie in front of the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Selfie in front of the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Coordinating my outfit with the Palace of Versailles (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Coordinating my outfit with the Palace of Versailles (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Portrait of Marie-Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Portrait of Marie-Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Shuffle-room only at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Shuffle-room only at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Detail at the Palace of Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Bedroom detail at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Bedroom detail at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Canal of Versailles, one of my favourite views in the world (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Canal of Versailles, one of my favourite views in the world (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Next indulgence: raspberry eclairs from a small bakery near the Eiffel Tower (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Next indulgence: raspberry eclairs from a small bakery near the Eiffel Tower (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Variety of spices purchased at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Variety of spices purchased at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Variety of spices purchased at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Variety of spices purchased at Versailles, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Black rice, also known as “forbidden rice”, purchased at La Grande Epicurie in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Black rice, also known as “forbidden rice”, purchased at La Grande Epicurie in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Preparing the marinade for lemon rosemary garlic chicken (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Preparing the marinade for lemon rosemary garlic chicken (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Preparing lemon rosemary garlic chicken (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Preparing lemon rosemary garlic chicken (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Lemon garlic rosemary chicken with herbed vegetables and black rice (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Lemon garlic rosemary chicken with herbed vegetables and black rice (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Absinthe from France (55% alcohol content)(©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Absinthe from France (55% alcohol content)(©Deborah Clague, 2019).

After Life

On Saturday night, I can normally be found on my couch, in my velvet pyjama bottoms and faded Gudetama t-shirt, using my partner’s chest as a makeshift pillow as we watch nature documentaries on Netflix. The cocoon of our living room offering the solace craved by two introverts after a hectic week. A recent switch in our predictability though—at my unknowing behest—brought this splendour state to a sudden halt as I was confronted with memories that I’ve tried to keep at bay.

It was a simple change. Watching a new program listed in my recommendations list that was written, directed and starring one of my favourite comedians, Ricky Gervais. I assumed it was a comedy, and, at times, it is but ‘After Life’ is moreso an unflinching, uncomfortable, honest portrayal of grief and how it leaves those left behind to grapple uncharted emotions after losing a loved one. As we watched it on this particular Saturday night, I tried my hardest to hide the tears streaming down my face. To somehow cloak how relatable what I saw on screen was to my own reality. My partner knows … but I’ve always felt that until loss this deep happens to one personally, you don’t really understand. His parents are alive and healthy. It’s been five years since my father and best friend passed away in a matter of months after an unexpected terminal cancer diagnosis. And it’s been five years since my mother was hurled into a state of loneliness and depression that I, as an only child, have made my main duty in life to offset. It’s been a lot to shoulder and I feel the weight of it every day.

A scene in episode three really hit a nerve. In it, the main character reflects upon memories of the wife he lost while at one of their favourite places, the beach. The contrast between the love and laughter of the past with the sorrow and sadness of the present was incredibly well-acted. It made me ponder how I would feel, how I might viscerally react, during an upcoming trip to a place my father and I shared so many beautiful memories including our last adventure together just two months before he passed.

For in one week, I would be flying to Paris. It is a place forever intertwined with my own life story. A city that has provided inspiration, enchantment and hope (in addition to maternal family lineage).

I had no idea what this chapter would bring.

But I knew his ghost would be present.

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

Intertwined locks for both my father and I placed on Pont de l’Archevêché, near Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in background, in 2014 (©Deborah Clague).

France Gallery Updated

The France Gallery has been updated with pictures of my most recent trip. Check it out in full here.

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Notre-Dame Cathedral fire, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The 7th Arrondissement, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Louvre at dusk, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yellow Vest Movement vandalism on the Champs Elysées, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

David Blackwood

I wandered an art gallery on a recent lazy Sunday afternoon, taking in a somewhat underwhelming feature on work that claimed to define the Eighties, when I chanced upon a small, almost hidden, exhibit located in a side room that showcased Canadian artist David Blackwood. Upon entering the space, I became completely enthralled by his art—the style, the intricacy of his line work, the restrained, yet impactful, use of colour, and the haunting visual narrative he shared of his home province of Newfoundland. It was spellbinding. I am absolutely in love with his craft.

I’ve never visited the Maritimes but feel I’ve gotten a glimpse into this magical world and am left truly inspired. Check out selections from David’s body of work below:

Wesleyville: Seabird Hunters Returning Home, David Blackwood (1991)

Wesleyville: Seabird Hunters Returning Home, David Blackwood (1991)

Great Mummer Unveiled, David Blackwood (2002)

Great Mummer Unveiled, David Blackwood (2002)

Three Mummers on Winsor's Point, David Blackwood (1979)

Three Mummers on Winsor's Point, David Blackwood (1979)

Vigil on Braggs Island, David Blackwood (1973)

Vigil on Braggs Island, David Blackwood (1973)

Loss of the Flora, David Blackwood (1993)

Loss of the Flora, David Blackwood (1993)