Our very own “Père Lachaise” in Rueil !

Yesterday, a friend suggested that I go with her on a guided tour to discover an ancient cemetery. I thought to myself: "what a strange idea, a cemetery of all places, what a sad place to spend an afternoon with a friend !" ... Well think again, because what I was about to experience was much more than I expected. With the right guide to explain everything, these tombs of unknown men and women suddenly come to life and make you dive into the local history of the city.



It was a beautiful autumn day, a clear blue sky illuminated the tombs flowered with chrysanthemums and heather, all more beautiful than the others ... It felt like a little "Père Lachaise" or Montmartre cemetery with Pierre, our guide. He made us slalom between the tombs to find the most peculiar ones, like the "lady with cats" one. Her dear husband encrusted all the objects that reminded him of his late wife. An unusual and romantic tomb in a way, that lets you imagine the moments they lived together.

A shipwreck, a tragic fire, a royal descent… what breathtaking stories !

Others tombs tell of tragic events, such as the monument to the victims of Riva-Bella. The story Pierre our guide told us really touched me. It was in June 18, 1955 during a boat trip, the victims all belonged to the staff of a local company, and the boat capsized in the town of Riva Bella in ... Calvados Normandy! Five identical tombs of immaculate white now tell this tragic story in which we see the faces of their lost families….

We also discover another monument, the one dedicated to the victims of the Select fire... This Netflix-worthy drama took place on August 30th, 1947 at the Select cinema in Rueil. The cinema caught fire during the screening of the film “Stars Without Light” staring Edith Piaf. It made 89 victims including a local hero: Jean Le Coz, a simple citizen who returned to the fire three times to rescue lives. The fourth time was the last and his grave can be found today in this cemetery. He even has his own street named after him.

I was also surprised to learn that a queen, Maria-Cristina of Spain, who had gone into exile in Rueil had her children buried here! Her descent is all represented there on beautiful medallions. They adorn a statue that reminded me of the Statue of Liberty. Believe me, if you ever go there, the resemblance is striking.

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A new look on cemeteries thanks to our guide

This visit with Pierre allowed me to learn how to see graves differently. Spotting symbols, architectural details, has become like a game now that reveals the lives of politicians, actors, notables or illustrious strangers who now rest in this cemetery. It was a journey through time that made me want to know more about the history of the city.

... So when my friend said to me "Would you come visit the American cemetery near Mont-Valérien?" I replied, "The one where Donald Trump went instead of the D-Day landing beaches? Yes why not !? ".