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5 kinds redux: how to visit Père Lachaise the smart way

Père Lachaise cemetery is one of the most popular attractions in Paris. I’ve been there more than a hundred times, because there’s so much to see. However, I continue to see tourists there who are frustrated and confused. They’re not getting the most out of the experience. They’re not even getting the least, the basics, the minimum two or three tombs on their list; so they leave having seen nothing they had planned to. In an effort to help them find their way, I’m re-posting my best advice.

A caravan of lost souls.  I’m not talking about the permanent residents of Père Lachaise cemetery.  I’m referring to the tourists, the day-trippers who trip aimlessly throughout the park.  Is this the way they wanted to spend their precious vacation day?

Yet here they are, wide-eyed, dumbfounded and hopelessly far from their cherished celebrity.  You can categorize them by their level of distress, from greatest to least.  Here’s a look at the 5 kinds of tourists you meet at Père Lachaise:

The Wanderer

  “Hi, can you help me find Jim?”  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked this question.  It’s been asked of me in all four corners of the 44 hectare park.  It’s all I can do to hold back saying, “Buddy, you have no idea how far off you are.”  It doesn’t matter what country the person is from.  They just showed up at Père Lachaise and thought they could wander around the 70 000 sites and bump into Jim.  People are strange.
rating: zero tombstones

Dora the Explorer

  This person has only one thing more than the Wanderer: “I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the Map…” and it gets them nowhere.  You see, for a map to work, you also need markers in the physical world.  You know, like signs, landmarks, distinguishable objects.  Père Lachaise hardly has any of these things that people are used to.  Are you a fan of Geocaching?  Most adults don’t like to play hide-and-seek, but that’s exactly what Dora plays at Père Lachaise because she doesn’t have the right tools.
  First off, more than half the signs are missing.  Many of the ones which remain are pointed in the wrong direction, making you think path A is really path B.  To top it off, a lot of the paths change their name while still heading in the same way.
  A huge problem-creator is that Père Lachaise isn’t organized like a city, with storefronts on the avenues.  Instead, it’s carved into ‘divisions’ which are the plots of land in-between the avenues.  These divisions all have different shapes and sizes, and each one of the divisions contains thousands of graves.  A paper map will get Dora fustratingly close to the site she wants to see, but it will remain out of reach almost all of the time.  She’ll probably bump haphazardly into Wilde or Colette.  There’s no way she’s finding Piaf, Modigliani, Chopin, Morrison or hundreds more that will miss her gaze as she turns her paper uselessly before her nose.
rating: 1 tombstone

The Bookworm

  This person not only has a map, they have a book, containing pictures of the graves and information about the departed.  Well, I guess they could play the match game, where they look at the photo, then glance around them to see if anything looks like the picture.  In French the game is called “Qui Est-Ce?”  This isn’t child’s play.  It’s an exercise in futility.
  Heck, even I wrote a book about Père Lachaise, called “The Chairfather.”  I carry no illusions that the book will help anybody find the sites; it won’t.  It’s a comedic recollection for folks who are familiar with the place, and a tongue-in-cheek text for fans who already know the life stories of the stars.  The Chairfather photo book does have pictures of four dozen tombs, but the photo will only help you distinguish the right one if you’re practically on top of it.
  At least the Bookworm has the stories.  But they might as well read them in the Jardin de Luxembourg, for all the good the book does them in getting to the tombs.  They’ll remain forever far from the people in the tales.
rating: 3 tombstones

The Geek

  “There’s an App for that.”  Uh, no.  Google Maps?  Useless at Père Lachaise.  What about any of the four with ‘Lachaise’ in the title in the iOS App Store?  They all have the same flaw: total reliance on GPS.  Also, they’re not all in the same category, spreading across Entertainment, Reference, Travel and Navigation. This means they don’t all have the ambition of getting you to the sites.  You’re on your own.
  The best Père Lachaise navigation App I’ve found is called “Super Lachaise” and it was developed by a guy I used to work with in Paris.  I use it myself when I want to find a site that’s not among the 50 on my own tours.  It gets me near the right tomb about half the time.  Why only a 50% success rate, for somebody who’s been all over Père Lachaise at least a hundred times?  It’s that civil GPS systems are still woefully inaccurate for this purpose.
  An example.  Let’s be generous and say your phone’s GPS gets you within 10 meters (or 30 feet) of your target.  That puts you in a space of 314 square meters (A=pi*r2).  Do you know how many graves you can have within 314 square meters at Père Lachaise?  ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY.  1 – 5 – 0.  No App will get you close enough.  Only a trusted voice can take you the last several steps to your rendez-vous.
rating: 6 tombstones

The Pack Rat

  This person thought ahead, and reserved a guided tour.  They joined the pack and followed an expert.  They are guaranteed to see at least a dozen of the sites, and hear fascinating stories about the people underground.  They won’t get to choose which people they’ll visit, nor what day or time it starts.  They’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege, about €20 per hour.  But it will be worth it.
rating: 12 tombstones

There is a better way…

What can you do if a guide isn’t available when you want them, or in the language you speak?  What if you have very limited time, less than an hour?  What if you have just a handful of specific sites you want to get to, right away, at 9:30 a.m. before you need to check out of your hotel and catch your flight?

There is a better way, and the folks @VoiceMap have found it.  It’s more than an App.  In addition to GPS, they record the voice of expert guides.  The expert’s voice takes you those last 10 meters, so you’re never lost.  The tour starts right when you want, no waiting for a guide, and you proceed at your own pace.

But that’s just the beginning of the journey.  While you’re at each site, a story unfolds in your ears.  A narrator speaks while the live-action movie passes before your eyes.  It’s an immersive experience unlike any other, personal and intimate. It will make your time at Père Lachaise unforgettable!

A VoiceMap tour costs a fraction of the price of a guide.  Don’t waste your precious vacation days like the 5 profiles above.  Get right to where you want to go, in carefree style.  Listen to The Chairfather.

rating: 50 tombstones

(this is the number of sites The Chairfather will guide you to in under 3 hours)


I’ll guide you to final resting places on my VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and recite stories from the lives of these notable personalities.

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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Happy B-day Mr. Potato-head

Happy Birthday Antoine Parmentier, who popularized the Potato. Chefs returned the honor by creating Hachis Parmentier, a kind of hearty shepherd’s pie.

I’ll guide you to his final resting place on my @VoiceMap tours of the Père Lachaise cemetery, and tell stories from his life.

See funny souvenir pictures and text from our picnic together in The Chairfather book.

The passed have never been more alive!

Book a lunch date with the fallen famous NOW!

Or later…

Really, it doesn’t matter. Their agendas are quite open.

© 2018 Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved.


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Most viewed video author walk ever on The Earful Tower- Père Lachaise award ceremony with The Chairfather

For your viewing pleasure today, here’s a replay of the most-watched author walk with Oliver Gee on his Earful Tower show. In this episode, I, Joe Start, aka The Chairfather walk the Père Lachaise cemetery with Oliver and give awards to the best graves in a number of categories. Enjoy!

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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Book Carnival event coming up: just one week away

In one week, Angelinos and other Southlanders will learn the answers to these questions: Did that Californian expat ever finally get his French License after 10 years? What quips and quotes did The Chairfather record in his lunches with the late litterati at Père Lachaise cemetery? Find out at the Bookstore!

French License guy speaks at Book Carnival in Orange County, California
I’ll read from my comical 10-year memoir about a California boy failing to adapt overseas. Outtakes, anecdotes and a signed book are in your future. Reserve your spot!
Anne’s Book Carnival
348 S. Tustin Street, Orange, CA 92866

Place your butt here 👉Get thy cheeks in a seat!
August 16th @ 7:30pm

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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Le Comptoir des Mots bookstore in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book

Le Comptoir des Mots bookstore in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book!

What quips and quotes did The Chairfather record in his lunches with the late litterati at Père Lachaise cemetery? Find out at the Bookstore!

Le Comptoir des Mots

204 rue des Pyrenees

Paris 75020

Here’s proof that they love to carry comedy at Le Comptoir des Mots. Just a week after accepting my book, they hosted a signing event for the memoirs of this guy:

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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La librairie Ulysse in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book

You know them from previous posts, and events about French License. Now the Ulysse bookstore in Paris carries The Chairfather photo book as well.

Why haven’t you made it to the Ulysse bookstore yet?  It’s smack dab in the center of Paris.  In the middle of the Seine.  On the main street of the Ile Saint Louis.  Perhaps you needed a map to find it.  And all the maps of the world were already inside!

They call themselves kilometre zero, because from their door you can set out to discover the rest of the planet.  Do you know where is the island of Saint Lucie?  Not the Isle of Lucy, you goof!  It’s one of the lesser visited islands in the Caribbean.  Well, I asked and Ulysse had a map of it, right down to all the street names.  The last time I visited, a regular came in for information on travel to Yemen.  Where else can you find such treasures in Paris?  Nowhere, I tellzya!

Travel is their speciality, and exotic destinations their strong suit.  Catherine and Dominique are extremely helpful, and can procure a map or guidebook out from their shelves like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat.

Librairie Ulysse

Open Tuesday-Friday 2 p.m.-8 p.m. 

26, rue Saint Louis en l’Ile, 75004 Paris, France

Tel: +33 143 251 735

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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Brentano’s bookstore in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book and French License a tragicomedy travel memoir

Brentano’s is BACK!
The iconic shop on the Avenue de l’Opera was for many, many years, one of the top sources of English-language literature in Paris. Then, due to an ownership change, they got rid of the books, and concentrated exclusively on souvenirs for tourists. It does make sense, because the location gets tons of foot traffic from travelers on one of the most beautiful Haussmannian streets, with wide sidewalks inviting you to stroll.
But those of us who stayed, and others who remember the Brentano’s brand as a sure-fire destination to get books in our mother-tongue, were saddened to see the books go. Well, today they’re back in force, with thousands of titles. Your favorite authors from back home mix with locals like me.

Now, at the shop, you can get your French License and accept an offer you can’t refuse from The Chairfather ! If you find them among the wide selection displayed in these photos, let me know, and I’ll send you a personalized message with an authentic electronic signature! How’s that for a souvenir?


37 Avenue de l’Opera

75002 Paris


metro Pyramides

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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The Abbey Bookshop in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book

You can get lost in here.  The Abbey Bookshop is tucked in a side street a hop skip and a jump from Notre Dame.  But the single-door entrance is a portal to another world.  Much like the room of requirement in Harry Potter, a hole in the wall goes on and on on the inside. The Abbey bookshop now carries both French License and The Chairfather.

This independent bookshop carries a mix of new and used, almost exclusively in English.  Travel, cooking, history, novels and a vast section of French interest and memoirs written by expats like me.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.  It probably is, you may just need to ask for Brian’s help to find it!

Ask him for your copy of French License!

The Abbey Bookshop

29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris

Métro stop: Cluny-La Sorbonne (ligne 10) or St-Michel

Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday

+33 1 46 33 16 24


© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book

Shakespeare and Company was one of the first to carry French License. When I stopped by, they had sold out. They graciously welcomed several more copies of my first book, as well as copies of my second book, The Chairfather. Find out more about them at the Bookstore!

Like Troy McClure, you may remember me from such films as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset, Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

Shakespeare and Co. writes a history with many chapters, several locations, and a cast of thousands over nearly 100 years. The great English-language writers of the past and present have visited, and at least one is actually living upstairs at any given time. You’ll find today’s version of the bookstore welcoming, with nooks strewn about to get intimate with a title. When you can’t put a book back on the shelf, simply throw some crumpled euros down on the counter and continue nose-down, feeling your way by braille to their café bench awaiting you. The literature dream state here is strong.  A warm beverage and an hour later you’ll finally look up, suddenly conscious that the real world is around you once again.

Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

Open daily, 10am to 11pm

Métro St. Michel



© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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La librairie Lamartine in Paris now carries The Chairfather funny photo book

Lamartine was kind enough to welcome French License in their shop. Now you can also find The Chairfather at the Bookstore!

This institution in the 16th arrondissement carries tons of books, stationery and pens. Mostly books in French, but they do have an extensive English-language section. Come on down and check out what they have for you in their well-lit and welcoming boutique!

Librairie Lamartine

118 rue de la Pompe, 75116 Paris

tel: +33 1 47 27 31 31


© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2018


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