Paris - The list of names at the entrance to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery reads like a cross-section of the most famous or infamous of the last two centuries: Sarah Bernhardt, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Frederic Chopin and many more.
I make my must-see list, then head up the hill. The cemetery is set up like a small town, with neatly laid out streets and winding paths, except that every resident is dead.
My search would be much easier if people were buried in alphabetical sections by surname.
For some reason there aren't that many tourists in Paris. The cemetery is fairly empty, and I'm sometimes the only living person among the crypts and graves.
It's obviously going to take longer than my allotted half-day to see all I want. There's so much to distract me.
Fancy sarcophagi and elaborate graves rub shoulders with crypts from the 1880s or earlier, many overgrown and in disrepair. The occasional 2003 grave contrasts starkly with its 19th-century neighbours. Apparently, if a family discontinues financial upkeep, the property gets sold again. I wonder where the remains go.
Oscar Wilde's resting place lives up to its hype. The larger-than-life Egyptian figure on top of his tomb looks like it's flying through the air. Large, light-coloured and modern, it stands out among the traditional older metal monuments around it.
Lipstick kisses new and faded are scattered over the lower portion. A man gently lays a single rose at the base, then slowly walks away hand in hand with his partner. This gravesite must get all kinds of attention on November 30, the anniversary of Wilde's death.
A handwritten note is held in place by a stone.
"You would have loved these times to death, old friend. Oh, the irony that you did not live to see them."
Yes, he would have been in his glory. The news that Alexander Wood, one of Canada's most revered and reviled gays in the early 1800s, will not only have a statue erected in his honour in Toronto but also a beer named after him is the kind of thing that's probably got Wilde laughing, wherever he is.
I'm sure he wouldn't have minded having Jim Morrison buried next to him. But influence was used and Morrison ended up on the other side of the hill.
After much searching, I find the famous plot and feel a little disappointed.
I was expecting a grander tribute. But then again, maybe beer and joints and flowers on his grave might actually be appropriate.
I'm alone with the crows and graves but have to leave. I never find Edith Piaf or Maria Callas. But Oscar Wilde, flamboyant even in death, has made the trip worthwhile.