Local cemeteries are not usually tourist attractions, except for maybe the one in the granite capital Barre, Vermont.
But on Tuesday, we discovered a grandiose cemetery on a promontory overlooking Nice as we were heading up Castle Hill, the highest ground in Nice. The castle is gone, but it is the best spot to get panoramic views of all of Nice. The cemetery is a little harder to find and usually a place of tranquility with extravagant sepulchers (in some cases, small ornate houses) and monuments (in a few cases befitting a memorial park) and beautiful views of the sea and mountains.
Elton John’s villa property sits above the “Cimetière du Château”, as the cemetery is called, which contains the remains of many rich and famous French citizens, including actors, writers, singers and a well-known jeweler. But there were children, with more than full-size statues of them, and young men, probably soldiers from WWI, many buried in flamboyant style. Founded in 1783, we noted that the very crowded cemetery had a number of recent burials as well. There are three sections, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.
What we believed to be the Jewish section was walled off with no access. We weren’t sure why until we read that there has been vandalism there in the recent past, and France has been having some problems with anti-Semitism. In February, three French soldiers on anti-terror patrol were stabbed outside a Jewish center in Nice.
The one striking thing was how many fresh flowers were there and the care that many of the graves still receive, even for persons who passed on many years ago.