Pere-Lachaise and Parc des Buttes Chaumont

With the recent heat wave in Paris, I looked for ways to escape, and places with shady trees seemed like a great idea. My first stop was the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement. I followed the Rick Steves walk for this and I recommend that anyone planning this visit do the same as Rick Steves very kindly arranges his walking tour so that most of it is downhill. Upon entering, I witnessed a current funeral in progress. I was a little surprised. It had not occurred to me that this cemetery was still in use, I had assumed it was historical. I quickly put my camera away and walked out of sight of the red-nosed, tissue holding, black-clad mourners and headed for the next stop. There were memorials to countries who had lost men while fighting with France in various wars. Of these, I was struck by the memorial to the Russians of World War II. Notice the many fresh flowers at his feet.

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Next up was Oscar Wilde. Apparently power washed and surrounded by plexiglass, which had only a few lipstick prints on it.

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Just after Oscar Wilde’s gravesite I was accosted by a strange long-haired gentleman, who insisted in some language that wasn’t English or French that I follow him with my camera. He had two other tourists hostage and gestured wildly towards this grave, telling us in broken various languages that this man was the REAL inventor of the Zeppelin. Sadly, I had followed this strange man because I thought he was talking about Led Zeppelin. I was thinking, “I didn’t know John Bonham was buried here”. He isn’t, but this man is.

Joseph Spiess, real inventor of the airship?

Joseph Spiess, real inventor of the airship?

I googled him (Joseph Spiess) and apparently strange cemetery man was correct. Moving on…

I saw Gertrude Stein’s spartan grave, as well as Alice B Toklas, whose name is engraved on the back of Stein’s, although I later learned that she is actually buried next to her, not with her.

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Then came the memorials to the Jews who died in concentration camps. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Just around the bend from this area is Paris’s Alamo. Apparently, members of the Paris Commune barricaded themselves inside this wall, but were eventually overtaken and shot in this spot in March 1871.

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I stopped briefly after this to have a small picnic on a bench. Then ventured further on, taking pictures of a few non-famous graves that I found interesting for one reason or another.

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Does anyone else find this disturbing?

Does anyone else find this disturbing?

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Now, I don’t want to alienate anyone here, but I have never really been a fan of The Doors, except for one song, and I just don’t get the fascination with Jim Morrison, so I walked past his grave without pausing. I walked on to Frederic Chopin and met a woman holding the same Rick Steves Paris book I was holding. We laughed and then talked a bit. She was newly arrived and asked if I had done any other tours, and if he was accurate in his recommendations. I told her that I didn’t like Montmartre, but she had been there the day before and liked it even less than I did, as she met a group of women, one of whom had been pick-pocketed and lost quite a bit of money. The only other thing I told her was that the famous #69 bus was just way too hot to ride this time of year. We said our goodbyes and I moved on.

My next stop was Abelard and Heloise, but I have recently learned in school that their relationship was possibly toxic; that Peter Abelard may have been abusive, so I didn’t feel any emotion at the tragic love story. In fact I ignored Abelard, and just looked at Heloise. I wasn’t terribly interested in the remaining graves on the walking tour, so I chose to exit here. It was hot hot hot, and even though I was walking downhill in mostly shade, it had started to feel like work. I got on the Metro and went to Parc des Buttes Chaumont since it was in the next arrondissement. This park was recommended to me by a former co-worker and now Facebook friend (Hi Roger!).

It’s a lovely park, from what I saw of it. Looking at the map, I think I only scratched the surface, although the heat, combined with the hills made it seem as though I had hiked the Himalayas. I took the Metro to the Buttes Chaumont stop and not surprisingly, found the entrance to the park very close to the Metro. I immediately climbed a mountain (okay so it was a small hill) and found nothing at the top but a few benches, that famous Parisian gravel, and lovers hidden in the grasses.

Seriously, there are 6 or 8 people in this picture

Seriously, there are 6 or 8 people in this picture

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I felt a bit like a voyeur, so I trekked back down the mountain and turned left onto a path, which led me past bridges, tons of people laying on the grass, kids playing in a stream…..

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Then another bigger bridge (designed by Gustave Eiffel) leading to the Temple Sibylle.

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I think if I had known the history of this park, I might not have been so eager to see it. According to Wikipedia,  it’s near a place where for around 400 years they used to display the dead bodies of hanged criminals, and then it was used as a garbage dump, a place to cut up dead horses, and to dump sewage. Nice, huh? I’m especially happy that I didn’t know this when I got mis-directed by some badly placed orange barrier fence and ended up basically climbing a dirt hill (along with another poor stranger who made the same mistake I did) to make it back onto a path and had to take off my shoes and shake all the dirt out.

Anyway, here are some views from the temple, including a view of Sacre Coeur.

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And  views of the temple from the lakeside

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A dog chasing fish. I could have jumped right in there with him, it was that hot.

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This is a beautiful park, with drink and snack stands as well as more than one cafe. In fact, on my way out, there was quite a party going on at one of the cafes called Rosa Bonheur. I didn’t get a picture because I was busy dying from the heat and my mountain climbing adventure.

But this park is definitely worth the Metro ride, especially if you pack a picnic, and just buy cold drinks and glaces when you get there.

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I Still Don’t Like Montmartre

First, let me say this was not that title of the blog I had planned today. It was supposed to be titled When Bloggers Collide and was going to be about meeting Liberated Traveler. However, she had to cut short her adventures due to a family emergency so please send some good thoughts her way.

I did part of another Rick Steves walk today, starting at #16 in his Montmartre walk, the Moulin de la Galette. As for what happened to numbers 1-15? I saw Sacre Coeur and St Pierre-de-Montmartre (#’s 2 & 3) already on my first attempt at this walk, which was abandoned after my experiences with the “artists” and other colorful characters found at Sacre Coeur near sunset. Many of the other list items are things to look at, and for me not worth all the walking involved. I took the Metro to Lamarck-Caulincourt, made popular by the movie Amelie, but I didn’t enter the famous entrance, I exited an apparently random and unknown exit. I had read about the stairs at the Abbesses Metro stop and been warned to take the elevator, but I didn’t realize this stop had enough stairs to qualify for a warning too. Never fear, there were signs.

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I ignored the elevator as it was full and the sign above said it was about to Depart, when a brave woman barreled past me and leaped through the closing doors and forced them to re-open. As I was already staring at the doors I could see the aggrieved faces of the occupants so I didn’t want to further distress them by again forcing the doors open. (But I did take note for future reference. I had the impression that Parisian doors, like Parisian shopkeepers, have no patience for tourists, and would continue to slam shut on me. Nice to know this may not happen) I walked up some stairs, then walked down a long hallway, and just in case I had forgotten the previous warning about the stairs, the step count was adjusted and new signs warned me that I had more steps in my future.

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I walked blinking like a newborn onto the street and tried to orient myself. I think it only took 10 minutes and half a mile of walking, so I’m improving! Rue Lepic is very windy (that’s wine-dy, not windy as in blowing wind) so if you happen to be taking this walk and you see this guy

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You’ve gone too far. Back up, make a right, and at the next intersection you will find that you have snuck up on the Moulin de la Galette from behind. So if you’re facing the Moulin de la Galette, and want to see that guy, you have to turn right, go up the hill, and he will be on your right.

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Ok, so I saw it. Not much else to say. Continuing, down the wine-dy road, here’s a view down a side street,

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and I saw Henri de Toulose-Lautrec’s house from a distance. Apologies to fans of his but I did not feel it worth the 100 yard detour to look at his exterior windows. I continued on and spotted Vincent Van Gogh’s apartment.

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Apparently in the 2 years he lived here, on the top floor with a view of the city (I’ll have to take Rick Steves word for it because I couldn’t get up to the apartment or the roof and verify), his painting changed. From the Van Gogh Museum website: “Van Gogh’s Paris work is an effort to assimilate the influences around him. As he begins to formulate his own artistic idiom, he progresses through the styles and subjects of the Impressionists. His palette becomes brighter, his brushwork more broken. Like the Impressionists, Van Gogh takes his subjects from the city’s cafés and boulevards, and the open countryside along the Seine River.”

Down the street some more is another Amelie movie locale, Cafe des Deux Moulins. (I really wish I had re-watched this movie before coming here because I barely remember it)

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And finally, at the Place Blanche, Moulin Rouge.

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I guess it looks better at night. Not that I’ll ever step foot in Montmartre at night without a bodyguard. I peeked in the Museum of Erotic Art, which I was surprised to find is less intimidating than Modern Art. Did you know that Degas drew erotic art? I didn’t.

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There’s nothing really bad about Montmartre during the day. I just don’t see the appeal. I’ll stick to my favorite neighborhood, the 6th. I only explored maybe a block of Pigalle as my plans required me to go back the other way past Moulin Rouge again and take a long walk to rue de Rivoli where an Aldo store is located. I am searching for ballet flats to replace the ones I bought at Aldo years ago, but I can’t seem to find any. I could have taken the Metro but I wanted to walk, and I also found myself in front of Printemps, so I went in and poked around, sprayed perfume on myself, looked at lots of pretty stuff….yeah, I’m done. I’ll save shopping for next week when my friend is here.

I was on my way to Notre Dame to do the tower tour, but it’s a really hot day and I am already feeling a little in need of a shower, so I didn’t want to make it worse or offend any fellow tourists on the hot walk up all those stairs to the tower, so another day!

I also saw today that French women wear crocs!

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Rick Steves’ Marais Walk

I will admit I have an irrational fear of the right bank because most of my negative experiences of Paris have taken place there, but I have heard so much about the Marais, and from what little I saw of it a few days ago, I decided to break out the Rick Steves again and take his Marais self guided walk. I started by walking down what has become one of my favorite streets in Paris, the rue St Andre des Arts to Blvd St Michel. There are always tons of people at the sandwich stand on this corner.

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Even Superman vacations in Paris.

From there I walked along the Seine and crossed Pont de Sully and continued along Bd Henry IV.

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My old town of Ledyard, CT could learn something looking at the Seine. Oh how I hated having only 3 crossing points over the Thames. If only there were as many bridges there as there are here. Anyway, I was reminded of my old home again a few minutes later when I passed an electric store, because I always thought the store on Main St in Norwich was cool, but it doesn’t hold a candle (or a bulb) to this one on Blvd Henri IV.

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I arrived at Place de la Bastille to find more gendarmes and caution tape. What have I walked into now? I think it was an outpost of the 1st Festival of Gay Cultures Paris, however it looks like Justice for Central Africa has climbed on the bandwagon and set up across the square from them. Place de la Bastille is where the walk begins, so I began.

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The bastille itself is gone, but I took a picture of an outline of the turrets that is on the road where rue St Antoine hits the square.

DSCN1578Picture of the gilded statue of liberty atop the monument

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and the Opera Bastille

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A teeny gas station (first one I have noticed actually)

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#17 rue Beautrellis, where Jim Morrison died

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The entrance to Hotel de Sully was closed so I walked around the block and entered the Place des Voges from the back. What a lovely park this is. I like it much better than the Jardin du Luxembourg. Love was in the air, and there were plenty of shaded benches to sit on. I wasn’t too hungry yet but I had a tiny glass of wine I had brought with me. It’s funny, the other day my shoulder was killing me from lugging around my umbrella and a couple of books. Yet for the past 2 days I have headed out carrying a full bottle of wine as well and didn’t feel burdened at all. 🙂

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I listened to a tour guide who had stopped at the bench next to mine, and was happy to hear him telling the family he was guiding many of the same things I had in my book. I hope that means that my book is correct, rather than the tour guide just took his information from the book! One thing I did learn from eavesdropping on that tour guide is that this square is the only square in Paris that is actually square-shaped.

I went to see Victor Hugo’s house which is located on the square, and determined that his decorating style and mine definitely do not mix, although I did like the location of his apartment.

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Man, that is some wallpaper! I made a full circuit around the square, looking at all the art galleries, then continued on to rue de Francs Bourgeois, which to me is just a big mall with lots of familiar stores; L’Occitane, Bobbi Brown, Guerlain, Jo Malone… I made a detour down a side street to buy some grapes to add to my picnic late lunch/early dinner.

I spent a lot of time in the Carnavelet Museum, a museum of the history of paris, which has its own separate chapter in my book. I think I spent close to 2 hours here, although I skipped the pre-history and mostly everything after Napoleon. It just got to be too much for me, and all the explanatory markers are in French, which I can read, although it becomes very tiring. I will say, I like being alone in museums. I can take my time, spending as much time as I want here or there, without worrying about anyone else being bored. A blurry picture of the faces from the Pont Neuf, but I liked the composition.

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This kid couldn’t help but grow up to have a huge ego

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If my French is correct, this replica of the Bastille was made with an actual block of the Bastille itself! Pretty cool.

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There were many rooms of art that chronicled life in Paris. I did see one work of art that I am familiar with and wasn’t expecting to see in a history museum. Absinthe.

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This garden was not in my guidebook, but it was very cute, and I imagine would look lovely at night, as those whitish things all over the grass are lamps. It’s the Jardin de l”hotel Lamoignon on rue Pavee.

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I visited the Mona Lisait bookstore. It is listed in my book as “funky” and “has more inside than meets the eye”. I agree but I will let you enjoy uncovering the more for yourself. Not knowing what to expect was half the fun. 🙂

Next was the rue des Rosiers, the actual Jewish Quarter. Many places were closed today so I walked through to rue Ste Croix de la Bretonnerie, listed as Paris’ openly gay main drag. Because of the festival starting (past my bedtime) tonight, the streets were alive with much more….shall we say “camp” and decor than the last time I was here. Before you ask, yes that IS a man dressed as a giant penis. He was so funny, a family with small children walked by and when he saw the (goodnatured) shocked faces of the parents, the penis-man covered his eyes, rather than the parents shielding their childrens’ eyes. 🙂

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By now I was getting pretty hungry. I am visiting the Pompidou Center another day, so I skipped that and thought I might eat at the Hotel de Ville (which is really city hall). However, there were way too many people here for me to feel comfortable breaking out my mini picnic, and the touristy feel of the place made me wary of pickpockets and other negative experiences, so I continued across the bridge towards Notre Dame and went down to eat alongside the Seine while watching the bateaux mouches glide by. My camera died here. 😦

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What started out as a questionable day turned out to be lovely and sunny.

I was going to hop the bus for a ride around Paris but traffic is really bad today, at a standstill. I walked home, thinking I would go online to find out if there was a closer store than the one in rue Cler where I bought my delicious chocolate chip brioche the other day, but on the way home I was seduced by a banana nutella crepe, enjoyed in my apartment with a cup of coffee instead.

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Rick Steves’ Historic Paris Walk (or part of it anyway)

Today I decided on a self guided walk from my Rick Steves Paris 2013 guidebook. I had done some things around the apartment in the morning, so it was after 3PM when I ventured out. I stopped at a grocery store nearby for wine and cheeses, then a boulangerie for a baguette. As I walked towards Notre Dame for the starting point of my walk, I spotted a place where I wanted to eat my late lunch-early dinner and made a detour.

 

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It’s the tip of the Ile de la Cite. It’s a gray and cold day today, and it started raining as I crossed Pont Neuf to my destination.

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I ate for a few minutes under an arch at the end of the steps, but soon it cleared so I walked to the park and finished my dinner on a bench, noting that great minds think alike.

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You can’t really see the details, but they are also having wine and snacks. Here’s Henry IV’s horse’s ass. 🙂

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I took a last look around….

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then  packed up the leftovers and headed to Notre Dame. Plenty of wine left.

 

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I didn’t do the climb today because of the weather, I will save that for a sunny day, but there were plenty of photo ops inside. I found Point Zero, the center of Paris, which I had overlooked last time I was here, and motioned a photo exchange with another woman.

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I spotted St Denis carrying his head, and the gargoyle propped on his elbows, watching all us tourists.

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Because there was a service going on, I couldn’t see all of the inside, but I saw as far as the nave. I found it unconventional that the confessionals here are made of glass! I couldn’t get close to the transept to see The altar, the Pieta, Joan of Arc, the rose window….Here’s what I did see:

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After leaving Notre Dame, I walked across the street behind it to the Deportation Memorial. This place is so stark and desolate. By the time I left here I had a huge knot in my chest. I don’t want to get too heavy, but sometimes it hits you that not too long ago, people suffered untold horrors that seem so far away. Then you go somewhere like this and realize how recent these events were, and as horrific as it seems, what you experience seeing it is nothing even close to what they experienced. No matter how much we complain about our day to day lives, we have no idea of what real suffering, real fear, real hopelessness is. As you descend, the city disappears and all you can see is bars, thick walls, and a tiny bit of the Seine.

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The passage into the main part of the memorial is only wide enough for one person at a time. There is a plaque in the floor that reads, “They went to the end of the earth, and did not return”

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The hallway is lined with 200,000 crystals. One for each French citizen who died. At the end of the hallway is an eternal flame. There is a tomb of the unknown at the beginning of the hallway. It’s amazing to read (at the top before entering) what constituted reason for identification, persecution, deportation. I knew it wasn’t only Jews, but the list seems exhaustive, and at times so undefined as to allow anyone at any time to be stamped with a triangle and imprisoned or worse.

Up out of the darkness and across the bridge to the Ile St Louis, where I did not go to Berthillon for ice cream. Last week our driver on the D-Day Tour, a lifelong Frenchman, said he had never heard of Berthillon. When he was asked what kind of ice cream he ate, he replied that he buys ice cream from Italy! Because of this, and because I knew he had lived in Paris for a time, I didn’t bother.

I did, however see the Tour d”Argent, the restaurant that was the inspiration for the movie Ratatouille.

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At 200 euro a person I didn’t eat there, but if I had, I most likely would have seen the same sight as from the bridge below.

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I walked through the Square Viviani to see the oldest tree in Paris, an acacia tree planted in 1602. Here’s Square Viviani and Notre Dame beyond taken from the base of the acacia.

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I saw some kids excitedly jumping around pointing at the ground. Looks like Remy the rat has finally met his end.

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Next was Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.

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No pictures are allowed inside, although I did see quite a few people taking illegal pictures, but it was open mic night, and I spent much time here listening to songs, poetry, and short stories before the heat and discourteous literary geeks who were practically climbing over me as if I wasn’t trying to see the same exact thing they were trying to see, drove me away. If not for the heat and the impertinence I could have stayed there all night. 🙂

I walked past St Severin church and into the Latin Quarter, noting the skinniest house in Paris, at #22 rue St Severin.

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Here in the Latin Quarter the owners/waiters stand outside and try to lure you in to eat, sometimes by telling you you’re beautiful and sometimes even by offering you food! This street is the worst offender (or best, depending on your point of view).

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I was still full from my Seine-side dinner so I was able to resist the enticement of all those men, and one woman who appealed to my tummy rather than my vanity.

I went home instead of continuing the walk as I have seen all the rest of the sights listed already. I went by way of St Andre-des-Arts, stopping at a market for a simple bar of chocolate as the patisseries were all closed by now.