Monday, April 8, 2013

Paris: Part deux of....part deux

So much to see!! My second day in Paris was another jam-packed, sight-seeing, city-experiencing day o' awesomeness. 

I started my day as everyone should start at least one day of their life: with a warm croissant and a cafe au lait. Say what you want about France, French people, and French food...but it is a country, a people who know their pastries. My version of food heaven would be thus: pasta from Italy, pastries from France, and chocolate from Belgium. Heck yes. But I digress. After I finished my breakfast I decided to head out to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. A cemetery?, you ask. Yes, a cemetery.

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the final resting place for many famous people and has some lovely grave markers. Some of the more famous people interred at the cemetery include: the Doors' frontman Jim Morrison, French vocalist Edith Piaf, opera diva Maria Callas, French novelist Colette, Polish composer Frederic Chopin, Irish novelist Oscar Wilde, American author Gertrude Stein, and German painter Max Ernst. The cemetery also has several moving memorials to those who perished in Nazi concentration camps and those who joined in the resistance movement.

     Far left: An example of the many headstones. Right: Jim Morrison's grave..still so many people who seem to mourn his loss.

 Following Rick Steves' tour, I wound my way through the headstones seeking out people whose work I'd read in school, saw in museums, or listened to on the radio. The day was once again gray and cold. The cemetery is huge, sitting on 110 acres. And so, it was eerily quiet. Occasionally I would come across another tourist, but for the most part it felt like I was the only one there. Every now and again I would hear a crow call and goosebumps would promptly pop up all over my skin as my overactive imagination put me in the middle of a horror movie where I was the star and somehow locked inside one of the many crypts trying to find my way out. Shudder.

Finally leaving the dead to return to the land of the living, I headed towards the former Bohemian haven of Montmartre. Anyone who has seen the movie Moulin Rouge is somewhat familiar with the eclectic neighborhood. Back in its peak it was home to such famous artists as Toulouse-Lautrec, Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani, and Monet to name a few. Once again, I turned to my good pal, Rick Steves, for his guidance as I followed his Montmartre walk which took me from Sacré Cœur to Moulin Rouge and everything in between. I saw where Picasso painted, where Renoir lived, ate onion soup, strolled past Toulouse-Lautrec's haunts, passed by La Maison Rose, found myself in front of Le Chat noir cabaret, and strolling past a the last remaining vineyard within Paris. I loved Montmarte. It's as if its energy gave something to the artists who'd resided there in the past and those who reside there now. 

A view of Sacré Cœur              La Maison Rose                                      Parisian vineyard

One can never see too much art whilst in Paris, so of course my next stop was at the Musee d'Orsay. Again, I love me some Impressionism...couldn't wait to take my time through the museum. I saw some incredible art by Monet (I can't say enough about how much I love his work!), Van Gogh, Cezanne, and others. The Orsay is housed in an old train station and is beautiful in and of itself. If you get to Paris, don't miss this fabulous museum!

Leaving the Orsay, I meandered along the Seine and made my way to Notre Dame. I love this cathedral. Not only is it iconic, but it's absolutely beautiful. It's even more stunning at night. I sat there for nearly an hour as the sun sank further behind me and just stared. And stared. And stared. I finally left only because my belly started to rumble and it was a bit embarrassing. 

Unfortunately, my dinner the second night was...ehh. I didn't take the time to do any research as far as where to eat, so I went to a restaurant that looked promising. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. It was merely...ehh.

 Hugo's House. 
On my last day in Paris I once again followed one of Rick Steves' 
walks...thanks, Rick! This time, I made my way through the Marais neighborhood. In this part of Paris, I toured Victor Hugo's house. Ahhh! 
Pens and blotters belonging to authors
Anyone who has ever read or seen Les Miserables should get excited. The house tour was free and you were treated to a peek at his writing desk and ink pens and  blotters that not only belonged to Hugo, but other novelists such as Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo  and The Three Musketeers. The writer in me just about passed out thinking of the incredible works that flowed out of those ink pens and blotter.

From there, I made my way towards the Holocaust museum, Memorial de la Shoah (Holocaust in French).  It was an incredible reminder of the savagery that the Jewish people, and so many others, faced at the hands of evil. It was also an incredible reminder of those who fought the good fight on the side of the Resistance in Paris. One of the most moving parts of the museum was the crypt. It contains a large, black marble Star of David which contains ashes recovered from those murdered in the camps and in the Warsaw ghettos. It was an incredibly moving and tangible reminder of an atrocity that still haunts Europe and the world as a whole. 

Finally, I made my way through quaint shops and boutiques to the Pompidou. I gaped at the modern structure as, again, my tummy rumbled. So, I found myself in the cutest little bistro near the museum for one last Parisian culinary delight in the form of Quiche Lorraine, a side salad, and the best chocolate cake ever. It was such a cozy little place filled with Parisians who were eating with friends, colleagues, and others. I sat back, enjoyed my time out of the miserable rain, and took my last couple of hours in Paris in. 

All in all, it was a fabulous stay in Paris. I love that city and will get back again because I have more to see. One can never go to Paris just once, or in this case twice, and see all that it has to offer. And so I won't say au revoir to Paris, instead I'll just say: à plus tard.

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