Journée #5 – Paris

Another morning to see a vide grenier. It’s so fascinating to see what people have tucked away in their houses and the interesting adornments they used to wear. I always find myself looking over the interesting jewelry and handbags, probably also because I really have little space to carry much of anything else. The morning was bitterly cold and I lost feeling of my thumbs for nearly an hour or so. No matter how high you can get your scarf up your neck it’s just not high enough! Any exposed skin was more than I wanted to bear but at least I’d worn a pair of nylons underneath my cords that day because I’d learned my lesson from the day before. Despite my best effort I couldn’t get away from the cold. Arno knew I’d been wanting to go into a bookshop locally so he realized one was open (a surprise on Sunday afternoon!) and so I burrowed away in there for 15 or so minute until I felt my nose was back to a reasonable shade of pink instead of the rudolf nose we’d all been forced to take on. We were on the grand boulevard of Paris, to be honest it doesn’t live up to the name because parts of it look a little rough but they have these huge arches overhead. I was informed that coffee here was as expensive as it gets and to hold my craving if I was having any! At every opportunity the three of us would scurry to get across a street in hopes we might raise our internal temperature by fractions of a degree, it never seemed to work, for the record. Even walking at a Parisian pace doesn’t seem to do the trick, though I can understand the motivation.

While it might have been smart to have turned back and gone home with them I tried my best to hold myself together and I parted ways en route to Pere Lechaise, a famous old cemetery. Being around lunch I found myself a cafe and ordered lunch and pulled out my travel journal. One of the pages inside contains the question of what you’re surrounded by with ten spaces to be filled out. I started to take note of how many of the women wore red shoes coming off the metro or red coats, the muscles in the basket on the street corner for sale and various other little things. Fed and slightly warmed up I braved the cold weather and walked toward the walls of the cemetery. I climbed the stairs of the corner entrance and the grey skies created a rather ominous scene inside. Fitting for the location I suppose.

It might have been nice to wander for the sake of wandering but having had a late start in the day and with my body giving way to the cold I opted for two famous plots, first was Edith Piaf, my top priority and secondly was Jim Morrison. I must admit that while I was a bit interested to see his plot I think I put him on my list because I knew if I told anyone I went they were going to ask if I’d seen his grave and I wanted to say that I had. Perhaps if I went back I’d go to see more poets and musicians like Chopin. Another time…

Since arriving in Paris I’d been charged with trying to get lost and failed miserably every time, somehow, I never felt too lost. Here, in the least likely of places, I felt out of sorts, unable to tell which direction was up, down, left or right. I was wandering for some time and was unfortunately headed in the wrong direction and I’m still not sure how but after asking a couple older men they informed me I was on the opposite end of where I needed to be so I cut through the middle and headed over to where I thought I ought to be but then the road I was walking ended… I wasn’t entirely sure where to go but I saw some women on what seemed like a dirt path through the plots so I decided to head up and ask them and see if it looked marked enough to be trustworthy. One spoke English and the other French and we both admitted to being a bit lost when out of nowhere the scent of incense wafted past, enough to make us all a little startled because we knew there was no one even remotely nearby. Eerie… but onward! They probably left me a little more confused but were looking for Jim Morrison when along came a French man who I asked for directions and he led me on possibly the most confusing path through the cemetery and I wondered if it was smart for a second but he did seem to genuinely know his way around (and I still have to wonder why…) and he took me right up to Edith Piafs Grave. He warned me that soon the bells would sound and when they did it was important to head straight for the nearest exit. Her grave was actually pretty simple, not at all what I’d imagined and on a plot that left me even more confused, though perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, Jim Morrisons too… anyways… the bells sounded and I headed for the same entrance I’d come in on. The large iron doors were locked. Not exactly a great feeling when your surrounded by remains! A women mentioned that there was one main exit so I hurried along the walls to find it and helped to keep others from making my same mistake along the way.

The monuments and markers that people create for their dead is fascinating. They look like places for one to come and to pray and to remember those they lost, to kneel and leave flowers or offerings. Many sites were adorned with paintings and sculptures like I’d never seen before. It wasn’t too far a cry from what I’d seen in Romania but here it was different and on such a large scale and the old threes were in process of overturning grave stones and it was all just so incredible.

Again my core was frozen.

Back on the train I made the decision to try and find the Opera house and Galleries Lafayette. I knew I wasn’t going to be going in and so I didn’t have to worry about the fact that they wouldn’t be open so it was a perfect occasion to see it without a crowd, something Paris has a lot of. As I walked up the stairs and exited the station I could hear music playing. I was perplexed because it sounded so full but I was sure that if someone were to be playing inside the opera house I’d have no way of hearing them outside so I began to wander the streets. I began to circle the opera house and there on the front steps of the building a group of young adults and their brass instruments dancing and playing. So great! The crowd would join in and dance and have their photo taken with them and everyone seemed to be pleased. Paris has so many musicians around and I love running into them. I can’t get enough of it. I wish all cities had it. Hopefully I’ll eventually get a video up of one particular group I really liked in the metro station that I kept running into. All in all it was a good way to brighten up the heaviness of Pere Lechaise, as beautiful as it was, I think a sunny day might have made it a bit more uplifting.

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