Days in Paris: 5
Baguettes eaten: I ran out of numbers
Wine: just poured another glass
Wednesday was for Pere Lachaise which, for those unfamiliar is a cemetery here, in the land of ornate death monuments. Everyone you have ever heard of that lived and died in and around Paris is buried there. On top of each other. The layout of the cemetery mimics the layout of the city: a million pathways branching off into a million more with no seeming end in sight.
Pere Lachaise reminded me of New Orleans. It really should be the other way around but there you go. It also reminded me that as humans cursed with the knowledge of our own end, we will do hugely extravagant and elaborate things to make ourselves feel better about it. We do things like build chapels for our dead beloved.
You can't really see it in the above photo but many of these had stained glass windows and mini altars and elaborate inscriptions. I have to say that contrasted with the clarity of the day, it was sobering to be in the middle of all of this.
Of course we beelined for the most famous graves. Oscar Wilde:
adorned with lipsticked female kisses although he was an unabashedly gay man. I witnessed a young girl kiss it and while I can appreciate the sentiment, and I love me some Oscar Wilde, I was well and truly grossed out by lips upon a stone first placed there in 1900, kissed by hundreds of thousands of other mouths and exposed to the elements of 100 years. Blech! But graves and headstones are for the living. Not pictured is the whole headstone bc it was just too damn big to get it up on Lorraine's iphone which is all we've got while we are here. Later I will post some other, even higher quality photos after we're back home.
There are a lot of very, very famous people from history/the arts/literature and music buried there but I found Chopin's grave to be the most elegant and pristine. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it now but I will soon. It is a beautiful engraved statue that matches everything he left behind. I suppose graves serve that purpose if anything. Some kind of marker that even though everything you ever thought or felt disappeared in an instant, someone remembers you. So yeah, on that light an airy note, we'll move on.
The cobblestones throughout the cemetery just about destroyed my feet and consequently my lower back but we trudged on and out of the cemetery after seeing a few other famous graves (there were some middle aged men that Rowan and Lorraine saw wearing home made tshirts that said "Jim Morrisson Tour 2011 which, LMFAO.) We walked for a bit and realized that in the immediate area surrounding the cemetery were just long stretches of nondescript store fronts, mostly selling gravestones. Probably the only thing more depressing than death is the business of death so we walked in some direction to some metro stop. In between we came across a produce market in the middle of the street with fiercely aggressive grape sellers that really, really, really wanted us to buy grapes and frankly, I'd never survive in a place where people compete for your business so vocally. I just wanted to buy all the grapes so they'd stop yelling. But I didn't.
On the suggestion of both a couple of guidebooks and a very sweet girl named Malia, we ended up visiting the Marais section of the city. Thank God it was a beautiful day because we were able to sit outside at a cafe for a bit while I drank my new crack, cafe noir aka espresso. Oh that reminds me, as we exited the metro station we saw a man walk and simultaneously light a crack pipe. A bona fide crack pipe. That kind of set the stage for the visit to this neighborhood.
As we sat at this cafe two things happened: 1) we met our first rude waiter. Nothing he said or did was remarkable, just kind of assy and annoying. and 2) a very large population of skate rats were there, gleaming the cube. "Hey guys! Where's Christian Slater? Oh right, he's 46."--Rowan. But in all seriousness, it was all 1990 up in that piece.
After paying the waiter, who snapped one last snap at us we wandered around aimlessly and I think we may have wandered off the regular path because there was nothing really especially of note to be seen. We did that for awhile until about 4pm when it was cocktail o'clock and I wanted to visit Harry's New York Bar, having punked out of it last night. So we hopped on the metro and headed to the historic bar to get some sidecars and bloody marys. Sidecars, which for those who are reading this and don't actually know me, is my drink. Living as I do in the 2010s and not the 1920s, no one knows how to make one aside from those fresh out of bartending school or old school bartenders so whenever I find one who knows, I take full advantage of it. So, um, Harry's is where the sidecar was INVENTED. Here's me drinking one in the place where it was born:
It tastes like happy.
Well we ended up getting good and drunk in the middle of the afternoon and also spending about 990 euros on alcohol, something I haven't done since I was about 22. Young at heart. Naturally we decided to leave as it was getting a bit more happening and move on to the next bar I wanted to visit, Willi's Wine Bar, very close by. When we got there I asked for a Kir. I think my French, while very limited and broken is believable enough as many people seem to want to continue the conversation after a "Bonjour ca va" from me. Naturally I just smile and nod so instead of a Kir, I got a glass of champagne. It was no sidecar but it hit the spot. Willi's clientele was a bit bizarre in that it was entirely filled with foreigners, mostly speaking English. However, we enjoyed it there very much and the wine was great. I think everytime I mention wine in this blog you should drink a glass. I'm much funnier after a few drinks.
We spilled out of the bar and headed to get some more moules and frites because you need to make that magic happen more than once in Paris. Our waiter recognized us which was so pleasant. We could briefly pretend we were locals which was awesome. I like to pretend I"m from here. But I'm not leggy enough to really pass for it so I get the sense that wherever I go, I have the word TOURIST branded atop my forehead.
Then we came home and drank some more wine (YOU know what to do now) that we had bought at the Verres et Vins right across the street owned by this amazing old French couple and called it a night to be sure we'd be up relatively early for Versailles the next day.
You'll have to wait for the next installment for that as I have "something" to do right now. Heh.