Archive for the ‘Paris parks’ Category

Toussaint in Père Lachaise Cemetery

October 30, 2010

Visit Rossini over Halloween in Paris

Happy Halloween to the Readership. The Experienced Travellers wish you more treats than tricks.  

In France, they invoke their Catholic heritage and make national holidays of  Holy days and Saint’s days.  Add in numerous Bank Holidays and it makes for a very relaxing schedule.   In the grand French tradition, it’s an opportunity to exercise the right to outdoor leisure and convivial dining over a long weekend.  Vive this French bureaucratic policy!

Forget healthcare reform. Insist on a constitutional right to Saints Days and Bank Holidays

Toussaint – the Feasts of All Saint and All Souls  – is the first three-day weekend after the rentree.  It’s a time to honor Saints like the remarkable Genevieve, and to remember the deceased.  

In memory of saints and singers, the ETs recall their visit to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.  It’s the largest cemetery in Paris, and justly famous.  Residents include Colette, Piaf, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Rossini and Jim Morrison.

Edith Piaf's burial drew tens of thousands mourners to the cemetery and Paris traffic to a standstill.

When the cemetery opened in  1804, people  thought it was too far out of town.  But some flashy marketing saved the day.  They reburied Moliere and La Fontaine here, then intered the “remains” of  medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise.  Before long, everybody wanted in. 

Oscar Wilde's dying words - "either that wallpaper goes, or I do"

Here we can survey the sweeping history of arts, letters and science, especially when a certain Belle Epoch author is buried within.  It was my secret mission to “stumble upon” his grave and leave a token of my esteem.  Nurse thought we were out for a walk.  Just as well…

Hopelessly lost among the Immortals

Knowledgable ETs take provisions.  Fortunately we packed food, because we spent the day horribly lost.  The free cemetery map wasn’t up to the job.  One allee looks very much like another.  Everything was uphill.  Under a  dire sky, we trod the gravel paths arguing over magnetic north.   

Ravensbruck memorial

I must mention that the most arresting monuments in the cemetery are the Holocaust memorials.  We come to see the famous graves, but these  deeply moving tributes are the ones we remember.  

By late afternoon, I understood which way to hold the map.  My secret plan was coming together.  Nurse was getting suspicious, because I confidently scampered up hills and between mausoleums.  At last, I found him.  

Marcel Proust. If only I hadn't eaten that last madeleine.

Certain ETs pay homage to the great Belle Epoch author. His monument is almost as high as the six volumes stacked.

He doesn’t draw Jim Morrison’s fledgling hippies, or lover’s pleas like Abelard and Heloise.  We devotees come for a moment of involuntary memory or a spot of tea.   

Nurse was good-humoured about it.  This was nothing compared to the truly scary Proustian fieldtrip to Illiers-Combray.  But that’s for another post.

Spend next Halloween in Paris

Enjoy Halloween.  Perhaps the candy and the costumes will invoke an involuntary memory of your own.

Park it! Outdoor living in Paris

October 27, 2010



The right configuration: One chair with arms, and one without for the feet.

As the trees go bare and the days grow shorter,  the Experienced Travellers wistfully revisit balmy afternoons in their favourite Paris parks.  Ooh, to drag a green iron chair to the edge of a fountain for a spot of lunch. 

Fountain-side in the Palais-Royal garden

The ETs have a particular fondness for the Palais Royal garden –  an 18th century outdoor entertainment complex.  Desperate gamblers lost the family manse in the dens over the arcades.  Prostitutes did a bit of marketing in the allees.  Actors and revolutionaries argued in the cafes.  

Then on a hot night in 1789, Camille Desmoulins leapt onto a table here in the Cafe Foy, and delivered the tirade that “started” the French Revolution.  By morning, cockades made a fashion statement that few would dare debate.

Perfect for a touch of insurgency - or lunch.

You can still promenade here, dine at the Grand Vefour or shop where Charlotte Corday bought the knife that killed Marat, but the crowd is more law-abiding.   The Palais Royal garden is a fine venue for recharging.  ETs aren’t likely to hop on tables and make proclamations, but they do enjoy an al fresco lunch in the shade.

The Jardin des plantes - zoo and botanical garden

In the 5th arrondissement, the Jardin des Plantes contains the Paris zoo, a spectacular botanical garden and the Museum of Natural History.

Fricassee? Don’t scare the wildlife!

The ETs thought the animals looked relaxed, but that wasn’t always the case.  During the Prussian siege of 1870, food was so scarce that zoo animals turned up as exotic dishes on restaurant menus.

The Paris Mosque - lunch and a Turkish bath

In search of a more amenable meal, the ETs head directly to the nearby Paris Mosque.  The excellent couscous and mint tea gurantee a restful afternoon.  It’s a lovely setting, and for the price, one of the best meals in Paris.  If you leave here without wanting to lay mosaic tile throughout your house, you are superhuman.  Did I mention the gift shop?

Float your boat in the Luxembourg Gardens

Perhaps I saved the best for last.  Deep in the 6th arrondissement, the Luxembourg Gardens are a leafy venue for sea-worthy children to hone their skills.  Formerly Marie de Medici’s backyard, today the gardens afford unparallelled vistas across the parterres to the rooftops of the 5th and 6th. 
More piegon trivia;  On his way home from Gertrude Stein’s salon, a hungry Hemingway used to catch the delectable birds for his dinner in the Lux.  (The ETs feel closer to Hemingway since GR’s pigeon dish.)

A perfect picnic

So find a garden or a small neighborhood park, arrange your hotwheels and enjoy a baguette with ham and cheese.  It’s free, it’s relaxing and it’s very French.

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