November 6, 2007
Sunday’s grand excitement was our second meeting with Antoine and Typhaine at the Cimetiere Pere Lachaise. We’d had to reschedule dinner two weeks in a row due to unexpected family commitments on both sides, so when they asked what we were doing the weekend of October 27-28, we reminded them of our collective wish to visit the cemetary. Since we’d had to postpone so much already, we invited Elizabeth along, rather than postponing again.
But that wasn’t to be until almost 3:30! So we took one of our City Walk cards and went out to explore Le Marais before our graveyard rendez-vous. Leaving Ile St. Louis, we wandered past the Hotel de Ville and up to the Centre Georges Pompidou, which Elizabeth hadn’t had an opportunity to see yet. We gawked a bit at its inside-out facade and its strange fountain (“the fountain with the lips!” both Allen and Elizabeth recalled). Elizabeth took a lot of “candid” shots of Allen and me when she thought we weren’t looking (not caring if we were on to her scheme or not!). From there, we grabbed paninis for lunch and followed Rue des Francs Bourgeois to the Musee Carnavalet, which as the City Walks card had promised had really magnificently groomed gardens. Entry to the museum and gardens are free, and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, it’s certainly worth savoring a moment there. Nearby, the Place du Marche Ste. Catherine was filled with appealing cafes with outdoor seating. You’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it! That would explain why the small soap shop off the plaza that we popped into was going out of business. Coming out of the secluded square, we found the Hotel de Sully and cut through it to reach Place des Vosges. The Hotel de Sully was beautiful inside, with a gorgeous 17th-century painted ceiling inside the bookstore. (Thank you to City Walks for pointing this out. I’d have never known.) Passing through the back garden, we entered the Place des Vosges, a large square with a park in the middle and shops, galleries, and restaurants nestled under the arcades. Victor Hugo’s house (now a museum) hides there as well. According to good ol’ City Walks, the square used to be used for royal pageants and duels when it housed noble French families. It seemed to be another of those beautiful Parisian sights that you never see until you leave the main tourist attractions behind, which is a shame because there are so many hidden gems in Paris but probably also a blessing because it wasn’t too crowded to enjoy. (And don’t get me wrong. The Eiffel Tower is a wonder!)
This was one of the nicer walks we’ve done so far. I really appreciate the bite-sized nature of the City Walks cards, and I’ll be looking for a DC pack when we get back, both to enjoy the road-less-traveled walks and to share with visiting houseguests!
After the walk through Le Marais, we passed Place de la Bastille (and a Tex Mex restaurant named Indiana!), and continued back through the less scenic neighborhoods of the 11th arrondissement. We stopped at a bakery to pick up meringues (me and Elizabeth), eclairs (E), and a mille feuille (or Napoleon, for Allen). We gave ourselves horrible sugar highs/headaches and chastised ourselves all the way to the cemetary.
Around the cemetary, we found a logical yet still surprising number of florists with potted blooms spilling out over the sidewalk. Antoine and Typhaine showed up before too long, and we struck off into the cemetary. Navigating the cemetary turned out to be way more difficult than any of us had anticipated. Still, it was eerily beautiful in there. We literally wandered around for hours. Antoine went back to the entrance for a map at one point but came back empty-handed. Later, Typhaine asked to borrow a map from two women, studied it seriously for a few minutes, came back, and laughed, “I didn’t understand that map at all! Sorry!” We saw just a few names we recognized, including Chopin. It was a lucky thing we were with Antoine and Typhaine because they knew many more histories of the people buried there than we did. (Actually, they recognized maybe 10 people to our 2.) After threading among the tombs for hours, we finally returned to the map to locate Jim Morrison’s grave before we left.
After the cemetary, we went to a cafe and had hot chocolates and espressos. Antoine and Typhaine told us a hilarious story about a misguided bike ride they’d taken with friends. It rained all morning so they set off by bike later in the afternoon than they wanted, it turned out to be all hills in wet mist, and the guys had packed so much alcohol the bikes were dragging. Then they reached the road with the turn off to the hostel, asked someone for directions, and found out it was still several miles away (and it was fully dark by that time). They convinced someone to shuttle them by car to the hostel, and after three or four trips, they were all at their destination. Everyone was cold, wet, and to tired to do anything, including drink the alcohol, which they ended up carting back with them the next day. I really enjoyed the story, and Elizabeth said she was waiting the whole time for me to pipe up with, “We walked 80 km through the mountains.”
At the end of a busy day, filled with the sites of Paris, we had clocked 6.2 miles of walking, not including several tours around the expansive cemetary. Success!