Monday, March 26, 2007

au revoir paris!

6:30 a.m. paris time. while everyone is still sleeping I thought I'd post my last message from paris. we will be heading up the hill to the champs to catch the air france bus to CDG airport in a few scant hours. how did the time go so quickly? we've had a wonderful time. we didn't get through nearly enough of our 'to do and see list' so I guess that means we'll have to be coming back another year.

sunday morning's showers evaporated and the day turned out as predicted warm and sunny, well partly sunny - there were nice puffy clouds about, but nothing threatening. after a wonderful breakfast of homemade crepes, prepared by my beau-frere who is truly a crepe master. his slogan for the secret of a good crepe is: "wipe well after each good crepe" - yes, you have my permission to groan.

we left the boys behind as we embarked our our last excursion for this visit, we knew our planned activities would hold little interest to a four year old boy. we had two destinations in mind - the richard lenoir market in the bastille neighborhood and the nearby pere-lachaise cemetery. I hadn't been to the cimetiere du pere-lachaise before, it is the resting place of many notables and a stroll through a paris cemetery is always an enjoyable and educational activity with their incredible mix of gravemarkers, mausoleums, crypts, statues, offerings and tributes left behind by visitors, and for people-watching. well, the p-l did not disappoint.

the richard lenoir market is I believe the largest of the paris markets and is a wonderland of sensory delights. you can find just about anything at this market: dazzling displays of fresh produce and fruits, every conceivable type of meat and fish, cheeses, breads, flowers, tantalizing prepared food, scarves, clothes, table cloths, fabric and materials to make your own, sewing notions, kitchen gadgets, bras and panties, shoes, well outside of large appliances you name it! the jostling crowd and hawking merchants are part of the fun of the market. the only thing I couldn't resist this year at the market were the scarves - the prices were half the price of the last time I was visited - 5 euros or less for a scarf. my sister told me the price difference was probably due to the fact that my first visit was in october, the height of scarf weather, whereas, now the vendors are trying to reduce their inventory because of the warmer weather and make room for new styles. after wandering the aisles of stalls and trying to capture a few new 'market scenes' for my archive of market pictures we left and headed up the rue de la roquette to the cimetiere.

the cimetiere du pere lachaise is considered paris's most prestigious cemetery and is situated on a hill with a lovely view of the city. the cemetery isn't that old by paris history standards, it was created in 1803 by order of napoleon himself. however, one may find bodies buried or 'housed' in the cemetery that are older than the cemetery, I learned that napoleon in order to 'promote' the place moved historical figures to the p-l. despite being a final resting place the p-l was alive with people strolling about, many with maps in hand in order to seek out the graves of people of interest. unfortunately we didn't have our own map (another case of improper planning! who would have known the authorities do not sell maps (plans) on sunday!). instead upon entry we made a list of the folks we would like to find from the plan stationed at the entrance: oscar wilde, marcel proust, jim morrison, sarah bernhardt, moliere and I'm happy to report we were somewhat successful - we did locate a few folk on our list but in our wanderings discovered the 'stories' of many unknown people; every gravesite in it's own way tells a story of life once lived.

the most amusing of our hunts dealt with locating the tomb of oscar wilde. we approached a couple who had a map to try and get some assistance in finding the section he is located in. the couple was italian - they didn't speak french nor english, and obviously we don't speak italian. when we pointed to the section number we were interested in, they excitedly proclaimed "oscar wilde, oscar wilde" to which we said "si, yes, oui" and through sign language and various utterings, they indicated that they too were interested in finding wilde's grave. so off went our newly formed hunting party, we were soon joined by two more italians (who until then were strangers to our initial italian couple) because of shared language the italians seemed to become fast friends and off we continued the four italians leading the way. they were ever vigilant to make sure we were keeping up and stopped often for us as both em and I were prone to be slow or wander off the walkway to take pictures of something that caught our fancy. once we were near the grave it was not difficult to find, fittingly all we had to do was follow the laughter. at the site was a boisterous and very international crowd. there were lipstick lip prints covering the lower half of the monument and all sorts of tributes placed at the site. the morrison site by contrast was equally crowded, but quite solemn and even had a guard present to insure nothing untoward might take place or be left (for instance one visitor brought flowers and a bottle - the guard told the man, the flowers were okay, but not the bottle of booze!).

we left the cemetery around 4:30 and before heading back on the metro stopped at the large and aptly decorated cafe (the walls were adorned with pictures of the notables across the street) for coffee and hot chocolate. the metro ride home was much fun as we reviewed our day and made terrible puns about our leeks on the metro. we had a most plesant final evening at home with family. my sister and emma were the evening's chefs and prepared the most wonderful feast - the centerpiece was a marvelous leek tarte, the recipe I intend to secure and share one day on 'the mouse.' unfortunately, the only snag in the evening happened because of my own stupidity and haste. while I was downloading my pictures I only downloaded part of the day's pictures. I 'forgot' there were two files on the card and downloaded the first file, put the card back into my camera and proceeded to delete the entire card. I quickly discovered my mistake and was heartbroken, and obviously still obsessing a bit about my carelessness. "haste makes waste" -- let's say I am reminded of the lesson of the mouse. unfortunately, missing are most all my pictures from the cemetery, the cafe, the metro ride home and the early part of the evening. emma believes that since the card hasn't been reformatted there's a chance that I can recover the pictures - how I hope that is the case, of course my favorite pictures from the day are among the deleted!

this is the last year my sister and her family will be living in paris, in july they are moving. they already have a visit planned to cleveland, I can't wait to show off our sites, although it's not paris! we have plenty to of wonderful things to offer. and then I can't wait to visit them at their next home - and I've already begun my "africa travel fund"!!

a bientot! merci paris, merci ma famille! j'aime paris et vous!

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