Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011--First Paris Walks tour

On Tuesday the good weather vanished and was replaced by rain.  So we decided to take one of the Paris Walks in spite of the weather and went on the Marais I walk, which wanders through the eastern part of the district.  We met our guide in Place St. Paul, very close to our apartment and headed to our first stop, Hotel de Beauvais, once the grand home of an aristocrat (and the place where a 14 year old Louis XIV gained carnal knowledge (how polite is that!) and a 7 year old Mozart paid a visit with his fam), now the site of the French court of appeals.  We were able to enter the gated courtyard, which was beautiful.
courtyard Hotel de Beauvais

irrefutable proof Mozart was there

We next passed a classic example of old Paris architecture with exposed beams and an angled foundation to prevent collapse.  Note well, John, for any future home improvements you and Judy have planned.

Up another block or so to St. Gervais-et-St. Protais Church, named--surprisingly--after the British comedian, Ricky Gervais.  Quelle surprise!  But I digress.  It was built on an alluvial mound that the river coughed up and which would then protect buildings from later flooding.  It was built in the 1600s in Gothic style and has a gorgeous organ.  Look at the two types of benches--small impossibly uncomfortable ones for the rabble and more comfortable half seats for the gentry.

St. Gervais, complete with lovely delivery truck

St. Gervais altar

St. Gervais organ

benches for commoners

half-seats for privileged, note the dancing couple in middle--depiction of me and Mary
We headed down Allee des Justes, a small street named after those French who helped Jews escape deportation to Auschwitz, and it is marked by a Wallace fountain.  These were financed by a Brit who loved Paris and sought to provide clean water for inhabitants after the water system was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian war.  Water from these wells, which flows in Summer, has been tested to be cleaner than bottled water.  To hell with Evian!

one of many Wallace fountains all over Paris
We then walked over to Hotel de Sens, which Maggie showed us four years ago and where we saw a whimsical exhibit of French posters and advertisements for camping and vacationing in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  No exhibits are running now, though.  In 1830, during an uprising, inhabitants here fought off the mobs, and a cannonball, fired at the building, still remains imbedded near the left tower.

Hotel de Sens

see cannonball to right of tower
On our way to St. Paul church, we passed through an old, tiny warren of streets know as Village St. Paul and then down a narrow street that leads into the back of the church.

Village St. Paul

passage into back of church

gas pipe from old street lamps
St Paul is a product of later architecture and much more illuminated, without stained glass windows.  More comfortable benches for the laity, and it also has a beautiful organ.

St. Paul altar

St Paul organ
Our guide pointed out what some believe is the last of the graffiti that appeared all over Paris during the Revolution.  Years later the government sought to hide this ugly side of their past.  On one column, despite whitewashing, one can read one of those postings, "French republic or die."

There our tour ended, and after lunch we set on a long, long hike through a very different area of the city to visit the famous Perre Lachaise cemetery.  The walk was not especially picturesque but very interesting because this was a working class area, and a Paris very different from anywhere else we had been.  The cemetery is huge and houses Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and on and on.  I wanted to find Jim Morrison's grave and thought I knew where it was--I didn't.  We got hopelessly lost.  We wandered until an elderly man asked what I was looking for; when I told him, he proceeded to lead me on a guided tour of various graves until we wound up at Morrison's, where there was a crowd.  My French is so bad, but I could actually understand most of what he told me, and we had something of a fractured, friendly conversation.  So much for the common American stereotype that the French are effete, distant, dismissive, and disdainful of anyone who does not speak the language as they do.  We have yet to meet anyone, literally anyone, who meets those stereotypes.  Vive la France!

Jim Morrison's grave

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