Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Daydreamer in Paris: Day 2

Day 2: Walking Literally to the Grave (yard)

The day dawned bright and sunny. K and I hadn't agreed on a set time for breakfast and I wasn't sure if he wanted to accompany me on the days adventures. Especially since I had decided to visit the famed cemetary Pére Lachaise. Seemingly dark business for such a sunny day, but the place was known for it's stunningly elaborate tombs and headstones, as well as for it's famous residents such as Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf. Allowing myself to sleep in until 9am, I made myself ready for the day and drew up a note for K in case he hadn't quite gotten himself over the Singapore jetlag. But after knocking on his door, he seemed game for what I had planned and we set off in search of breakfast and a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. Our wanderings took us down a few narrow alleys, revealing pleasant discoveries like the Paris Observatory and stunning views when the road sloped downwards.

We soon came upon a small bakery and I got my first delicious, sweet, flakey, buttery crunch of a real french croissant and couldn't resist trying it's rich, sinfully decadent sibling, the pain au chocolat.

After breakfast, we ventured on, heading in what we had hoped was the direction of the river. We soon stumbled upon an intersection where on the opposite corner lay the famous cafe, La Rotonde, a place frequented by the likes of Hemingway and Picasso.

After finding ourselves quite far in the opposite direction of the cemetary, having come to the Seine nearly as far west as the Musee d'Orsay, we consulted my map to make our wanderings slightly more calculated. Of course, being on the sparkling river on such a beautiful day, we had to take the photo opportunities as they came.

As we made our way towards the cemetery, passing through some of the more “Americanized” neighborhoods with Starbucks, McDonalds, and KFC all accounted for, K and I talked about the past and its impact on life in the present. We barely noticed the length of our walk, well, my legs would beg to differ. Finally reaching the cemetery's border, we found along the wall leading up to the entrance a small flea market, selling everything from furniture to books, to clothes, to kitchen wares. There was even a gown that looked like it was from before the turn of the century, although Alisa would have to confirm that.

We walked through the large stone gate and I was stunned at the city like landscape of its inside. Each tombstone was like a tiny building, room for only one (although in some cases, even more). Rows and rows of them sprawled out and climbing up hills of green, shrouded by leafy green trees, the sun shining in hazy golden panes through their leaves.

A map just beyond the entrance pointed us to the two graves I was set on visiting. The first was that of the passionate medieval lovers Heloise and Abelard with their ivory white, church like structure, lying statures raised in Snow White fashion side by side underneath.

The second was of Francis Poulenc, a french composer of the 20th Century who lived and worked in Paris during that Renaissance of artists, writers, and musicians. His music had often found its way onto my recitals during my conservatory days, the first of which was the tragic song of longing, C. I admit, I felt a bit emotionally overwhelmed in the presence of his grave.

Now that our long walk had finally caught up with us, K opted to find a sunny place to sit and wait for me while I explored further. I ascended up the hill and marveled at some of the more ornate graves, especially those with exceptional sculptures.

But feeling tired and a bit hungry myself, we caught a cab back to the hotel. K decided to lay low for the rest of the day until dinner and I fancied a small picnic in the Luxembourg Garden. We made plans to meet at 7:30pm and set off on our separate ways. Changing into shorter pants and sandals, I set off in search of the gardens which appeared to be quite close by. I found my map to be a bit deceptive, though, as the walk was longer than anticipated (made more taxing from the long walk in the morning!). But I did find it, stopping quickly at a sandwich shop to get a baguette sandwich. I wanted to find a small bottle of wine, but had no luck.

The Luxembourg Gardens consisted of great fountains, beautiful arrangements of flowers, and small decorative patches of grass. While in Munich, one would have wide stretches of grass on which to lie upon, Paris provided green chairs which people would drag along the graveled ground to their preferred location, sometimes two for their feet. I followed suit and selected a sunny place near the large central fountain which offered not only an ideal place to watch the kids sailing their sailboats, but to see the Eiffel tower peeking its head above the skyline, as if to remind the park's occupants where they were. So with exhausted feet propped up, munching on my baguette, and listening to the podcasts of Coffee Break French to improve my cafe and restaurant vocabulary, I spent a lovely couple of hours.

The sun soon grew too hot and so I retreated to the shade of an outdoor cafe nestles under the trees of the gardens. Over a glass of rosé, I read a bit and enjoyed feeling quite Parisian. I then explored a bit of the garden, finding a beautiful sculpture headed pool and the stately senate building.

Upon exiting, I found out how Parisians react when a bit of grass is allowed to them...Müncheners would laugh...

I let myself get lost for a bit and delighted in the cozy, lovely apartment and the astounding buildings that could be waiting around every corner.

I arrived back at the hotel in time for a 20 minute nap before meeting K for dinner. His choices for meals seemed a bit atypical for being in France. His proximity to Italy caused him to seek out a good pizza, an expectation which unfortunately fell short the night before. But this time, the quest was for Argentinian Beef. Naturally, I was game. The beef one finds in Germany leaves much to be desired and I had heard of the quality of Argentinian cows. We were directed to a place slightly north of the Marais neighborhood. Our waitress surprised us by being quite multilingual and while K spoke English with her, I happily spoke German. She recommended an outstanding Argentinian red wine and we feasted on beautiful filet mignon with thick cut fries and delicious grilled vegetables.

All was topped off with a decadent chocolate mousse in a mango sauce. Probably one of the best meals I had in ages and aside from the potatoes, I neatly finished off every bite. When we returned to the hotel, it was time to say our goodbyes. K was continuing on to New York where he would be recording demos for the musical he has been working on, and I was to switch hotels and go the rest alone, starting bright and early to arrive as the doors opened to the Musee d'Orsay.

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