I was exhausted after my day of museum hopping and had considered getting an earlier train back to Valence, but when I woke up to snow falling on the ground I knew I would want to stay in Paris as long as I could. I first walked along the Canal Saint-Martin that was just outside the hostel and it was spectacularly beautiful with the snow falling over its green bridges. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a feeling of walking through an old postcard.
I don’t think anything will get me out of bed as fast as snow. It transforms everything and makes even a parking lot picturesque. And when it snows in Paris every landmark or street corner is as captivating as it will ever be.
I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and twice went to the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute to participate in an intensive poetry class. Full of teenage angst as I was, my poetry could be summed up as this: it’s always winter and there’s always a war. I hope that I’ve progressed a bit, although winter is still my favorite writing backdrop. And one of those hot poetry summers I wrote a piece called “Père Lachaise” where I imagined that the last place the snow would melt in Paris would be in Cimetière du Père Lachaise and I thought about how that snow would change the cemetery. So when given the opportunity to actually walk through Père Lachaise in the snow, I had to do it.
I was one of the first people to walk in the cemetery that morning and almost all of the snow was free from footprints. I wasn’t looking for anyone famous and just explored the silent tombs and enjoyed the peacefulness. It seemed to be just me and the ravens. Unfortunately, I discovered that my boots had a hole in them and my feet were quite cold, but I kept walking for a while before looking for the exit. While looking at a map, I felt something brush against my leg and looked down to see a giant longhair cat. I bent down to pet it and it instantly jumped into my lap and pressed its head against my stomach and started purring. Maybe it was cold, as my cat Raffi was always extra friendly when it was freezing out, but I appreciated the company anyway. It wasn’t my day to stay in the cemetery forever, so I had to move on. But when I got to the exit I found it was locked. So I went to another and the guards there told me the cemetery was closed and I had to leave, which I was doing anyway. I guess that shortly after I’d gone in they’d closed the cemetery due to the snow and ice. That would explain why no one else was there.
Once I was in the metro I realized how wet and cold I was, so I decided to stay indoors and go shopping. The snow was all melting, and now there was only icy rain. I started with the Galeries Lafayette and looked at their beautiful ceiling and the bizarre designer clothes I could spend thousands on. Then I went to Printemps and did some wandering through equally expensive clothes. Finally, I went to H&M where I got some pants for 7 euros and an owl shaped coin purse. Those are things I can afford. Another thing I can afford is a quiche, which I got afterward.
I had some time before the train, so I decided to visit two museums located in the medical universities. The first was the Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Museum of Medical History), which has a collection of historical surgery tools. It is in what looks like an old library and it made me appreciate our modern medicine. I had no idea anesthesia was a relatively recent invention. I also liked the prosthetic metal hands.
Then I went across the street to the Musée Dupuytren. This is not a museum for those with a weak stomach. You have to ring a doorbell to be let in and then you are lead to a room that is packed with cabinets full of wet specimens, wax casts, and bones. Upon closer look, you can see that they are all human and none of them are normal. The museum is from a collection started in 1835 for “morbid anatomy.” Each object represents a deformity, malady, or disease, ranging from conjoined fetuses to a skeleton of the most contorted spine you can imagine to a hand ruined by arthritis. There are tumors and cancers cut out of every organ. There are brains and stomachs and waxes of faces blotted out with growths. I didn’t pay the 8 euros to take pictures, but a photographer on flickr has a good overview of the museum (don’t click on the link if you are easily disturbed). I’ve never been so appreciative to have been born with the right number and shape of organs and bones. There was a somewhat eccentric man working in the museum that was knowledgeable about each specimen and that really added to the visit, although I’m sure there are so many stories I didn’t hear. There was a point where he realized that the fetuses had been moved and that they were not in their right spots. When they jiggled in their jars as he picked them up I did feel a little sick. However, I still might go back. I’ve really never seen anything like it.
I walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg before taking the metro to the Gare de Lyon and waiting for the train to Valence. I found out that there is a waiting room at the Gare de Lyon where you can read graphic novels, so the time passed quickly and I was soon speeding through the night on the rails.
I’m off to Berlin tomorrow!