I got to Quartz Mountain this Monday and have been meeting the other 26 counselors and helping set everything up before the students arrive on Saturday (today!). Don’t worry, there will be pictures and blogging. But right now I’m going to go back to the weekend trip I took to Paris at the end of April/beginning of May to visit my friend Helen.
I first met up with Helen at the Nick Cave-themed creperie where she was working and had a mushroom and goat cheese crepe before taking the metro to L’Institut du Monde Arabe (Institute of the Arabic World). My tour was pretty quick, because although the building has a stunning exterior, I wasn’t too engaged by the rugs and artifacts inside. However, the exhibitions on science, particularly astronomy, were very cool and I would be interested in spending more time in the non-museum parts of the Institute.
I met back up with Helen at her charming and stair-intensive apartment and then we ventured over to Deyrolle, a taxidermy shop started in 1831 which continues to sell stuffed zebras and pinned butterflies to rich and discerning Parisians. Pictures were not allowed, but I slyly took one in the only hidden place.
Unfortunately, there was an awful fire in the shop in 2008 that destroyed much of the shop’s collection. Haunting pictures of charred taxidermy animals were hung around the shop, but they seemed to have already replenished much of their stock. I could imagine spending all day there just opening the cabinet drawers to see what exotic insects lay numerous inside.
I’ll skip ahead to Sunday morning and our visit of the bird market. It was kind of strange, as most of the people buying and selling the small canaries and finches were men who looked like they belonged in the mafia. They were all standing around the little colored cages and trading the birds in and out of their large hands. I was almost afraid to take pictures because I thought they might break my camera.
I can’t believe how much we walked that weekend. I think we only took the metro a few times because we just kept exploring neighborhoods and streets on the way to our destinations.
We ended up cutting through the Jardin du Luxembourg where they were renting these boats to children. They could push them with sticks across the fountain.
Near the Jardin du Luxembourg is the Musée Zadkine, which exhibits art by the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. We didn’t pay to go into the museum, but admired the outdoor sculptures, most of which had someone screaming in cubist agony.
What I love about Paris and what continues to bring me back countless times is the exploring. There are so many arrondissements that I have yet to see and even the ones I have visited are still full of hidden streets, buildings, stores, monuments. For example, this lovely Fontaine de Quatre-Parities-du-Monde was on our walk from the Zadkine Museum to the Cimetière de Montparnasse. It’s probably a distance most people would cross by metro (and my feet might have preferred it that way), but watching the buildings and feeling the atmosphere change through the blocks is so enjoyable.
The Cimetière de Montparnasse, like the other big Paris cemeteries, has a few famous names that draw the tourists. So with our free map, we tried to find a few who we knew, including the above modest grave of Samuel Beckett.
Unfortunately, the map didn’t make a lot of sense, and had roads marked where we could only find passages behind tombstones. Still, we did discover Serge Gainsbourg, César Baldaccini, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Charles Baudelaire. Sadly, Man Ray was impossible for us to find.
It was the first Sunday of the month, so all the museums were free, including the Louvre and the Orangerie. We spent a little time in each before getting worn out by the crowds. I think it might be a good idea to have an express area of the Louvre where visitors could take a moving sidewalk by the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory, a large French painting, and an Egyptian artifact. This might clear out the rest of the museum just slightly.
I don’t remember if it was Saturday or Sunday night, but we did see a concert at L’International in Oberkampf. For anyone going to Paris, I really recommend it. They have free indie/rock concerts almost every night and the one we saw was surprisingly good.
On Monday we stopped by the Librairie Alain Brieux, a medical library. It was small, but had some interesting old doctor’s kits and maps.
We worked through the crowds in Montmartre by Sacre Coeur and then walked back near Helen’s neighborhood by the canals. There we had a delicious picnic and watched the sporadic boats and hipsters.
I still had a little while before my train back to Valence, so we hiked up the hill to the Parc de Belleville. And yes, the whole way I had the Triplettes de Belleville song stuck in my head. It’s a real place, though, with a great view of the city. We sat in the grass and enjoyed the sun until it was time to go to the station.