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Posts from the ‘Paris’ Category

bad boy baudelaire buried in montparnasse

Baudelaire came to my attention the other day. Nine months after visiting his tomb in the Montparnasse Cemetery, I started reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. That day I thought of Charles Baudelaire.

I mention Les Misérables because Baudelaire panned Hugo’s novel (in private) when it was published in 1862.

Nine months ago in August 2016 I was living in Paris near the Montparnasse Cemetery. In fact I could step out of the apartment building, turn the corner, and stop and see the walls that separated me from the tombs. I could then, if I wished, become a tatophile.

Cemeteries in Paris are tourist destinations for me. Père Lachaise is the big one. Cimetière du Montparnasse is not far behind in size and fame.

Detail from a portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Gustave Courbet.

Since the cemetery is large with streets separating some sections of it, one must sometimes walk through it, use it as a short cut. The French do it. So do I.

It is lovely inside. Peaceful. Certainly quiet. The walls mask the traffic noise. People are respectful and don’t shout as they would when in a more public place.

When I stay in Paris, I will often return to my favorite places. Paris is rich that way; it offers to the resident and the outsider and certainly to the flâneur many spots that continue to interest. Louvre.  Musée d’Orsay. Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. The cemeteries.

I visit to pay my respects to my favorite writers and painters, such as Baudelaire, who has served as the model for this flâneur. At the top of this post and to the right is a drawing of him. But wait, there’s more!

le jardin des plantes–did you start your garden before 1635?

“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.” ― Voltaire, “Candide”

“Big? You think that’s big? You know what’s big? Well, let me tell you!”

Le Louvre Musée is big. La Tour Eiffel is big. Sacre Coeur is enormous. Le Jardin du Luxembourg is gigantic. Le Musee d’Orsay is immense. (I am using a Roget’s Thesaurus now.) Le Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées is gargantuan.

Map Jardin

Le Jardin des Plantes is . . . well . . . “of considerable or relatively great size.” Words seem to minimize, do not do justice to, the scale of the garden. Acreage does not really address its size: it is instead the extra-ordinary number of plants and species, all diverse, representing not only France but other areas of the world.

If you enter from the main entrance (recommended) at Place Valhubert, where Quai Saint-Bernard and Boulevard de l’Hôpital converge, you see the large exterior of the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution in the distance. Between you and that Grande Galerie is planted a vast garden.

The Jardin des Plantes has also four museums: the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum, and the Entomology Museum; a small zoo, the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes; and a botanical school.

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What drew me during my last visit, however, were the Mexican and Australian hothouses. These magnificent glass-and-metal Grandes Serres have been in use since 1714.

Basically, one explores two separate hothouses. After visiting the first, one exits with ticket in hand and walks to the next hothouse and scans the ticket to enter. But wait, there’s more!

le canal saint-martin à Paris

If you locate the Canal Saint-Martin on a map of Paris, you will see that it cuts a slice about 4.5 km long through the northern part of the city. It s-curves from le Parc de la Villette and the Canal de l’Ourcqin in the 19th arrondissement to the Seine River (at the Quai de la Rapée) near the Place de Bastille.

I have walked much of it; it is easy to do. One year I started at the Place de la République and walked toward Villette. Another time I walked from the Oberkampf area to the Place de Bastille.

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I remember not enjoying the walk toward Villette. It did not have anything of interest to offer. I remember the buildings lacked color and personality. It seemed vacant and unhospitable.

In the the other direction, however, one can immediately see la richesse of its residents. Apartments facing the Canal rent for several thousand euros per month.

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What interests me most is the cover of the Canal Saint-Martin. From the Place de la République and Oberkampf areas, the canal goes under the street level. One can take a boat past some locks, and after descending ride through a tunnel and emerge eventually near the Seine River. But wait, there’s more!

look! up in the sky! it’s . . .

My friend and her husband arrived the previous day. I was already in Paris for some weeks, and had stopped by their hotel near the Place de la République. She wanted to visit before they set about exploring Paris.

I suggested we go to the plaza and sit in the shade à la terrace and order some espressos. “Just as the French do.” Her husband remained in the hotel room and slept.

Do you remember the first time you went to Paris? Or Rome? London? Name your dream city. “Am I really in Paris? This place looks just like the pictures.”

She looked to the right and left and around and back to the right then to the left. She had a little smile all the time. “What do I say? Do I just say coffee?”

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I suppose it is natural that first we look around, straight ahead and off to the right and to the left and then swivel. “Un café s’il vous plaît.”

We look down, too. We should anyway, otherwise we will be spreading dog doo with our feet and stumbling into a curb or tripping over a chair leg extending too far onto the sidewalk. “Merci bien.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!