Posts Tagged With: paris

Day 6: Landscape of the Dead

We had several hours to hang out in Paris following our visit to Normandy. We decided to spend that time meandering through Père Lachaise Cemetery.  Our goal was to first find the burial location of Jim Morrison but as we wandered I was both awed and amazed at the grave sites we were passing through. The cemetery felt a bit surreal which is  not unusual, but at some points it seemed we were passing through an abandoned city. I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had seen the door to one of the tombs open and it’s occupant step out as if to pick up the morning paper.  This place definitely had conveyed the atmosphere of a Tim Burton movie. Many of the tombs/crypts showed extraordinary craftsmanship and artistry; they were truly amazing. We eventually found Morrison’s grave as well as Oscar Wilde’s and they had one thing in common, other than being burial places, barriers to keep the public away. The barriers are close to the sites so they are easily viewed but apparently people were endangering the sites with their attempts at showing appreciation/reverence. I can only guess what people were doing to Morrison’s grave, maybe leaving too many objects, maybe adding graffiti, the story for Oscar Wilde’s was more clear.  At some point for visitors to Oscar Wilde’s grave it became a tradition to kiss the headstone. (“Headstone” in this case is  a bit of a misnomer, as it is really a huge sculpture.) His descendants felt that the abundance of lipstick prints was both damaging and not entirely appropriate so they had the headstone cleaned and surrounded by a glass wall.  Intrepid fans have found ways to still smooch the stone however. This was definitely an unexpectedly pleasant and enriching experience.

 

 

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Day 4: Karma of the Sun King

This day began with the obligatory bus tour of Paris; it’s a good way to see a lot of sites in a short amount of time. About halfway through we stopped at Les Invalides which is  a monument to France’s veterans.  The building was first commissioned by Louis XIV for injured and ill soldiers then evolved into the place it is now.  It currently does house some soldiers as well as the tomb of Napoleon:

Following the bus tour our group split into two groups. Some of us went to explore Versailles the rest went to do some shopping.  I went with the former group. Prior to arriving at Versailles the bus tour guide told us that tickets to the palace could be purchased on site or a sandwich shop near the train station. We were also told that anyone 18 and over needed to buy a ticket but those under 18 could go for free.

Upon arrival we found the shop that sold tickets and decided to purchase the entrance tickets there hoping to avoid lines at the actual palace.  The dude selling tickets said that people 18 and under did not have to buy tickets which contradicted the bus driver, but we went with it because it saved Euros money.  So myself and my partner chaperon forked over our 24 Euro and we headed off to the palace.

When we got to the palace we were greeted by a statue of the Sun King and discovered shortly that the dude who sold us tickets had, intentionally or not, lied; the 18 year olds in our group did in fact need tickets.  Shit.  I took the kids who needed tickets to the ticket line which appeared to be short…until I looked inside and saw that it snaked around through several rooms. Shit. Since we had limited time I decided to ignore the Eagle Scout in me, and I deftly jumped the line. It was surprisingly easy and I wound up about halfway through the line.

While waiting in my illegitimate spot hoping the line would move faster, I noticed some people stepping out of the line then exiting the building with tickets.  Turns out there were automated ticket machines, score! I jumped out of line, found my students and after some minor fumbling we had our tickets and were on our way.  I was proud of myself for solving the ticket issue relatively quickly, but felt bad for jumping the line (insert foreshadowing here).

As with many popular places in Europe, and the U.S., Versailles is amazing and crowded.

Following our tour of Versailles we were to head back to Paris and meet the rest of  the group for dinner. (Weird, as I’m typing this, “From Paris with Love” came on the TV). We got on the train at Versailles and proceeded to sit on it for half an hour before it left, which through us off our schedule. After several transfers on the Metro we finally met up with our group at which time I discovered I had been pickpocketed. I’m fairly certain it happened at Versailles or on one of the crowded trains we took returning from the palace. I suppose it was Karma for jumping the line.

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Day 3-Paris: Of People, Pickpockets, and Piss

(Editors note: WiFi was surprisingly hard to come by and not very reliable so the following posts are post trip.)

Paris has too many people and it smells like piss.  I had all kinds of romantic notions of what Paris would be like and was feeling excited upon arrival following a three hour train ride.  The train station was magnificent.  The iron work and architecture reminded me of the film ‘Hugo’.  I was beginning to imagine sitting at a cafe having bread and chocolate, then strolling along the Seine to the Eiffel tower; then I stepped outside.  The smell of urine was 1) unexpected, 2) surprisingly strong and 3) inexplicably persistent throughout the city.  So much for the hype.

As with most group tours the day was packed with activities with the added bonus of the Paris Metro (please refer to previous comment regarding too many people in Paris).  We were able to visit the Arch de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and take a boat tour.  Two things I did not know about the Arch de Triomphe were you can’t drive through it, and it has an eternal flame; disappointed to learn the former, interested by the latter.

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The roundabout encircling the Arch is very dangerous to try and cross so it may be accessed through an underground passage which, yes, smelled a little pissy.  If you happen to cross through the passage you may be talked into striking a silly pose:

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At some point after visiting the Arch de Triomphe (this is a post visit account remember) we took a cruise on the Seine where we saw things like this:

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and this:

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cool artwork:

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and a spontaneous dance party erupted on the upper deck where we were complete with people cheering from the banks of the river and a couple of asses mooning us from a bridge.

Following the cruise we visited the Eiffel Tower of which I have only one thought; it’s big, really, really big.

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Honestly,  I had no idea just how large it was.  We were too late to make it all the way to the top, but we were able to make it to the middle level.  (I took some photos, but it was night and they didn’t turn out).

I left out the visit to Notre Dame where the most interesting part to me was seeing this:

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which marks the starting point for all roads in France.  The cathedral is beautiful, but they’re not really my thing. Locating Quasimodo is more of my thing:

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While my introduction to France was a bit stinky, the sights we saw this day were truly amazing.  Next time: “Pickpocket Paradise”.

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