A visit to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have chosen to visit a cemetery but in this case, I’d have missed a gem! Ostensibly heading to the Marais – totally in the opposite direction –  from lunch in 11th, my beloved made it sound as if this impromtu visit was his intention all along!

The cemetery takes its name from King Louis XIV’s confessor, Father François d’Aix de La Chaise. It’s the most prestigious and most visited necropolis in Paris. Situated in the 20th arrondissement, it extends to 44 hectares (110 acres) and contains 70,000 burial plots. It was the first garden cemetery, as well as the first municipal one in Paris. It is also the site of three WWI memorials.

The cemetery is a mix between an English park and a shrine. All funerary art styles are represented: Gothic graves, Haussmanian burial chambers, ancient mausoleums, a columbarium and crematorium etc. etc. A number of famous people are buried here but I confess to not spotting the graves of Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Jean-François Champollion, Jean de La Fontaine, Molière, Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jim Morrison, Alfred de Musset, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro or Oscar Wilde, to name just a few.

Père Lachaise is still accepting new burials however it’s not an easy place to secure a plot. I overheard a guide explaining to a group of tourists that you can only be buried there if you die in the French capital or if you lived there. Allegedly few plots are available but I spotted one or two. The grave sites range from a simple, unadorned headstone to towering monuments and even elaborate mini family chapels about the size and shape of a telephone booth, with just enough space for a mourner to step inside, kneel to say a prayer, and leave some flowers.

The cemetery manages to squeeze an increasing number of bodies into a finite and already crowded space. It does this by combining the remains of multiple family members in the same grave. At Père Lachaise, it is not uncommon to reopen a grave and inter another coffin. Some family mausoleums or multi-family tombs contain dozens of bodies, often in several separate but contiguous graves. Shelves are usually installed to accommodate their remains.

During relatively recent times, the cemetary has adopted the standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on grave sites, so that if a lease is not renewed by a family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new one, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimised. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts Ossuary, in the cemetery.

Although some sources incorrectly estimate the number interred at around 300,000 in Père Lachaise, according to the official website of the city of Paris, over one million people have been buried there. Along with the stored remains in the Aux Morts Ossuary, the number of human remains exceeds 2–3 million – that’s a lot of bones! In addition, there are many more in the Columbarium, which holds the remains of those who opted for cremation.

We only strolled around a very small part of the cemetery but it was surprisingly peaceful and rather serene. I’d happily return for a more expansive tour. Who knows I might even find the resting place of one of those famous names above!

(Another) Postcard from Paris

After a few days in London visiting my hygienist and sister, we caught the Eurostar for a few days in Paris, exploring mainly parts of the 10th, 18th, 20th and 11th arrondissements. As you know we love nothing better than a spot of pavement pounding in Paris. Having extensively trained in Australia, we had no problem walking over 50km (31 miles) in three and a half days. Of course, all that walking just helped us work up a healthy appetite.

Given that I handle all the logistics of any trip and choose where we eat, I allow my beloved to decide what we’ll visit. This time he’d elected to visited Atelier des Lumières again but to see the Van Gogh exhibition. You may recall, we’d previously seen the Klimt one which we’d much enjoyed. Enlarging his works allowed us to more greatly appreciate the finer details. This time we admired Van Gogh’s finely executed brush-strokes.

As we were in 11th arrondissement, it was only right we dined at one of their institutions in rue Paul Bert which is dominated by restaurants owned by two well-known French chefs: Cyril Lignac and Bertrand Auboyneau. The latter has four addresses and we chose his eponymous Bistrot Paul Bert, a tried-and-true classic French bistro serving traditional French cuisine. It more than lived up to its reputation. I also booked Lignac’s nearby Le Chardenoux for Sunday lunch.

Replete, my beloved decided we should walk off lunch around the cemetary Père Lachaise which proved unexpectedly delightful and will be the subject of a further post, not to mention popping up in subsequent Thursday’s Door posts. We made our way back to our hotel for cocktails and nibbles, weary of foot and made plans for the following day.

On Saturday we headed to Montmatre, an area my beloved has never visited and where I first ventured aged 15 and then again probably around 10 years later. We combined it with a visit to the Fêtes des Vendages purely by coincidence since it was set out all around the Sacre Cœur. This annual five-day fête celebrates the grape harvest in Paris’s only remaining and working vineyard, Clos Montmartre. The event is like one big street party, featuring local and artisan producers offering a wide range of French alcoholic beverages and gastronomic treats – lunch sorted!

Having tarried longer than anticipated in Montmartre we slowly wend our way back to our hotel wandering through nearby Batignolles (17th) and Pigalle (9th) stopping only for a restorative cuppa before enjoying cocktails back at the hotel.

On Sunday we strolled in the warm sunshine back to Cyril Lignac’s recently re-opened restaurant Le Chardenoux close by where we’d lunched on Friday. This petite bistro and classified historic monument has a gorgeous hand-painted green foliage ceiling festooned with golden chandeliers. More importantly, the food is fantastic.

After lunch we popped across the road to Lignac’s La Chocolaterie where I treated my beloved to some sublime chocolate and he bought me another cookery book. Thereafter we’d wandered (finally) through the Marais – well-trodden territory – back to our hotel.

Monday morning we decided to investigate the area around the nearby Canal Saint Martin which still has a series of locks with bridges that rise or swing, bringing road traffic to a stand still as barges make their way up to the Canal de l’Ourcq or down to the Seine.

Once an industrial hub, the area is now trendy and dynamic, with creative restaurants, fun fashion, and bars bursting with boisterous crowds. A stroll along the canal from Stalingrad to Richard Lenoir metro stations is a promise of near picture-perfect Paris, complete with picnickers, swans, pétanque players, and even the occasional accordionist.

You might be wondering why we walked so far on our trip. It took Eliud Kipchoge under two hours to run 42.2km a distance which took us just three days to walk around Paris. To be fair though, we weren’t wearing souped up running shoes, nor did we have an army of pacers or had our optimal trajectory outlined by laser. Instead, we’d wandered around according to the dictates of my beloved’s google maps app the veracity of which is doubtful. I’m not calling out Mr Google you understand just the man holding the iPhone who often confuses his left from his right. This tends to matter much when you’re trying to navigate your way around town.

I prefer paper maps and I try to memorise the major roads bisecting the various arrondissements. For example on Sunday, after lunch, my beloved was taking me to the Marais but anyone with any sense (apart from him) knows that once you stray into the 19th or even 20th that you’re most definitely going in the wrong direction! Suffice to say I ended up walking around parts of Paris I’ve never before seen or, frankly, wish to see again.

As is our habitual want, we ate lunch at Le Train Bleu before catching the four o’clock train back home. As always, it was a fun trip and I’m looking forward to our next one.

It’s la Fête nationale today!

In the English speaking world it’s called Bastille Day but here it’s known simply as le 14 juillet. The French national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, a pivotal moment in the French Revolution. What began as an angry mob of anti-monarchists looking for ammunition against royal authoritarianism turned into an enduring symbol of that revolution and today’s national celebration of the French tripartite motto liberté, égalité et fraternité. Celebrations, including firework displays, are typically held throughout France and it heralds the start of the month-long French holidays.

President Macron will be hosting the oldest and largest regular military parade – much envied by Trump who was present last year –  this morning on the Champs Elysees in Paris which is always worth watching, if only on the television. I assume my invite for this year’s celebrations got lost in the post!

 

History of a Parisian foundry

I’m always fascinated by the history of the buildings we visit, particularly those which have been repurposed. On our most recent trip to Paris, both of the exhibitions were in buildings originally built for diffferent purposes.

We visited the Atelier des Lumieres, in Paris set in the former Chemin-Vert foundry in 11th arrondissement, a relatively new area for us to explore. Said foundry was established in 1835 by the Plichon brothers to supply the French navy and railway companies with high-quality cast iron parts.

In all, four generations of the Plichon family successively ran the foundry until the Great Depression in 1929. The company was dissolved in 1935; the site and buildings were sold to the Martin family, who are still the current owners. The foundry was used by a tool manufacturing company until that ceased operations in 2000.

In 2013, Bruno Monnier, the President of Culturespaces, discovered the former disused foundry. After creating the Carrières de Lumières art centre in Les Baux-de-Provence, he wanted to set up a Digital Art Centre in Paris. The Martin family, which was interested in the project, agreed to rent out the great hall and its annexes to him in 2014.

Four years later, after major renovation works, the Atelier des Lumières opened its doors to the public with its three inaugural exhibitions: “Gustav Klimt” and “Hundertwasser”and “POETIC_AI.” It’s most definitely worth a visit.

After visiting the exhibition, I took time to wander around the quarter. Sadly many of us are familiar with the area solely because of the November 2015 terrorist attack which killed 132 people and injured many more. I do know it’s the most densely populated arrondissement in Paris and its bars and restaurants provide an unrivalled convivial atmosphere, a certain “joie de vivre.”

It was here that Parisians began the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789. Today the Colonne de Juillet, the towering golden Corinthian statue commemorating the 1830 Revolution, rests on the site of the old prison at Place de la Bastille.

Place de la République, its sister square, can be found at the oppostite end of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir where crowds tend to gather for political demonstrations. After the afore-mentioned terrorist attacks, this was where Parisians came together to mourn the victims and celebrate French unity. The area is also home to a number of green squares and open places and is a pleasure to walk around despite the lack of obvious landmarks or, maybe, because of that lack!

 

 

Postcard from l’île de la Cité, Paris

The flat we’ve rented in The Marais on our last few trips was booked, so we chose another one nearby, close to the Picasso Museum. A couple of weeks before our arrival, the owner advised there was a problem with the boiler and offered us a replacement (and much larger) flat on l’île de la Cité, on a small road just back from the Seine. We gratefully accepted his offer.

Rue_des_Ursins,_Paris_6_September_2015

The road was a total surprise. It’s a mixture of very old and new jammed into a rue just 113 meters long and four meters wide. Two blocks away from Notre Dame, Rue des Ursins is one of the oldest streets in the city and I understand it’s a popular photo location for fashion and bridal shoots.

We had some interesting neighbours. On the one side the Bureau of Naturalization, located within the Prefecture de Police. Looking closely at the building we could see it also housed the repair shop for all the motorcycle police in Paris. A pretty secure flat we thought except the prefecture closed in the evenings. 

Rue des Ursins Chapelle

On the other side is a seminary which also houses the remains of Chapelle Saint-Aignan.  At one time the island was full of chapels – 23 in fact. But revolutions and changing times have left only Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and this one. The other occupants of the road include a reconstructed home with medieval touches, several apartment buildings and a lawyer’s office.

IMG_8766

The medieval-style building on the corner by the stairs looks like a well-preserved ancient hôtel particulier but it was built in 1958 by architect Fernand Pouillon. A stair leads to a wood, gothic-arched door. The windows above are stained glass. On the other side, the garage door looks like an ancient wood entrance to a fort but holds two cars and is an underground entrance to the hôtel.

IMG_9008 (Edited)

Just past the faux medieval house is a jardinette, a small triangular garden. It is the smallest garden on the island and one of the smallest in Paris. It features two tiger head fountains, a tree and flowers that change depending on the season.

Chapelle Saint-Aignan, founded in 1116, was built in classic Roman architectural style with columns and rounded arches in white stone. The chapel was shut in 1791 and transformed into a barrel store. It did not fare well in the following years and today only the nave is left. It has been restored and seminarians of the diocese generally use it for private worship.

Ursins isn’t even the street’s original name. Indeed it had several when it was part of Port Saint-Landry, the Paris’s first port until the end of the 12th century. Around 1300, three streets had the name Ursins leading from Port Saint-Landry onto the island. They were all named after the hôtel des Ursins once owned by the family of the same name. Its next owners were French who managed the merchants of Paris under Charles VI (1380 – 1422) through Louis XI (1461 – 1483).

In 1881, the names of the other two streets were changed, leaving only this short street running between Rue le la Colombe and Rue des Chantres and parallel to the Quai aux Fleurs. The road’s at the old level of the banks of the Seine and the lowest street on the island.

Rue des Ursins now

At the street corner with Rue des Chantres is a placard that indicates the height of the Seine flood in 1910. The simple green sign says “CRUE Janvier 1910” with a line marking the flood height. Humorous graffiti adds “Poisson” and a happy face, referring to the fish that were no doubt swimming in the flood. Plus, the street sign has had an “O” added in front of “Ursins”, making it read Rue des Oursins. Although technically it translates as “street of sea urchins,” there are pictures of happy, cartoon bears by the name plates, making it a “street of bears.” We saw neither during our stay.
Rue des Ursins 1900

Standing in the street, it’s easy to imagine its history from early sailing port to bustling stores supporting commerce into the city. Even though you can’t buy anything or eat on this short street, it’s a great place to see the blending of old and new Paris. Fortunately for us, there was a great bakery and an excellent small neighbourhood bistro just around the corner.



Friday Photo Fun – romance

CalmKate is right, everyone does love a good romance! So I’m responding to her post and here’s a picture which I think epitomises romance.

We all have very different ideas of romance so why not join in and share what romance means to you either through a photo or words? 

Post a photo or get creative about romance … it’s in the air!

My photo is of a bride and her father on the way to her marriage in Paris, the city of romance.

Come on the more the merrier, please share and read each others photo posts!

#NoWordsWednesday Challenge

I’ve responded to this challenge from MesMots to post a picture of nature (preferably unedited) without any caption/words/poem and let the natural beauty of the shot speak for itself.

If you want to join in with this challenge share the link of your post in comments section of Mes Mots blog and they’ll declare one of us the lucky winner on Sunday 6 January 2019.

Have fun…………….

Holiday photos: day 14

We were in the Basque country which I always say is green for a reason! The day after France’s triumph in the World Cup final, the heavens opened. It wasn’t cold, but it did pour down. We watched the rain battering the hotel, which is adjacent to the beach, from the warmth of the surprisingly quiet Thalasso Spa. Goodness knows where the other guests had gone.

On a day totally bereft of any sporting action, what were we to do? There’s only so long you can enjoy the Spa facilities before you wrinkle like a prune. Fortunately we were able to grab a few walks in between the showers for which we were fully prepared with umbrellas and anoraks. You can take the Brit out of Britain, but old habits die hard and all that………

Salvation came in the form of a report from Paris showing the incredible parade of the World Cup victors in their open top bus progressed along the Champs Elysees, before  a reception at the Elysee Palace with family, friends and M Le Pres. Wonderful scenes in the garden of the Palais as the players and Macron  mingled with hordes of children all eager for autographs and selfies. It’s been a wonderful three-day celebration for France.

More Postcards from Paris III

The temperature dropped on Saturday so we broke out the cashmere and thermals! The previous days, we’d seen signs all around Le Marais for “Brocante” which is one up from a “Vide-Grenier” (aka Car Boot Sale). On Saturday morning, when we headed to our favourite traiteur, we discovered that there were stalls the length of Rue de Bretagne and around its gardens. We had a look at a few of the stalls to see if they had some interesting glassware or silver but most stalls had what might politely be called an eclectic mix of goods that wasn’t to our taste. We stopped off for a coffee at one of the many neighbourhood brasseries and reminisced about the car boot sale I’d gone to before we moved to France.

My two sisters, from time to time, use car boot sales to off load stuff they no longer want. Meanwhile I had no intention of paying to ship to France stuff I hadn’t used for ages. One of my sisters suggested we went to a popular car boot sale, not far from my parent’s place. But on the Sunday, after we’d dragged everything up from London to my parents, there was no car boot sale being held nearby. This forced us to head to a much larger one in central Birmingham. I’m not sure why but my father decided to come with us and lend a helping hand.

On the advice of my sisters, I’d parcelled up matching sets of stuff which sold quickly along with all the electricals, irrespective of whether or not they worked. I’d also decided to get rid of all my unwanted gifts. Admit it, we all have them. These were the ones I’d be too embarrassed to recycle but they proved surprisingly popular.

My Dad turned out to be a natural salesman charming everyone, particularly all the mature ladies, to part with their dosh. Though he did say afterwards it would be his one and only appearance at a car boot sale. It was a huge success with people literally buying stuff as we unpacked it. We dropped the last few remnants off at a charity shop but our rubbish had netted us over £400!

After a spot of food shopping, we lunched on moules and frites in another nearby brasserie. The moules were delicious. I rarely order them as all too often I find them overcooked and rubbery, but not here. Batteries re-charged, we continued our walk around the area, surprised to find a few roads which we’d previously overlooked around the village of St Paul and Ile Saint-Louis. Both are havens of tranquillity that lie between the rue de Rivoli and the Seine.

St Paul appears to be popular with antique dealers and features some of the old walls of Paris from 11th and 12th centuries and a few very old properties. In addition there are further Hôtels which have been repurposed as museums, libraries and other civic buildings.

We crossed over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis, famous for its pricey real-estate and Berthillon ice-cream, though it was far too cold to try any of the latter. We continued to the Ile de la Cité and the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a 12th century Gothic masterpiece. It has not long been cleaned, helping to highlight its architectural richness and the colour of its stone. Heading back towards the Seine, we find even more Hôtels sandwiched between 1950s stone buildings inspired by their surrounding classical references.

Chilled, we decide to warm ourselves up with some tea at Mariage Frères on the way back to the flat. We love their tea, particularly the lovely floral Marco Polo range. My beloved was tempted by the delicious array of pastries but didn’t succumb. Again, we opted for a night in with an array of nibbles and an excellent bottle of wine.

We headed back to Nice the following day, dining in Le Train Bleu before boarding the train. We’d had another lovely break and vowed to have more next year. After all, you can never see too much of Paris, can you?