Parisienne walkways. And big stacks-o-femurs.
We went to Paris in May. “We” is the trio of Bruce, Ange & myself. We didn’t all start in the same place – I started in London, and Bruce & Ange started in Agen, the part of the south of France where they live. I got to Paris before they did, so I had a bit of time to do some wandering around. Paris is a city which lends itself to being wandered around, and before I knew it I’d wandered about 6 miles.
Anyway the interesting bit was that we’d decided the first thing to do would be to go to the Paris Catacombs and check them out. “Interesting”, that is, if your idea of a good time is standing around queueing in the rain for a couple of hours. The rain, and the standing around, ceased eventually and we descended the stairs into the catacombs – I was hoping for a labyrinthine honeycomb of chambers, however it turns out that this is a former quarry which has been covered over, making it not so much “catacombs” as a big long subterranean tunnel. It is, however, completely chock-full of bones though – thousands upon thousands of thigh and arm bones stacked up nice & regularly, and garnished with skulls. The former owners of these were all plague victims buried at Les Innocents cemetery, who were then relocated to this former quarry after the cemetery started overflowing.
It’s Very Odd Indeed to be walking around amid the remains of so many people – it really gives you a sense of both your own mortality and statistical insignificance in a far more acute way than walking around in a massive crowd does. The de-individualism of individuals: thousands, maybe millions of people, not only removed from personal recognition by sheer volume, but also from their reduction to humanity’s very infrastructure – the skeleton. There was something beautiful about the way that the people tasked with stacking the bones had elected to arrange them in a decorative but not ostentatious way, such that you got the impression it was a respectful and compassionate means of interring these people. And as usual, respect & compassion were 2 qualities somewhat lacking by our fellow tourists, who were eschewing the direction to not use flash photography, and snapping away at each other posing in front of the stacks of bones.
After wandering amid human remains, we did what anyone would do as an intuitive next move – went in search of lunch! In this case, a very nice outdoor-seated environment for Heineken and tagines. Sadly they weren’t able to come up with a pigeon tagine, as their menu had (emptily) promised.
For the rest of the afternoon we ambled about, looking at some of the variety of Parisian architecture & pretty stuff. There’s no two ways about it – the place is frigging beautiful! It’s got some weird aspects to it – such as the amount of gravel you seem to walk over – but it seems that every turn of the corner in the middle of Paris reveals some beautiful bit of architecture, or quaint scene. You can really see why people fall in love with the place.
Speaking of beautiful arcitecture, we thought it a good idea to swing by Notre Dame seeing as Bruce & Ange hadn’t seen it before. Managed not to fall asleep on a bench out the front this time, too.
The focal point & justification of the excursion was to head to Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet to experience a concert by the incomparable Bobby McFerrin. I might have mentioned him a few times – it’s safe to say that I’m a bit of a fan. This evening’s concert was no exception, with McFerrin starting out in his typical way by improvising a few tunes; at times involving the enthusiastic Parisian crowd. The gig pretty much followed the same format that the South Bank one did, involving musical guests, audience participants, and both improv & rehearsed numbers by McFerrin. One of the things he did was the piece which appears to have taken the web by storm recently, described as “The Power of the Pentatonic Scale”.
Powerful or not, it was sure fun to be a part of.
On Sunday after a lazy breakfast on the Boulevard du Beaumarchais we found our way over to the Pompidou Centre to get our fill of contemporary art. I was particularly hoping to show them my favourite sculpture ever, a mirrored box by Man Ray, however I couldn’t remember where it was and I have a sneaking suspicion that bit was being renovated. A whistlestop tour of the galleries was the order of the day, but we couldn’t resist the pull of the sunny weather outside and the opportunity to sit by a fountain & sip a cold beer or 2.
And of course what’s a trip to Paris without a quick buzz over to La Tour Eiffel? As far as temporary structures go, it’s pretty impressive. We started up at the Ecole Militaire, which I’d mistaken for the building on the other side, because I was thinking that photos from the steps would be good, but photos along the grass were just as nice.
With departure in sight I escorted the Alcorns back to the train station, before finding my own way back to Gare du Nord, and grabbing the Eurostar back. Must go back to Paris soon. Lovely spot.
Also, a good tip for young players is that if you’re going to buy your Eurostar tickets using Nectar points, it’s a good idea to double-check whether the Monday immediately following your weekend is a public holiday, because that means you can get an extra night on your free trip. As it was, I didn’t, it was, so I didn’t.