lundi 1 août 2011

Week VI, Tour de France

This week starts with a second visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to see some celebrity tombs that we were too worn out to see last time around.  We took the bus to Place Gambetta and entered the level section at the top of the cemetery.
     First off, Oscar Wilde.  He doesn't quite have the cachet of a rock star like Jim Morrison, so his tomb is unguarded, with the result that it is heavily covered with scribblings and lipstick prints.  Quite a tomb for a guy who died in poverty!  Also in this area are Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand.  These were easy to find.  A little time in the Columbarium led us to the niche containing Isadora Duncan.  We had to step around a movie crew.
Oscar Wilde's tomb

Crew filming

     At home we had a little excitement when firemen showed up and broke into an apartment across the street.  here was no fire, so it may have been a medical rescue.
Rescue operation?
     Next day's adventure was to the top of Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  The metro stop at Chateau Rouge deposited us in the African part of Paris.  The climb up a couple of streets didn't seem too bad, but then we encountered stairs, and more stairs, and more stairs to get up to the church.  The weather was fortunately cool.  Entering the basilica itself through a crowd and no hand rails required some delicate balancing.  Ditto for the descent.  Views of Paris were quite grand.  A jaunt over to the Place du Tertre cured us of ever wanting to see it again - jam packed with crowds and schlocky art for sale.  A walk down the grand staircase was out of the question, given the presence of a funicular.  The walk from the base of the funicular to the nearest Metro stop was also a slog through endless tourist schlock.
Two of seven flights of stairs to Sacre Coeur

Paris from the top of Montmartre
     Next day we braved a museum.  The Marmottan, way over in the 16th, has plenty of impressionist art, primarily by Monet.  We came early, and the museum is out of the way of most tourists, so we had a pleasant uncrowded visit without too much climbing of stairs.  The building and its interiors are preserved in their 19th century state, and a pleasant garden could be seen from many windows.  Well, we were right next to the Bois de Boulogne, so I had to go into it.  The Bois has many attractions but is very large so on foot we saw very little of it.  We were constrained to end up at a metro stop not too far away, so we saw a bit of a charming lake, then trudged a mile or so along wooded paths to to Metro at Porte Maillot.  Near the metro we passed through a charming little park dedicated to WWII resistance fighters.  Outings into the Bois would be better from bus stops.
Lake in Bois de Boulogne
     Next day we vowed to do an easy walk, so we chose a little exploration in the left bank.  In a passage near the Odeon we ran across Cafe Procope, which, in spite of its present name, was the first in the world to call itself a restaurant.  After a coffee, we were restored to the point that, what the hell, we'd walk home.  There was some rain, but this showed off Carolee's orange umbrella to advantage.  Crossing the river we noted the not very auspicious opening day of Paris Plage, which is a sort of beach set up along the Seine every summer.
World's first and oldest restaurant

Over coffee, looking like a zany ecclesiastical

Notre Dame and Carolee a l'orange

Opening day of Paris Plage
     Still hoping for an easy day, we took the Metro to the 6th to relax on a Sunday in the Luxembourg Garden.  We didn't muster up enough energy to cruise down and back the park's beautiful southern extension, the Avenue de l'Observatoire.  So we took a picture.  Rehydrating with some expensive water, we walked along the eastern part of the Garden, where we caught a fine view of the Pantheon.  Exiting north, we passed by the Theatre de l'Odeon on our way to the Metro at Saint Michel.  Here we ran into enormous crowds, and it finally dawned on us that they were assembled to see the end of the Tour de France.  Furthermore, the metro was blocked off (safety reasons, we think) and we quickly realized that there was no way to get across the Seine until the race had passed by.  So we relaxed in the Square Viviani just across from Notre Dame and became spectators of the Tour de France.  Our timing was lucky, because things were starting to happen.  First came many, many support vans carrying bicycles.  Official vehicles and police were mixed in.  Finally a roar from the crowd told us the main pack of riders were near: 5 seconds and they had already passed by.  Then came some of the stragglers, who were met with cries of "Courage, courage."  Support vehicles continued to pass by, also more stragglers, and finally ordinary people who were following along on their bicycles.  In a minute or two the police removed the metal barricades and we were free to cross.  What the hell, we walked home again.
Luxembourg Garden, sunny

Avenue de l'Observatoire

Pantheon, Statue of Greek actor

Theatre de l'Odeon

Spectators of the Tour de France, final leg.
Next day I rested,  Carolee found, in her exploration, a monument to the establishment of the standard unit of length, the meter.
Plaque commemorating establishment of the meter

The meter itself
     Next day, still taking it easy, I nevertheless walked along the Promenade Plantee to take a couple of photos of the remarkable cornice of a building.  I believe they copied Michelangelo's Slave.

Slaves, view from right

Slaves, view from left

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