Really, there is so much to do and see here that I need to post every week or I’ll forget.
After my epic day in Bayeux I wanted to take it a little bit easy so i just spent the next day wandering around the 4th Arrodisement. For those who don’t know the arrondisements are the districts of Paris. I live in the 18th, which is really multicultural and crazy, Montmartre is also in the 18th. the 4th contains Notre Dame Cathedral and the Pompidou centre, but is also one of the oldest parts of Paris, with lots of little winding streets and cool shops. a lot of it is a bit touristy, but if you get of the main streets there are heaps of tiny café’s and vintage stores. i didn’t buy anything, just spent the day having a look around and exploring, but i will be making another trip, believe me.
in the 4th
I work Monday to Friday in the week, so I don’t really have a chance to see much except on weekends. that said, just the experience of walking amongst all the Haussman buildings is exciting, they really define the city in popular imagination. also, the public transport here is so good that it’s almost fun to catch the underground metro in the mornings, but only if I’ve had my coffee.
There is a fantastic fruit and veg fruit market near my apartment every sunday morning, and I try to hit it every week (I’ll try to remember to take photos next time). It’s great because the food is really fresh and cheap, but everyone, even the other customers, laugh at me when I try to order in French so I stick to English most of the time. The bread here is, as expected, superb even the crap bread is delicious.
It turns out I’m a fashion photographer now. one of my house mates is a fashion blogger and I’ve been taking the photos for her. check it out here http://themarimorenashow.com/
This weekend I spent Saturday wandering around the 16th, which is where Trocadero Palace is. you may think you don’t know what that is, but you do. it’s the place where the really famous view of the Eiffel Tower is, you know the view, this one http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_-_view_from_Palais_de_Chaillot_(roof_of_the_Mus%C3%A9e_de_l’homme)_-_Eiffel_tower.jpg I didn’t take a photo cause i this there must already be several million in existence, we don’t need another one.
Word of warning, do not get a coffee in the tourist areas, all of the café’s near here charged at least 6 euros for a plain white coffee, that $10 Australian. Total rip-off. Another tip for coffee is that if you drink it standing at the bar in the cafe it will only cost you 1 or 2 euro, whereas if you decide to sit down it will cost more, if you want to sit outside it is more again.
I spent some time on Saturday at the Mona Bismarck centre for American Art http://monabismarck.org/?lang=fr. they are currently having an exhibition of art by Alex Ross, one of my favourite comic book artists. I really enjoyed it, and once again the gallery is in a really beautiful building. Hey lets just agree that every time I don’t specifically say the building is ugly, you guys imagine it as a stunning piece of nineteenth century architecture, OK? good.
I spent some time this weekend at Passy Cemetery and Montmartre Cemetery. In the early nineteenth century all of the existing cemeteries in Paris were closed and four were created at what, at that time, was the outskirts of the city. These cemeteries are a really strange mix of old and new, some of the graves are very old and dilapidated, almost ruins, whilst some of them are only a couple of years old. Montmartre was particularly strange because there is a road bridge over the top of it, they just put the bridge piles down amongst the mausoleums. also, the cemeteries are full of feral cats, they are everywhere, just watching you. creepy.
on Sunday afternoon I visited Basilica St Denis. This enormous and spectacular Gothic cathedral was redeveloped in the 12th century from the existing 8th century abbey. the church is said to be over the site of St Denis’s grave. St. Denis was martyred in Paris in the 3rd century when he came here preaching Christianity and he is said to have picked his head up after being decapitated, walked ten kilometres, and preached a sermon the entire way. there are a lot of paintings of him as a headless, ambulatory, corpse.
Anyway, this is one of the first true Gothic churches in the world and, honestly, one of the nicest I have ever been to. some of the stained glass is original, making it nearly 900 years old. this is especially unusual in France because during the revolutions everybody was breaking the windows in churches to get at the lead for making bullets.
Although the dome is only 29m high (not that big for a gothic cathedral) the architectural tricks and visual illusions used make it look much higher, also it is freezing inside.
What makes St Denis really special is that all but three of the kings of France are buried here, all the way from ClovisI in 511 to LouisXVIII in 1824, along with dozens of queens, princes, princesses and friends. seriously. guys. that’s like 1400 years of concentrated royalty in one place.
and the grave markers are seriously over the top.you cant see it but on this one the statue faithfully copies the kings body exactly as it looked after autopsy. there is seriously a great big hole in this guys stomach
and this is the tomb of Francis I, king from 1515 to 1547, around the bottom is his army, dressed as Romans but using cannon, cause he was just that good!
and this is his heart! seriously, all of the kings used to get three graves, one for their heart, one for their intestines, and one for their bodies.
and this is an actual dried up child’s heart on display.
it belongs to Louis the XVII and is rather a sad story. he was the Dauphin at the time of the French revolution. when his mum and dad (Marie Antionette and Louis XVI) were executed he became king at age 8. he was imprisoned and became ill as a result of extreme neglect, he died on June 8 1795 from Tubercolosis Cervical Lymphadenitis, which would not have been fatal if he had not been immune compromised from neglect. he was only 10 years old. his heart was preserved by the doctor who performed the Autopsy on his body before he was thrown into a mass grave, it was DNA tested in 2000 and results confirmed it was his.this small part of him is now buried next to his parents.
during the revolution most of the bodies were exhumed and thrown into mass graves, the valuables they had been buried with were stolen and their metal coffins melted down. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the basilica restored form the damage it had suffered in the revolution but it was LouisXVIII that ordered all of the remains returned to the cathedral and placed into an ossuary as there was no way to distinguish whose was whose.
as you can see , the necropolis here extends much further that the fancy royal tombs. is is possible that one of these coffins belonged to St Denis himself, although it is now impossible to tell. many of these undoubtedly date to Roman times. there are literally hundreds of people buried here, a complete record of catholic burial practices since the beginning of Catholicism in France. this is a truly incredible record of the history and beliefs of this part of the world. the Basilica of St Denis is an absolute necessity on any trip to France.
also, all of this stuff. ask me when i get home.
oh, a Paris is really beautiful in the spring. they really love their cherry trees.