Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 11: Paris (Sept. 27)

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

On my last day in Paris, I started with the dead and finished with a boat ride down the Seine.

I've wanted to visit the Catacombs as soon as I heard about it. Basically, it's where they stored the skeletal remains of hundreds of thousands of bodies when they dug up the cemeteries to make room for city expansion. They are arranged by cemetery, but rather than just dump bodies, they actually stacked the bones artistically with skulls and arm/leg bones making patterns on the walls. Fascinating yet creepy. Stood in line for nearly 90 minutes waiting to get in - they limit the number of people in the catacombs at a time - with some people from Pittsburgh who flew to Paris just to see the Jimmy Buffett concert the night before (and had I known, I would have gone). Turns out one of them, Marcia, was a big Springsteen fan and has been on E-Street Radio with Dave Marsh. But I lost track of them in the tombs and then took the train over to Rue Cler, which is a lovely street with markets and shops, a great place to kill time just wandering from shop to shop. There were some amazing pastries but I had to stop at Amorino for gelato (I got one mini-scoop of chocolato grand cru Ecuador, one of vaniglia bourbon dell Madagascar, and one of caramello al burro salato - Mmm mm good!). Passed a cheese shop and all I could think of was the Monty Python sketch.

With a late start and the Catacombs taking up more time than I planned, I had to drop the Paris Sewer Tour off my list and spend as much time as I needed at Les Invalides, the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb. First went through some French military history since the Middle Ages and then went to the tomb in the back. There are other military heroes entombed here too, like World War I general Foch. The other side of the museum has French history (along with uniforms, weaponry, and other memorabilia) from the 19th century and how it put the First World War into perspective.

Unfortunately the train that I wanted to take from Invalides to the Pont de l'Alma for the Bateau Mouches wasn't working, so I had to walk and take a bus, which made me miss the 7:00pm boat ride (which in turn made me late for dinner later). However, the sun was just setting so we got some great dusk views of the Seine and buildings on the river from the Eiffel Tower up to Notre Dame. The boat goes from the Pont d'Alma and turns around past Ile St Louis, then goes to the Eiffel Tower before coming back, and this cruise took about 75 minutes. I used a color oversaturation filter on my camera which really made the blues and oranges of sunset pop out. A great end to a few days in Paris.

After the boat ride, I met my cousins Matthew and Antoine for dinner. They both live in Paris, but Matthew is from Philadelphia and Antoine was born and raised in Paris. Each of us is the descendant of the three brothers who left Kishinev for Paris in 1898. Antoine's great-great-grandfather stayed in Paris when Matthew's went to Philadelphia and my great-great-grandfather's family went to New York (he had died and was buried in Paris before he could emigrate). We had a couple of beers talking and getting to know each other (although they already did) and then went for dinner at a restaurant near my apartment (I had pepper steak with an apple tart for dessert).

Glad I spent as much time as I did in Paris; I could have stayed another couple of days, I think, if I wanted to. Au revoir!

Today's photo set is here on Flickr.

(Originally posted on 10/2/11 at 2:34am, Copenhagen)

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