Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A slow start to the day--both of us a little bone-weary from the long walk yesterday. We had been planning to make a little more use of the kitchenette corner in our hotel room, at least for breakfast coffee and croissant, but it has not worked out that way. We did make a cup of tea on awakening--one of the few English habits to which I cling after nearly fifty years of exile from the island of my origin. Instead of breakfast in our room, though, we stopped at a cafe around the corner, on the rue Monge, and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and a shared half of a tartine au beurre (buttered baguette) for the (locally modest) price of 10 euros--fifteen dollars! The same breakfast in our hotel (plus orange juice) costs 8 euros each, or the equivalent of twenty-four dollars. Ah, well...


From the rue Monge, we wandered up towards the Pantheon, pausing for a picture of this ruined section of the 12th century wall that once surrounded this district on the left bank (south side) of the Seine.


Then on to the superb church of St.-Etienne, famed not only as the resting place of Ste. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, but also for this magnificent rood, separating the main aisle from the chancel...


My attention was caught by this panel in a small side chapel...


... memorializing the men of this parish killed "pour la patrie"--for their country--during World War I. A long list, as you can see. I thought of how many churches, how many parishes have such lists, and not only for those who died in WWI, but in WWII. An American woman observed to me what a shame it is that we lack such honoring lists in every church in the United States, and I pointed out that the losses were simply more widespread in our vast country. Here they are concentrated, heartbreaking in their omnipresence and their length. Once again I was reminded of the Wilfred Owen poem, where he angrily exposes that old lie: "Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori" (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.) So many churches, so many lists, so many names of young men who were denied the full length of their lives by human greed, thirst for power, arrogance and inflexibilty.

Anyone familiar with the streets of Paris will have seen dozens of these plaques...


... affixed to the walls of buildings, marking the spot where a resistance fighter was killed by Nazi bullets. Every time I see one, I stop and try to honor one whose courage and tenacity are almost past my understanding.

We walked on to the Pantheon...

... where some of France's great writers and thinkers are laid to rest in pomp and ceremony. Quite a contrast to the little plaque to honor one Alexandre Massiani, known only to his family and friends...


... and through the small back streets...

... and squares...


... to the long, narrow ruse Mouffetard, famous for its markets. Here's a cheese stand to make your mouth water--if you happen to like cheese...


We paused for lunch at a restaurant with one of those "screw you" Paris waitresses who like to let you know how unwelcome you are at their establishment. Actually, these days, you can hardly blame them. The recession has brought about a noticeable staff reduction at many restaurants and hotels, leaving the remainder with the huge job of serving far too many tables for a single human being.

From the restaurant, we walked a short way to check out the hotel we had not chosen, having originally booked there and chosen our present abode for its more convenient location. We decided we would have been equally comfortable at our original choice. And on through the back streets to the Jardin des Plantes, the Parisian version of London's Kew Gardens...


That pink stuff we've been seeing everywhere, is Japanese cherry--why did no one out there remind me? Here it is again...


... a magnificent tree, under which I paused...


... to note down its name! And here's a white one, whose name I also forget...


I do, however, remember the name of these poppoies...


One of the great attraction at the Jardin des Plantes is the Alpine Garden, the entrance to which is a small tunnel, easily overlooked. Fortunately, Ellie had done her usual thorough research and had discovered it mentioned in one of her clippings. A lovely, intimate garden, filled with such treasures as this "Contorta" tree...


... and many other species, some of them rare and ancient. This beautiful marsh plant is what we, as children, called "kingcups."


From the Jardin des Plantes, we walked back along the quais through the Musee de Sculptures en Plein Air--the Museum of outdoor sculpture--with numerous examples of what we used to call "plop art." Here's one of them...


A very lazy end to the day, spent reading in out hotel room with a brief exodus for dinner at a cafe on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. I'm reading an excellent mystery-thriller by one Stieg Laarson--the first of three books he submitted for publication all at once, it seems, before an early death. This one is called "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." The next in the series, according to my son, is due out shortly...

2 comments:

Pete Hoge said...

I spent 3 years in Paris, 1984-87
as a lad...best time of my life...
thanks for the wonderful pictures
that bring up some sentimentality..
but enjoyable enough.

Pete.

Knopf Marketing said...

Dear fellow Stieg Larsson fan,

We’re trying something new for the launch of the second book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.
Run your own Stieg Larsson contest on your blog—for which we will provide the prizes (a free copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire, cool temporary dragon tattoos). The first thirty (30) entrants will get first dibs of the translated manuscript of book three. Below you’ll find the complete rules and regulations.

Click here http://knopfdoubleday.com/blogger-contest-stieg-larsson for contest entry

Visit the Stieg Larsson site http://stieglarsson.net/ for more info

Friend http://www.facebook.com/salander1Lisbeth on Facebook

Follow http://twitter.com/aaknopf us on Twitter

RULES & REGULATIONS
The first 250 bloggers to enter their information (name, blog name, blog URL mailing address, and daytime phone number) will obtain the giveaway material (one (1) copy of The Girl who Played with Fire and a batch of temporary tattoos) to host a sweepstakes on their blog. The first 30 bloggers to enter will also receive (1) copy of the manuscript of the third Stieg Larsson thriller at the time of its in-house release. All applications to participate will have to be received by 11:59 pm (Eastern Daylight Time) on August 15, 2009. U.S. Residents only. Bloggers are solely responsible for the administration of the sweepstakes on their blogs.

Thanks,
The A.A. Knopf Marketing Team