Monthly Archives: December 2023

My second day in Paris – and “Best Laid Plans…”

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A view of (or from) the Sacred Heart Basilica – when Paris weather isn’t drenching you with rain….

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December 13, 2023 – The last post covered my first day in Paris, last September 11. Though it was more like my first two days, or one long day. Technically that included one last Sunday in the U.S. for a month. Or you could define it as between my shower Sunday morning before church and the chance to take one Tuesday afternoon. (“Circumstances beyond my control.”)

Either way, that long “day” – or two – included last-minute packing on Sunday (“oh darn, I forgot!”), getting to Hartsfield airport in Atlanta three hours ahead of time, then flying out at 6:30 p.m. and getting to Paris at 9:15 Monday morning. That middle part of a long day Included six time changes (flying east over the Atlantic), plus a red-eye flight where I got maybe 30 or 40 minutes of real sleep. (If that.) So I got to Paris Monday morning nice and jet-lagged.

That post also covered my first morning in Paris, where – hiking to my hotel – I somehow got shunted off Boulevard Voltaire and onto Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. (I finally had to ask directions.) And – after all that – trying to take a nap, once I found my tiny garret (of sorts), a nap interrupted by incessant hammering across the alley. Then in the afternoon hiking down to Gare de Lyon, from where I’d be leaving early Wednesday morning. (And stopping on the hike back “at a cute little bistro at the corner of Av. Daumesnil … and AC Ledru Rollin. A block or two above Gare de Lyon, which I just checked out.”) Which brings up my second day in Paris.

One thing I wanted to do this Paris-visit was hike up to Basilique du Sacré Cœur, in Montmartre, home of the famed Moulin Rouge. The Basilica sits high atop a hill, with a tower said to offer spectacular views of the city. (For a small fee.) I’d also read that to do that you had to get there before noon. So, Tuesday September 12, I got up early and headed up. (After first stopping at a cafe around the corner – on Boulevard Voltaire – for a good French breakfast.)

I note in a later post that to see such spectacular views you generally have to pay a price. (Often quite a high price.) Which brings up some things about that “spectacular view of Paris.” The Basilica (of Sacred Heart) stands “proudly atop” Montmartre hill, which itself stands 426 feet high. So just getting to the top of the hill meant walking up four separate sets of of long steep step-stairs. But I figured it was both good exercise and good training for the upcoming 150-mile hike in the Cevennes. Then came another problem. Here’s what I wrote later:

Ah, the romance of Paris! Like, hike an hour to Montmartre and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart – highest point in the city, with a great view – and have it start pouring [down rain] the minute you get there… Then hike back to your tiny flat, sopping wet, but stopping along the way for two steaming cafe cremes. And a hard-bread ham and cheese sandwich…. And figure at least you don’t have to wash your clothes in the sink tonight. (Except for your “delicate.”) The clothes you’ve worn since leaving Atlanta.

Which brings up a need for some explanation. For one thing, just before noon the line to get into the Basilica doubled back and around the entrance. Meaning at least an hour’s wait, but since I didn’t want to stand in the rain that long – I’d found some shelter under some trees close by – I opted out of that adventure. (“Maybe some other time.”) For another thing, that “pouring down rain” was the first kind-of shower I’d had since leaving home Sunday. (Monday was busy, and the shower-plus-WC was a half-flight up, between the fourth and fifth floors.)

Another note: I had packed a heavy-duty bright yellow galvanized rubber rain jacket, mostly because the forecast for Paris on Monday was for heavy rain. (Also for Lyon the day I got there.) But I didn’t take it with me when I hiked up to the Basilica. Mostly because the weather didn’t look too bad when I left my little garret. (“A lesson for all you young kids out there!”)

Anyway, heading home from the Basilica I hiked through more rain, but not quite as bad. Besides, I was already soaked. So halfway back I stopped at another sidewalk cafe – for which Paris is famous – with a covered patio and a view outside. I wanted to sit out some of the rain, and enjoy two steaming cafe cremes (“to ward off evil spirits”). Plus I’d worked up an appetite so I also had another hard-bread ham sandwich. (Mostly because I could understand that limited part of the French-only menu.) And again spent time watching the passers-by. Which brings up the essence of Paris: To me it’s sitting at a sidewalk cafe, watching people and jotting in a notebook. Like Hemingway. Which I did at least seven times this trip to Paris. (Though if he were alive today, “Hem” would probably be posting notes on Facebook to the folks back home.)

Once back at my tiny apartment I took a hot shower – in the one bathroom between two floors – then hiked back up Boulevard Voltaire. I’d seen a Laundry Self Service at Number 48, and there dried my wet clothes and ball cap. Then took another nap, this one more successful.

Refreshed from my nap, I headed west on Rue Sedaine, over to Bd. Richard-Lenoir, which I now knew fairly well. Without too much trouble I found Gare de Lyon and checked the surrounding area. (Lots of cafes nearby in case I got there early Wednesday morning.) On the way back I stopped at another cafe, for a beer. (“Hey, I’d done a lot of hiking.”)

And speaking of hiking: Counting Monday I had hiked some 15 miles in two days, including that two-mile hike down from Gare du Nord carrying a 20-pound backpack…

Later still, on the hike back from Gare de Lyon, I found the French equivalent of a mini-mart. I wanted something to tide me over in case I got hungry or thirsty during the night. (In case the jet lag interrupted my sleep patterns.) I got a 16-ounce bottle of water, but the only reasonably-priced “food” I could interpret from the French was a good-sized bag of croutons. (Which tasted amazingly good when I did wake up in the middle of the night.)

Anyway, back at my garret I checked Google Maps. (The place had decent internet.) Another place I wanted to see was Pere Lachaise, a famous cemetery where Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and many French notables are buried. By this time it was near 5:30, so I headed east, knowing what road to take. (A block south on Bd. Voltaire, then east on Rue de la Roquette. “Piece o’ cake!”) But as shown that morning, “The best laid plans o’ mice and men, gang aft aglay!”

Which is being interpreted: I got to the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery pretty quick, just a little after 6:00 p.m. Only to find out that it closed at 6:00. “Who the heck closes a famous cemetery at 6:00 on a summer’s eve?” So I did the next best thing. I saw a Pere Lachaise Bistro across the street, so I stopped in there for a bit of a nightcap. There I sampled two La Goudales, an amusing French beer-brew that eased my disappointment.

But I couldn’t stay for a third. I had to get up early next morning to catch that 9:30 train from Gare de Lyon down to Le Puy en Velay. (To meet up with my Cevennes hiking companions.) So I got home and set the alarm for 6:30. Then got up that early, to arrive at Gare de Lyon, also nice and early, only to find that that “gang aft agley” thing had struck again.

Which is a story for next time…

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Get to “La Pere” too late? There’s always “La Pere Lachaise” across Bd. de Ménilmontant

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The upper image is courtesy of View From Basilica Of The Sacred Heart Paris – Image Results. I originally posted my photo of the ‘spectacular’ of Paris, high atop Montmartre Hill.” But the platform kept screwing it up and taking it off. (Technical terms used by bloggers.) My photo showed the view on a rainy day – the day I got rained on – and I noted, “You can barely see the Eiffel Tower, on the horizon, about a fourth of the way in from the left.The full caption read, My ‘spectacular’ view of Paris, high atop Montmartre Hill, by the ‘Sacred Heart‘ Basilica…

Re: “Last post.” “The last time I saw Paris?” – Just this past September!

For some interesting reading Google “due to circumstances beyond control.” I remember the phrase from some old Bug Bunny cartoons.

Re: Garret – Wikipedia. Technically that’s a “room or unfinished part of a house just under the roof.” My room on Rue Sedaine had a couple of floors above it.

I borrowed from Sacré-Coeur de Paris, the must-see basilica at the top of Montmartre Hill.

Re: “Best laid plans.” See Best Laid Plans – Origin & Meaning – GRAMMARIST, noting the Robert Burns poem with the line, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” The rest of the thought, “An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, / For promised joy.” The expression “conveys that one should not expect things to always turn out as planned.” Indeed.

Re: “La Goudale.” According to Wikipedia, “La Goudale is a bière de garde which was originally brewed in Douai (northern France) by Les Brasseurs de Gayant. The brewery has since moved to Arques. Its name derives from “good ale”, the name given to local ales in the 14th century.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pere Lachaise Bistro Paris – Image Results. And speaking of “Pere Lachaise,” Garry Wills mentioned it in his book “Lincoln at Gettysburg – The Words that Remade America,” G.K. Hall and Co., 1992, Chapter 2, “Gettysburg and the Culture of Death.” (I just happened to be reading that part while working on this post.) Wills wrote of Edward Everett, the orator who spoke for two hours before Lincoln, and of the “rural cemetery” movement. That movement reflected “changing attitudes toward death” in 19th century America. “Images of hope and immortality were popular in rural cemeteries in contrast to the puritanical pessimism depicted in earlier cemeteries.” (One such was the cemetery at Gettysuburg.) Another orator noted “the surroundings of nature combined with art as exhibited in the cemeteries of Pere Lachaise and Mt. Auburn … and other celebrated burial places of the dead.” But of course all this is a “rabbit trail,” contrary to “that UCC – unity and coherence crap,” which is why I put this in the notes.

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