Thursday, 26 January 2012

Joyeux Australie Jour! (Or however you say it)

While we were thinking enviously of the BBQ's back home that we would be missing out on, it was also our final full day in Paris today! I am not ready to leave this city. I love it. No, more than that, I am in love with it. I could easily live here. Not forever; I love Melbourne/Australia too much, but being here for just the week has made me really want to learn French and I would adore coming back here for a year or so just to absorb the culture. So we tried to pack a lot in today and succeeded pretty damn well.

Firstly, Alfie, Cara and I headed back to Pere Lachaise cemetery. I have wanted a photo smooching Oscar Wilde's grave for ages and I was going to spit if I left Paris without one, particularly having stayed in an apartment so close to it. We took photos of Balzac's grave, Oscar Wilde's grave (obligatory kisses included), Edith Piaf's grave, the Holocaust memorials, the graves of Gertrude Stein and Jim Morrison, and I tried to find the grave of Jean-Dominique Bauby (the guy with locked-in syndrome who wrote 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly') but I couldn't see it. It is really one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen, and we had early morning sunshine dripping across the sky and the effect was amazing. Then we met up with Sean and headed to Notre Dame! I had been to the cathedral 4 years ago during my previous visit and was excited to see it again, but this time our Paris Pass gave us access to the towers for free. Yayyyy! So we gave our lactic acid a good workout and chugged up the steps to look out over the city and chill with the gargoyles. We got some awesome pics and the views were amazing. The cathedral is going to be 850 years old next year and there are some exciting restoration works going on. We went and took photos with the huge bell and even heard it ringing. There was this kid FREAKING OUT because he was so afraid of the bell. The poor thing was practically hyperventilating just standing near it because he was so scared it would make a noise. Afterwards, we walked to Saint Chappelle, but the line was huge and we were limited for time so we had to give it a miss unfortunately. Cara and Alfie went to check out the archaelogical crypt underneath Notre Dame and Sean and I went to walk up along the Seine. The bridge from Sex and the City is just up from Notre Dame. I mentioned earlier in my blog that it is known as the 'Love Bridge' and is covered in padlocks with lovers names on them. We were in Paris, the beautiful city of lights, love and art, so yes. Yes, I bought a padlock, found a marker, and wrote 'Emily et Sean' on it. If you think that's cheesy, go jump in the Seine. It's romantic, dammit. Sean, being the obliging, lovely man he is, came with me and we locked it onto the bridge and threw the keys into the river for good luck. It was awesome. Then we found amazing baguettes and got onto the train to Montmartre with Cara and Alfie.

Montmartre, the uber bohemian part of Paris with the little winding roads and cheese shops and patisseries and artists and writers and lovers, is gorgeous. I had only experienced a fraction of it last time, but was determined to see more of it this trip. For anyone who has seen 'Amelie', the entire film is set in Montmartre. The free tour of Paris we did on the first day here runs a tour of Montmartre for 10 euros and it was worth every cent. We arrived at the meeting point to discover we had the same guide as we had on our free tour, Naomi, which was fantastic because she was so much fun, extremely knowledgeable and very easy to chat to. We began in the red-light district at the Moulin Rouge, the location of the invention of the can-can dance and the striptease. I went to the Moulin Rouge the last time I was here and it was an experience. It was almost a bit too cheesy for me...I think I expected it to be more like the movie. But I'm glad I went. I just don't feel the need to fork out over 100 euro for another trip. After the Moulin Rouge, we headed up toward the Sacre Coeur Basilica, stopping at lots of fascinating places along the way. First was THE CAFE FROM AMELIE. Holy moley that was exciting!! Apparently the director, Jeunet, wanted the manager to shut down the cafe for four months over summer to shoot his movie. The manager told him to get lost. Jeunet came back every day for 18 months until the manager caved. Amelie was a smash-hit and now the cafe does amazing business. Then we saw some graffiti from Miss.Tic, one of the pioneers of street-art, spurred by vengeance on a former lover. Next we stopped at the house where Vincent Van Gogh used to live. You can't go in or anything, but its pretty cool to stand in front of it. There is a little plaque above the doorway and it is on a busy, picturesque corner of Montmartre. 

Then we headed up to 'Moulin de la Galette' which is the only windmill left in Paris. When the Romans decided to starve Paris out, the most effective way was to burn down all the windmills, rather than burn the crops, because the crops were useless without the windmills. The owner of Moulin de la Galette was so incensed, he ran out with a pitchfork and threatened the Romans. They chopped him into pieces and put him on each wing of the windmill. Very ghoulish and horrible. But then they got paid to leave the city and left before burning the Moulin de la Galette. The people of Paris honoured this martyr who ran out to threaten the Romans by having a huge party every Sunday night at the Moulin de la Galette. Go Paris! After that, we walked up to a square named after a writer called Marcel Ayme. He also lived in Montmartre and wrote a famous story about a man who could walk through walls. There is a sculpture of this character, quite literally walking through a wall. We saw a statue of Saint-Denis, 'the Headless Saint' and then we saw a statue of a very beautiful woman called Dalida. She was a performer and her three husbands killed themselves and then she did the same thing. So much tragedy in Montmartre! It is good luck to touch the breasts of the Dalida statue. So I did. They were cold and statue-y. We went to Le Maison Rose, which is a restaurant frequented by Van Gogh. He used to go there twice a day! It wasn't because the food was great, it was because the top floor was a brothel. It is not anymore, of course. Then we went to the 'Lapin Agile', a restaurant frequented by Picasso. He basically charmed his way into the hearts of the staff and would give them paintings in exchange for food. This, of course, paid off a hundredfold for the staff when Picasso became extremely famous. The Lapin Agile is just opposite the only vineyard in Paris. It is a tiny little patch of land and apparently yields revolting tasting wine because of the pollution in Paris seeping into the grapes. However, a bottle from this vineyard is excruciatingly expensive, purely for the collecting purpose. We heard about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a disabled artist (he had very short, deformed legs) whose paintings and advertisements of the Moulin Rouge are very famous. He was addicted to women and absinthe and died of syphilis and alcohol poisoning in his late 30's. However, he died having fun, unlike so many other famous residents of Montmartre! He is played by John Leguizamo in the Moulin Rouge film.

By this time we had reached the Sacre Coeur Basilica. It is beautiful inside, and the highlight were the mosaic paintings. The most breathtaking scenes, all created by little tiles! The view across Paris is unrivalled (Paris is, after all, a very flat city. Montmartre is the only mountain) and I the sun came out again as we arrived there. I sat down and watched the sun over the Eiffel Tower, surrounded by cobblestones, my feet tired, in the centre of beautiful Montmartre with three people I love very much and I was so, SO glad I did not have to get up and do anything. No work, nothing I had to rush for. It was magic. We made our way back down the mountain, stopping at a square filled with artists selling their art. There is a cafe there called 'La Mere Catherine' and when the Russians were in Paris during the Franco-Prussian war, they used to go there, whack their knife and fork on the table and say 'Quickly, quickly' in Russian because they wanted to be served faster. The Russian word for quickly sounds a lot like 'Bistro'. So the owner of this cafe, to draw in Russian customers, put a sign out the front saying 'BISTRO', as in, 'you will be served quickly here'. All the surrounding restaurants saw the business boom, copied this, and henceforth, the word 'bistro' is now used to mean restaurant. Crazy, huh? We finished the tour at the apartment of Picasso and Modigliani. They lived here together as they both became extremely famous and were very entertaining to learn about. Then we went to an Irish pub for a complimentary wine with the tour guide, and an Argentinian girl from our tour. We all sat around and chatted for about an hour about everything and anything and it was incredibly chilled and relaxing. Then we went souvenir shopping, and got crepes from the best creperie in Montmartre. They were pretty amazing. Then we said goodbye to our Argentinian friend (I don't even know her name, and we hung around with her the whole time and had a great time. I love backpacking) and Alfie and Cara went home. Sean and I went to another Oz Bar in Montmartre and had a drink and chatted to some lovely Australians to commemorate the day, then trained to the Arc du Triomphe, then trained back to the apartment and cleaned up! We leave tomorrow early, and I'm exhausted, so I have to stop blogging now. But I had a fantastic final day in Paris. 

Au revoir!

No comments:

Post a Comment