We just got back from a few days in France. Last Friday, right after a work we hopped onto our version of the happy train to Paris and spent the night in the Montparnasse area, which happens to contain an interesting cemetery and the Paris catacombs. Our only reason for picking that location was that our train trip to Bordeaux the next day left from Montparnasse train station (more on that trip on my next blog).
Saturday morning while strolling along looking for our next bar, we found what we thought was a park, which I guess is what a cemetery is after all, and spent over an hour visiting the dead we did not know. Including…
Oddly enough, despite the lipstick kisses, this was one of the least interesting tombstones we read. When you’ve got a mix of war heroes, politicians and prime ministers, artists, you name it, all sleeping side by side, and on top of each other it’s an orgy of interesting corpses.
Ricardo’s was the most interesting lover of cats, but there were more.
There were lovers of music and books and Christmas too…
I love this last one. If you look on top of the stone books, you’ll see that instead of leaving flowers someone left a modern book. Who doesn’t want to spend eternity keeping up with the latest?
There were also beautifully crafted crypts with wrought iron and stained glass windows, and then there were the sculptures.
She looks so bored mourning her keep while the city thrives behind her.
We also met an American actress who adopted Paris as her home thanks to her role in French New Wave cinema, and Paris apparently decided to keep her.
There were also those in denial…
And those, um, perhaps the world did not want returning…
Don’t know who this guy was, but there’s extra weight keeping him down. But, this family wanted the world to know that they indeed were cut from the same stone.
What I loved most about this shrine to those who came before us is it was so inviting for those of us still breathing that we want to come in and mingle with the dead, appreciating all the different ways their tombs reflect who they must have been.
Gotta love that there’s a dumpster to clear up any evidence of the midnight parties we mere mortals cannot attend.
So, if you have extra time in Paris, go say hi to our new friends chilling at the Montparnasse cemetery. It’s free, and they love the attention.
On our return trip from Bordeaux, we spent the night again in Montparnasse, so we could go beneath Paris to see where millions of its former residents are interred (many of whom met their end via guillotine or revolution). Long story short: in the late 1700s the centuries old, crowded cemeteries caused some issues — including vapors so bad they curdled milk and soured wine (um there’s no effing way Parisians are going to deal with rotten wine) — so in the dead of night graves were dug up and remains were dumped into an abandoned quarry in what was, at the time, outside the city. One of the guys in charge thought it would be cool to organize the bones in patterns and surround them with pithy quotes that would celebrate life and lol not make their chamber of death so gloomy.
From Paris with Love! Some of the skulls look like they’re laughing.
News flash for him: it’s still eerie as fuck. But, I appreciate the chance to go down there and thankfully make the climb back out. Of course if you want to learn more, I highly recommend you buy advance tickets to not feel like a zombie in the lines that lead to the entrance (although we totally lucked out and went on a day where there were very few of us visiting — maybe because it was Ash Wednesday?)
Next up? discovering French grape juice in Bordeaux…
New Year’s Eve bubbly on Brussel’s Grand Place
This time next week Kyle and Kendra will be back in Arizona, Joe will be on a plane headed to Arizona (for a two month visit), and I will be busy at work. BUT, that’s next week. This week I’m still on holiday getting all snuggly with part of my family.
We’ve been busy living it up. We’ve done weekends in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and Brussels, along with showing off Mons and Brugge — including lots of good cheer with friends.
We’ve imbibed in a lot of goodness! And, the obligatory tourist shots!
We also got to witness a little bit of the Yellow Jacket ruckus in Paris. Our tour guide was more a fan of the protests than telling us interesting bits about the city, but it’s all good since it’s now part of our story.
The city was way less crowded than normal, and we saw the remnants of the violence that erupted prior to our visit, but we were lucky that no projectiles or fires took off where we were — just people chanting and parading for their something better.
We also got to celebrate Lorayne’s birthday sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower, so our story is always more full of happiness than its antonym.
On New Year’s Eve we joined the party at the Atomium, which was fun until, well, it wasn’t, but that too turned out okay.
The aerial dancers, music and fireworks show was amazing — and free to enter! But, the trip home was insane. I love Belgium, and I get it has its kinks, but promising free public transportation after midnight (in Brussels) and then not planning on crowd control eeze a problame!
We got to the Tram station only to find a swarm of people like us trying to figure out where the damn line to get into the station was — instead it was just a mosh pit of hats and scarves pushing our way forward only to learn that the corner of the crowd we were in was ‘closed.’ Wtf did that even mean? Long story short we have no idea what was going on inside the tram station, only that our asses weren’t getting in. So, Kyle took over the GPS and we began the alleged 1.5 hour walk to our hotel. The goal was to hail a cab or jump on a bus or try out another metro station along the way. LOL, but every bus that passed us was so packed with people their faces were literally squished against the windows. They would have flipped us the bird — since we laughed at the insanity of it — but they were too packed in to be able to lift their hands. I wasn’t handling the whole thing very well and was really pissed, but then it started raining, and I just gave in to it because what can you do? Walk in, hopefully, the right direction, while packed taxis and busses pass you by — until Kyle managed to hail us our miracle cab.
So, we brought in 2019 with amazing fireworks, a bit of a “wtf do we do now” panic, then relief thanks to a stranger, and then, finally, oh thank God we’re home. That pretty much sums up our years, doesn’t it?
It’s all good because our story will always move forward, and that’s a great thing. Cheers to all of you and all that the new year will bring us!
And Auf Wiedersehen to the holiday season — we’ll catch you again in 11 months!
It’s been a great, much-needed weekend of food, wine, laughs, new friends and new experiences. Just up the street (a 5 minute walk if I’m wearing shoes I need to carefully navigate on cobblestone) from my place is this adorable little place called Osmose. It seats only 12 people at a time. Your waiter is the chef and owner. Two of my new friends, now neighbours, made reservations for Friday night and were kind enough to invite me to join — and thanks to them this will be a go-to place every time I have guests in from out of town.
They suggested I just go with what the owner says to try, which meant me eating things I never really saw myself liking. The entree (appetiser) of the night was foie gras, but he also had an alternative scallops dish for those of us who aren’t fans of the foie. I got those, but Beth Ann said to heck with it and gave the goose liver pate a try, so I tasted a smudge and it really was delicious. The main dish was duck — again not a fave of mine, unless it’s the crispy Asian kind — but I went with it. OMG I didn’t know poultry could be served medium rare, and I didn’t know a bird could taste like steak. It was an amazing meal with little surprises here and there, fantastic wine, and fun times getting to know the owner, chef a little bit. Our reservations began at 6:30; I didn’t roll down the hill back to my place until midnight.
Way too early Saturday morning I had to drag my carcass out of bed to rush to work. For 25 euros all of the staff at the international schools on base had an opportunity to hop on a day-trip bus to Paris. In a little over three hours, I could spend the day eating, drinking, etc. in PARIS. I crawled into that bus with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do, or whom I was going to do it with — other than I was getting out of town for a day and walking the streets of Paris.
A group of new friends lured me into their day by saying they were starting off with champagne at a cafe — win! It’s amazing how quickly a wine hangover and not enough sleep disappears when you’re sipping bubbly on the street.
Then we had lunch at Le Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris. It’s where the male (thinking women not yet welcome at that time) revolutionaries, philosophers, artists, writers, etc. met and some of its guests included Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson — just to name a few. Love that I’m teaching American History and some of the historical figures I’ve made my kids remember sipped and burped right at the same place as I did in Paris. I wonder if they too marvelled at the creme brûlée,
Ignore the wine stains on table (we had a few) and inhale the goodness of this giant brûlée. I should’ve known it was going to be huge when they gave me a soup spoon to eat it with.
Anyone else think of Beauty and the Beast here? I know I’m a terrible teacher since I should be pointing out all the historical amazingness of this place, and I did take it all in, but you aint got time for my geeky side. Just know I loved being here touching the banister so many great minds have leaned on — while wondering what their women counterparts were doing elsewhere.
After lunch it was walk, walk, walk on over to Notre Dame and then the Picasso museum.
It’s funny how the Picasso experience haunts me. While in the museum I was mostly just hot and tired and thinking to myself “dude, why so much dick in your work?” A funny side note: one of the middle school teachers asked us if we saw the penis on the face of his famous painting The Dream. We all did, and she was amazed because for years she’s been having her 8th graders do a replica of this and never noticed the phallus until someone pointed it out to her today. Oh Picasso see what you’ve made good women do!
It’s all I see, plus the naughtiness I think she’s up to.
I honestly don’t get a lot of his work, and as a woman I find the portraits of the women he loved disturbing, BUT some of his paintings pulled me in and stuck with me. His sculptures not so much. The black and white sketches made me want to understand this world of his, but then again I’m thinking the whole point is I’m not supposed to understand. I can’t tell you why his paintings keep coming back to me because … lol like his art I don’t exactly understand it … but his work haunts me. Some of it I found funny and some of it scared me. So, I’m glad I went because now I’ve taken an interest in getting to know what the Internets have to say about him, and for whatever reason it makes me think.
On this trip I did not get to go to all the other museums I want to visit, but that’s okay because it’s just a short train trip away, and some of my new friends said they’d totally do an art weekend with me. I’m a very happy girl!
I’m also procrastinating because instead of walking to the market like I had planned today, I’ve told myself I’m putting together another Ikea thing — my version of Picasso hell minus any sexual play — and I’m here typing to all of you looking at that damn box waiting for me to open.
Okay, gotta go do this thing. Hope you all have had as lovely a weekend as I have. It feels good to have gotten away from the stress of moving and working!