My day 2 in Paris actually includes part of a day 3 as well. But who cares? The first half or more of the day I spent doing what the first time visitor to Paris easily skips. The rest of the day and the next day I jumped right back into the beaten tourist track again.
Read about my first day in Paris. This year I wasn’t a first time visitor and I had this notion of finding places outside the centre offering a different approach to the discovery of Paris. What was more natural than to start the day in a cemetery.
Paris is great, even a cemetery
The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is certainly not just any cemetery; it is the most famous in France. It is large, very large. In the extreme heat of the day it offered shade under its trees, and a quiet, solemn atmosphere as well. Of course, this is not a cemetery just for the locals. Many “pilgrims” come here to lay down a rose on the grave of Edith Piaf and other well known people. The probably best known grave belongs to a foreigner. His name was Jim Morrison, vocalist in the Doors, who died from an overdose in 1971. His early death (at 27) contributed on the other hand largely to the building of a myth, explaining why his grave has become such a magnet to devout fans and casual visitors alike.
The Père Lachaise is an old style cemetery, albeit with quite a few very modern grave monuments. For some reason I can’t remember I was then drawn to a place on the other side of town called Parc André Citroën.
It is of a totally different quality. I must have read about it somewhere and I became utterly fascinated by the modernism being portrayed (sort of) in this new complex. The automobile company of Citroën had a production plant here but it was completely removed and replaced by this parc in the Parisian urbanisation process of the early 1990s. The parc contains a series of gardens, fountains and a huge hot air balloon on a permanent basis. When I was there, in the August heat wave, a lot of people were taking a shower in the fountains on the central square.
Parks and squares
Then it was back again to the beaten track of central Paris. First I took a metro to the town hall, Hotel de Ville, and watched a group of suicidals playing sand volley in 40 degrees heat. I went for a walk through the old Jewish quarter of Le Marais, continued across the Place de la Bastille contemplating where the exact location of that famous prison would have been back in the revolutionary days of 1789.
I entered the enclosed square of Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. Here I was able to relax on the lawns a bit before continuing my walk.
I passed through the Jardin des Tuileries and had a look towards the entrance to the Musée du Louvre. I had been to this vast museum complex before and would have liked to return some day. But not today.
Instead I went over to the Palais-Royal or more precisely the garden behind the front. In the heat wave of Paris this day of August I was once more able to sit down and relax, studying the Parisians and their life. I was surprised to find the Colonnes de Buren, an art installation in the courtyard of the palace.
(What I describe below, actually took place the day after. That day started with a Metro to ….)
And even more
Assemblee Nationale was a fascinating old palace on the southern bank of the River Seine. I did not spend much time there but aimed for a higher goal – so to speak. The Tour Montparnasse is a tall office building a bit further from the river. It offered fantastic views over the city.
Back on the (tourist) track again the Jardin des Plantes offered shade and structure and so did Place Vendôme. I’m not a customer at Dior’s or any other of the haute couture French fashion houses. But they all have boutiques around this particular square.
I had seen pictures of the Église de la Madelaine and was fascinated. Unfortunately I was now in a mood of rushing around too much, so I didn’t go in. Instead I went looking for the Palais Garnier Opera. It was impossible to miss.
My video from Paris sums it all up in 23 minutes.
Epilogue: An exciting return to the airport
Before going into Paris on my own the last morning I was able to store my suitcase in the bus taking the bulk of “my” tour group on an excursion to Versailles. They were going to pick up me and a few other individuals at the Garnier Opera in central Paris. That suited me just fine.
The problem is that the bus passed the opera without stopping. A number of fellow passengers noticed me and a young couple shouting and waiving, but no one alarmed the guide or the driver. Those two responsible people couldn’t care less, and I suspect them of purposely looking the other way from us free-riders.
In any case the female part of the young couple panicked and burst into tears. Missing the bus and subsequently missing the plane could easily have made our “free” trip to Paris rather expensive. The Aéroport de Beauvais-Tillé is located a long way from Paris, and mainly trafficked by low-cost airlines.
We had not planned for this eventuality but the couple had heard a word about a bus station in the outskirts of central Paris where there might be a service to Beauvais. Writing this in 2012 I can’t remember the details but somehow we managed to find that bus station of sorts in the direction of La Défense, and were able to board a bus going to the airport.
At Beauvais we found “our” bus, empty. My suitcase was placed on the ground, unguarded. The guide and driver pretended to be innocent and were even unable to speak Norwegian, English nor French.
With a lucky ending I walked into the terminal and joined the check-in line behind the last people of my group. “Oh, there you are.” Several of them explained that they had seen us in Paris, but had failed to realise the significance of our waiving. Can you believe it?
Anyway, I felt very content about my improvisation this evening, the outcome and the trip to Paris in general.