Yesterday (Sunday) we arose from a full night’s rest and took a brisk morning walk around our neighborhood which is called the latin quarter. It is an amazing neighborhood. We ate perfect buttery croissants and cafe au lait as our petit déjeuner. I actually wanted a more elaborate confection, but could only sputter out “Je voudrais un croissant” when it was my turn. I guess the other choices’ pronunciations were a bit more “difficile.”
We spent the morning perusing the the most famous flea market in Paris; the one at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas). The flea market was unbelievable! A miniature city of stalls full of vendors selling their wares. A winding market where you can find anything from furniture to beads, to missing parts from antique commodes, textiles, paintings, antique toys, broken letterpress parts, old signs, vintage clothing etc, etc. Each vendor also acts as a stylist, creating a wonderful tableau – I’m convinced Anthropologie steals all their interior design from these folks. Taxidermy and large shells seem to be au courant. The place feels enormous and we had fun getting lost wandering down the alleyways.
From Les Puces, we jaunted over to Monmarte, the old bohemian neighborhood. Famous in days past for absinthe, its imbibers, and artists on the dole. We started at the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, built in 1875 to “expiate the crimes of the communards.” Its construction marked a wave of religious renewal after the bloodshed of after the Franco-Prussian War and uprising of the Paris Commune. The building was beautiful, but perhaps even more so was the Paris skyline from the church steps (even though vendors were hocking beer and some jerky was playing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”). The neighborhood itself was very touristy at first, but we manged to stumble deeper down into the more residential area of shops and cafes. We had coffee and a tart and I swear I saw Abe Vigoda locking up his bike.
In the late afternoon, we metro-ed out to the famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise. There were a ton of tombs I wanted to visit, and luckily Steph was there with her extraordinary navigational abilities. She was a little creeped out I think, but helped me find everyone I was looking for. We paid our respects to: Honoré de Balzac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Eugène Delacroix, Max Ernst, Théodore Géricault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Molière, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, the bell clanging guards drove us out before we paid our respects to Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Jim Morrison and Heloïse and Peter Abélard. C’est la Mort.
After a quick rest, we were able to get in touch with our friends Marianne and Chris, who are living here until May. We met in front of the re-known Shakespeare & Company Bookstore, and were able to find a local, cheap and authentic place for a 3 course dinner, complete with apertif, wine, and brandy. It was a beautiful night, and felt wonderfully Parisian. Nice to be able to converse and have a French speaker in the group; the dining out thing is steal a little stressful without being fluent. Thanks to them for a lovely second night!