Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So Much Paris

This past weekend some friends from the States (Doug and Danielle) came to Paris for the weekend to visit Liz and me as a side-trip from their two weeks in England. It was a whirlwind, that much is certain. In two days I gawked at Sainte-Chapelle, went tomb diving in the Pantheon, waited at Napoleon's Tomb, meandered through the Rodin Museum, climbed to Sacre Coeur, stood in the red lights of the Moulin Rouge, drank wine at the Trocadero, enjoyed the stars of the Louvre, mounted the 700 steps of the Eiffel Tower, cheered on Paris at the Parc des Princes, strolled the Champs Elysees, topped the Arc de Triomphe, and took my pilgrimage to the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. Only three were entirely new experiences for me: Sainte-Chapelle, Parc des Princes, and Pere Lachaise.

Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel dating from 1248 and was built to house the supposed Crown of Thorns. The real attraction, however, is the stained-glass windows, two thirds of which are authentic dating from the 15th century. I thought it was cool but two things could have made it better, 1) if there was no scaffolding covering the altar and the entire rear windows, and 2) if the sun had been shining. Despite all that I can still see the appeal, and would probably pop in another time with my teacher's pass if it was sunny out.

The soccer game at Parc des Princes was an experience and a half. First let me tell you that had I known then what I came to know later, I would have had a different attitude entirely... We took the subway out to the stadium where the Parisian soccer team, Paris Saint Germain (or PSG), was playing Sochaux. We weren't quite sure what metro stop to get off at but Doug and I figured we'd follow the few guys with PSG scarves and jerseys. When the train came to a stop two things convinced us this was right: the guys with scarves got off and there were at least 20 riot police standing on the platform staring us down. Topside was no different, with groups of 5-10 riot police on each corner. As we got closer to the stadium there were checkpoints through these riot police as well. This was top notch security. I would have been more frightened but I didn't know this was atypical and their riot gear made them look like a team of RoboCop wannabe's. We got our tickets no problem and turns out we had pretty decent seats. The most shocking of all was the visiting team's fan section, surrounding entirely with netting and rows of guards separating them from the home fans. I guess it can get pretty nasty sometimes. It was my first European soccer match and overall I'd definitely go again, plus PSG won 4-1. Now for what I came to know Sunday night when David drove me home from the train station... Let me preface this saying there are three main communities that support PSG, Bologne, Auteuil, and the rest of Paris. Despite cheering for the same team, there is still heated gang-like rivalries among these communities, notable Auteuil and Bologne. The reason there was 1,300 riot police at the game we went to was because after the last game the two got in a large fight and someone from Auteuil actually ended up being killed! And the only reason we were able to get good seats, or seats at all for that matter, was because Auteuil and the rest of Paris were boycotting the game due to the death of a fan, so only Bologne was there. As I said before, had I known that Saturday night as opposed to Sunday I would have been more wary of my surroundings. But maybe due to the fact really only one community was there I felt the atmosphere wasn't very charged at all. So maybe no more games at Parc des Princes for me, but I'm still going to buy a scarf...

Pere Lachause Cemetery was also cool and someplace I had been wanting to go for a long time. It feels less like a cemetery and more like a park where they just happened to bury a lot of famous people. Among others we saw the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Jim Morrison, Moliere, Delacroix, Chopin, and Heloise and Abelard. The tombs are very ostentatious with sculptures and even stained glass windows in some. It would have been more enjoyable in nicer weather but I can always go back. The best part of the visit was when one of the feral cats that live in the cemetery came up to me and rubbed up against my leg before sauntering over to a bench and taking a seat like any normal person. Intrigued, I followed the cat and sat down next to it expecting it to quickly run away but it did no such thing. In fact it just sat there next to me. We shared a moment, that cat and I. I am convinced that that cat was the soul of someone from the cemetery, as is each of those feral cats. Call it far-fetched if you want, but I've heard weirder things before! (And I don't mean just things I made up...)

As enjoyable as Paris was I was sad to come back to Toucy, but knowing that this weekend Nathan comes in made it easier, so I'll be back Friday night! I can't wait, it's going to be awesome. As for pictures from this last trip I'm going to put them up a bit later because Doug's camera costs about $1,200 more than mine, ergo I let him take most photos and I'll just get them from him. But I will put them up as soon as I get them.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day tomorrow! I wish I could be in a country that celebrates it too, but I can't, so have a green beer for me!

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