Paris, Day 4

May 12, 2018 • 12:45 pm

The days here are falling into a rhythm: a coffee for breakfast, a trip to a site or art exhibit in the morning, a copious lunch at 12:30 or so, a longish walk, and then a nap or resting, trying to avoid food coma.

Yesterday fit the pattern, and was a lovely day. (The weather here has been perfect, sunny, cloudless, and warm, with just a bit of rain today.) The morning’s activity consisted of a visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, resting place of some of Frances’s (and the world’s) greatest artists, musicians and writers. Located in the 20th Arrondissement and covering 110 acres, it’s a peaceful and atmospheric site to roam, save for the hordes of young folk looking for Jim Morrison‘s grave. It’s even not that painful to contemplate one’s own mortality in such a place!

After breakfast, a morning view of the “July column” that marks where the Bastille (prison) used to be:

Nearby, one of the famous Art Nouveau Metro entrances by Hector Guimard:

Here are some of the graves we found. It’s not easy to find many of them (save Morrison’s, marked by crowds), but you can buy a cheap map or download one from the internet.

A slightly misspelled sign at the entrance asking for respect, and then an interior view of the Columbarium, where ashes are stored. As far as I know, nobody notable reposes here as ashes:

Oscar Wilde’s grave, designed by the sculptor Jacob Epstein, near the uphill entrance. I’m told that women regularly kiss the glass to leave lip-prints, which are then wiped off. That might account for the sign below:

Edith Piaf:

An “unknown”: Suzon Garrigues, who was slaughtered at age 21 in the Bataclan Theater Massacre in November 15, 2015. 88 others died with her in the theatre, 130 in total in the terrorist attacks. Garrigues was a student at the Sorbonne:

Jim Morrison’s well-visited grave. A tree nearby has been converted into a memorial, with people sticking wads of gum onto it. The Greek inscription says, roughly, “according to his own spirit”, which I take to mean “he did it his way”:

Morrison’s grave has gone through several incarnations, including the first one (below), which was the one I saw in 1989. Someone stole the bust. Now there are two guards stationed nearby to prevent anyone from defacing the site:

Marcel Proust (photo by reader Winnie):

Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, buried together:

Other graves, like that of Chopin, proved unfind-able before lunch. Here’s a view of the peaceful walkways of the cemetery:

A token of death (it’s a real bird):

Monuments to the French who died in the Resistance or in the Nazi camps:

Lunchtime, now, and at a place I last patronized in 1990. Was it still good? The Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes in the 11th is a traditional bistro run by an amiable couple, and 30 years ago it was great. Well, it was this time, too. It’s on a desolate side street, and I don’t think many tourists know about it, or would want to schlep out here. Their loss; they are missing a fantastic feed.

The interior:

Entrées: Salad with foie gras, and the house terrine with aspic, which was indescribably good (all washed down with the house Beaujolais). These were all items on the 32-Euro prix fixe menu, a great bargain:

The cassoulet, far too much for one person to eat, came bubbling in a copper pot. It had pork, sausage, confit, and various other meats, all stewed with delicious white beans. It didn’t suffer from the usual problem of this dish: bean and meat flavors not melding. This could serve as the type specimen of the cassoulet:

The contents (about 60% of the total):

Another plat: a luscious sausage with pistachios and green peppercorns, served with the French equivalent of potato salad:

Dessert: the famous house profiteroles, flaky pastry filled with ice cream and then covered with a thick, rich, and slightly bitter chocolate sauce, garnished with sliced almonds. You get three of them, and they are scrumptious:

Patterns in the leftover sauce:

Poire Belle Helene: warm poached pear covered with dark chocolate sauce, all over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Also splendid:

All the meals here so far have been good, but I’d say that readers should avoid L’Ami Jean, and I’ll inform Adam Gopnik that his review ruined the place! The best meals so far, and ones I’d recommend without reservation to readers, are the ones pictured here and at Josephine “Chez Dumonet”. But order carefully: it’s always best to know the house specialities. This is robust bistro cooking; I am avoiding nouvelle restaurants or any place not serving French comfort food.

I took many more photos yesterday, but I have neither time nor space to put them up here. Stay tuned.

32 thoughts on “Paris, Day 4

  1. Could not the order or combination of bites of specific food items ameliorate the grogginess?

    And will it matter?

    And at what point?

  2. Do you have a pastry from a local bakery with your morning coffee? That was always one of my favorite things to do. We’d usually try a different place each morning but if we found an especially good one, it was hard not to go back.

    Cassoulet! My favorite! Sausage! My second favorite! Or the other way around. I forget.

  3. Père Lachaise is quite a place. The Ravensbruck monument you show is one of the most moving, but the Buchenwald (corpses) is the most frightening.

    I’m surprised by one you missed, but I don’t know how to display a picture on this site. It’s the memorial to “La famille Chat”!

  4. Wow, weird that, nearly a half century on, young folk still make the pilgrimage to the Lizard King’s grave. Goes to show, when you’re Strange, people come out of the rain (though, pace Ol’ Jim, they still remember your name).

    1. I found myself wondering the other day whether anyone other than a few aged Doors fans bothers to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. I guess the answer is a resounding yes. I also find it strange that today’s young people are interested–his death would seem like it happened so long ago to them. Is it that the Doors music is still popular, or that Morrison has become an everlasting symbol of talented but troubled youth? I don’t know but I find it an interesting question.

      1. Yeah, I think it’s the music (although the entire Doors’ corpus hasn’t aged uniformly well). I think it’s also Oliver Stone’s movie that’s contributed to the Morrison cult (though even that flick came out before today’s youngsters were born).

      2. Perhaps this is too cynical but I am guessing the number of visitors to Jim Morrison’s grave is because it is mentioned in virtually every Paris guidebook written for American audiences.

        1. You’re probably right. Plus it’s obviously not just another grave of a famous person: the attention and adornments around it have no doubt contributed into making it a tourist attraction (those wads of gum on the tree, though, ew!). I wonder how many of the young people going there ask each other: so why is this Morrison guy famous again?

  5. Hell, I’d gladly donate a month’s-worth of Windex to help Wilde’s family defray costs.

    Like the death of Little Nell, one must have a heart of stone to read that sign without laughing.

  6. “primaly dedicated” — What one might expect to find in the front matter of Arthur Janov’s memoir.

    Damn, but that cassoulet look good.

  7. Just heard there’s been a multiple stabbing incident near the Paris opera. Hope you’re safe and sound, boss.

    1. BBC says one dead, four injured, perp shot dead in the Opéra district, rue Monsigny. Isis is claiming responsibility. Disgusting.

      PCC, you’re ok, I hope. Do give us an update.

      1. Just saw it on CNN. Oddly, the announcer also said one dead, four wounded but the crawl in the embedded video from French TV said one dead but EIGHT wounded.

    2. I’m okay. Although I’m staying two blocks from the Opera, and had a drink at a cafe right by it last night, I’m near the NEW Opera at Bastille, and the attack was at the old Garnier Opera a few miles away. I freaked at first when I read the stabbing was at the Opera. So thanks for the concern. I’m okay, but one person is dead and four are wounded.

  8. It’s in Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” that the ghost says
    “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.”.

    Really ought to be on Wilde’s tombstone.

    It would also be fun if Morrison’s read
    “This is the end
    Beautiful friend
    The end
    Of our elaborate plans
    The end
    Of everything that stands
    The end
    No safety or surprise
    The end
    I’ll never look into your eyes

  9. “Patterns in the leftover sauce”

    Oh wow, man! The sauce is fu**king brown! *

    *it’s Googleable.

    1. It serves, of course, the Musee des Arts et Metiers.

      I spent half an hour looking for the museum entrance because all I could see was a huge old church. Eventually I realised the entrance is in the churchyard!

      That’s right, the church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs has been repurposed into part of a science museum. The lofty and beautifully restored church interior is now filled with old cars, flying machines and a Foucault pendulum. As an atheist I most heartily approve. 😉

  10. I hope we get hear/read about live music – as in trio in the bistro – on the street at night –

  11. I love Pere Lachaise. It also has the tombstone of Auguste Comte, the one guy who actually tried to establish (as opposed to “was accused of trying to establish”) an atheist religion.

    Of course Comte coined the term “sociology” as well. Like “television”, it combines Greek and Latin rather weirdly 🙂

    1. It is very difficult to find reprints of Comte’s work. Even Martha Nussbaum in _Political Emotions_ seems to use secondary editions.

      He seems like one of those guys one should read to understand the history of thought (and I realized that Sartre has a link recently) and yet …

  12. Isadora Duncan’s ashes are in the Columbarium. I think there are other notable people, but I don’t remember who.

  13. Ah, PCC, you do need those pastry lessons! It’s choux pastry in profiteroles and eclairs, not flaky. I’m so enjoying your food photos – inspiring!
    I’m curious that you write that it’s women who kiss the glass around Oscar’s tomb. Surprised, even.

    1. Or men with lipstick, as the bit I read said they were wiping lipstick off the glass. But given he was gay, maybe it’s mainly lip PRINTS.

      At any rate, I may stand corrected, but I note that you are surprised at my ignorance TWICE, which is not a good way to behave around here. Please learn how to correct people without acting as if you’re surprised at how ignorant they are.

      1. Should I not be surprised to discover our supreme leader has tiny gaps in his knowledge? That must be better than being unsurprised.
        But honestly, Jerry, you are being a bit prickly and oversensitive these days. Our e-mail interactions are positive and friendly, but any comment here that might be felt to be anything other than in total agreement is in danger of upsetting you. I don’t want to upset you! I am not your enemy!I am about to make choux pastry at home for the very first time, having been inspired by your post (I’m going to make two kinds of profiterole-like choux balls, one with cream cheese and fresh figs inside, and the other with vanilla cream, cherries soaked in brandy that have lived in my basement for a year or two and a chocolate sauce). This will be a good thing and you may take credit for making me do it. But, please, don’t snap at me for no reason. I was brought up to accept correction of error as something to be grateful for, not as something to resent. I’m sure you agree that truth is the trump card in the game of life. Let’s approach it more closely together.

    2. I’m guessing that “flaky” here was being used in its normal, everyday sense not as a designation of a specific pastry type. So perhaps PCC can be forgiven.

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