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:
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.
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.