Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Year's Day in Paris

A gray, overcast morning eased into a gray, overcast and chilly Saturday afternoon. This weather has become pretty much routine here by now. But it is winter and we are, if you recall, at a higher latitude than Boston, Massachusetts. (Paris is at 48 degrees, Boston at 42 and New York City at 40.)

Accentuated by being up so late last evening ringing in the New Year  our typically leisurely morning risked becoming a leisurely afternoon. But frankly that's just fine with us. Many places are closed today anyway, so our agenda was slim indeed.

Event though the weather promised some form of annoying precipitation,  Susie and I left the apartment about 2pm and headed over to rue Chemin Vert for a short 10-minute walk up to Pere Lachaise. We crossed Boulevard Menilmontant right at the Pere Lachaise Metro stop and entered through the small, but highly popular entrance nearby. (My favorite map vendor was still there, right outside the entrance. selling the what is still best map to the cemetery.)

Anyway, the place was packed; it was as if every tourist in Paris had decided simultaneously to visit one of the cool things to see in Paris that happened to be open. And we were no different, of course. So we wandered for a couple of hours, taking time to pay our respects to Chopin in division 11, and two of my personal favorites, Jane Avril in division 19 and Sophie Blanchard in division 13.



Leaving Pere Lachaise by the main entrance we walked down rue de la Roquette, heading in the direction of Place Leon Blum and Place Bastille. Two blocks from the cemetery we passed the pretty Square de la Roquette on the right. It's hard to imagine that on this very same spot of green space stood a women's prison, and that directly across the street was the city's prison used for those convicted to be deported to Devil's Island or to be executed. (One can still see the slots in the street that held the base for the guillotine, according to a nearby historical marker.)

Anyway, the plan as to head to rue du Perche in the 3rd arrondissement for a free piano concert at the Armenian Church (Ste. Croix), a venue we've been to several times before.  The church was a bit chilly inside but noticeably warmer than outside and we settled in for an hour or so of Mozart, Schumann (Robert) and a half dozen or so ragtime tunes a la Scott Joplin. Quite entertaining.

It was dark as we left the church and found ourselves standing in the chilly drizzle of a New Year in Paris. But a short walk up rue Charlot to Boulevard du Temple near the Place de la Republique and we soon found a bar where we stepped inside for warmth and stood at the bar sipping an aperitif -- Kir for Susie, Suze for me). After paying the check we walked outside into the rain and quickly found the nearest Metro entrance hopping on the no. 9 at Place de la Republique  to the Trocadero to catch the Eiffel's champagne lights twinkling on the hour.

Between dodging the hundreds of tourists who were dodging an equal number of men of color selling Eiffel kitsch in the pitch dark, and trying to keep the umbrella up and not stab someone in the back or eye, we managed to see the lights for about 10 seconds, at least giving us hope for a spectacular New Year.

Then it was back on the Metro, taking the 9 to the no. 7 and off at the Pyramides. A quick walk up rue Saint Anne looking for an available noodle bar or Japanese restaurant -- this was after all the Japanese section of the city. The good news was most were open, but we avoided the queues and settled in at the tiny Yamakawa where we feasted on yakitori and dumplings washed down with a half bottle of Tavel.

After dinner it was back on the no. 7 and off at Place d'Italie. We walked down Boulevard Auguste Blanqui to meet up with up with Matt & Susan, Sarra and Andrea and Barbara at their apartment. we all walked up to the Place and found a brasserie for a late night cafe and dessert. The food was mediocre and service slippery but the conversation was lively and a frankly what could be a better way to say adieu than sitting in a Parisian cafe?

Sarra leaves for London on Sunday, Andrea and Barbara head back to the US on Monday and Matt and Susan return to London for one day on Monday before they too head to the US and Providence to begin a new life and Susie and I leave for Brittany on Sunday to meet up with Richard and Pauline.

So, we say au revoir to the group as they walk down Auguste Blanqui and we turn back to the Place "Deet," sliding down into the Metro to the no. 5 to Richard Lenoir and home. Like all travelers, "we each have our own path to take/our own journey to make."

Wish you were here,

Steve

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