Now this trip wasn’t really a vacation for us. I was doing research for my series of books on Paris; specifically, historical periods of the city. We took our nephew, Dan Owen, who is a professional photographer. Despite warning him of the walking involved, I don’t think Dan really comprehended how much we would be walking. All in all, it was a tough two weeks on the feet.
We really had some very nice surprises. First of all, the city was much cleaner than we were used to (similar to our visit to New York City many years ago during the Giuliani administration). It still isn’t the cleanest of cities but compared to our last visit a couple of years ago; it had been cleaned up very nicely. Secondly, we thought the Parisians were much nicer than we had encountered on prior trips. We found most were willing to speak English. Like many things today, we felt there was a generational shift going on. Third, we ate a lot of Asian food while in Paris. It is probably the best Asian food we’ve ever had outside of Asia (e.g., Chinese, Tai, Japanese and Vietnamese). We voted Asian cuisine as the best in Paris (our apologies to the famous chefs and their Michelin star rated restaurants).
While the surprises were great, we did have some disappointments. Remember now, this was a trip to research stuff for my books so our disappointments were centered on expectations of finding things. First of all, we visited a jazz club/bar called Le Caveau des Oubliettes (“the dungeon cellar”) located at 52, rue Galande in the Latin Quarter. It was advertised as having an original 1792 model of the guillotine. Alas, they had sold it over a year ago. I guess times are tough in Paris too. Anyway, all was not lost. The downstairs was one of the old dungeon cells from the Petit-Châtelet (1130-1782), a fort protecting the southern entrance to the medieval island of Île de la Cité.
One of the individuals who played a primary role in the French Revolution was Jean-Paul Marat. Without going into any great detail, suffice to say he was a reactionary and kind of a repulsive person. Charlotte Corday assassinated him by plunging a knife into his heart as he sat in his bathtub (the original tub and knife can be seen at the Musée Grévin in Paris). My research indicated that he was buried in the cemetery at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. Well, the cemetery is long gone and we searched high and low for his grave (or at least a plaque) inside the church. I think the location of M. Marat’s remains will forever be lost to posterity. I think everyone just copied Wikipedia’s comments without actually checking their facts.
Thirdly, we couldn’t get into the Chapelle expiatoire (“Expiatory Chapel”). This chapel was built on the site of the old Madeleine Cemetery where the pits were dug to accommodate the remains of the victims of the guillotine from the Place de la Révolution (now the Place de la Concorde). Located in the downstairs crypt is an alter that Louis XIII ordered built over the exact site where they found the few remains of his brother (Louis XVI) and sister-in-law (Marie Antoinette).
The biggest disappointment was the weather. Even the Parisians told us that they were surprised by the cold and rain at this time of the year. Oh well. A rainy day in Paris is better than no days in Paris.
Do we have a lot of stories? Of course we do. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our blog.
Thanks so much for following my blog and my little journey through this incredibly interesting process of writing a book and then getting the bloody thing published.
Copyright © 2013 Stew Ross