Yesterday was another full day!
I finally went to the catacombs – by myself. This didn’t seem bizarre until I was descending into the ground, and I realized that I had gone to visit, basically, a huge tomb all by myself. It felt a bit dark.
However, I made friends with some American tourists for the duration of the visit (talk about relationships of convenience!)
The catacombs are incredible. There are thousands of bones of Parisians, stacked neatly about 5 feet high in the old rock quarries. The skulls are strategically placed to make designs in the wall of bone. There are stone proverbs and markers of which cemetery the bones are from, but no specific names. Also, there were several battles of the revolutions where the bodies were put directly into the catacombs anonymously. (At least that is what I gathered from the french sign – correct me if I am wrong.) They were used as a base for the resistance in WWII.
It was a bit ridiculous seeing people touching the bones or stealing them – this is a grave site, not some kind of free-for-all.
As far as sneaking into the catacombs at night, it is illegal in Paris to sell maps of the catacombs. However, apparently you can get them somewhere. Also, the government is slowly sealing off the entrances, which I think is a bad idea (what if there is a fire, and you get stuck in there?) (I guess that’s why you shouldn’t go in in the first place) (yes, I am my father’s daughter).
Apres les catacombs, je suis alle au musee rodin, to the garden. I had to argue with the guard at the door that I was really studying art. It was hilarious. It says right on my card, but he just challenged me right away without reading it.
It was a beautiful day and the bronze reflected the sun beautifully. The garden actually smells like flowers. I think the garden is one of my favorite places in Paris. There are Parisians and tourists alike, and people go there just to walk and sit and smell flowers. I will really miss Paris. The Leo Mol sculpture garden does not compare.
Montmartre! I have been avoiding this little colline at all costs because of the tourists and because when I have been there, it has felt empty. It is hard to describe, but it feels like the heart of what Montmartre used to be (whether that is prostitution or artistic or whatever) is gone, and is just projected onto the surface for the sake of tourism. I become sad in Montmartre, but the tourists are amusing to watch. They just eat everything up.
I visited Sacre Coeur, which was beautiful (lit a candle for St. M’s), but it, too, felt like it was desperately holding on to it’s identity as a church. It felt alot like everyone was there because they felt they had to go.
However, after Sacre Coeur, I went to the little church across the street that is about 800 years older and 100 times more beautiful. It was UTTERLY empty. It felt like a real, active church – I could see that they took their identity very seriously. There was a sign saying that the church is not a museum and that visits were not allowed during mass. Good for them!
I sang again – Amazing Grace again, and all three verses. I was not afraid at all, as I was in St. Severin. A few people came in while I was singing, and I did not care. I don’t know if they did. A very good experience.
I visited Place des Tertres (I think that is what it is called), where painters have painted for centuries. I drew this woman, who only had very old pictures with her to sell. She did not have any painting supplies with her, save the easle. She was a bit out of place. (My pen ran out of ink.) The rest of the square was full of artists, some of them good.
I tried to go to the Dali museum, but it was closed.
I went home, went grocery shopping, didn’t have enough cash, had to run across the street to get money. It is these situations that really help you improve your french, because you are embarrassed as well as under pressure and you have to be VERY polite. But now I have food.
I went to the Cite Universitaire to have dinner with some girlfriends and I ended up staying the night because I missed the last metro.
I am contemplating spending Easter Weekend in the Vatican if I can find a cheap flight and a cheap hostel.
WHEW! What a day!