Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paris - More Montparnesse, Seine book sellers

We spent the morning taking a closer look at the Montparnesse area where we are staying, and now that we were not as jetlagged, all the blocks we walked the first day seemed alot less far. We first went to a Farmer's Market that was being held just a block away from us. I geared up to use my high school french again since many people do not speak English in these more residential parts. I stood staring at the largest cherries that I'd ever seen and was trying to figure out how to say "I would like less than half a kilogram". As expected, the vendor shook his head when I started with my usual "Parlez-vous anglais", but retorted with "Japonais?" and then "Chinois?". This is how in the middle of suburban Paris, I began buying fruits and vegetables in Cantonese. The surrealness of the situation became complete when Rich threw in one of the few Chinese words that he knew, and said thank you in Cantonese. Both the Asian vendor and his son did a double-take and chuckled appreciatively at the foreign devil. We returned home to drop off our purchases and had a nice breakfast of cherries and yogurt, while looking forward to a dinner of exotic mushrooms (my favourite food!), asparagus, potato croquettes and a pate wrapped with pastry.

We ventured out again and went to the Montparness Cemetary, which was much smaller in scale, with lesser known people and less decorative tombs than the Pere Lachaise Cemetary that we went to on our previous trip. The most famous person we could find was John Paul Sartre, the existentialist philospher. People had left all sorts of items on his tomb as a tribute including pens, coins and used Metro tickets weighed down by small stones. This was not the first grave where we saw the Metro tickets, but we could not figure out the significance? It was of note that all the tombs seemed to be above ground and larger than in North America. Also buried here was Charles Garnier, the architect of the Opera Garnier, and Edgar Quinet, a historian that we only heard of because we were going to the stree named after him next.

Our next stop was the Montparness Art Market that was held every Sunday on Rue Edgar Quinet. There was an interesting variety of art from etchings to scupltures and pottery. I particularly liked the artist who made wire sculptures including a replica of Degas' famous Ballerina bronze... unfortunately too expensive and not practical to get home. We bought two small prints depicting Parisian street scenes, and I also bought a small heart shaped ceramic pendant.

We then fulfilled a major to-do which we didn't get accomplished on our last trip (since it rained every day!) We had lunch at an outdoor cafe, sitting side by side at our table as Parisans do, and watched the people go by as we dined. You pay a premium for this seating (as opposed to sitting inside), but you are not rushed to leave and could sit there all afternoon if you chose to. It's quite interesting to pass these cafes and see all the people sitting side by side, all facing forward. The tables are all very close to each other (sometimes touching, so you have to move the table to get in). There is not as much smoking as on our last trip, since I think smoking is now banned in French restaurants.

Our final stop of the day was a walk along the Seine which included the discovery of a cool shaded bench along the walls with a picture perfect view. We paused there to read for a while, which for me, quickly turned into one of my specialized past-times ... napping my way across Europe!

We then strolled by the "book sellers" kiosks that line the streets along the left bank of the Seine, spanning from Pont des Arts past Pont Neuf. The kiosks were were originally designated for selling books, but these days include all sorts of souvenirs. Each kiosk consists of a green wooden box that folds up at night, but is expanded during the day to display all the wares. The kiosks have been around since the 1600s, as described by historic signage and have been passed on from generation to generation.

1 comment:

  1. The wire imitation of Degas' sculpture's really neat. I've done the same art project!

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