Sunday, January 2, 2011

Discovering the 20th arrondissement

When my mobile phone went off yesterday I got a bit excited, thinking it maybe be British Airways, calling to inform they had located my luggage.  No such luck.  Instead it was a reminder in my calendar; tomorrow is ‘cemetery day’. 

This was a day ‘he’ and I celebrated.  It was there we had secret rendezvous and it was on the 2nd Janurary, that we made a commitment to one another to begin a less clandestine relationship and eventually, we married there.

I reminded myself that I am in Paris to ease the pain, so I continued to busy myself and pushed it aside.

Call it fate or whatever you will, today, the 2nd of Jaunuary,  I ended up in a cemetery but this time one across the other side of the world and slightly more famous, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, in fact it is one of the most famous in the world.

Past visits to Paris, I have never had the urge to go there, even although I do have a fascination with cemeteries. 

Just like everything else in Paris it is so photogenic and I am so glad I took my camera with me today and there are also some great vantage points to see the city.

It is huge and even though there were a lot of tourists there and hundreds of thousands visit it each year – I still found moments where I was completely on my own.

Edith Piaf’s grave I found but I searched in vain until closing for Modigliani’s.

It was freezing and I should have worn more clothes.  A toilet break was in order, it was stainless steel, I laughed, it couldn’t be any colder than at ‘home’.

It’s funny how sometimes I spend time in my head formulating a sentence in French and then go forth and speak and the response is a blank look.   Today it came out with no thought.

As I was leaving the toilet, I saw a very old man, hunched over, his nose running from the cold.   He had a walking aid in one hand and a straw broom in the other.  He was trying to take a step up, from the cobbled stone road to a path leading to grave sites, using a tree for support.  I offered help, he asked if I could carry the broom.  I helped him up the steps and he kept repeating that is was very nice of me. 

Fortunately I remembered the very polite way of saying you are welcome; je vous en prie.

It is times like these I pause.  Watching tourists scurrying around trying to find Jim Morrison’s grave and clearly this man was about to clean a loved ones grave.

How did I end up here?  I ventured into the neighbouring arrondissement, which is the 20th,  to visit Marché aux Puces de Montreuil, the flee market. If you are looking for fur coats,


hats, second hand Levi jeans, bric a brac or just about anything you may find it here.

Sunday mornings are quiet in Paris, there aren’t many people about, just the odd person racing off to their local market, not much is open and it has a nice laid back feeling, perfect for wandering around.

The 20th arrondissement being the last arrondissement to develop, is very ethnic with a large population of North West Africans.  Close to 200,000 people live in the 6km2.  This arrondissement is also home to Belleville.

 A vast array of food is on offer, from Chinese to Halal butchers.  It also boasts the second biggest China Town in Paris.

Wandering around there today, I seem to be developing a bigger fascination for butcher shops than I do cake shops. 

Today I witnessed massive amounts of meat and yet more giant rotisseries, seductively jammed packed, out the front of the butcher shops, with chickens and quails.  Very different to buying a hot chicken in a plastic bag in Australia!

One such shop I found today had a line up outside, so it must be good.

All in all it was yet another fabulous day with yet more diversity in this wonderfully small city.

I stumbled across this Hector Guimard designed Metro entrance, on my wanders today.  There are still a handful of these beautiful creations around in Paris.

How can it be that a theatre poster display can be so lovely


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