23.09.10 – Paris

Wanted to do something a bit different in Paris, something less popular with tourists, so I can avoid the crowd.

Paris is a city which attracts a lot famous people – including foreigners – who lived, breathed, created and died here.

Went to Pere Lachaise cementery to visit the grave of Chopin who died in Paris (it will be his 151st death anniversary this October). While his body lies here, apparently his heart was taken back by the Poles to Warsaw (does that mean he was dismembered?!). Other famous figures lying in peace here include George Bizet (composer, most well-known for his opera, Carmen), Francis Poulenc (20th-century composer who lived on the Left Bank), Jim Morrison of The Doors (drug overdosed), Edith Piaf and Balzac. Didn’t get to visit the entire cementery which covers a huge compound. Nonetheless had a pleasant walk on the grounds that are pretty with trees and their browning leaves. Also a quiet place for contemplation and enjoying a peaceful morning, until a tour group arrives…

Another famous person who lived in Paris was Picasso, who was not originally from France. Yet on his death a large collection of his works were given to the French government, in lieu of taxes owed. I think the French government probably got the better end of this deal, as there is now a Musee Picasso. But it was closed for renovation! Nonetheless was satisfied with a free Brancusi exhibition at the Pompidou centre (yet another art exhibition centre, amongst the countless in Paris).

Walked around the neighbourhood and passed through the so-called Jewish quarter, where the only thing jewish about it is some jewish pastry shops and jewellery shops selling accessories with the star of David motif. But there are also other small boutiques around, selling one-of-a-kind designer pieces. Was very tempted to buy a bag from Celine Jeanne…

After a beer with grenadine, decided to walk to the Mosquee du Paris. Glad I chose the route I took, because there was a big protest on the other bridge with ambulance sirens in the background, fire flares, and police roadblocks.

Why the mosque? Because I wanted to try a Turkish bath. You’ll need to check which day to go: for instance, today is for women only. It was quite an experience, although I could hardly sit still in the steam room with sweat oozing from all pores, whereas the other women were all busy catching up with the gossip of the day. Too bad I can’t speak French as this is certainly a social activity! There were also scrubs and massages by morrocan/algerian women. Thereafter, you can retire to the mosque restaurant for some couscous, tagines, mint tea and sweets. Both the bath house and restaurant are atmosphericly decorated with Islamic motifs. As I left the restaurant, I saw the woman who gave me the scrub leaving work wrapped up in a overcoat and headscarf. On the other end of the building, around the corner, men were walking to the prayer area. Prayer time perhaps.

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