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Dead and Alive

Monday was cool, with grey skies and the threat of rain. Suitable weather for a walk through Pere-Lachaise, that 19th-century monument to the dead and deader.


Larry grew up in a family where visits to the cemetary are regular occurrances, giving people the chance to visit graves of loved ones, neighbors, friends, and even the unloved but well remembered. There's usually tears from some family, pulling of weeds from around the simple gravestones, and children taught to leave a pebble on visited headstones. My family remembers our dead more through stories, and usually only visits family gravestones when we're burying someone.

Those who buried their dead at Pere-Lachaise certainly expected those stones to be more than simple markers. We wandered around, using the terrible map and worse signs to try to locate some notables along the twisty paths. We found Colette, Rossini, more composers, Moliere, Heloise and Abelard (who, according to story, share a grave but have a barrier between them for "decency's sake.") and of course, Jim Morrison, who had an interesting collection of visitors. After a while, we gave up trying to find those who made history, and just looked at the tombs that caught our eyes.

For the record, please don't stash my bones underneath some gloomily moody grey sculpture. Have a party, and none of that Jewish-funeral deli platter food. Plant me, and then some tomatoes where I can do them some good.

From the cemetary, we walked downhill through Belleville, enjoying the lively multi-ethnic street parade. Caught the Metro, and headed over to the Marais. Luckily, Chez Omar stays open during August. The couscous was pretty good (I've eaten amazing homemade grandmere couscous, so I'm a tough critic), and we liked the roomful of cranky old men regulars in between the tables of adventuresome tourists in the 3rd.

From there, we visited the Musee d'Art et d'Historie du Judaisme in the Marais. Wonderful collection, emphasising the importance of the written word and the holidays and customs that spring from Torah. Interesting that so many of the artifacts come from Italy. I'd have liked to see have seen a much stronger section about the Sephardic Jewish communities in the middle east, which in the permenant collection is rather bare bones. That's a definite gap, considering how many of France's Jews today trace their history to those countries, not Europe. There was a special exhibit on the Dreyfuss Affair, and we were struck by how attentive and absorbed visitors were in those rooms, even the teenagers who seemed to be strongly connected to those events. Interesting.

We stepped out of the museum into a strong rainstorm, which left us drenched on the run to the Metro. Of course, we each had assumed the other had the travel umbrella in our bags. *grin*

Later that afternoon, we walked from the apartment in the 7th into the neighboring 15th. Another "everyday" sort of area, with many newer apartment buildings, few tourists clutching maps, and many busy people who also never got the "Everyone leaves Paris in August" memo.

We ate dinner at a tiny Asian restaurant off rue St. Domanique, which was excellent and inexpensive. Menu a mix of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese. Lovely steamed shrimp dumplings with toasted shallots, spicy ginger and scallion beef, very fresh shrimp in a light herbal sauce, and Jasmine rice. Once again, a small child to flirt with as she darted in and out of the kitchen.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 11, 2006 5:58 AM.

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