Monday, October 17, 2011

Making Friends through Jim Morrison

Galeries Lafayette
After my failure to get a pair of sunglasses yesterday, I set out this morning on the Vélib' bike towards Galeries Lafayette - the huge department store in the middle of Paris near the Opera. As I walk into the store, I take a moment to take the enormity of the place in. For one, it is actually a couple of buildings and I was in the main store which houses all the clothing and accessories including designer fashions and a couple of cafés. I take a map of the store and make my way towards what looks like the accessories section on the ground floor (called floor 0 in all of Europe). I found the sunglasses section and see that they have quite an arrangement of designer sunglasses. Knowing myself and my history with sunglasses, I didn't think it was worth spending $100+ on a pair of sunglasses so I find the cheapest ones I can (still around $50) and make my purchase. I splurged partly because I was in Paris and it really felt like a rite of passage to make a purchase at Galeries Lafayette. I took some time to explore a few of the other floors and was awestruck by all the designer clothing and what I assumed were the latest fashions (they will probably hit the US sometime in the next year or so...). I had been feeling completely out of place in Paris - it seems the thing to wear is any kind of skinny jean/pant with boots. Or tights with very short skirts/dresses or long shirts or a pair of short shorts also worn with boots. I'm not really sure that is for me, but I did think a pair of boots might be kind of handy. (Fortunately) I didn't find any boots that I liked well enough to pay the listed price for. I wandered out of the department store and decided to continue my browsing in the neighborhood. 

Père Lachaise Cemetery
H&M (started in Sweden) is the major discount clothing chain that I have seen in both Stockholm and in Paris. Because we also have these in the US and because if I was going to buy something from there, I would rather buy it in Stockholm than in Paris, I skipped over H&M for discount shopping. I passed by another store that I had seen many people carrying bags for and wandered in. The store was called Uniqlo and was a discount store based originally out of Japan. I was able to find a couple of pairs of skinny pants for reasonably cheap and made my purchase - at least I would be able to fit in a little bit better with the Parisian crowd!

Oscar Wilde
After spending my morning shopping and armed with a new pair of sunglasses, I headed back to the hostel to drop of my things and go to Père Lachaise Cemetery. I stopped by a pastry shop on my way and had a delicious eclair for lunch. 

Jim Morrison
The cemetery was located near my hostel and the Bastille area of Paris. It is quite large, impressive, and free to enter. All the graves makers are these above-ground, mostly all artistic masterpieces in their own right. I walked into the main gates and was disappointed to discover that there were no maps available at the entrance to take with you. There was a posted map with a key listing the famous people buried in the cemetery. I came up with the brilliant idea to take a picture of the list of names as well as a picture of the map that I could zoom in on and refer to as I tried to locate the final resting place of several famous people. As I started heading towards my first destination - the grave of Oscar Wilde, I ran into a man carrying a map. Apparently he bought it from a street vendor that was no longer standing outside the cemetery when I walked in. The man with the map and I discussed our strategies for viewing the various famous people's graves in the cemetery and where we were from - turns out he was headed to a Bob Dylan concert that night in Paris (thought of both Dad and David at this). I briefly entertained the thought of trying to go, but apparently the concert sold out rather quickly. The fellow Dylan fan and I parted ways and I headed towards the end of the cemetery where Oscar Wilde was buried. After visiting Oscar Wilde, I decided to try and find Jim Morrison's (from the Doors) grave. He died in Paris and so was buried here. He also reportedly (and confirmed by me) has a 24/7 guard at his grave because it had been somewhat a tradition for people to get drunk and high and shoot up on drugs at his grave in his memory. I thought I was lost until I realized that I had mixed up the cemetery section with the number that corresponded to the grave's location on the map. Correcting myself, I was soon able to locate Morrison's grave and snapped a photo.

There were a few more people on my list before the cemetery closed including the composer Chopin, the artist Georges Seurat, and the French singer Edith Piaf. On my way to find these graves, I stumbled upon section 97 of the cemetery. I noticed the memorials within this section containing the names of concentration camps from WWII. Upon further reading in my travel guide, I discovered that this was the site where several memorials were placed for the victims of the Holocaust as well as the graves of French resistance fighters. It was somber, hauntingly beautiful, and appropriate all at once.

Memorial for Auschwitz
French Resistance Fighter
During my quest to snap photos of famous graves, I happened to run into a girl who appeared around my age asking me if I spoke English. She was from New Zealand and looking for Jim Morrison's grave. (She had made the same mistake I had in finding graves). While directing her towards his grave, we started a conversation and it turns out she was staying at the same hostel that I was at. She mentioned that she was meeting some friends at the hostel at 630 and was heading to meet some other friends at the Arc de Triomphe and then planned to have a picnic at the Eiffel Tower to watch it sparkle at night. She invited me to join the group. Without other plans for the evening and a chance to meet some new people, I gladly accepted and made plans to meet her at 630.

Champs-Èlysèes & Arc de Triomphe
I biked back to the hostel and met my new friend Analise. We took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and I was able to see it lit up at night. We met three people at the Arc - all from Australia. We then took a walk down Champs-Èlysèes and took a picture of the symmetrical avenue and searched for a grocery store to buy some food for our picnic. While doing so, we happend upon a group of performers that were break dancing in the middle of the sidewalk. We stopped and watched for a while - they were rather impressive! - before moving on our way. After picking up baguettes, cheese, tomatoes, chocolate, and wine, we made our way towards the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful evening and we sat in a grassy area across the Seine from the tower. We had an incredible view and enjoyed our night getting to know some new people and enjoying a picnic in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Around 11 that night we decide to head back towards are respective homes for the evening since we were unsure of when the last metro was. It was a great evening and I really enjoyed getting to know some really nice people from other parts of the world.

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