My sister sent me the classic George Carlin bit about STUFF. (Yes, all caps. We’re talking of the stuff that makes up most everyone’s entire raison d’être so it requires grand, philosophical, capitals.) If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a while, check it out. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
I realize my life has become a punchline from that bit: if you didn’t have a house, you could spend all of your time just walking around. And we do.
Sticking in and close to Paris as we do these days, we’ve seen the great sights many times over. We’ve done quite a bit of random walking to see the everyday non-sights, so much so that we can hardly get good and properly lost anymore. My new project is the middling sights, the small, or strange, or out of the way attractions that make up weird, wonderful Paris. Here’s a smattering of them.
The Musée Bourdelle, Paris. If you pronounce that poorly, it sounds like you’re saying whorehouse, or huge mess. Ask me how I know. Bourdelle was a student of Rodin and an underling in his studio before striking out on his own. I thought his work was Rodin warmed over, but it was well worth going to see his intact studio, which is a bit of old Paris tucked away for safekeeping. He was also Giacometti’s teacher, so maybe I’m being too harsh on the guy.
The garden was tiny, but a gem. I could see dropping by when we’re out in that part of town for a respite. Added bonus: the museum is free. I may even start to appreciate his work.
The Park of Saint Cloud. Saint Cloud is a suburb of Paris, but easy to get to. This park was the domain of a now departed castle. The grounds were designed by Le Nôtre, who was the landscape architect of Versailles. It’s the height of the French formal style, those geometrical gardens epitomizing the triumph of reason over nature.
Shrubbery so precise you could cut your finger on it.
No, it’s not autumn. We’re having a drought.
A glitch in the matrix. Or a sign that the gardeners were short staffed in August. Take your pick.
The Basilica of Saint-Denis, just outside of Paris. Another suburb, this one far shabbier than Saint Cloud. Now, this one wouldn’t count as a middling sight, but it is a weird one. The site was a pagan temple, but lo and behold Saint Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris) declared it as the VERY spot where Saint Denis (the patron saint of France) laid himself and his head down after being beheaded on Montmartre (mountain of martyrs, clever huh?). Amazing how those Catholic saints always wound up finding their way to pagan sites. The whole thing smacks of the miraculous.
The Basilica itself is well worth your time. It’s considered the first completely Gothic cathedral. But even if Gothic cathedrals aren’t your thing, the crypt is from the 3rd century, and the cathedral is the final resting place of the monarchs of France, inside their carved tombs. Ok, their bodies are no longer in them, the revolution took care of that.
A few of the original 12c stained glass windows remain. This blue was invented for the cathedral and is sometimes referred to as Suger blue, Suger being the abbot of Saint Denis at the time of construction and the driving force behind the whole shebang. I’ve read that the recipe for this particular blue has been lost and that modern glassmakers are unable to reproduce it, but apparently that’s a romantic legend. Everyone wants to be special.
More decapitated heads? The mystery deepens.
Now, I said it was a weird place, and you’re probably thinking yeah, not so much. So while it’s true that the bodies of the kings and queens are no longer in their tombs, the exception is this sad treasure, the heart of the 10 year old prince Louis the 17th, which was relocated here some 200 years after he died in prison of tuberculosis after his mum and dad had their own Saint Denis event.
I could go on and on. And perhaps I will in a future missive. We’ve seen so many things that make you say what the…? But we don’t have the corner on the market of weird and wonderful. What’s in your neck of the woods?
The Prefecture of Police museum. Perhaps another time…