Saturday, January 17, 2015

January 18, 2015 -- Paris, France

I’ve been to Paris several times, so I’ve been to the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc of Triumph, and the Champs Elysée multiple times. This trip I am trying to see some of the lesser known sights that I have never previously visited. So, yesterday I took the subway to the western side of the city and explored on foot. I walked for hours and managed to visit three of the sites that had been on my agenda.

Paris has marvelous architecture and beautiful buildings everywhere one looks. I could easily spend a whole day wandering through a few city blocks, learning about the buildings, but there is no time to do that block by block and cover the entire city of Paris. So, sometimes I see a beautiful building and make a mental note to explore it later. That is the case of the domed building in the following picture that I snapped as I was walking to my first objective. I have no idea what that building is, but someone will probably tell me, or I’ll come back again someday to figure it out for myself.

There are beautiful buildings all over Paris
My first objective was the Église de la Madeleine. No, it is not nearly as grand as Notre Dame Cathedral, but I have seen Notre Dame dozens of times to the neglect of the lesser churches.

The Église de la Madeleine
The church is built in the Greek style with 52 Corinthian columns. I have read that the church was intended to be a monument to Napoleon’s army and then went into neglect before it was consecrated to Mary Magdalene in 1845.

The interior of the Église de la Madaleine
Above is a photo of the inside of the church, a bit blurred by being taken in dim light without the benefit of a flash. Below is a closer view of the altar, which instead of the usual crucifix depicts Mary Magdalene ascending into Heaven.

The altar of the Église de la Magdaleine
After the sacred silence in the Église de la Madeleine it was time for a change of pace. I next walked to the lusty Moulin Rouge or Red Mill, a place noted for its can can dancers. I am told that for the equivalent of more than $100 one can go inside and see a chorus line of young women kicking into the air, thereby revealing their ankle-length bloomers for all to see. I don’t believe that one actually gets to see a naked ankle, however. This may seem tame today, but a bit over 100 years ago such exhibitions were a scandal. Apparently it still has an attraction for some people, mainly tourists, I assume, because the young ladies are still kicking and drawing crowds today.

The famous Moulin Rouge of Paris
Due to the sun’s glare on the screen of my digital camera, I wasn’t able to see the image well enough to properly frame the shot, so I unintentionally cut off the top of the windmill. Why don’t they bring back the viewfinder?

My last stop was the Montmartre Cemetery, just around the corner from the Moulin Rouge. It is one of the smaller cemeteries in France to be the resting place of famous writers and composers as well as ordinary citizens. The Père Lachaise Cemetery near the hostel has even a larger collection of notables safely stored underground, but I’ve been there several times, so it was time to visit some of the formerly famous that I had hitherto for ignored. Among the famous people buried here are Zola, Stendhal, Degas, Berlioz, Offenbach (fittingly buried around the corner from the Molin Rouge as he is responsible for the popularity of the can can), and Truffaut. I was required to read part of a Stendhal novel at Arizona State University (I later read the whole thing), and I attended Stendhal University in Grenoble, France for a year, so it was fitting that I visit his grave.

Montmartre Cemetary where many famous artists are buried
One thing the English-speaking tourist has to contend with in France is Franglish. Franglish is a French person’s attempt at communication in English. Languages are taught at least as poorly in France as in the USA, so some of the expressions are laughable and others are completely mystifying unless one knows enough French to do a word-for-word translation from Franglish to French to decipher the intended meaning. One example that is not too difficult to understand is on a sign in the elevators of the hostel where I am staying advertising a bar in the basement. It reads: “So ! What do you expect ? Go downstairs to Level -1. No time to loose …. Come!” I guess I would reword it: “So, what are you waiting for? Go downstairs to the basement. You have no time to lose.”
An extreme example of "Franglish"
However, I challenge you to decipher the words in yellow in the picture above. They are supposedly English. You probably can figure out that the word alcool means booze, but what is stranger wine? If you speak French, you know that the same French word is used for both stranger and foreigner. Therefore, the person who wrote the sign thought it meant foreign wine. One step closer! I would rewrite the sign to read “Spirits and imported wine.”

Because I read Spanish, French, and German, if I am in a country where one of those languages is spoken and I am offered information in "English," I ask for it in the native language, which is easier for me to understand than Spanglish, Franglish, and Denglish.

Incidentally, visitors to this blog by country in the past week are as follows: USA 86, Taiwan 15, France 13, Belgium 7, and Germany 3. Canada, Italy, Philippines, and Turkey count for one visitor each.

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