Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bastille Apartment and Chartres

Windows in the Bastille apartment

As usual, I feel that I am falling farther and farther behind on this blog. I moved to the Bastille neighborhood on Monday. Most people call it "lively" and "hip." I'm not so thrilled, though if I walk a couple of blocks in any direction, things improve.

View from one of the windows

I actually really like the apartment. I haven't uncovered any problems yet and I don't even have to dread using the shower! The neighborhood (one block north of Place de la Bastille) reminds me of some of the sleazy parts of Greenwich Village. It may be more "real," but it's really what we're working to eliminate.

 Front door - on the right

The street I'm on (the front door to the complex, not my windows) is almost completely bars. Some of the bars have restaurants and there are a few shoe stores, but it's almost three blocks of bars.

View from another window

And within one block, I have a McDonald's, a Subway, a Hagen-Daaz, two Starbuck's, a Tex-Mex chain restaurant, and a diner complete with macaroni and cheese.

One window looks out across the communal courtyard

There are lots of homeless people - many angry young men complete with angry dogs - and the wandering Roma. The protections/safety net one used to find in Europe are quickly being eroded - though the people still protest in ways US citizens never do.

Classic apartment stairs I remember
from French movies

For quite a while now, European "leaders" have been eyeing the US and wondering how US "leaders" get away with what they do. Financial "crisis" gave them the cover to start dismantling a system for the people and to start recreating one for the elite.

Bastille column down the street

I guess it was inevitable that the Bastille column would look out on a Starbuck's. After all, it's what the people "want." There was a statement posted on Facebook the other day about all revolutions eventually failing because they create bureaucracies that are counter to their ideals. And bureaucracies can be bought.

Cafe that claims it came into being
when they tore down the Bastille

Anyway, the French are well on their way to destroying their social safety net. Ronald Reagan would be proud of all the mentally/emotionally disturbed people out here on the street - fending for themselves! He knew they could!

Graffiti on the bridge over the canal -
"Clement lives in our struggles."

When I walk through Paris and I see the phenomenal number of beautiful apartment buildings that exist in much of it (though there are plenty of Soviet bloc and New York City tenement buildings the closer one gets to the city limits), I'm always amazed that there are enough people here with enough money to live in them.

My apartment - the first four windows on the left -
French 2nd floor, American 3rd - above a bar

Looks has though this hodge-podge system might be working for many of them, but judging from the streets, for fewer than before.

Trying to get a photo of the Cuban flag and the
McDonald's banner flying together -
the wind wouldn't cooperate

Forgot to start with my new photo in my new apartment. 

In my Bastille apartment

I'm not sure what this reveals besides that I need a haircut. And I've noticed that I'm getting a lot more grey in my hair (this shouldn't happen when one is on vacation, should it?), but it still looks blonde in photographs.

Dinner and the view out the kitchen window

Canal into the Seine

The Canal St. Martin runs from the north of Paris into the Seine, going through long tunnels part of the way. It opens up from one of the tunnels a few blocks from the apartment and some people live on boats on it and there are gardens and playgrounds along it.

Laundry on the canal - later that evening,
the laundry was gone and they were having a party

I'm feeling very indolent - spending four to five hours a day strolling. That's what I did yesterday - no destination, no museum, no church. Can I do this forever? Would I finally get bored?

Garden along the canal

It was a little unusual yesterday in that I didn't go in anywhere. Warm, but mostly overcast, so it wasn't hot. So I just spent the day coming upon things, such as this woman feeding the pigeons.

Feeding the pigeons in the Village of St. Paul -
a series of interconnected courtyards

I love the way people stop to look at what you're photographing - since they're not seeing a famous monument.

Graffiti in the Village St. Paul

I spend a lot of time positioning myself to try to eliminate graffiti (unless it's the graffiti I'm photographing) and trash cans and traffic signs. Can't always manage it, but I try.

Wonderful old door

The other half of this door was covered with graffiti. There is some on this half, but it's not as visible.


I'm not in the south of France and haven't seen much lavender. The flowers in the gardens are more like the ones in England or the northeast of the US - which makes sense based upon climate.

Lovely sad garden

This little garden was part of a home that had been refuge to a family which fled Poland in 1934, only to end up in concentration camps anyway, because of the Vichy government. Only the daughter survived. The French have only recently started to publicly acknowledge how many French willingly worked with the Germans and how many others chose to ignore what was happening. It's the theme of the book Sarah's Key.

Bakery where I bought last night's bread

It's not all America chains around the apartment. This bakery is just around the corner. After dinner, I returned to the canal, which has a cafe on it "Le Grand Bleu," where I could sit until late with my glass of wine.

Out late along the canal

And now to try to catch up a bit. I went to Chartres last week! I'd never been there before. 

Chartres from below

I took over 200 photos, so I don't even know where to begin.

Compostella pilgrimage trail marker

This marker is in the pavement in front of the cathedral and a reminder to my friend, Sandy, not to abandon the dream!

Brief sunshine!

I enjoyed the train ride out to Chartres - seeing some countryside - though there were a lot of up-close hedges that get in the way. Some of the towns look very pleasant and others quite dreary.

Monet's "Coquelicots" - Musee d'Orasy

But the poppies (coquelicots) were in bloom and it looked just like Monet's famous painting that Julia and I had seen in the Musee d'Orsay.

Medieval herb garden

They have recreated a medieval herb garden out front, which makes a very nice setting for the church.

Chartres door frame

I really wanted to see the labyrinth, but they had almost all of it covered with chairs.

Center of the labyrinth

But I actually ended up loving the photos I took of it - the patterns and shadows.

I love this one

Since I really don't have that much to say about the cathedral - other than that I'm glad I went and I thought it was beautiful - I'm just going to intersperse photos with unrelated ramblings.

Chartres interior

I finally decided to try the bus instead of the Metro. A lot of the areas I'd been going to with transfers on the Metro were directly linked on the bus. Much more scenic, though slower, and sometimes very crowded. Nice change of pace, but more difficult to figure out.

Exterior of one of the rose windows

The warning siren - that they test at noon on the first Wednesday of the month - just went off. I hadn't known what that was about before until reading about it in Sarah's Key.

A different rose window from the inside

I've been a little horrified with the soldiers on the street. Actually, maybe we should be as open about it in the US. You can turn a corner and find yourself face-to-face with three soldiers (they always seem to travel in packs of three) holding machine guns with their fingers on the triggers. We just pretend that our police aren't soldiers now.

Behind the altar - definitely not Gothic

I got a notice from my bank that they were questioning one of my charges. I had notified them that I would be out of the country, but, for whatever reason this charge for a train ticket for later in my trip was bothering them. They gave me a number to call collect from out of the country. I am traveling without a phone (two months, so far, without a phone - but, obviously, not without a computer), so I used a pay phone, which gave instructions for calling collect.

More stained glass

I was told that the bank did not have an agreement with them for collect calls, so I'd have to pay. So, my call to tell them that my $54 charge was legitimate cost me $49.04! I'm asking Redwood Credit Union to reimburse me. We'll see, but they'd better not do that again.

The back of Chartres

I think there must have been a campaign to reduce the number of homeless cats (while increasing the number of homeless people) since I was last here. I hardly see any. There used to be so many of them in the cemeteries, but no more.

More Chartres interior

Remember when I wrote that the waiter had laughed when we'd asked about the drinking age in France? Well, I saw a sign in a cafe that said that they can't serve alcohol to those under 18. It is certainly possible that they ignore that law. Wouldn't be surprised.

Last cathedral shot!

Since I'm still mostly sitting outside at cafes, I'm still getting all that secondhand smoke. The cigarette packages here have huge warning labels - FUMER TUE (smoking kills) - bigger than the name of the cigarette. 

Closed cafe across from the cathedral

I don't know what US cigarette packages are like - people I hang out with don't smoke. So, Chesterfield's? Does that brand still exist in the US or is it supported by the French? Of course, I know all those brands are owned by a few corporations. It just struck me that I hadn't seen that name in forever.

Returning from mass

Really. I'd seen and heard them singing in the cathedral a short time before. 

Farmers Market - being repaved and not in use

If I ever get back here, I'd like to spend a night in Chartres. It looks like a beautiful, very old city that I'd love to explore more.

Well, I still haven't caught up, but the rain has stopped and I need to get outside.

My new key on my new keychain

From one of the lucky ones who has a door!


  1. Hey, We are catching up! Happy Birthday! ---loved the family shots xxxxoooo MandT