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un peu d’histoire

What am I, nuts, talking about going for a run? All you have to do in in this city is decide on a little jaunt, and three hours later you are still walking with screaming feet. Running is for when there’s nowhere to walk. In fact, I should not have bought a month’s metro pass – about $100 for limitless bus and metro  – because I’m not going to get my money’s worth.  

Today’s jaunt – to the Musee Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris, another place that somehow, in my trips here, I have never visited. On the way, I kept stopping to gawk, especially at the stunning Hotel de Sens, built in 1475, with an ornate garden. I overheard a tour guide tell her group that the formal French old gardens are called “tapestry” style, because they’re designed to be seen from above, from the windows of chateaux. 
For some bizarre reason, I thought the museum would be a small place, a cosy little look at Paris past. Hah! It’s in a stunning building, and it’s endless. One room after another packed with history, starting with the Romans pre-Christianity and continuing through the Revolution to pre-war times. Now that I’m home, I will get out the guidebooks with Paris’s history in them, so I can sit down and try to learn what I saw today. There was far too much to take in, but the highlight, for this writer, was seeing Marcel Proust’s cork-lined room, which they have recreated – there he lay in bed and wrote, protected from harsh noises by his unusual wallpaper. I also saw Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s inkwell, Voltaire’s “fauteuil mortuaire” – death chair? – and a recreation of what the Arenes de Lutece must have looked like in the first few centuries, when 15,000 people would gather there to watch gladiators and wild beasts. The ruins of Les Arenes are just down the street here, a huge open park and playground which, interestingly, is equipped with wifi.
After an hour and a half, my eyes were rolling back, so I had to leave and will return to start, next time, at the other end – with a huge portrait gallery of famous Parisians. I waved to Jean Cocteau on my way out. From the second floor, by the way, I looked out the window at the formal garden, and sure enough, saw a tapestry of pattern not visible from the ground. 
The triumph of this trip was that I forgot my map and still managed to make it home. Of course, after leaving the museum I thought, I know exactly where I am, and walked 100% in the wrong direction. But only asked once before getting my bearings and wandering back. Saw a great poster on a wall: the famous Obama poster with “Yes, we can” underneath, and beside it, in exactly the same style, the face of Sarkozy with, underneath, “Pas de weekend.”
I also heard a man, who was cleaning the windows of his shop, exclaiming on the phone, “Mais c’est pas a moi de faire, ca, pas a moi.” I thought of something someone said at Almeta’s dinner – that the word which comes most naturally to the French is ‘non.’ This morning I went to a plumber a few steps away to ask if they could come and light the pilot light in the heater so I could have some heat. You’d think I’d asked them to do brain surgery. “You need a specialist, madame,” he told me, as if a plumber cannot light a pilot light.
The French may enjoy saying no, but they’ve created a city crammed with masterpieces to share with us all.  Today’s excursion – walk, gawk, vast Museum – cost exactly zero. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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