Paris Journal 2014 – Barbara Joy Cooley Home: barbarajoycooley.com
A warm, sunny Saturday in September is not so common in Paris. People by the thousands took advantage of the rare occasion; they went to the park. In our neighborhood, that’s the Luxembourg Gardens. People were everywhere; nearly every metal chair was occupied.
We kept walking, through the Gardens and the little parks to the south, and when we were near the boulevard Montparnasse, I said, “Let’s go to the Montparnasse cemetery!”
The other night at dinner, Neal had said, “Quite frankly, I don’t understand the attraction of cemeteries.” Sherry had brought up the subject, asking us if we thought it was worth their time to visit the Pere Lachaise cemetery. We said yes, it is a big and beautiful cemetery. She said, “Isn’t that where some important rock star is buried?”
I said yes, that’s Jim Morrison (of The Doors). But many famous people are buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery as well. I said that the cemeteries are wonderful arboretums, and they’re quiet and peaceful – more so than the parks like the Luxembourg Gardens. Some of the monuments are works of art.
The Montparnasse Cemetery, in particular, is a pleasant place for strolling around. We’d made one wandering circuit through the main part of the cemetery and then paused to look at the sign listing those interred in the place. The listing reminded Tom that Samuel Beckett is buried there, and he really wanted to see that spot. We examined the map on the sign, figured out which way to go, and back we went, into the heart of the graveyard.
The remains of Beckett and his wife occupy a simple granite tomb in a prime spot. They both died in the same year, which made me curious. Later Tom looked it up; their deaths were not related – that is, they didn’t die together in an accident.
Curious about Beckett’s bilingualism, I asked Tom if he wrote “Waiting for Godot” in French or English. Tom answered that he wasn’t sure about that particular play, but that Beckett often wrote in French. [Beckett did write “Waiting for Godot” in French.] Then I wondered if he did his own English translations. Turns out that he did.
What a special gift – to be able to write so well in two languages!
We strolled back to the apartment the way we’d come, going through the parks. Our plan was to go out to dinner and then hear live jazz. But after dinner, we were simply too tired for more.
Dinner was very good. Coté Bergamote serves a delicious, authentic foie gras (below), magret de canard, and chocolate torte at reasonable prices. Service is friendly, attentive, and unpretentious. We were surprised at how many people must have arrived even before 7PM to dine. Maybe that’s because it was Saturday night, and other things were planned for after dinner.
Today was our “extra” day in Paris, thanks to the Air France pilots’ union strike. There were no ominous early morning emails from the airline, but I did get one in mid-morning.
Our flight on Monday is also cancelled. I won’t know until Monday whether or not our re-booked flight on Tuesday will go. Being in Paris isn’t so bad, but the uncertainty is not good. And as of Wednesday morning, we don’t have a place to stay.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
One of the loveliest monuments in the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Bronze sculpture (1889) by Horace Daillion, in the central roundabout of the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Duck breast slices in a honey-rhubarb sauce, with homemade purréed potatoes and a lively green salad.
Just before reaching the cemetery, we passed by this fascinating sculpture (1958) by Ossip Zadkine.