Don’t drink the dregs

Woke at 8 after a good 8 hours sleep. The day was glorious but the room hadn’t improved. Eventually we made our way downstairs for breakfast. The baguette was fine, the coffee was lovely, the tea too weak. Still, the breakfast room was pleasant enough. It looks out into the courtyard that our room overlooks.

Unlike previous holidays, there was no return to the room. Instead it was straight out into the Avenue des Gobelins. The idea was to walk the Mouff. This is an ancient custom around these parts where tourists walk along this street which once had lots of market stalls. It still has some, and the first bit was really lovely. There is the occasional interesting cheese shop and the blocks of flats are all interesting.

Market stalls along the Mouffetard, Paris

The Mouffetard is a road which, the Rough Guide claims ‘snakes’ through the area. It has one bend. So, not the most agile of snakes. It followed the old Roman route to Italy but when you consider that ALL roads lead to Rome, this could be any street. There is a supposed oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Mouff. It is called the place de la Contrascape. The Rough Guide calls it pleasingly run-down. It is a tip! The fountain has become a garbage dump, the small plants seem to be sprouting plastic bags and aluminium cans. The traffic is halted whenever a truck delivers beer to the pub and then the pedestrians get run over by irate posties. It’s really not very nice!

Eventually we managed to arrive at the Pantheon. This is a huge temple to the dead heroes of France. These are such people as Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau etc. The building was originally a temple, back in 507 when King Clovis became a Christian. St Genevieve was buried there in 512. She is the patron saint of Paris.

Nothing seems to have happened for a while so roll forward to 1744 when Louis XV got something in his eye. When it fell out (NOT the eye), he rejoiced, claiming it was St Genevieve’s doing. So he hired a local architect to redesign the place to what it is today – huge and ornate.

After this it was a temple, then a crypt, then back to a temple. Eventually (1885), when Victor Hugo died, it was decided to bury him there and so it became the place to bury really famous people. The inside is impressively decorated with huge painted panels and heavily populated sculptured groups. I was particularly impressed with the breasts that seem to tower over you, menacingly.

Breasts in the Pantheon, Paris

In the middle of the dome and hanging by a thread, is a working model of Foucault’s Pendulum which, in 1851, stunned the people by proving that the earth revolved. It’s amazing. You can tell the time by it.

Under the main building is the labyrinthine crypts. Passages and archways spread out everywhere. I imagine stray tourists are found wandering the halls, lost, after lights out on a regular basis. We wandered around looking up Voltaire, who’d been dragged out for a bit of an airing in the main entrance, and Victor Hugo, again looking uncannily like Nick. The actual memorials are all the same so, having seen one, you could basically say you’d seen them all. We wandered round reading for a bit but basically left for want of coffee.

Just outside the Pantheon (and a street away) we found the Crepe A Gogo. I recommend it’s coffee and it’s crepes. A lovely place to sit and watch the traffic and the people as they go about their daily chores. After an early and lovely lunch we set off to revisit the Luxembourg Gardens which looked quite different with lots of people around and a few flowers sprouted. We sat for a while and let Paris move around us for a bit then set off for the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Flowers in a planter, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

We didn’t quite get there before being forced into a café for a coffee. THEN we went to the cemetery. A lovely quiet place, crowded with memorials resembling the tops of lift shafts. Unfortunately the only way is down in these particular elevators.

After a lovely stroll it was off to the Metro and a convoluted trip back to the Place d’Italie which leads back to our hotel. Naturally we had to stop off at a patisserie on the way.

The late afternoon/evening was spent in some sort of repose.

For dinner we popped across the road to Le Sirocco, ‘Cuisine Marocaine’, and each had a delicious tagine (Mirinda had chicken, I had lamb) with couscous. I tried a Casablanca beer which was a light refreshing lager (not alcoholic light, naturally). For dessert I bravely tried the crème brulee with something odd. Although pretty much NOT a crème brulee, it was actually very nice although I still have no idea what else was in it. Mirinda had some Moroccan pastries.

I decided to try the Café Parfum after the meal. This is a truly odd experience. Imagine black coffee with herbs and spices and strange little seeds floating in it. It wasn’t awful, just weird. And, a warning if you are ever tempted to have one: don’t drink the dregs. There’s all manner of strange things living down there at the bottom of the cup, things you are better off not swallowing.

After dinner we strolled around the back streets, finding a very steep hill that Mirinda ran up, and then returned to the hotel for bed.

Watching BBC News, it appears that the royals cost each person in the UK 66p last year, rather than the penny it used to be.

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