Today was Sean and Leah’s last day in Paris so we decided to have some classic French food with them and visit the monument to French nationalism, the Pantheon. Having walked past this former church nearly every day since our arrival, it was about high time we entered. Once a neoclassical church this gorgeous building now is basically a temple devoted to the achievements of famous French men and one woman. There are gorgeous panels throughout that depict important events in France’s history (my favorites being the four of Joan of Arc). Some of the most notable French authors, scientist, philosophers, et al are buried here. Marie Curie (although I think she was actually Polish, but who’s counting?), Louis Braille, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Emile Zola, Rene Descartes, Alexander Dumas, and many more. I found it a little creepy to walk around the crypt and take pictures of dead people’s caskets, but did go ahead and join the hordes. I guess that it was cool to see where all these famous people ended up but it’s also very empty feeling.
Frankly I was most excited to see a inscription to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Little Prince. It’s a book that makes me cry every time I read it! Saint-Exupery was a war pilot as well as a poet and disappeared while on a mission during World War II. His body was never found and his writing career came to a much too early end. I liked the idea that he simply got an inscription and his grave wasn’t being constantly photographed by tourists who probably know very little about him. I think that’s what I found strange about the whole experience. And I wasn’t above taking pictures of these graves but afterwards it struck me as very odd. I would venture that most people don’t know the finer points of French philosophy. Most people aren’t experts of Victor Hugo. Few people understand why the Curie’s were awarded the Nobel prize. But we all trump in there, camera’s in hand and take pictures of boxes that hold the remains of famous people. I can see someone who has devoted their life to understanding the works of Hugo being profoundly moved to visit the great man’s grave – but what about the rest of us? Isn’t it a bit vacuous? Oh well. I didn’t think about it a lot while I was there, but it’s been nagging at my brain lately and I guess I’m processing it while writing this entry. Sorry.
Here’s the pics:
Leah and I also walked through the Luxembourg Gardens after the museum. It’s really such an amazing garden and I’ve been reading up on it a bit. The Luxembourg Palace was built by Marie de Medici because she had married Henry IV and missed her native Florence. So to assuage her pining heart, she ordered a palace built in the Florentine style. Which I think is a great idea – when I feel home sick in Edinburgh, I’ll just build a giant structure that reminds me of home…maybe something like a Kaldi’s coffee shop. Anyway, despite it being a bit indulgent, I’m glad she built it and I would venture that the thousands of people who walk through the gardens are glad too. And I’m pretty sure the French Senate is happy with their stomping grounds. In addition to the palace the garden boasts beautiful fountains, tennis courts, boules courts, an excellent and very large play ground for kids, wading pools for children, tons of chairs and benches. It’s fantastic.
After our walk through the garden, the Turchins took off for their return journey to Edinburgh, and Scotty and I took it easy that night. I boiled some enormous artichokes (these things were the size of a child’s head) and we enjoyed them with garlic butter. MmmmMmmm. It brought back lots of memories from my childhood – my mom used to serve us the same meal and we were always so excited about it.