May 1 Tuesday
I’m on my own for real. When I went down for breakfast, not a familiar face. I spotted a visiting artist I’d seen yesterday. Sitting alone, slumped over the table, she seemed isolated. I approached her saying I had heard of her from a previous tenant, the poet. I didn’t wish to bother her but wondered if she’d like some company. “I haven’t even woken up,” was her retort. I retreated to my seat, never to darken her breakfast again. Other residents wandered in, and for the first time in a month, the room was silent, deadly silent.
No class today: it’s La Fête du Travail, a national holiday celebrating worker’s rights. America has it’s Labor Day but I’m not convinced the focus is on worker’s rights.
Given the French Revolution was all about rights, taking a walking tour offered by Paris Walks on that topic seemed appropriate. I misread the time of departure and rushed to Metro Odéon glad to be in my old quartier. The group was large, the tour guide amusing and well-informed. It began with the statue of Danton next to the Odéon métro. Georges Danton is credited with leading the overthrow of the monarchy and establishing the French Republic but his head rolled under the guillitone when he stood against the Reign of Terror. Next, we walked en masse across Boulevard Saint Germaine to one of the passageways of Paris, Cour du Commerce Saint-André. We passed the back of Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris, where many a revolutionary scheme was hatched. Benjamin Franklin frequented the café when he was trying to get France to support our own revolution and was seen walking through Paris in a coonskin hat.
A few steps away was the home of Jean-Paul Marat (Marat de Sade) editor and owner of a revolutionary paper, L’ami du Peuple. At the end of the passageway, we made a u turn and came to Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie to look inside Le Procope where Napoléon left his hat as collateral while serving as an officer in the French army during the revolution. Napoléon did enact the Code Napoléon which became the Code Civil des Français. It declares all “men” equal and lays out rights to which they are entitled.
After several hours of wandering within a few blocks of Odéon, we ended up at Saint Sulpice, a perfect end for me given how often I visit. Over the center door is a sign left from the revolution: “’Le Peuple Français Reconnoit L’Etre Suprême Et L’Immortalité de L’Âme’’ or “The French people recognize the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul” declaring the basic tenet of what was hoped would be the state religion replacing Roman Catholicisim.
Tired and hungry, I happened upon a stand on Boulevard Saint Michel selling tartiflette, sausage, and beer. I had made this dish rich with potatoes, cheese, bacon, and onions. It could be my dinner. Small tables and chairs sat next to the stand. After hours of being part of a crowd, I welcomed the chance to sit alone and enjoy my luscious indulgence. Although there were empty tables, a woman approached me and asked if she could join me. I pointed out that there were plenty of other places to sit. But she was determined and sat opposite me. I wasn’t very gracious, didn’t engage in conversation or make eye contact. Am I reverting to my French heritage?
Twenty minutes later, sated, I was on my way. I passed a man selling lily of the valley bouquets. Tradition dictates that the sweet smelling tiny flowers be given to a loved one on May 1. I bought some but the only recipient would be moi.
I hurried home to catch a few winks before going to the play, Agatha. Luckily, the theater is just a few blocks from the Irish College. As soon as I got in my room, I looked up the email with my ticket to check the performance time. It was at the Théâtre de L’Epée des Bois which I assumed was the theater down the street since the movie theater on Rue Moufettard is called L’Epée de Bois Cinéma. Wrong I was. The theater is literally in the woods, in the Bois de Vincennes, not far from where I lived my first time in Paris in Saint Mandé but it would take me over an hour to reach, too far for me to arrive in time.
An early night after a drink at Café Delmas contemplating the gatherings on Place de la Contrescarpe.