October 16, 2009
Today was the last day of my 2 ½ month trip. It was not an easy day: I came to Paris for two days to visit a friend who is seriously ill. I visited the public assistance hospital in a neighborhood that most people don’t see. It was difficult and absolutely worth it. My friend told me that it was the first time in the month he’s been in the hospital that he’s felt good, and laughed. Of course it was also very melancholy and when we said “Ci vediamo,” we’ll see you, when I left, we pretended but both knew there’s not much chance. But then I’ve never known when and where I’d see him again. In any case, if you have the chance to visit someone who has been important in your life who is seriously ill, even if it’s difficult and far away, do it.
After my visit I needed to walk, so I walked all the way back to my hotel, basically from Montparnasse to Montmarte, crossing all of Paris. This was a wonderful thing to do. Usually I take the Metro to the Musee D’orsay or some other museum or just wander around the center. I saw so much more of Paris, all the diverse neighborhoods.
First I wandered north to the Pantheon and the Left Bank, with all its students and camping stores and bookstores and cafes. I cut across to the Ile St. Louis and windowshopped along the street, then headed toward the Marais, where I checked in at the Place des Voges. I wandered through the Jewish neighborhood and the gay neighborhood and passed the most chic boutiques. From there I headed east and wandered through a wholesale fashion district, like the cheap ribbon and handbag shops ear 7th avenue in New York. Then I came upon what seemed like a little Chinatown.
I kept angling west and came upon a gallery opening near the Arts-Metiers metro stop (I only had a metro map). It was an interesting Chinese woman who does giant industrial Chinese landscapes and poses in front of them in traditional Chinese dress. The huge photos were good. I was glad I was wearing a black dress and boots because the crowd was unbelievably chic. I sipped some white wine, which was not quite as bad as the wine at an American opening, and then headed northwest again.
Pretty soon I came to an old gate of the city and an area filled with cheap ethnic eateries and shops filled with Chinese goods. It reminded me of 23rd St. in New York, or 14th before they cleaned it up. Mostly Africans, some Middle Eastern people, all those little trench coats and scarves disappeared for a few blocks. I was starting to lose my bearings when the hill started to climb, which meant that I was nearing Montmartre. I finally hit the cheesy tourist shops and, too tired to climb the hill, took the funicular up to the top of the Sacre Couer. From there I dropped down the other side of the hill to the little hotel where I was staing on Rue Lamarck. I had an unexceptional steak and some Languedoc wine and listened to some 80s new wave music as I wrote in my journal before heading back to Hotel de Flore, not a bad place at all for 85 euros, even if it’s about the farthest place in Paris from the public hospital.
Now I’m on my way to London and finally home tomorrow. It’s been an amazing trip, but I am so ready to back to San Francisco. I hope my friends remember me.