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A Wanderlust for Paris

The Bassin de l'Arsenal
The Bassin de l'Arsenal

It’s not the norm, but Passover, Easter and Ramadan have all fallen simultaneously this year. Imagine what Jerusalem is like this weekend with
the three largest monotheistic religions celebrating at the same time.

Friday night was not only the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus but the first night of Passover which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the end of their slavery. Sunday was Easter, marking Jesus’ resurrection. Ramadan began on April 2nd and ends on May 2nd. This rare conjunction of these three important holidays happens because the Islamic calendar is aligned with the moon and the lunar year unlike the Christian calendar, which is determined by the course of the sun and is widely used in the Western world.

You have a choice to align with none, some or all in terms of celebrating. But one thing for sure, we could all plan to eat and drink and be merry!

Passover was celebrated in a very unusual fashion with non-Jewish friends who were clueless about the holiday, but willing to taste charoset and matza with a not-too sweet red wine. Charoset (the “ch” is in your throat, if you can say it correctly, but you may also see it written as “haroset”) is a sweet concoction made of fruits and nuts (usually apples and/or pears with walnuts and/or other nuts) symbolizing the mortar to make adobe bricks which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt. The word comes from the Hebrew word “cheres” or “clay.” Matza I hope you already are familiar with! The Haggadah, or the book that tells the story, sat on the table, but we never opened it. However, my friends played Passover music in the background lending a bit of authenticity to the scene…”Mah nishtanah, ha-laylah ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-leylot?” (“Why is this night different from all the other nights?”)

A Non-Traditional Passover Seder in a Non-Jewish Home

A Non-Traditional Passover Seder in a Non-Jewish Home

It was different, indeed, if not traditionally acceptable.

The weekend in Paris was weather-wise magnificent. Warm, sunny, blue skies and absolutely perfect in every way. This happens to just fake us out to think summer is really on its way, but it will be temporary, of that I am certain. Still the heat gets turned off, the windows get opened, the coats get put away, the sandals come out and then all we can do is enjoy the hell out of it while praying it will stay like that…but it doesn’t.

Saturday I took the opportunity to visit a friend living in Versailles who has been very unwell. Versailles is not a town in which I have spent much time, other than to visit the Château and film one episode of House Hunters International a few years ago. She lives right near the Marché Notre Dame in the center of town. It’s a square marketplace that is surrounded by shops and cafés making it an excellent spot to have everything at your toes. However, getting there and back, was an hour-and-a-half excursion each way by Métro and RER.

The Marché Notre-Dame in Versailles

The Marché Notre-Dame in Versailles

The trip to Versailles in the middle of the afternoon wasn’t very crowded, but the trip back was a different story. All the tourists (yep, the tourists are back) leaving the Château at the end of the day piled into the train making it SRO, hot and less than pleasant. There was every nationality represented in that train, speaking many multitudes of different languages. I managed to score a seat, but it wasn’t easy. Three hours out of my day wasn’t easy either, but of course I have no regrets for having made the visit to see my friend. This left me with little time to go home to prepare for dinner out, so I headed straight to dinner instead.

Le Château de Versailles

Le Château de Versailles

What did strike me while riding back to Paris is how life would be very different if I didn’t have Paris at my toes like I do living in the center. What would happen is that Paris would be a place to occasionally visit, but not to fully enjoy on a daily basis and whatever suburb I was living in would become my world. This is why I preach being dead center, wherever you want to be, so that you never miss a minute of life’s possibilities.

Easter Sunday was a glorious, glorious day that started with lunch at Carette at Place des Vosges. The leaves on the plane trees in the Place have just popped out filling the square with the most beautiful shades of green. It was filled with picnickers. Two years ago, during the height of confinement when even the parks were closed, the Place was the most stunning it’s ever been and completely void of human activity. We yearned to enter the gates, but were not allowed. Still, I took photos through the iron grill of the fence for posterity—it will never be like that again…or actually I hope not.

Carrette at Place des Vosges

Carrette at Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges During Confinement,  April 2020

Place des Vosges During Confinement, April 2020

Place des Vosges on Easter Sunday, April 2022

Place des Vosges on Easter Sunday, April 2022

The lazy part of the day ended with a long walk down and along the Bassin de l’Arsenal from Place de la Bastille all the way around the first lock and along the Seine. This is a stroll I’d never done before, nor even knew about. A map will not show you the way. You just have to follow your nose to the very end and you will discover a path that takes you around the lock and onto the quays of the river. Along the way the street artist Polar Bear has posted a work, “Art is Life.”

The Lock at the Bassin de l'Arsenal

The Lock at the Bassin de l’Arsenal

Art Is Life at the Bassin de l'Arsenal

From this vantage point, you can easily see the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral under reconstruction. The fire happened on April 15, 2019 and French President Emmanuel Macron promised it would be rebuilt by 2025. The goal today is to return the church to worship at the end of 2024, while the restoration phase began at the end of 2021. Three years later, the tragedy of the fire remains unsolved. The investigators of the Criminal Brigade are unable to establish with certainty the cause of the fire, but still favor the scenario of a carelessness over that of a voluntary act, following the example of the prosecutor of Paris, Remy Heitz, who had evoked the hypothesis of a poorly extinguished cigarette butt or an electrical malfunction. (See France 24 for more information about Notre-Dame de Paris.)

Notre-Dame de Paris from the Seine

Notre-Dame de Paris from the Seine

Tourism boats floated by, each more filled with tourists than the last. (Yep, the tourists are back, and back with a vengeance!) On the other side of the river, dancers were engaged in salsa and jitterbugging. All of Paris was out and about, wandering and discovering the city.

I was among them and loving every moment.


Poster for the European Night of Museums

The 18th edition of the European Night of Museums is an opportunity to celebrate the resumption of cultural life after two years of restrictions related to the health crisis. On May 14th, museums all over France will open their doors to enjoy a great cultural experience. Shows, concerts, guided tours, screenings, treasure hunts…young and old, regulars or novices…there is something for everyone! Rediscover your favorite museums during a night that will awaken your senses! Walk through the corridors and galleries in a more intimate atmosphere, observe the works under a changing light, more peaceful or disturbing…

To learn more, visit the site.

A la prochaine…

drian Leeds, photo by Brenda Prowse/Hugh NelsonAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Photo by Brenda Prowse/Hugh Nelson

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