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Halloween in Paris: Cemeteries, Catacombs, and Ghostly Itineraries in the City of Light

Montparnasse Cemetery graves, cachecacheMontparnasse Cemetery, cachecache

Temperatures are dropping as fast as the gold-stained leaves that crunch beneath our feet, filling the air with the fragrance of autumn. Sedate men selling warm chestnuts balance their shopping cart roasters at metro entrances. Fall has fallen on Paris and with Halloween just around the corner, it is the ideal season to explore the city’s darker side.

Pere Lachaise, CpaKmoi

Père Lachaise Cemetery, CpaKmoi

The Catacombs are a macabre storage depot 20 meters below street level; a maze of femurs, ribs, and skulls are arranged, stacked, and aligned, evoking an exhibition of Art Naïve. The aging bones of 15th century literary luminaries Rabelais and Jean de la Fontaine entwine with 18th century revolutionaries Robespierre and Danton, sitting among the remains of six million other Parisians, all of them originally buried in city cemeteries that were reclaimed as land for the living.

Catacombs, Rachel Alter

Catacombs, Rachel Alter

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Paris Tips: Making Small Talk A La Parisienne

Little Brown Pen

Warm? Friendly? Spontaneous? These aren’t perhaps the first words that spring to mind when describing the typical Parisien. However, I can assure you that once you learn to greet and meet like a local, the slightly frosty exterior slowly begins to melt.

The bonjour

In Paris it’s essential to say bonjour many times each day. A Parisian lives and breathes bonjours. To foreigners this may seem excessive, but barge into a shop, skip the bonjour and see what happens. French customer service, already suffering in the image stakes, reaches new levels of indifference.

Little Brown Pen

If, like me, you work in a large French company this situation can spiral dangerously and risks occupying a disproportionate part of your already coffee-break-filled day. I’ve come to dread lifts: not only is the bonjour compulsory on entering, the bonne journée (have a nice day) is also necessary on exiting. Et oui, this applies each and every time someone hops in or out. Even though my office is on the 5th floor, I’ve started taking the stairs!

Please note that the bonjour shouldn’t be too cheery or effusive for fear of rippling the careful air of nonchalance. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 16 Comments »

Not the Louvre: An Alternative Guide to Paris’ Museums

One can only bear the mob encircling the Mona Lisa so many times.

In my four months living in Paris, I must have visited Mona and her Louvre museum on half a dozen occasions, mostly while touring visiting friends and family around the city’s landmark attractions. You can’t argue that the Louvre is not fabulous, but one long spin around the place is enough to hold you over for a while. Luckily, during my last stint in Paris I had time to make the rounds of Paris’ smaller, more captivating museums and am happy to share these lesser-known finds with you now.

Dig sculpture? Need a spot for a sunny afternoon picnic? The Musée Rodin is dedicated to the works of Parisian and Western art’s greatest sculptor, Auguste Rodin. The museum, located just east of Hôtel des Invalides and within view of the Eiffel Tower, consists of an indoor display in what used to be the Hôtel Biron and a sculpture garden featuring a sculpture garden, luscious green lawn, pond and an area designated for lazying on lounge chairs and taking in the day—as Parisians so commonly do. See Rodin’s most famous pieces, such as The Thinker, Balzac, and The Kiss, and be sure to pack that picnic lunch.

Musée Rodin, 79, rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. Closed Mondays.

Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie (Benoit Deniaud)

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Posted in Arts, Events, Parisian Living | 16 Comments »