My previous post was the beginning of something, now it is time to keep MOVING on this “something”!
CAVEAT: I Blog Long. I know it’s not the “official” bloggy way to be, I try and try to be concise, simple, and brief in my blogging, but my way of writing veers more to the Tolstoy or Proust end of things than the Hemingway-esque. It has its charms, but I know it can be a pain when one wants to get to the goods of the info herein. I’d like to try to be other than I am, but hell, this is just how I roll, despite my attempts to be otherwise. I have come to some peace with this by invoking the lines of Shakespeare in Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3, Polonius to Laertes: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
However, for those of you who have come here for the info and want to cut to the chase and skip the anecdotes I write along the way, I have put headers into this piece so you can get to the stuff you want. I hope this helps!
I had an adventure on Thursday, 2 July 2009, just over a week ago.
Why the adventure?
My lessons in life here in Paris seem to center around practicing how to do things by and for myself: to dig deep into myself to find what strength is there to overcome my personal challenges and do that in the environment of this city.
As I said in my first post here, I have been blogging on a more personal level at other sites for almost four years, but this is my attempt at “professionalizing” my experiences to bring them to a different level of writing: to write for others who want to know more about Paris from the point-of-view of a neurotic, gluten-sensitive, forty-something-year-old who is trying to Get A Life living in the City of Light.
The idea of having self-designed “adventures” in Paris is my way of experiencing the city by and for myself, on my terms, to the level which I feel is accessible to me. I have lived in Paris about a year now. For various reasons (paperwork issues, mostly), I am not working, so my life in the past year has consisted of adjusting to a new culture, keeping house for me, my BF PJ (jeebus, he’s 45 years old. “Boyfriend” sounds too “high school,” but there is not another term that really suits. We’re domestic partners at this point, living together, he’s why I came here, and while we may get hitched in the future, we’re not yet there, so “BF” it is), and his two kids, who part-time it here on the weekends, and trying to figure out what to do with all this TIME. Through encouragement of my bloggy family in another blogosphere, I decided, eventually, to get out and enjoy the city and all it has to offer. Writing it down, keeping a blog, is my own way of personal accountability to get out there and LIVE.
So here we go.
THE CANAL SAINT-MARTIN
Why this place?
1) It’s close.
I live in the 19th arrondissement of Paris (the city “proper,” not the ‘burbs), in the northeastern part of the snail’s shell that spirals out from the center of the city.
Bear with me if you know this part already, but it was not something I knew very much about before I got here, and it is helpful to know.
The arrondissements closest to me are the 20th, the 10th, and the 18th. These are the sections of the city to the east, south, and west of the one in which I live, respectively.
Here’s a map of this general area in Paris, and the area in the box is the specific area about which I write in this post:
2) I’m poor.
Well, in all fairness, I’m not India Slum poor, just middle-class financially-challenged, as is a great portion of the inhabitants of developed western nations. I have it in perspective. I count my blessings. We have more than enough compared to some. But yeah, there’s not a lot extra for going to museums, concerts, and other like events here in the city. I have to be creative as dropping 8-9 € on museum trips a couple of times a week is not really feasible right now.
PJ (or “Peej”) is a teacher. He supports us on his salary alone right now, and we all know how teachers get paid, even at good jobs like his in a city like Paris. We get by, but “getting by” in a big and expensive city like Paris is still tough. I wanted to find something to do that did not involve the price of a Métro ticket, which at the time of this writing is 1 € 60, or 1 € 40 if bought in a book (“carnet”) of ten. A there-and-back trip would be 2 € 80, which doesn’t sound like much, but if you translate that to USD, which at the time of this writing is $1.40 to 1 €, it’s about $4.50. Adds up. I was looking for something as cheap as it gets, which means FREE.
3) I am a sucker for movies about the city, or at least I became so upon entering a relationship with Peej and knowing that he lived here, and the Canal appears in the movie “Amélie,” or in French, «Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain». For more info on the film, see here.
I have always been more interested in Asia and Asian culture. I have an unofficial minor in Asian Studies, lived and worked in the People’s Republic of China from 1990-1991, and Husband #1 (I call him “UnEx.” This is to differentiate him from “DeuxEx,” who was Husband #2. Yes, I learn the hard way) was Chinese.
Did not care a lick. Asia was my One True Foreign Love, much as people fall in love with Paris and dream of living here from childhood onward.
When I re-met PJ online back in 2006 (we’d known of each other through a mutual friend since I was in high school, and he even, at two separate times, dated some of my best friends), I became interested in Paris, which he loves. It was an “I’m interested in it because he’s interested in it” kind-of-thing. His own story of coming to live here was a bit “accidental” in that weird way life has of bringing us to the places where we really belong, but that is a story for another time.
At any rate, back about the time that we started writing on the ‘net, when I was still in the States, I started watching movies about the city with abandon (“Amélie,” “Paris j’taime”…) and have made it a goal to visit some of the places that have appeared in these films.
I found out about the Canal St-Martin in the movie from sites such as these:
The Canal appears in the part of the movie where Amélie is skipping rocks into the water at the locks.
Okay, let’s get to the meat of the adventure now, shall we?
Here is what I did…
Well, I walked. And took photos. And walked some more.
4) After Rue Bichat, I crossed over to the Quai de Valmy side.
5) I watched a lock open and close for the Canauxrama, a tour boat that goes from the Port de l’Arsenal (a marina near the Seine) to the Parc de la Villette, along with all the others waiting to cross.
I saw a Lego Apartment (lol — a lot of 1960s design in Paris reminds me of Legos), a café called Chez Prune (cracked me up) and lots of people hanging out.
6) And then I met Markum (“mar-koom” with an Arabic rolled “r”).
While I stopped to watch a private houseboat pass through another lock, I got to talking to a guy named Markum from Tunisia, IN FRENCH. I let him know I did not speak much, but as a foreigner himself, he was patient and just spoke to me slowly, and we actually negotiated a conversation (with him mostly talking and my mostly nodding and saying “Je comprende” which means “I understand”). I learned that he was from Tunisia, he worked keeping the grounds of the Canal in that section, which is also like a kind of park as it belongs to the city of Paris, and that he liked his workweek, which is limited by the French government to 38 hours (and I think includes lunch breaks, although I am not sure). He admired the boat (“Trés jolie! La bonne vie!” [How pretty! The good life!]) and we speculated on where the boat was from until seeing the large French flag at the back of the boat. We talked about how I am not working yet, that I was a teacher of English by career, to which he gave me a “high five” and said “Pas problème!” (No problem!) and said I would have no problem getting a job as people everywhere in Paris wanted to learn English. He was a good, good soul, and it was phenomenal to have an actual conversation with someone patient and interested in talking to me. I then took my leave by shaking his hand and telling him to have a good day (Bonne journée!).
I wish I had taken a photo of Makrum, but I didn’t. Here’s the fancy private boat that passed while we chatted.
8 ) At first, I went pretty far down past the rue de Faubourg de Temple and came upon a playground and park area.
9) I stayed in the park and then had a good look at my map, realized to go home via the rue de Faubourg de Temple I would have to backtrack, and so I did.
This was the longest stretch of my journey home, which sent through one of two big Chinatowns in Paris, Belleville. It is a very arty area, with even a sanctioned graffiti alley where I saw artists at work.
A theater where comedians go onstage…
The Cok Ming, heh heh heh!
11) From the rue de Faubourg de Temple, which I walked from the Canal to M° Belleville, and which then turns into the Rue de Belleville, I continued on up to M° Pyrénées and then turned left (which is basically North) onto Avenue Simon Bolivar.
Avenue Simon Bolivar continues on to one of the prettiest parks in Paris, the Buttes Chaumont, and which is very close to my home. I went on through the park until I came upon Rue Armand Carrel, which leads me back to our apartment.
As I passed through the park, I saw people enjoying being out in a bit of a breeze on a hot day. I saw a wedding party of a Middle Eastern couple (the park is across from the town hall — the Mairie XIX — where people get married and it is popular for newlyweds to have photos taken in the park).
(More on the park in another blog… I have some more photos of other sections of the park, too, which highlight some of its beautiful features.)
12) I observed the street, Rue Armand Carrel just near my home with new eyes…
When I came back to the little triangular “square” in front of our apartment, I really felt like I was coming Home. This feels more like my home now, even though I am an alien in Paris.
The building where I live.
The entry hall of our building.
The stairs from the entry, the ground floor, to the first level.
Our neighbors’ cat, Muriel (who is a boy cat, lol).
Our front door.
I hope you enjoyed my adventure as much as I did. Oh, and in case you want to do a similar journey, this one from door to door took me about 3.5 hours, at a moseying pace, photographing along the way. As a really, really rough guesstimate, I think it was about 7 miles to do this entire circle. I’d try to be more exact, but math and measuring distances is not my strong suit!
These are a sampling of some of the photos I took. The rest of the photos from my journey can be seen in my set about the Canal St-Martin at my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karinlynn as a part of the set located here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karinlynn/sets/72157620891525370/