An Adventure to Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont

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18 November 2009, Parc de Belleville

The end is so close. I stand at 46,399 words towards the 50k needed to complete NaNoWriMo. A couple of good, long, posts and I am there.

Yesterday, I finished all I had hoped to write about Tess’ and my Saturday 14 Nov. meeting in the 17th and 8th. Today, I plan to tackle my new friend Karen’s and my journey taken last Wednesday to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the Parc de Belleville, and Cimitière Père Lachaise.

First, I just have to say something as a teacher and a writer.

I am aware I have grammar errors in the previous posts, and maybe some spelling ones, too. * blush* I feel slightly ashamed about this.  I know some of you could care less, and probably gloss right over errors, not aware of the them, perfectly pleased to read what you do. Then I am sure there are the folk who are saying to themselves, “Oh my gaawwwddd, and she calls herself a writer!! Does she not know she should have used past tense there to remain consistent?”

I’m kind of in the middle, gray area when it comes to stuff like this. I know that a “pro” blog should be very clean, edited, consistent, and error-free. I realize that people who write as professionals should have copy that is as perfect as possible. I also know that I am a lot harder on myself than I am on others. If I read someone’s blog and see that he or she has shifted tense, I don’t really care. My brain registers the slip, and on I go to read the heart and soul of the message.

But yeah, I guess if I think about it, if I saw a glaring error on a blog like David Lebovitz’s, I might judge a little bit.

Another reason I am grateful to not have a well-known blog, just an ordinary one: my standard does not have to be so high.  With doing the writing the way I have been, shooting mostly for quantity in a particular time frame, to reach a specific goal (a 50k word count for the month of November), things like carefully proofing before hitting “Publish” have had to fly out the window a little bit. I try. I catch as much as I can, but I know the errors are there.

I thought of this all because I was just at yesterday’s post, re-reading it quickly, and I caught a verb tense error. Heh.

Kare(i)n-à-deux Adventure

I have been looking forward to writing this piece. It was really one of my Top Five Days in Paris, for certain! I wanted to wait until I had covered some of the other topics about which I have wanted to write, but this has been a biggie, something I have anticipated very much.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that Karen is a reader. She arrived on my blog via David Lebovitz’s — I had posted a comment there and she checked out and read my site. We exchanged emails and phone numbers, and decided that a meetup would be a lot of fun. Neither she nor I are working now, and while we do not have a lot of moolah to be painting the town red (cliché alert! Oh, that pesky voice of perfection, lol) we do have the time.

I have really come to like to show off my neighborhood. As I have written before, I live in the NE section of Paris, in the 19th arrondissement.

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Screen captures from Mappy.com, with additions in Paint by yours truly.

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Karen is from a southern suburb just outside of the ring road of Paris, the Périphérique. After talking to her on the phone, I learned that she had not yet been to the big and beautiful Buttremont, the nickname for Parc des Buttes Chaumont, nor to Parc de Belleville, nor Cimitière Père Lachaise. We needed to remedy this.

On Wednesday the 18th of November, Karen and I met at M° Jaurés, Line 5 and proceeded to walk down Avenue Jean Jaurés to Rue Armand Carrel.

Fellow blogger, and one I think I have mentioned here before, AmericInParis just recently blogged about the park as well at this link here, Hidden Treasures of Paris: Parc des Buttes Chaumont. He mentions access to the park via Line 7 bis at M° Botzaris or Buttes Chaumont:

Line 7bis - ratp

It is true, these stops are right at two entrances at the top of the park (it rises up a hill towards the south), and if you want very direct access, these stops would be your best bet. however, there is the main entrance to the park just across from the town hall of the 19th arrondissement, which you can get to by taking M° Jaures (Line 5 – orange, in the map below) to Rue Armand Carrel to Place Armand Carrel and the Mairie 19eme, the town hall.
Line 5 and 7 bis - ratp

Sorry for the crappy little screen captures enhanced by Paint. Graphic designer I am not, ha!. Still, this will give you the idea.

Buttes Chaumont - Mappy

It may look like a far walk but it is not at all.  I live right in this spot, and it takes me all of five minutes, swear. Remember that in Paris, what looks like a long distance on a map is not. All of Paris is only about 10 km across (as the crow flies, or even less, as this website claims), or about 6 miles! We are talking less than a quarter of a mile walk up Rue Armand Carrel.

There is a second Métro stop that will give you access to the park, too: Laumière, also on Line 5. In fact, looking at the map there, a quick stroll up Avenue de Laumière is even shorter than Armand Carrel! I just never go that way as I live just off of Rue Armand Carrel. I will say that if you get off at Jaurés, you can also view the locks where the Canal Saint-Martin meets the Bassin de la Villette, and they are interesting to see.

In any case, I think that Métro Line 5 is a lot easier to access from other Métro lines in the city, whereas 7 bis is going to mean adding a second station change, most likely, to your journey. If I were you, I would walk.

Karen and I took just this route: M° Jaurés up Armand Carrel to the main park entrance.

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This is a “mini-mart” shop I have passed many a time on Rue Armand Carrel. The owners recently put up a new awning, which I think looks really snazzy.

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Photo of the main entrance of the park, with the Mairie du 19eme in the background.

When we got to the park, something out-of-the-ordinary was going on. There were a bunch of middle-school-aged youths in jogging shorts and running shoes acting like middle-school students all over the planet: rowdy and full of pubescence.

It appeared that a running race was taking place at the park.

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The finish line.

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Karen and I were cracking up at this point as there was a female announcer saying that she had found a shoe, that there was obviously a child with only one shoe, and he or she ought to return to the finishing area to retrieve the shoe. (I am fictionalizing that last part a little as really what *I* heard the  announcer say was: “enfant… blah blah blah, chausseur blah blah blah” Karen explained the rest.)

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I later looked up information about USEP, and it appears to be an interscholastic organization/educational commission sponsoring athletics education and events  in France. Beyond that, my French cannot handle the details, but you are welcome to check out the link and see for yourself. I think I have the gist of it, though.

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Kids, checking out their results.

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I started to take photos of the wonderful fall foliage in the park.

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Just after taking this photo, something crazy happened. A group of kids were following Karen and me. Suddenly, one of the kids, as I was talking to Karen about the park, snatched and grabbed my camera, right out of my hand!

Thankfully, I had the camera straps in hand as well and quick reflexes to keep hold of them. I started hollering at the kid, and yanking back hard on my camera. The combination of my yelling and pulling back hard on my camera scared him off. It’s a good thing he ran off, too, as I was ready to kick his little thieving butt! Had he stayed around, or had he managed to start to run with the camera, I really think I would have chased him and tackled him — taken him down. He was a fairly puny kid –  maybe about in the equivalent of 7th or 8th grade, 14 or so years old. He was not that much bigger than me, what I can remember of him, the twerp. I really do think it could have been the Crazy Lady wildness in my eyes, a wildness he saw where he knew he would get a whippin’ if he stuck around. I think I had The Look, you know, the one that Mom gives when she is so bloomin’ angry that you know you are going to get what-for for doing whatever it was you were doing, and you run, terrified, before she can get a hold of you. I know I certainly felt, and it must have showed as fire in my eyes and the physical stance to fight, a kind of instinctual ‘DO NOT MESS WITH ME” strength that overcame me in this situation. I am glad he ran, as I did not need to be arrested for assaulting a minor.

Now, as to what I was hollering. I don’t know what it was that triggered such a strong verbal, in addition to physical, response (the violation that it is to have something taken boldly from one’s hands?), but my Inner Sailor also came charging up and out of my mouth, and I was shouting (in English) some pretty choice words at the little pecker, uhhh, I mean youth who tried to steal from me. Poor Karen and any other English speaker within earshot got a rant that lasted a few minutes after the whole event ended as the adrenaline in my system rattled through me and continued to pour out of my mouth. Some of the remaining kids, who out of curiosity at the shouting and swearing older lady (they clearly understood isolated words, the “F” word being a bit international at this point, what with rappers and movies and other media from the States being popular here, too), straggled along, and in recognition of the words they heard, decided to try a few out for themselves, albeit French-accented, which made them sound a little silly. Like the kid who hollered back to me, “Beetch. Beetch.” It kind of made me want to giggle, if I had not been so goshdarn angry with the ballsy would-be thief.

After I calmed down (I wonder just how crazy I appeared as Karen asked me a couple of times, “Are you okay? Are you SURE you are okay?” 🙂 ), very glad to still have my camera in hand (while I still think it is a POS — noooo, that does not mean “point and shoot,” lol — I *am* grateful to still have it), we continued our journey through the park, up to the Temple of the Sybil (the belvédère as it is called in French), and then eventually out to the exit closest to Rue Simon Bolivar.

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Everything, from the waterfall in this cave at the park to the wood-looking railings and fences around pathways at the park, is man-made. The park used to be an old gypsum and limestone quarry and dump before it was commissioned to be made into a park in 1860 by Napoleon III and carried out by Baron Hausmann.

The Wikipedia article gives more details about the history: Buttes Chaumont History. Also from the Wikipedia site, in the links, there is a comparison of what the park looked like in 1900 versus the present day: Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont. I have really enjoyed looking at those scenes. Relatively little has changed in 110 years. Also in the Wikipedia links is one to these fantastic photos of the park! The Visual Travel Guide I recognized every single photo taken there. I really do appreciate this park so very much.

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Karen, on “Suicide Bridge” with the Belvédère in the background.

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Kare(i)n-à-deux

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The view out to the south/south-west of the park.

Before moving on to the rest of our journey, I wanted to write a little bit about an aspect of Paris that has touched me a lot, especially after reading the novel Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

I purchased Sarah’s Key in a Michigan Target this past summer on a shopping spree. I bought it because I recognized on the paperback cover the Jardin du Luxembourg. I read the summary on the back of the book, and thought it sounded like a good read, so I tossed it in the cart along with the can opener, Tylenol PM, socks, and other goodies I purchased to bring home to Paris.

I set it aside as I was reading other books, including Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson. A couple of weeks ago, though,  I picked the book up and started to read. I could not put it down. As Augusten Burroughs endorses on the front cover,  it is “a shocking, profoundly moving, and morally-challenging story… nothing short of miraculous. It will haunt you, it will help to complete you….”

I found the book to be very powerful, indeed.

It is a well-written novel with a smooth narrative flow about an American expatriate who has lived in Paris for over 20 years and who writes for a publication aimed at Anglophones living in Paris. The year is 2002, and it is the 60th anniversary of something called the Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv, which means the Vel’ d’Hiv Round Up. As it states in the Wikipedia article about the Round Up: “At 4am on 16 July 1942, 12,884 Jews were arrested: 4,051 children, 5,802 women and 3,031 men. (A total of 13,152 has also been quoted).” These men, women and children were crowded into the Vémodrome d’Hiver, a cycling venue, with no food, water, or toilets for several days, after which they were taken into an internment camp at Drancy, a suburb to the north of Paris, and then subsequently shipped off to Auschwitz, where they were killed. As the Wikipedia article also states, “The roundup accounted for more than a quarter of the 42,000 Jews sent from France to Auschwitz in 1942, of whom only 811 came home at the end of the war.” Many died in the Vélodrome before they could even be shipped off to internment camps either through the horrific conditions, by suicide, or by being shot in attempts to escape.

Protagonist Julia Jarmond is assigned to write about the Round Up for the publication for which she works. Little does she know that her investigation will lead her to the story of a little girl named Sarah and Julia’s own connection to Sarah’s life and to the key which appears in the title of the novel.

During Nazi-occupied France, from 1940 to 1944, the capital of France was located in Vichy, in southern France, and the government of France during this time is referred to as Vichy France. I have not informed myself extensively about this period in France. What I do know is that through this government, there were French who were collaborators with the Nazis and complicit in Nazi activities such as Jewish extermination through the concentration camps in Europe. The Vel’ d’Hiv Round Up is one of the biggest, but not necessarily well-known, Nazi collaborations by the Vichy government.

As you can imagine, this aspect of France’s history is not touted by the French, and responsibility for complicity and collaboration with the Third Reich has been much-debated and overlooked — as in people wanting to turn a blind eye to i, as you can imaginet.  For example, it was only in 1995 that former French President Jacques Chirac, in an address (to whom I do not know), publicly and officially acknowledged complicity of the French Vichy government in Nazi activities:

…on July 16, 1995 president Jacques Chirac, in a speech, recognized the responsibility of the French State for seconding the “criminal folly of the occupying country”, in particular the help of the French police, headed by René Bousquet, which assisted the Nazis in the enactment of the so-called “Final Solution”. The July 1942 rafle du Vel’d’hiv is a tragic example of how the French police did the Nazi work, going even further than what military orders demanded (by sending children to Drancy internment camp, last stop before the extermination camps).

(Wikipedia, Vichy Government, Historiographical debates and responsibility of France: the “Vichy Syndrome”)

As a result of these and other acknowledgments in post-Chirac France, memorial plaques and parks have been popping up around the city. In November of 2008, for example, a playground and memorial plaque were dedicated to the children of the 19th arrondissement in the Buttes Chaumont.

It is located at the south end of the park, towards Rue Botzaris, and just down the little hill that makes up Pavillon Puebla. This is a link to an historical map of the park from the site I linked earlier, but it is still current as far as the paths on the park are concerned – Map of the Buttes Chaumont.

Oh here. I just copied it and modified it in Paint so you can see where I mean, if you should want to visit it yourself. Check the picture out in Flickr for a slightly larger and more readable version.

map of parc buttes chaumont

The yellow star represents the location of the memorial playground with 90% certainty (that is, based on my memory of where I think it is. If it is not there, then it is where the blue star is). If you go, it is in that general vicinity of the park, I am sure.

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This is the memorial plaque.

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It basically says (I am running out of time to blog today, and so I am paraphrasing) that the Vichy Government was complicit with the Nazi occupation of France and also complicit with the deaths of over 11,000 children…

Sorry.

*sob*

Just typing that seriously makes me choke up and start to cry. I can barely maintain a dry eye each time I have seen this plaque. I am glad it exists today, but I find it hard to believe it only was placed here one year ago, 64 years after the occupation ended.

Anyways, it says that the Vichy Government was complicit in the deaths of over 11,000 children who were deported out of France and killed at Auschwitz only because they were Jewish. It says that 423 of these children were from the 19th arrondissement, 33 of whom were too young to go to school.

And then it lists the names of those 33 children.

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Seriously.

I am sitting here crying as I type this, looking at the names of babies who were only 5 and 6 months old.

Like I wrote, I am glad there is a plaque and this beautiful playground. I am sad that it took 64 years to have it be present. However, it is a very good place and a wonderful sort of memorial to help ensure that we will never forget.

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Oh wow.

What a way to end a post.

I was not sure how far into Karen’s and my journey I would get today. Obviously, just into the first third of what we did! I also spent two hours on the phone with my friend, Janet, to have some much-needed girl talk about food intolerances and life stuff as it is for her and me these days. So I did not have as long as I expected to write. Still this was a pretty good chunk. In fact, I have almost 3,400 words, which puts me in range of the 50k!

Tonight I am going to the Paris premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s newest movie The Limits of Control starring lots of famous people (lol — oh go and read the IMDB entry there. Of course Bill Murray is in it… ). The cool thing about it is that Jim Jarmusch is going to be at the premiere, just like Francis Ford Coppola was at the Paris screening of Tetro that I blogged about a while back. I have to go get ready to meet PJ and a couple of his co-workers to see that. In fact, it is going to be at Les Halles! Remember yesterday when I gave those Métro directions as an example of how to ride the rails? That’s where I will be going.

And going I have to get!! OMG, just 30 min to take a shower and blow out of here. Wish me luck! I will be telling about the second and third legs of Karen’s and my travels in upcoming blogs, amongst other things. Whether I have broken 50k today or not, I shall tell all.

Over and out.

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Categories: Book Reviews, Paris Adventures, Paris Blogging, Paris Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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10 thoughts on “An Adventure to Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont

  1. Shel

    Wow, what a moving tribute to those poor lost little ones…

    • pariskarin

      Next time you visit, we can check it out, if you like. 🙂 It was a very moving book and to see evidence about the happenings it describes from WWII is really potent!

  2. Wow! How I would love to spend a week, month, or year just walking around Paris. The mere four days I spent there, with a three year old and my 85-year-old mother, we averaged three blocks per day, has left me craving more. I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my post over at Momformation.
    I’ll definitely be reading more of your blog, I’m so curious about your experience.

    • pariskarin

      Hi Betsy!! I am blogging a little bit about finding your blog this morning right now, lol. I am glad to have the Blogger blog address linked with your name there, too! One I can add to Google Reader, yay!!

      “I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore.” Yes, this is pretty much what I have right now, and you remind me to count my blessings in it!

      See you again soon, Betsy! 🙂

  3. pariskarin

    Oh and I am kind of time wastin’!! I was on Google Maps, though, and realized I could check the location of the memorial park:

    Buttes Chaumont - memorial playground - gmaps

    It is indeed where I thought it was, at the bottom of the hill with the curly path. (It is the small oval there at the bottom of the path that curlicues.)

  4. Pingback: The Adventure Continues – Parc de Belleville « An Alien Parisienne

  5. PJ

    i haven’t seen the memorial yet! Your photos and description made me guy cry, though. Very well written!

    • pariskarin

      Hi Peej —

      Actually, I think you have seen it. There was one time we walked up that hill and I pointed it out to you, but it was a while back.

      If we take the kids to the Parc de Belleville, we should go up through the Buttremont and we can stop and see it again.

      It really chokes me up to see it…

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