A question posed to me by a man I gave money to on the Avenue de Belleville yesterday. He had leaned forward from his perch on a bench where he was surrounded by his worldly possessions of a few carrier bags, hands raised, open faced. I had replied, somewhat unnerved, expecting an impromptu sermon on that airless late morning.
". . . Probably not."
"It is the smile."
He had beamed, demonstrating his own particular wide, toothy smile.
"Bien sur," I had replied, fluttering something in response to his hand on heart gesture. The phrase stuck in my mind the rest of the day and still seems to be there this morning, my face muscles being given a gentle prod away from their tendency to sag into a downward trajectory if left to gravity's influence.
Not one usually for tourist information I had noted somewhere that looked like a slice of Hackney on a site of 'insolite' (quirky, unusual) Paris places and we had taken a long amble from our hotel to Pere Lachaise cemetery including the proposed graffiti embellished street. The said road was actually quite short and not as stuffed with artists and alternative eateries/second hand clothes emporiums, etc, as I had imagined but the whole area was fascinating especially the enormous food market that extends nearly the whole length of the main avenue. As we arrived the vendors were starting to pack up from their early start, reloading the line of graffiti-covered delivery lorries. I stood for a while watching the chaos as people scrambled to get the useable goods stashed and the mountains of debris cleared away, and could only vaguely imagine the amount of food that comes into the city everyday, displayed in markets and shops, eaten at home or on foot, and cooked in the hundreds of Parisian restaurants.
In comparison to Belleville's colourful mayhem, Pere Lachaise cemetery is peaceful and almost silent, its alleyways between the tombs shaded by trees, the light tinted green, almost as if being in a forest glade. We sought out Chopin's grave and Mark stood a while in respectful silence while I mused on the appearance of the less tended tombs with their rusted doors and remnants of plant offerings. At the summit of the hill, clipped lawns invite lounging but it is not permitted. A series of benches however offer a resting point, surprisingly high-up view over the city and observation of the resident crow population.
My purchase of the trip was a small silk scarve in a frip shop (second hand clothing), if the budget had been somewhat more elastic I could have bought a resin, two foot high, leopard skin-painted Micky Mouse statue which graced a podium in Samaratime, a department store which makes Gallery Lafayette seem tawdry in comparison. The small golden price tag next to the mouse stated, 3,600 euros. We gawped. For about five minutes. All my stored up, what is the world coming to sauntered forth, more so as I noted other similarly useless objects: Mickey's partner mouse for another 3,600; why not have the pair? a crystal pot with golden teddy bear head lid for a cool 1,000; champagne approved by Lady Gaga for 650 a bottle; a diamond encrusted stuffed anteater attired in pink flares - I jest, but there could have been one, possibly was if we had looked around a little longer but fifteen minutes was ample.
Certainly not a chain shop. No window display, no indication of what was being made or repaired but the owner or assistant was intently busy making or repairing something
...and a fine mur vegetal created by Patrick Blanc in 2013. Growing strong and housing many birds and insects Second arrondissement
from our very salubrious 6th floor hotel room (luckily with lift)