Thursday, September 24, 2009

Le Quartier Latin

We walked in the Latin Quarter today, visiting sights important to the French Revolution. One of the places we stopped sent my mind whirling: the apartment of a famous French fortune teller, Madame Marie Anne Lenormand (1772 –1843). She gave readings to Marat, Robespierre, and the Empress Josephine, among others. She met Josephine in jail and predicted her marriage to Napoleon long before Josephine met Napoleon or before he had any power. She was imprisoned more than once, though never for very long, and in 1814 began to write. She published a number of books.

Fortune telling with cards was apparently popular in 18th century Paris. It made me wish I’d done better research around all this when I was writing Requiem. Here is the fortune teller I was looking for. She would have been there when Shelley and Mary passed through Paris. In fact, she was still alive during the time of The Appassionata. She used the Petit Eteila tarot (which I have) and her own deck which was published after her death—not traditional tarot. Now, I want to find a store that sells her deck here in Paris and purchase it.

Her salon occulte was near the Odeon Theatre, another place we stopped. The Odeon is where Hector Berlioz saw the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson play Ophelia. He fell helplessly in love with her— something he tells Liszt about in my book. The proximity invites Berlioz to visit Madame Lenormand's salon, n'est ce pas?

We also saw the first restaurant to open in Paris (in 1686), and heard how important coffee was to the Revolution. It brought people together, like the Internet today, it provided a gathering place where ideas could be exchanged and messages passed along. We saw the café from both the front door and the back. The back was a way to escape creditors or slip away when there was danger. Victor Hugo spent time here.

The Latin Quarter was charming with all its medieval streets. We walked through several covered passageways and down lots of cobbled alleys. We saw "the narrowest street in Paris." There's a similar passageway near where Liszt took Tori and Louise when he rescued them from the violence around Porte Saint Denis.

Our guide told me to seek out covered passageways, that they were common in the 1830s. There are several not too far away from my neighborhood. There seem to be two main reasons for the 19th century make-over of Paris streets and architecture. One was hygiene, the other revolution. Narrow streets made for easy barricades, and the success of the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 were due, in part, to the barricades. The guide told me that I'm writing about an extremely interesting time in French history. Yes. I'm understanding that more and more as I go forward.

It's a fascinating part of Paris, very busy, very touristed. I discovered a little church behind Notre Dame that's presenting a series of piano concerts. Saturday's concert features Liszt and Chopin. So now I have two concerts in as many days. I'm going to try to make them both.

As much as I liked the area, which I did, it made me appreciate my neighborhood yet again. I live in a neighborhood that is inhabited primarily by the people who live there. It doesn't feel invaded by tourists, either in the kind of shops or in the number of people on the street.

On another note, I cut my finger today—for the second time. I was trying to open a bottle of salad dressing, which is exactly how I cut myself the first time too. I was trying to be careful, aware obviously that it could happen. I cannot figure out the French version of capping salad dressings. It's beyond my conceptual ability apparently. And I don't have band aides either.

Probably more information than anyone wants, but it's the background noise of my life at the moment: all these simple things I suddenly can't do easily. And it's always something absurd, like opening a bottle of salad dressing. Really. How hard can it be?

Earlier today, I was trying to get my trash into building's garbage and I couldn't quite remember where it was. If I'd been just a bit bolder, I would have found it on my own. Instead, I asked. Problem was I didn't know the word for "trash" or for "take out," "put out" or "dispose of." I couldn't think of anything and so, of course, I panicked. So ridiculous.

Eventually we communicated, but it was such a production. It annoys me when I get all in a tizzy over talking to someone. I feel so foolish.

These last two pictures are taken out my window looking across the courtyard and the tree—toward my neighbors on the other side. Their building  fronts onto Rue des Martyrs, I believe.

That top set of windows —in the roof—are where all the maids for all the apartments lived. I'm on the floor just below on my side of the building, but if you were looking at my apartment from over there, it would look just about identical.

This last picture is looking down. Like I said, Tori's view as her mother and father leave, although I don't think she would have been quite so high. I think the building would have been more like four stories instead of six.

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