Thursday, July 03, 2008
PARIS SANS EIFFEL
MONTMARTRE WALKING TOUR
(The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls)
Newman and i arrived at Paris within a few hours apart of each other, me from Manila and him from NJ, and met at our hotel. There was some delay in checking into our room, not least because the hotel's old-fashioned elevator was capable of carrying maximum 3 persons only; and could hardly contain the two of us and our luggage.
Our first order of business was to join a walking tour of Paris' Montmartre district. This area is a hill with the highest point in the city, and is rather bohemian in character; or at least, was. After all, this was where artists like Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh spent parts of their lives, attracted by the cheap rents and artistic vibe.
In fact, the windmill depicted in Renoir's "Le Moulin de la Galette" (1876) still stands, albeit now converted into a restaurant.
At present, Montmartre has been gentrified a bit, with lots of sidewalk cafes (the Parisians are no. 1 in terms of people-watching!) and souvenir shops selling "J'aime Paris" T-shirts. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of interesting sites to see.
According to our guide, Michael (an American transplanted from Los Angeles), Montmartre originally wasn't part of Paris. In fact, until now, there are senior citizens who talk of "going down to Paris" for the day.
Check out the Basilique Sacre-Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) below, with its distinctive white finish. This is due to a certain type of stone used, which constantly weathers out its calcite, so that it bleaches with age to a chalky whiteness. In fact, this basilica never needs exterior cleaning!
There is also a plaza with lots of cafes, and lots of local artists selling their artwork, and some of them can paint your portrait right on the spot. I liked this artist's works the most:
But for me, the highlight of our walk was this statue, and the fascinating story behind it.
From my memory, here's how the story goes:
There was a man, who worked as a clerk in an office, doing the same things day in and day out. He was completely nondescript in every way.
Then one day, he discovered he had the ability to walk through walls. He consulted his doctor, who prescribed him two pills. He took one pill, and put the other one in his medicine cabinet, completely forgetting about it.
One day, a new boss was assigned to their office. Unfortunately, he fell out of favor with this man. Thus, the new boss demoted him to a dark broom closet, right beside his own private office.
Our protagonist was hurt, and angry, and looking for revenge. One day, he stuck his head through the wall and into his boss' office, and heckled him, calling him all sorts of names. Naturally, his boss couldn't believe what he was seeing; and thought he was having hallucinations.
This went on every day, until finally his boss went crazy, and was finally brought by ambulance for confinement into an asylum.
Our hero, pleased with himself, realized that his life up to that point had been a waste; and resolved to change. So, he turned into a life of crime, and became a notorious thief (while maintaining his day job, take note).
Pretty soon, all the newspapers were full of stories about this thief who simply could not be caught. Bursting with pride, and unable to keep his secret any longer, our hero reveals to the police that he was this thief.
Disbelief and derision greeted his revelation, much to his dismay. Resolving to finally get the much-deserved recognition and fame he felt he deserved, he deliberately arranged to get caught during one of his heists.
Of course, shortly thereafter, it was a simple matter of escaping from behind bars.
He decided to settle down to a quiet life. Then, one day, as he was walking along the street, he saw this beautiful lady, and it was love at first sight! For both of them!
Unfortunately, it turned out she was already married, to a brute who locked her in her bedroom every night while he went out carousing and drinking with his friends.
No problem for him. Every night, he sneaked into her bedroom where they made wild, passionate love.
One day, he felt a terrible headache coming on, and rummaged inside his medicine cabinet for some aspirin. Feeling better, he went to the woman's house for their nocturnal rendezvous.
As he was passing through the walls in her garden, he suddenly couldn't move further and became stuck inside the thick wall. Then he realized that he must have taken the pills prescribed by his doctor by mistake, instead of aspirin.
So there he is to this day.
Check out this site for the complete (and official) version of the story, and see how (in)accurate my memory is.
(Check out www.paris-walks.com for more detailed info on Paris Walks)
Thanks to Newman for the pics. Click here to see his post regarding our Montmartre walking tour.