There are so many things to do and see in Paris, however, deciding what to do today was a challenge. As it turned out, I opened my arms and embraced happenstance.
I woke early but peering out the window, to discover it was raining, put a bit of a dampener on my motivation. Deciding on one thing, then another, in typical libran style, I just couldn’t make up my mind. A text message from a friend offering a meet up, quickly made my mind up for me. The happenstance journey was beginning to unfold.
We were to meet later in the afternoon, when hopefully it wouldn’t be raining, to explore a park I had never managed to get around to exploring.
Heading out earlier than I needed to, I had read that the view of Paris from Parc de Belleville, is worth a visit. Raining and misty, it was still worth the journey through the small but pretty park for the views it offered.
Rather than catching the metro for my rendez-vous, I preferred to walk. I am only familiar with parts of Belleville, an outer area in Paris that shares borders with the 19th, 20th and 11th arrondissements. Belleville is an ethnic area of Paris, a melting pot of cultures.
Men were huddled on street corners, conducting animated conversations, more groups of men crowding the streets, Gendarmes everywhere. There was a strange atmosphere hanging like the dark clouds above.
Something was going on but I couldn’t work out what, it wasn’t long before I found out.
Approaching the square, where Colonel Fabien metro is located and where I was to meet my friend, I was to discover a large demonstration, mostly men, flags draped around them, waving banners, police everywhere, the roads closed off, causing traffic chaos. I quickly texted my friend and told her not to come, we needed to change our meeting point, she was bringing her baby and this was no place for them.
Leaning against a fence, taking photos and footage, of the demonstration, which by now, I had worked out was in protest, for the three Kurdish women, who were murdered in Paris on Thursday, happenstance materialised once again. The fence I was leaning on, was the Communist Party Headquarters of Paris. I had heard it would be, unusually open to the public, for this weekend only, as a hommage to it’s architect, Oscar Niemeyer, who died on the 5th December 2012, only 10 days before his 105th birthday. I had tried researching, how and when I could get in, asked a few people to help and invited them to visit it with me, no response.
My friend returned the text, she was running late, perfect. The square, with thousands of demonstrators, growing in numbers with the chanting escalating, I slipped through the gates and into the quiet, avant garde building, designed by Oscar Niemeyer.
Below the reinforced concrete dome, a Niemeyer trademark, sits the famous, spectacular, semi-underground auditorium.
Unfortunately, due to security reasons with the demonstration outside, access to the roof was unavailable, I learned when I asked one of the attendants. She did offer however, to translate the upcoming lecture on the building but I was unable to stay, I had my rendez-vous with my friend.
Just as I was leaving the building, marvelling at the serendipitous unfolding of events, my friend called to inform me of our new rendez-vous location.
With precision timing, that could not have been planned, I arrived at the gates of Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont, to see my friend waving. Her baby all rugged up against the cold in a pram, ready for our walk around the magnificent gardens.
Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont, instigated by Napoleon III and directed by Baron Haussmann, is the third largest park in Paris, built on what was a former gypsum and limestone quarry, it has numerous pathways, bridges, caves, waterfalls and a temple, high above a large lake.
Just as we climbed to the top, looking at the view of Sacre Coeur, sitting high and proud on the hill of Montmartre, the sun set and the flood lights lit up the basilica. Good timing or happenstance? Happenstance indeed, had our timing gone to plan, we would not have been there, at that point, in time to watch Paris turn on her lights.
It was time to head back and get ready for dinner. I had heard about an organisation, where you can have dinner in a Parisian’s home.
In a wonderful, large apartment, with parquetry floors, ornate ceiling, a giant modern chandelier and adorned with a large black piano, dominating the room, I had dinner with two nice ladies.
Frantic as Sacha was, after rushing home late from work, she disappeared to the kitchen, where she whipped up a dinner in a matter of moments and joined me and her friend. An artistic and talented classical pianist, she also makes ceramics and 12 years ago managed to stake out a space, in no other than, Galleries LaFayette. In her spare time, she entertains strangers from around the world, in her wonderful apartment.
Happy with the way my day turned out, leaving most of it to happenstance, it confirmed by beliefs that there is always a surprise around every corner in Paris.