Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ancient Paris

At the bottom of Rue Mouffetard sits the church of St. Medard, a 12th century site. Across from the church, like in many places we've seen, lies a fountain. As you walk up the Mouffetard there's a mural depicting a girl at a spring. Just up from that a bas relief of a person at a well "le bon source." How long ago was this a village? How long ago did a spring run here? What was on the site of this church? Its fountain? How did people use this space? I begin to imagine the wild landscape of humans here when the ice retreated and the climate moderated. 

I see a sign for les "Aranes de Lutece," the sands (or arenas--their floors were made of sand) of ancient Paris. Without a map it takes me some minutes to find it, but you can easily follow the road signs for walkers, progressing from one to the next. There, tucked in a corner not far from the Jardin des Plants is the ancient 3rd century arena, a stone structure surrounded by the contemporary city. Imagine this place in Roman times! I spend time there exploring and then trying to connect to the Internet, which is supposed to work in all the Paris parks and works in some. 

On the way out the Paris mosque and then a beautiful double stairway with an "eau de Paris" fountain as its focus, and all around a wall of flowers. You climb to a street roughly perpendicular to Rue Monge: Rue Rollin. Lovely and quiet, closed off to traffic, a slight bias inward to the center where storm water drains. Here was the home of Benjamin Fondane, Romanian-born poet and philosopher deported from here and assassinated at Auschwitz. 

I walk up the Rue Rollin to an elementary school. Like all the public elementary schools in Paris, it displays the required plaque commemorating students who were deported, and like Fondane, murdered in the holocaust. I walk back the way I came, stop at Fondane's house again and than at the "Place Benjamin Fondane," just at the top of the staircase.

I wonder as I look Rue Monge below and a corner butcher shop: Was this the last thing Mondane's eyes set upon as he was being forced down these stairs? 

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