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wednesday, june 10, 2015 the cemetery
Le Cimetière de Montmartre was the last place I would officially visit in Paris. I had seen pictures of the cemetery when I was researching things to do in Montmartre, and after seeing a picture on Google images, I knew that I had to see this place. Le cimetière is a very large cemetery filled with sepultures and headstones filled with those who passed in years as early as 1850 (maybe earlier—I didn't look at every grave) to as recent as 2014, perhaps even as recent as a week ago. I think I was expecting it to be more of a tourist attraction where people can go and observe very old graves, but there were a lot of graves that were very recent, and seeing an older woman watering flowers at one of the graves affirmed that yes, they are quite recent. I didn't know what to take pictures of, so I figured I'd use this opportunity to get creative with my camera and take some unique shots. By the way, quick product placement here, for anyone interested in knowing which camera I'm using, it's a Canon PowerShot G7X, and I'm EXTREMELY pleased with the results thus far.

The walk through the cemetery was very peaceful and serene, and even though it was morning with little light filtering through the trees, I was still able to capture a lot of what you'd see if you were to come to the cemetery. When you look through the pictures below, and there are a lot of them, you'll see that there are all kinds of graves: tombstones, slabs, sepultures, glass casings, etc. I mostly enjoyed the graves that were the oldest, and I thought it weird to see a new grave next to one from 1856. For me, it kind of steals the ambiance from the cemetery to see a new grave next to an old one, but I also think it's kind of cool to know that the cemetery is still in use. I was never incredibly creeped out from walking among the graves, though if I had been there during dusk, well, I would never be there during dusk! I bet you could have one amazing game of "Hide & Seek" in this cemetery though! Maybe next time...

There were a few unsettling moments in the cemetery though. At one point I saw a grave upon which many bouquets of flowers had been placed. I felt that someone was recently laid to rest here, and that definitely affirmed that people are still buried here even to this day. Right next to that grave was one from which the top slab had been removed only to reveal the pit into which the remains will eventually be placed. I had to peer in and see how far down it went, and it was basically like looking into a bottomless pit. That was quite unsettling. A few graves behind the open one, I found another that had a statue of a woman laying on top. Ok, so maybe I did get creeped out just a little, but how could anyone not get chills from looking at it!? I almost expected her to move a hand or a leg after I took the picture—thankfully that didn't happen. There were a few more graves that had statues, most of which were a woman with her right arm raised into the air, her hand grasping some sort of flower. I would like to know the symbolism behind this statue, and perhaps I'll research it at some point.

An interesting tidbit about this cemetery is that Rue de Caulaincourt, a very busy road, is built directly over the cemetery. In a way, the road kind of steals some of the charm from the cemetery, but I also think it's a neat juxtaposition of the old and the modern. I can't remember who told me this, but I was recently informed that the families of the deceased have to keep paying for the plots, even years after the person is buried. Should the family not be able to pay further or they decide to not continue paying, then the grave is opened up, the remains exhumed, and a new family claims ownership of the plot!

After visiting the cemetery for about an hour, I headed to a local café to have my last meal in Paris. A colleague of mine has been pushing me to try a croque monsieur with an Orangina, and luckily the café right next to my hotel provided me with both. It was a very cheap lunch, and I enjoyed it as my last meal. It wasn't the best thing I had eaten while in Europe, but that might be because I've been eating rather well so far. The Orangina tasted like fizzy orange juice, and I rationed it well so it would last me for the majority of the train ride to Nîmes. The café also sold macaroons in various flavors, and while they looked really good, I thought paying 2 € a piece was a bit over-priced. Plus I was fairly full from the croque monsieur.

Speaking of the train, I found it a little confusing as to where I needed to go once I got to Gare de Lyon. I had to ask information twice as to where I had to go (I did this in French!), and they were very helpful and kind to direct me to the correct platform. That being said, it's really easy to get on a train, perhaps too easy. I got off the subway, got my Starbucks (with the best spelling of my name I've ever seen), walked around the train station, and got on my train without anyone asking to see my ticket. It wasn't until an hour into the trip that a train attendant came around and asked to scan my ticket. It seems to me that there's an honor code with riding a train, that you get on the train you're supposed to and that you sit in the seat that's designated to you. To me it feels a little loose, because you know that in America your ticket would be checked before you even got on the train. It's just a different approach, and I like it. Another thing I noticed at both the Gare de Lyon and Nîmes train stations is that there was no security check, which there was when I left Barcelona to Figueres and when I left Figueres to Paris. I'd feel a little better knowing that security is a priority for all train rides, but I won't complain about it.

The train arrived to Nîmes 11 minutes late, and when I got there I saw that my train to Barcelona was an hour late. So since I had some time to kill, I decided to pay 0,70 € to use the restroom and then get something to eat. I grabbed a chicken bagette sandwich with spicy mustard and washed it down with the rest of my Orangina. Sitting near me was a man working on his computer, and I had a feeling I had better ask someone about trains being late. Here's the conversation we had. Words in green were spoken in French, and words in black were in English.

Me: Excuse me, sir.
Other man: Yes?
Me: Do you speak English?
Other man: Yes, a little.
Me: No, I want to do this in French. I'm going to Barcelona, but I see that my train is one hour late.
Other man: Yes.
Me: So that means that my train won't arrive until 16:48, right? My ticket says 15:48, but now it's just an hour later?
Other man: Yes, that's what that means, but sometimes the train is already at the platform and it's just waiting for some reason.
Me: Ah, I understand. Thank you so much!
Other man: Not a problem. You speak great French!
Me: Thank you, but not in Paris. Everyone speaks so fast and it's hard for me to understand.
Other man: I'm the opposite with English. I can understand it okay but I don't speak it well.

We both had a quick chuckle, and I resumed eating my sandwich. I felt good about the conversation, since I had had little success in Paris with speaking French. I finished eating at 15:38, and I had nothing else to do, and I had a feeling I should go up to the platform and wait—just in case. I was literally standing on the platform for four minutes when my train arrived. It was not an hour late! I hate to think about what would have happened if I had stayed in the café and waited an hour. Hopefully I would have heard an announcement or I would have seen on the screen that the train had arrived, but thankfully I got on the train—the right train—and made my way towards Barcelona. It wasn't a smooth ride, though. At the next stop in Montpellier, we waited 45 minutes before we started going again. So in total the train was 55 minutes behind. Not only that, but there were people sitting next to me in the aisle of the train. I have no idea why they weren't in a seat, but no one was asking them where they were supposed to be. It was a very long day of traveling, and all I wanted to do was get to my hotel and shower. After easily working my way through Barcelona's metro, I found my hotel. This room I'm in was kind of a splurge room, as it's ENORMOUS, but they were running a special back in March, so I got it for a very, very good deal. There are pictures below.

Final thoughts about Paris: it's an amazing city. It's huge, absolutely beautiful, full of some incredible art and architecture, great food, and there are tons of things to do. I can't really think of a negative other than it's just too big for my liking. I'm not a big city kind of guy, which why I feel good about the size of Indianapolis. In Paris I had to step out of my comfort zone and get used to constantly being surrounded by tons of people, because they're everywhere. That's to be expected when you're the number one vacation destination in the world (don't quote me on that as I heard that while in Paris). The language barrier is not a problem, because just about everyone with whom I spoke was able to do so in English. I tried my best to speak as much French as possible, but my vocabulary is not as strong as it is in Spanish, so I struggled with getting my point across a lot of the time. I expected that to be the case, and it's just something I had to deal with. Also, while I feel really good about rocking the metro in Paris, I had a very useful app to help me get from point 'A' to point 'B'. But I will pat myself on the back for finding a way to get from Louis Blanc to Abbesses instead of taking the suggested route seen to the right. I got on the blue line and knew that it would take me to Blanche, which was just as close to my hotel as Abbesses was. *pat on the back*

To sum it up, I'm very, very glad that I decided to go to Paris, but I'm glad to be back in Spain.

Finally, thanks to those that are sending me messages through my blog. I get very excited to check my mail and see that someone has left a comment. Your words of encouragement are definitely keeping me going strong!

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