PARIS: À La Recherche De Champollion

All dat ass. @museelouvre

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Jessica has a hard time dealing with my allure. People of all genders and walks of life flock to me. My light is so bright that no bushel could hide it. It’s exhausting, reader, to constantly be treated like a piece of meat, but when you have a symmetrical face…this is something that you must get used to. Old men try to kiss you on bridges. Others catcall your ass late at night in the Marais. Life is so trying…

The other day we went over to the Louvre to pay for our annual passes. This is something that they never tell you, but if you’re under 26, you can buy a lovely card with your face on it for €15 that lets you into the Louvre whenever you want for an entire year. You can either get that or spend €12 and have access to the monstrously large museum for only a day. I think you see which is the better option. So, each time we come to Paris, we get our passes. The lady taking the picture kept flirting with me and even went so far as to call me a “BEAU GARÇON.” [Beautiful young man, FYI.] This infuriated Jessica.

We got our passes, but didn’t stay for long since Jessica was still dying of something. We never did figure out what disease she had. I’m betting on malaria. We saw a mosquito the other day, so it’s the only logical thing. Or West Nile? I don’t even know what West Nile is…I never pay attention to the news, it’s fully of sad stories. We did stay long enough to partake of some McCafé, though.

Turnt up at the Louvre's McCafé, which is actually decent. Also, it's 1000 degrees in here and stuffed with tourists.

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If you’re initiated, you’ll surely turn up your nose at the idea of a bakery inside of McDonalds. I was like you at one time. How could something so theoretically disastrous be good? With every expectation of hating it, I bought a macaron there a few years ago and the truth was revealed to me. The Parisians adore McCafé for a reason — IT’S FLAWLESS. It’s consistently one of the best places for coffee and simple pastries in town. I’m 100% serious. The lemon tart that I had was divine! The coffee doesn’t taste like piss! It’s heaven.

* * * * *

When the next day rolled around, Jessica was still refusing to be healthy, so I decided to go out on my own. At heart, I’m a passionate Egyptologist. I’m always reading some big old book (usually an ebook these days) on ancient Egyptian religion or temples or hieroglyphics. I should have gone to school for this years ago. I need to get started with that. It’s my destiny, reader. So, today I decided to go exploring for places that were relevant in the life of Jean-François Champollion.

Leon_Cogniet_-_Jean-Francois_ChampollionFor those of you not in the know, and if you are, I can’t really blame you, I’ll fill you in briefly. Champollion was a Frenchman who was passionate about languages. He spoke loads of them, but wanted to crack the mystery of how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Nobody had made much progress, but Champollion finally figured it out by comparing it to Coptic. Because of him, we know SO MUCH about ancient Egypt. He’s basically the father of Egyptology.

Because I had a schedule to work with, I had to start backwards by going to his grave at the beginning, so I hopped on the train to Père Lachaise, my future burial place.

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IMG_1846I absolutely adore walking through Père Lachaise. You can find a bit of peace and quiet here, unless you’re one of the mindless gawkers that go from major tomb to major tomb. They go see Oscar Wilde, but have they seen his plays or read Dorian Gray? They go see Colette, but do they even know who she was? They go worship at the grave of Édith Piaf, but can they even sing more than the chorus of La Vie En Rose? No. THEY CANNOT. It always infuriates me. There are elite few of us who know what we’re doing and it’s hard to respect the dead when photographers are crowding around. Rant done.

I was glad that the area I was exploring wasn’t laden with losers. It was just me. I had to laugh when I walked past the grave of Joseph Fourier.

IMG_1847I was so intrigued by this tomb ages ago when I first encountered it. I loved the ancient Egyptian motif, but the lettering on his tomb was so faded that I could never figure out who was buried there. Earlier this year, I took one of the pictures I had taken and blew it up and threw the contrasts and finally was able to make out the name. When I did a bit of research, I was delighted by my discovery. Fourier was a renowned scientist and mathematician and still respected today. What I found the most intriguing about him, though, had little to do with his discoveries. He had been a part of the Napoleonic expedition in Egypt and possessed one of the first copies of the newly discovered Rosetta Stone. Back in France, he showed this copy to an enchanted Jean-François Champollion, who was only eleven at the time. Champollion became fascinated with the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and worked hard to decipher them. Years later, he had made the first correct transliteration of the carved text. In doing so, the ancient mysteries of the Egyptians, unreadable for over a thousand years, were finally able to be understood. And so, unknowingly Joseph Fourier made possible the ability to read and write the ancient language of the Pharaohs and filled the world with more knowledge than he may have ever expected.

Only a few graves from Fourier, was what I had come for: Champollion:

IMG_1849It’s not a very remarkable tomb, but the obelisk is a nice touch. I sat pensively next to it for a long time. Being so close to somebody so monumentally important to one of my passions was quite a treat, but it was a bit sad. Once you’re dead, nobody really cares much for you. All you are is a stone or an urn or a tidied piece of land. You no longer have a story or influence. The things you gave to humanity might be remembered, but your personality and your character are quickly effaced. That’s rather sad. I’m going to need a nice tomb so that people are at least curious about me after I die.

I walked around a bit more and it was just perfect. If you ever come to Paris, you must spend an afternoon perusing the tombs.

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IMG_1855Once in awhile, you’ll come along tombs like this. I always wonder if they’ve fallen naturally or were vandalized or were demolished on purpose. Still beautiful in ruins.

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IMG_1876Père Lachaise is just such a wonderful place. I could spend days there, walking along the various paths, lost in daydreams and reveries. Last night I was reading online that allegedly there are some crypts that are now used as entrances to the catacombs! Can you imagine coming across one of them? You descend through a tomb into the freaking catacombs! I’m thrilled by that. I want to find one. I don’t want to find anything scary inside, though, like a murderer or a hobo or a witch. Don’t laugh, reader, I guess there are Satanists that perform black magic rituals there late at night. I’d like to see that, too, actually.

From the cemetery, I hurried over to the Louvre to see the painting of Champollion that I posted way above. I gave up trying to find it, though. It’s in the Louvre’s collection, but it must be in storage or something. I looked in their database and went so far as to ask people, but they didn’t seem to know how to look it up. I told them the artist and the subject…but that didn’t help at all. So, I decided to just roam around a bit.

IMG_1879Here, Jesus appears to be saying, “LET IT GO!”

IMG_1880Here, Jesus seems to be fatigued after too many crunches.

IMG_1882While walking through this area, I came across Venus de Milo, and a huge crowd of tourists. I looked at it for awhile, but it didn’t seem any more special than the hundred other statues in the area. I don’t understand why some pieces of art become masterpieces whilst others languish in disregard. Mona Lisa is a pretty picture, but why is it any more important or interesting than the other Da Vincis in the hall? This always upsets me. You should look at the art that you appreciate because it means something to you, not because you read about it in some book.

IMG_1884Greek and Roman people had amazing asses. I’m always jealous. I want an ass, too. I’ve looked into getting a “Brazilian Butt Lift” in Argentina. That might be my vacation next year. I won’t regret it for a second.

IMG_1885The Louvre is monstrously large, but every room is elegant and gorgeous. This fireplace was no exception. It must have been marvelous to be the King of France.

Completely unaware, I passed by this bust and stopped short:

IMG_1892I FOUND HIM! CHAMPOLLION!

That seems rather like fate. I was in some area that I had never been before.

IMG_1894It turns out that there is an ancient Egyptian wing that I never knew a thing about. I feel such a fool. These are the rooms that Champollion originally curated. Well, reader, I lost my shit a little. I flitted from display to display with a large smile on my face.

IMG_1889Look reader, I found another masterpiece in the LOUVRE!

They kept announcing that the museum was closing soon and I was very unamused as I hadn’t had time to see everything, so I flitted quicker and found these lovely things:

IMG_1901These wooden ears are representations of the Pharaoh or of a god. You would put these in your home shrine and pray and the ear would hear your supplications and go straight to the Pharaoh or the god. Isn’t that charming?

IMG_1902Here Amun is protecting a desecrated statue of Tutankhamun. Poor Tut, all his monuments were destroyed after his death. But, it did keep him safe from tomb robbers, so I guess he was lucky.

IMG_1908This is one of the treasures of ancient Egyptian art and comes from my favorite period — the Amarna Period — when the slightly crazy Pharaoh Akhenaten:

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decided to abandon the old gods of Egypt and instead become monotheistic in the worship of the Aten, the sun disk. This wasn’t popular at all with the people, so his memory was destroyed after his last relation — our beloved Tut — died. Anyway, this relief is one of the first known in history, if not the first, where the king himself is shown in a romantic and human portrayal. Here, Nefertiti sits in the lap of Akhenaten in a very cheerful manner. It’s too bad that the rest of the image has been lost to time.

And now the museum was closing and I was being urged to leave. I was unwilling at first and scurried around but they finally told me directly…so I left.

It’s quite nice to walk through the Louvre when there’s nobody else around. I really didn’t want to go, but I had to. I had another stop on my Champollion quest.

He wasn’t born in Paris, but rather in Figeac in the southwest of France, so I couldn’t go see his place of birth. I could go to the apartment building where he lived when he discovered how to translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, though! So, I dashed across the Seine and gaped at what a beautiful day it had turned out to be.

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It wasn’t too much of a walk to find the apartment and with the GPS on my phone, I didn’t get lost once. I’d like to take a moment to say that my iPhone has made my life so much better. When I lived in Paris before, I would make detailed maps of where I was going because I didn’t have a printer or a phone. All I had was paper. I feel like I grew up in the middle of the nineteenth century. Now, I just have to load a map on my iPhone and a GPS will tell me where I am. It is magic. I’m obsessed.

IMG_1912That little plaque above the door to the far left reads, “In this house where he lived, Jean-François Champollion discovered in September 1822 the principle of deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.” I didn’t loiter around too much because people still live here and they would surely think it odd to see a dashingly handsome young man repeatedly photographing their windows.

It was nearly time to meet Jessica back at the Louvre, so I scuttled over that ugly bridge covered in padlocks and onto the rue Saint-Honoré to stop in Yannick Martin,  one of my approved bakeries for a nibble of something. I bought an Alhambra cake, something I haven’t seen since we made them in pastry school. It was divine, though it melted a bit on the train journey home.

I met Jessica in the hallway outside the Métro and we decided to go over to Iolanda’s for dinner. Again, it was perfect. We tried to take the RER back to Clichy, but somebody had accidentally fallen on the rails or had jumped…or something, so they were delayed. We wasted some time using this magical machine that brews coffee and tea:

IMG_1923I’m absolutely obsessed with it.

Somehow we ended up next to Notre Dame, so we went over to Berthillon for ice cream and that was a really good idea.

IMG_1925I had passion fruit sorbet and I think it’s one of the best things that’s ever been in my mouth.

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2 responses to “PARIS: À La Recherche De Champollion

  1. “People of all genders and walks of life flock to me. My light is so bright that no bushel could hide it. It’s exhausting, reader, to constantly be treated like a piece of meat, but when you have a symmetrical face…this is something that you must get used to”
    LOL I can’t tell if you’re joking or not…

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