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Location: Minneapolis, MN

Dempsey is a Golden Retriever puppy who is in training to become a Helping Paws service dog for an individual with a physical disability. He lives with his parents Doreen and Paul, and Bailey the cat. None has ever trained a puppy before. These are their adventures. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the blog author. The contents of this blog have not been reviewed or approved by Helping Paws, Inc.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

An Un-Christian Saturday

Saturday morning dawned cold and damp, but it also dawned on me that I've been in Paris for almost a month -- 20% of my stay was already over! I was determined to go out and see stuff, so I planned an un-Christian walk: some Roman ruins in the Latin Quarter, the Paris Mosque, and then the old synagogues in the Marais.

First stop was the Arènes de Lutèces, the ruins of an old Roman theater. Today, it's a city park, and on Saturday morning it was deserted, except for two boys who were desultorily kicking a ball against the 2,000 year old walls. The casual attitude towards ancient history was surprising -- in L.A., where I'm from, the world's oldest McDonald's (ca. 1953) has been declared a historic landmark. (BTW, if you're in L.A., the McDonald's really is interesting. You can see from the architecture how McDonald's branding and business model have evolved over the years.)

Next stop was the Paris mosque, built in 1922 as a token of thanks to the Muslim soldiers France drafted from its North African colonies during World War I. The rector, Dalil Boubakeur, is a well-known moderate, so I was hoping there might be information about Islam for visitors.

There wasn't. I did notice there was a separate entrance for women, and most of the signs were in Arabic with French translations. The only English signs I saw were the ones asking visitors not to enter the prayer room. The non-visitors I saw tended to avoid me; there was absolutely no evangelism. I wonder if this low profile is attributable to insularity, or a desire to avoid controversy.

After the mosque, I crossed the street to the Jardin de Plantes, which was founded in 1626 by King Louis XIII to supply him with medicinal herbs. Since it's winter, it was a little bleak, but the Grand Hall of Evolution and the the rock museum were open. So was the Paleobotany Gallery, which "retraces the history of the vegetable world since its beginnings on Earth." As fascinating as the vegetable world may be, I didn't want to spend time tracing the 5-billion year evolution of turnips. I passed on the museums.

I next walked to the Institut du Monde Arabe, where there was a big exhibit on the pharaohs of Egypt. The line was blocks long, so I just spent time looking at the building, which has windowshades that look like camera shutters.

The sun had finally come out, so I walked along the Seine, passing some old churches near Notre Dame, to the ruins of the Roman baths at Cluny. Roman Paris was full of bathhouses, including a quite a few on Rue Gay Lussac (named after the brilliant French chemist), but the baths of Cluny are the best preserved.

Right next door to the baths of Cluny is the Musée National du Moyen Âge, which has some very good exhibits of late Medieval art. On Saturday afternoons, they have free concerts of Medieval music. I arrived after the show started, so I wasn't able to attend, but I could hear a little bit through the doors. Medieval troubador songs sound an awful lot like modern Celtic music. Maybe when Doreen is back, we can go see a concert.

At this point, I was pretty tired, so I skipped the synagogues and went home to nap before meeting up with some friends from school to go to the Buddha Bar -- a fitting end to my un-Christian day.