Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Well (Latin Quarter, Paris)

Big Dog and I do not stay in hotels by choice. If that is our only option, so be it, but if there is an alternative, that will be our way. Here, we are extremely fortunate to have friends who will put us up (and put up with us.)

We've known B from our early 80's Boracay days, when the tiny Filipino island was a sleepy, forgotten place with no electricity, running water, gas or much of anything else. B was part of a French Contingent who arrived on the white sand beaches in black leather shoes. There were only a handful of lodges run by the local fishing families, so everyone knew everyone back then and became fast friends with these French dudes. B stayed on after the rest left, making bamboo saxophones and nose flutes, so we saw even more of him back then.

We didn't see much of each other during the 90's, but last summer, B and his girlfriend G, came to the US for the first time and stayed with us as we hammered away on the renovation of a 120 year old Victorian house.

Now we are in Paris, enjoying their warm hospitality.

B runs a bar in the Latin Quarter. Our room here is in the back of that narrow, smoke-filled bar. B & G live across the courtyard in a tiny but functional apartment, so that's where we shower, etc. It's all Very Bohemian!

Now, in our room, there is a well. Yes! A real well! Not an operating well, but an ancient relic from the days that Paris was not Paris of today but a city in the Roman Empire. B discovered the well as he was renovating this room which used to be a commercial kitchen. The floor was higher here than in the bar, so he lowered it by about a foot and a half and in doing so, came across a buried well. Because it was so ancient, he dug down into the well, exposing the antique masonry (amazing! they actually cut the rocks to a curve, instead of using layers of smaller, rectangular stones) put a tube of lights down the well and a glass cover. It's an artful part of the room decor now.

B told us that the Latin Quarter is the oldest part of Paris. It was "Old Town" in the Middle Ages! The first people to settle Paris created their village on top of a hill. The Pantheon is at the crest of this hill and the area was once walled. I know next to nothing about the Pantheon but maybe there once was a real temple here, with rowdy pagan rituals. In the airline magazine I read on my way over, they said that the Latin Quarter was called such because of the many universities here -- Latin being the language of the students -- but B says that it's because this was the city during the Roman times.

Because this well is so, so old -- thousands of years old -- B said that his jealous neighbor told him "it's not only for you, you know." B told him, "hey, if you want it that badly, take it."

In Japan, though, wells are kind of creepy things. (Have you seen the movie, The Ring?) I had to keep the light on in the well all night and still imagined all sorts of things coming out of it. And when I went to use the bar toilet in the middle of the night, I had to step on the glass that covers the well but I tried not to walk directly over it, instead, tiptoeing along the edge. It scares me and thrills me to think of what this well could tell us -- all the truths it knows.

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