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The Meridian of Paris
If you have ever been to Paris, you might have seen them. The bronze plaque with the word Arago in the asphalt. Or maybe you have seen them in the Louvre. This is what it is.
The Arago route is a walk along a fictitious line from South to North straight through Paris, I have found it in a book of Philip Freriks. There must be 135 (bronze) plaques on this `Meridian of Paris’. The Arago plaques are in fact an art work in honour of the French astronomer and politician François Arago. The art work has been made by the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets. On each plaque you find the word ARAGO and an N and S to indicate the north and south. Over a distance of 12 kilometres, they lay in the asphalt, hidden between the sand of parks and on the sidewalks. You walk pass a lot of historical buildings of Paris and meet with the history of this great city and pass through little streets and parks you would not soon go yourself . The Palais du Luxembourg, the Oberservatoire, the Louvre, the Palais Royal, but also the tea house where Mata Hari acquired fame.
Jan Dibbets (1941) was asked by the city Paris in 1987, to make a statue for Francois Arago (1786-1853), astronomer, revealing scientist, humanist, politician and Head of State. There was a real statue of Arago at one time. It dated back to 1893 and stood on a small square along the, named after him, Boulevard in the 14th arrondissement with its face towards the garden gate of the Observatoire, the observatory, which stands on a little hill with the, however, very appropriate name 'Le Grand Regard', the full gaze. Between 1942 and the end of the 2nd World War, with this Arago the same happened as a lot of other statues in the French capital: it was remelted by the Germans to something that is no longer to be retrieved. Its base stayed and still stands there(and they have even placed a bronze plaque on it). Therefore the call of a real Commission Arago of pensioned Astronomers and related scientists to do revive the great man in its original bronze. But there was nobody whom could find the mal of the original copy. The department of Statued Art of the municipality Paris got an illumination at the celebration of its two 200th birth year. There must be a monument that would brake with the tradition of the monumental statue. It must provide an answer on the question how you make such a memorial at the end of the 20th century.
Because Arago was not only an astronomer, but also as land-surveyor mapped a part of France and the Mediterranean sea as the current length circle, Jan Dibbets took the ‘Meridian of Paris’ as a main point. Exactly on the Parisian part of the length circle, straight through the city, from South to North concerning a celestially broad distance of 12 kilometres, 135 bronze medallions with the simple inscription ARAGO would be placed. For no reason, in the asphalt, on the street, in parks, on pavements or under the gate of an unexpected passage.
Jan Dibbets started from the empty base on Boulevard Arago as a centre of the homage. The base stood, as it happens, already exactly on the meridian. As from there he placed the plaques to the south and north. The Parisians will start asking themselves after some time what the meaning of that bronze rounds would be, the artist wrights in its presentation: 'then they will become consciously of the fictitious length circle and finally -at least the most curiously under them- of the mental inheritance which Francois Arago have left them behind. In 1968, I have made a list of the fictitious line which I ever want delimit. This is the first time that it succeeds', said Dibbets.
When the fictitious lines are marked, arise that strange, binding need to follow these trails. The life of a boasted artist fascinates, just like travelling after an expedition, following the tracks of an dated travel report from other times or following the route along a former front line. Perhaps we want to surprise ourselves, give ourselves an adventure without to many risks, do we want to shudder in the phantom house of the history, want to reflect ourselves to the emotions of them who follow the route of their feelings. ‘How more mathematical a point or a line, how larger desiring will stand.'
Do not think that Dibbets design was carried out just like that. By far the largest part of the costs went to the geometrical service of Paris, to the land-surveyors. Each spot was calculated closely - to the millimetre. Arago would have proudly watched the precision work. One came at this dicovery that it from 1806 dating point on the south side of Paris, the so-called Mire du Sud, was 40 meters wrong. Dibbets art work, proved to be science applied also. The route is an art work, a monument that exists from 135 bronze plaques, which have been joined discreet in Parisian macadam that its like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The designer, the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets would want it that: a monument that a passer-by would discover only ‘en passant’ at the most, as a result of which it eventually becomes an intriguing obsession. 'The meridian offer sufficiently dramatic substance to equal the oeuvre of Shakespeare and are in that sense on themselves already a 'lieu the mémoire''. The Louvre, that is cut by the meridian exactly, produce much already. The history of the building, of it’s debut as a fort until the industrial world top of 1989, runs already 1000 years parallel with the French history. More strongly still, the building itself is frequently the French history or anyway the place, you would say to the space almost, where which takes place. Its an exploration excursion along an unforeseeable and as a result, almost a mysterious route. For the feeling the straight line of the length circle and the capricious street plan are seldom in line with each other. It seems tightrope walkers on the meridian above the main symbols of the French nation. By means of buildings and spots which have an oh so important role in the collective memory that historians have considered recently a new description: 'lieux the mémoire', placing memory.
It is Monday, not a manic Monday. Although, no Manic Monday... after the restless night of Peet, she sits at 05.00h. downstairs all ready. Always too frightened to be late, so… she begins the day with a sleepy head. Fortunately Me is also right on time. After Peet have fed the kitties,we walk through Deventer at 06.00h. Everyone still lies nice and quiet in bed, but not for long... because the trunk on wheels of Peet makes soooo much noise. But ah, what do we care…we’re going to Paris!!!Our wonderful feeling does not start just in Paris, from the beginning euhm.... the pleasure already starts. For me is this 26th time to Paris and 6th time in the Thalys. For Peet the 5th the time Paris and 1st time Thalys. They really enjoy it. Arriving in Paris we fortunately have left the clouds far behind us, and the sun shines brightly.Me is such a Paris expert that we immediately find the right metro and before we know it we ’re at our hotel. No long lines to get the tickets for the metro, because I has been smart and always take some home for this. The hotel turns out better than expected, seen the price. Cute little thing and close to metro Gourgon. At 15.08h.We already are at the beginning of our route.We will look for the Arago plaques, as described in the book of Phillip Freriks (the track of the monumental Meridian). Before you start, you need the book of course and a good map of Paris. I use in the Michelin notebook, which has ringthingies. The book of Mr. Freriks also gives a lot of background information on the history of the spots you walk past and other information. Very interesting.We get off at RER stop Cite university. And there our adventurous excursion starts. It start good…we walk into the wrong park! After study of the route we go in the right direction. The indications in the book are not entirely correct, there are some changes in the meantime I think. The book says that we have to enter at no. 31 Boulevard Jourdan, but that does not exists. It proves to be 27-29. The bloke (Jose the San Martin) on the other side of the road indicates the way. After a bit of searching we find Pavillon du Cambodge, there is where the 1st plaque must be. You go straight ahead and then a bit more ahead and then you can see it in front of you. It is the building with the large. euhm... thingies in front of it, a type of lions.
No. 1. No longer there.I climbs (illegally) over a wall to glance at a prohibited area, but find nothing. The building has been renovated also thoroughly the last years and has been opened again.We are fed up, maybe there’s no plaque left! We both walk in another direction to look at the sides of the building, but no… Peetje walks in to ask if they know something. It doesn’t say anything to the girl and the director is in conversation, therefore he can’t help.
No. 2.I has some more luck in the meanwhile, she finds plaque no. 2!!! it lies some meters in front of the steps at the left-hand side (seen forward).
No. 3. Where this one should be lies new asphalted and therefore we can't find it.
No. 4. Must lie at the sport field. sport field? A simple gravel field with 2 poles, but it lies where it should be.
No. 5. Lies approximately a meter or 25 further. On the street at the left-hand side.
No. 6. It must lie on the gravel path approximately 10 meters further, but we cannot find it, because now it’s a lawn.
No. 7. Was not found by mr. Ph. Freriks and other people who walked the route unfortunately.We do find a needle, although there’s no haystack for miles, but the plaque is away and stays away.
No. 8. Yesssss... euhm.. found it, but empty (is not the 1st and certainly not the last empty one). On the other side of the building, near the entrance, a meter or 4 from the steps.
No. 9. Should be a bit further in the grass, but lies on the (reddish) path.
No. 10 This one's also there and lies on Avenue Rockefeller (that’s behind the Maison des Etudiants Canadiens).
No. 11. Not found, the complete Boulevard Jourdan has been broken up.
It is pretty hot and we decide to go for a deliciously cold coca cola and almost got scared to death of the price.We decide: no more terrace (because we’re on a budget). This is not even a terrace, but a small cafe on the side of the way, on the angle of the park Montsouris.
No. 12. Should be across the Boulevard on the side road, but as mentioned before the road lies open.We walk in to the park at the small entrance of the Boulevard and Peet cannot find the described Mir the Sud... Verrrrry difficult to find it… it’s only 10 meters high. How peculiar: eye flaps on and can’t find any plaque!!
No. 12A. According to the book at the 6th bench on the left, but there are some benches lacking and therefore it’s at the 4th at the moment (the "b i t ch" plaque hihihi).We were busy chatting and walked all the way to the 6th bench and yes… ofcourse missed it. Even if it was at the 6th, Peet keeps missing it constantly!!! She keeps walking in the wrong direction, because she’s still clueless about the plaques having a N(ord) and S(outh) side and they lie in Northern direction. So walk north to find the next one. It’s more then obvious that I with my clever mind is finding them before Peetje does.
No. 13. Peet hasn’t found one yet and sees it all; it’s not going to happen today. According to the book the next plaque is obvious and in front of the French Meteo and Ikke allows her to run ahead… gna gna. And yes!!! Found it!!! Allow the child a little fun…
No. 14. As the book already says, clear in sight, right around the corner of the French Meteo.
No. 15. On the path that’s turning round, on the left side, with the benches.
No. 16. Lays a couple of meters for the little white house. And for them that need a pipy pause, that’s what the white house is for.
No. 17. Does not lie between the 1st and the 2nd bench, as the book mentioned, but is there already after a few steps in the direction of the benches. Left around the corner after the little white house.
No. 18. Same path, a little further at the right-hand side, at the 4th bench.
No. 19. On the right side of the large pillar at the exit of the park, a meter or 6 of the pavement.
No. 20. Near the guard shelter, next to the exit.
Now it is a little walk before you can find the next one. Walk out of the park, straight ahead, into the ‘long park’. Walking lovely underneath the trees. This is avenue Rene Coty. Untill Place Saint Jacques. On the corner at the right-hand side is a Renault Dealer. Of course we haven’t read the book well and with a small detour (via the BMW Dealer, Ikke knows what she wants to see)we arrive at
No. 21. Should be between the traffic light and the show window, but didn’t find it, there is new asphalt.
Want to see something different. Here you can go in to the Catacombs. Bones from the old cemeteries are ‘collected’ here in the dug out corridors. Bizarre, but something else.
Speaking of new asphalt. In the book of Mr. Freriks is mentioned that each piece of asphalt has a date of 'placing’, so you can see when it is renewed.
No. 22. Now we go in the direction of Rue the Faubourg Saint Jacques and at housenr. 81 lays plaque nr. 22.
No. 23.We walk down the street to the small square. This small square is called l'Ile the Sein. The plaque lays at the point of the square (in the beginning) in front of the tree. The book says it’s beside the glass barge (??), but that’s nowhere to be found.
No. 24. A little further, beyond the basement steps.
No. 25. A little further further, in front of the empty base. Once the statue of Francois Arago stood here, but since the 2nd world war the base is empty. Mr. Arago has been remelted.
No. 26. Is the backside of the base, seen from here, the front side.
No. 27. Behind the base as from here, on the pavement.
No. 28. Should be on the other side of the road, between the pavement en the fence, but it’s not there.
No. 29. Just in front of the fence of the Observatoire.
Nrs. 30 till 40 can’t been seen. The gardens where open, but the Allee was not accessible. The Observatoire is also not accessible.
No. 41. Can be seen from the fence, at the top of the lever, behind the concrete pile.
No. 42. A meter or 12 further, in the middle of the street.
No. 43. Not to be found, new asphalt.
No. 44. Walk towards the statue. In the book it says right of the statue, but it lays at the corner of the pavement, near the level-crossing.
No. 45.We cross Avenue Denfert-Rochereau and to Boulevard Montparnasse. Cross it and you get to Closerie des Lilas. A meter or 2 before the level-crossing of Rue d'Assas, corner Place Camille Jullian should be no. 45. Not found, they are working on the road, work in progress.
No. 46. At the corner of Rue d'Assas and Avenue l'Observatoire, behind the parking meter must be this one, but also not found, at the passage in question some meters asphalt has been scraped.
Nrs. 47 till 50 are not to be found. They must lay in the Jardin the l'Observatoire, but the park has been filled with gravel. Here we sat down for a bit, ohw how delicious Paris is… sighs. Even sitting in a park is here so much more wonderful then anywhere else in the world!
Walk through the park till the road. Then go left, and then right along the park.
No. 51. Lays at the left corner of the Rue Michelet, but is empty.
No. 52. Diagonal across to housnr. 4 of Avenue l'Observatoire at of the fences to the park. Also empty.
No. 53. Across to housenr. 2, between the parkingmeter and the pavement, but it’s gone, new asphalt.
No. 54. Walk further to Rue Auguste Comte and cross it. The next one lays in the pavement edge in front of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Peetje wants to buy a homeless guy a drink, but decides not to do it.
No. 55. Approximately a meter after the entrance.
No. 56. Piece of cake, about 30 meters further, on the same path.
No. 57. Another 8 meters further.
No. 58. Should be on the same path, another meter or 8 further, but not found.
No. 59. That’s easy! Somewhat left of the junction.
Soooo, a little break.We look for two chairs and enjoy the park. People, playing children, the palm trees, reading, idling, sleeping, kissing. Sigh, what a life here in Paris.We sat down for 15 minutes and then we must go on our way. Oh boy, what a task.We feel and look like we ’re 80, Peetje myalgia (??) and Ikke sore feet. But once we got back on your feet, it's all good.
No. 60. Must lay in gravel, between statue ladies, but not found.
Nrs. 61 and 62 not placed.
Nrs. 63, 64, 65 lay on the plateau behind each other.
Nrs. 66 till 73 are lacking (also in administrative papers Mr. Freriks says).
No. 74. Follow the North line to the guard box. We want Mr. the guard with the plaque on a picture, but he looks a bit surly and the big mouthed ladies didn’t dare to ask him.We stroll a bit more through this lovely park and then head to the exit at the left side of the guard box. You come at Rue Guynemer. Go right if you exit the park, in to Rue the Vaugirard and pass the Senate.
No. 75. At the head entrance (at housnr. 15bis), across housenr. 26.
Walk Rue the Tournon in and cross Rue Saint Sulpice, street proceeds in Rue the Seine. You walk into this one till the junction with Boulevard Saint Germain.
No. 76A. On Boulevard Saint Germain between 127 and 125 lays the next plaque, left beside the bus stand.
No. 76B. At Boulevard Saint Germain between 152 and 154 this one lays.
No. 77. This one we also found. Left on the corner, in front of Galerie Doria. At the corner of Rue of the Beaux doctor, on the left corner.
No. 78. At the corner of Rue the Seine no. 12 should lay this one, in front of Galerie Jonas, but there’s new asphalt here.
No. 79. Walk further and approximately 10 meters for the portal to Place the l'Institut the France it should be laying, but we didn’t find it.
No. 80. A meter or 3 in front of the portal of nr. 79.
A man sees us taking pictures of the plaque and tells us what it is. Sweet huh??
No. 81. Go under the portal, it should be a meter or 5 further, but nothing.
No. 82. Left around the corner, near the wall.
No. 83. Cross the street and it’s on the pavement.
No. 84.We ’ll look for that one tomorrow. It’s getting late and this is a good point to begin tomorrow.We rest a bit on the Pont des Arts and enjoy lovely Paris. After a short break we walk via the Seine to Quartier Latin.We eat a pizza at one of the many pizzaplaces, walk through the neighbourhood and via the Notre Dame to Hotel de Ville. From there weget the metro to our hotel. Pfffff.
Peet has got 2 blisters!! It can’t be true. She’s been bragging for months now that she’s walking for miles without blisters, but now she’s got 2 after 1 day! The previous time that Peet and I were Paris she had them after an hour, but she assured me that it wouldn’t happen this time. She can’t do much about it. The special socks which she has got damaged yesterday, so.We walk pass the bakery on our way to the metro and buy a croissant and chaumont the pommes and brownies and at the supermarket Yop drink (you must really try it if you are in Paris, delicious yoghurt drink) and we have breakfast at the Pont des Arts. The brownies are to sticky and not that good. It’s grey and it looks like rain… No!We go on our way, searching for the next Arago plaque.
No. 84. Is missing. Where it is, or what’s happened to it the book of Mr. Freriks doesn’t says. It’s also doesn’t say where it should be laying.
No. 85. Lies near the wall where the pipes are coming out of the wall.
Back towards the bridge there are 2 boys fishing and they got one! And what kind of one, this is no small fish.We walk across the Pont des Arts en feed the birdies with some brownies and breakfast leftovers.
No. 86. Walk over the bridge and then left and down the stairs. At the 6th tree. This one you can also see from the street side above.
No. 87. Should be laying near the bench above on the street side, but it’s empty.
No. 88. Across the street, at the Louvre, near the fishwaterpipes. Near the pile of La Meridienne verte. Is empty.
Now it getting funny… A part of the plaques lay IN the Louvre. At the Galleries which look out on the courtyard, the Cour Napoleon. You know, the square with the pyramid.
The Louvre are closed therefore we will firstly look for the plaques outside.
If you stand in front of plaque no. 88 go right and then underneath the 1st passage of the Louvre. After just enjoying the courtyard here you walk left again. If you have any sense of direction you will find it rather quickly… What seems to work for Ikke, but Peetje is at first looking like an idiot! Hihi. At the Cour Napoleon lays the next one.
The nrs. 89 till 91 we skip for now.
No. 92A. Left in front of Pavillon Daru.
No. 92B. Towards the pyramid a little further.
No. 93. Is empty. It must be on the point of the small pyramid. The architect calls this spot the diamond. "Our diamond" is gone however.
No. 94A. Another bit futher.
No. 94B. At point of the basin, something further.
We skip the inside of the Louvre once again and we go in the direction of the passage. Now we skip 95 till 96.
No. 97A. In front of Passage Richelieu, the exit.
No. 97B. Gone, new asphalt. Something further than the previous one, at the crossing.
No. 98. Not found, however, we made a picture of the place of which we think where it has lain. That is, across the street, between the metro and the lantern. This is Place du Palais Royal.
No. 99. Crossing the street diagonally left and up the pavement, a meter or 4 of the street name sign Rue Saint Honore. It must lie exactly under the most left pillar, but is empty.
No. 100. Go right around the corner, somewhere underneath the terrace tables or chairs of the terrace of Le Nemours. Found it thanks to a friendly waiter (Yes! They do exist!) who sees us wandering along the terrace in search of the plaque.
No. 101. Follow the North line, under the sign Le Palais Royal.
No. 102. In the middle of the passage, named Peristyle de Nemours.
No. 103. At the left pilar line.
We go and have a lovely sit at the fountain of the Palais Royal. This is really a delicious little place, right in the middle of the city. You hear or see no car or other motor vehicles.I see that Peetje is also enjoying the city.
No. 104. Left around the corner in Peristyle the Chartres.
No. 105. A little further, in front of l'Oriental, the pipe shop.
Now it was a little bit of searching for us . The book is not very clear here (and looking at my notes,I ’m not either anymore now).We went into the ally and at restaurant Lincroyable to the left. Then we walked back. Hard to find. There’s little about it in the book.
No. 106. Now find Peristyle Montensier, also one of the passages.
No. 107. Another passage further. On the wall above it says Passage 5 Rue de Monpensier. In the passageway.
No. 108. At houseno. 9, the blue-yellow door.
No. 109. Rue de Richelieu, at houseno. 24. It gives the wrong direction, so watch out or you will go in the wrong direction… at least Peetje does… hihihi.
We go left, Rue des Petit Champs in, cross Rue Sainte Anne to Passage Choiseul. Rain!!! No!! It looked like rain all morning, but now it really starts. To bad. A good moment to drink a nice little tea at Columbus. This is in a Passage. That’s one of the things i really like about Paris. All those passages. Some are very chic and verrrrry expensive, but others are a little in decay with those little trinket shops and those are the ones I like. Walk through the passage.
No. 110. Go right Rue Saint Augustin, at the exit of the passage. Before Maison des Pyrenees houseno. 15.
Rue Gramont left.
No. 111. Is missing, there is new asphalt. Should be laying in front of Rue du Quatre Septembre houseno. 16. This is at the right-hand before the entrance of Credit Lyonnais.
Go on and then right pass the Credit Lyonnais and right again through Rue de Choiseul
Nrs. 112 till 115 has not been placed.
No. 116. A bit ahead in front of the head entrance of Credit Lyonnais at housenr. 19, of Boulevard des Italiens, but here’s also new asphalt.
No. 117. Cross the Boulevard and then you find this one for the Tavern Cronenbourg. It does not lie between the Tavern and the kiosk, but for the Tavern.
No. 118. In Rue Taitbout, that’s left around the corner.
No. 119. In front of houseno. 9 of Boulevard Haussmann (and not in front of 11, as the book describes).
No. 120. New asphalt, so nothing. The book is vaguely about how to go further. Go to Rue du Helder and then right, which goes into Rue Taitbout.
No. 121. For Rue Taitbout houseno. 32, for the stairs of the metro emergency exit.
No. 122. and
No. 123. Should be laying on the courtyard of the Ministry of Education. The gate is open, so we look, but can’t find anything.We walk inside and when we ask we find out they’re stolen.
Then we go right to the bus and go to Place Pigalle. Line 67 and 74 brings you there. You can also walk of course, but with the blisters of Peetjee’s glad that she can sit for a while and ‘smuggle’(??) bit. From there we go to the south. The middle street is Rue Pigalle.
No. 124. At houseno. 69.
It is time for lunch and we will have some Greek food at a mini Greek. Tasted good.
No. 125. Rue Deperre, at houseno. 5.
No. 126. For this one we walk to Boulevard the Clichy, at the Sexodrome, for houseno. 21. Here’s new asphalt.
You can look at something else here besides the Arago plaques. This is, lets say the Red light district of Paris.
No. 127. Across the street, in front of the pharmacy, but here’s also new asphalt.
Now it’s climbing time to get to the next one.
Go a little to the left and then right in Rue Germaine Pilon. We go by means of Rue Tholoze to the Moulin the la Galette on the Rue Lepic.
No. 128. For houseno. 79, but is empty.
Walk to Rue Girardon and go left into Avenue Junot.
No. 129. It’s not clear where these would be laying, so didn’t find it either.
No. 130. Near the stairs, houseno. 4.
No. 131. Houseno. 10
No. 132. Walk along into Avenue Junot and right to Avenue Simone Dereure, at houseno. 15.
Here you’ve got Villa Leandre. A very nice little street with beautiful houses!
No. 133. This one we also find, at Avenue Junot, houseno. 47.
No. 134. Should be at the corner of Avenue Porte Montmartre and Rue Rene Binet. Here’s a whole new avenue, so we can’t find it.
No. 135. Not there either. Should be around the corner at Avenue de Porte Montmartre. In the direction of the peripherique, at the library. But here to new asphalt. We made it !!!!
Now only to the Louvre.
For today we ’re done searching for the plaques.We go with line 60 (bus) to Place Jules Joffrin and then with the Montmartrebus to the Sacre Coeur. Peetje hasn’t seen much of Montmartre yet and we ’re taking the verrrrrrry touristy Montmartre train. It’s a nice ride and you don’t have to walk up and down the slopes of Montmartre. When we get return we sit on the stairs and see that we ’ve just missed a very crazy, funny man who performed here.I wrote about him before, Rico &I see him ‘perform’ regularly.We enjoy the nice sun, the view and people watching at the stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur and then go down. Peetje the ice freak wants to have an ice cream and gets one at Hagen Dasz in the street halfway the Butte.We stroll further down, looking at the souvenir shops and go to Notre Dame. Sure!!! Just today it’s closed at 18.00h and it’s 19.00h.We walk to the war museum/monument behind the Notre Dame, but that’s also closed of course. Then just enjoy Paris in the park and watch at to people who pass by. There is a nervous little fellow, the black and white lady, the flea woman, the gay man, you really see everything. The most fun is to make up stories with these people and that’s what we do! Via all kinds of little streets we walk to restaurant Jardin Notre Dame to have some dinner. Ikke likes it hear always, but Peetje finds it mwa… She chose the wrong menu…I told her so… She does like the apple pie and the salad. Chicken is a leg thing and she doesn’t like that. By means of the backside of the Notre Dame we go to Hotel de Ville. We take the metro to our hotel and thereI ’ll chat on my laptop with Rico,my mom, Pedro and Meike. Yeahj Laptop!!!
Here I very cleverly lost my notes… If I find them again I’ll will finish the story and then… will be continued.