In my little corner of Paris, on a vibrant boulevard of the 20th arrondissement, something curious and out of place has been drawing my attention ever since I first went put-putting past it on my mobylette years ago. I suppose I’ve always been a tad reluctant to go and unveil the mystery; more content to remain ambiguous about its story and continue wondering and imagining what it might be and who might be waiting inside. But today, I finally got off my bike to take a closer look and knock at the door of this curious caravan parked up in the middle of Paris…
On the doorstep of the Père Lachaise cemetery, where the likes of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust are buried, this odd little vintage caravan has found a home for itself in the shadows of an old-fashioned advertising kiosk.
Much like the neighbouring Père Lachaise cemetery, already shrouded in mystery and occult allure, the caravan is decorated with mystic imagery and a rather large sign that I had never noticed through the foliage of the trees as I so often went whizzing by.
A step closer to read the smaller signs posted on the windows, and the mystery is solved. Altiz is a fortune-teller and tarot card reader, rather appropriately located outside the entrance Paris’ largest cemetery.
But now it’s time to work up the courage, knock on the door and meet Altiz …
Not so scary after all! Altiz has been a traveller all his life, living in caravans since he was born. He was actually born inside a caravan on a fairground where his parents worked as motorcycling acrobats (which involves riding inside an infernal metal sphere … as you do). His great-grandmother was Madame Jeanne Damart, a famous fortune teller who frequented the fairgrounds and circuses of Europe.
But what I really wanted to know was– how the heck did he manage to park his caravan in the middle of Paris?!
In a city where space is so sought after and food trucks are famously battling against the system to get permission to park anywhere and do business, how has a fortune-telling old caravan managed to land itself a spot on the doorstep of one of Paris’ most important landmarks? Surely he’s not technically allowed to be there!
But on the contrary, Altiz has permission from the mayor of Paris himself. Considered a part of what the city calls “arts and culture of the street”, his caravan has been parked there for nearly ten years now, offering fortune-telling and tarot card reading to curious passing tourists and his trusted clientele. It wasn’t entirely easy however to land himself this prime real-estate. Altiz was moved around several times by the city hall before he found his trade home on Boulevard de Ménilmontant and had to prove his clairvoyant heritage by providing proof of his great grandmother’s legacy. And of course, his impressive parking spot comes at a price. “Nothing in this world, especially in Paris, is for free”, he says.
If you’d like to visit Altiz for a session, starting from €10, you’ll need to speak a bit of French, as he unfortunately doesn’t speak much English. The interior of the caravan isn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, which is why I didn’t take any pictures, but it’s cozy and candlelit. If you don’t speak French, at least you’ll know upon leaving the Père Lachaise cemetery, having laid a flower at Jim Morrison’s grave, the story behind this curious little caravan de Paris…