Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Paris - Day Two

Day Two
After a perfectly wonderful night, in which I snored, but due to the very cozy arrangement of our beds, Bridgete merely stuck her arm out and patted me and I would roll off my back, we woke up for our first full day in Paris.  

Started out with breakfast of bread and cheese, a little fruit, perfect coffee - what else do you need?  Really?  The morning looked a little cool and the forecast called for rain.  So every one set out with the necessary jackets, sweaters and umbrellas.  We walked to the Metro and got our first instructions in how to use this wonderful system. 

Our stop was Ecole Militaire on the Ballard/Cretiel Line 8.  For today we would be traveling to the Ile de la Cite - the heart of Paris and would need to change Line 1 - La Defense/Chateau de Vincennes at Concorde where the two lines intersect and then get off Line 1 at Hotel de Ville.    When we made the change at Concorde and were walking toward our next train, we were treated to the sound of a tuba and an accordion. How very Parisian! I think on this morning they were playing something by ABBA - or the Beatles.  They became one of my favorite parts of each morning. 

Travel lesson...The Metro is very easy to use once you get these basic concepts.  Each line is named for the two terminus points at the end of the line, and also has a number.  When a line intersects with other lines and you can make transfers, the line number on the map will be white.  If there are no transfers possible, the line number will be colored in.  And you have to know which direction (which terminus) you are headed in.  Then - it's easy.  Trains come every 4 minutes - sometimes more often in peak times.  And everyone rides the Metro.  So it's a good way to see how the average Parisian lives and works and shops.  If you're smart about keeping your purse and packages in front of you - then you're relatively safe from pickpockets.  And if you don't act like a scared tourist, you probably won't be treated like one.  Anyone who has ridden public transportation in any major city will be able to use the Metro.



We exit the Metro at Hotel de Ville - this is not a HOTEL, but the City Hall of Paris.  And it's quite a lovely building.  A short walk across to Sainte-Chapelle.  Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX, a deeply religious man, to house the crown of thorns and remnants of the true cross.  Now housed within the bounds of the Palais de Justice, you have to go through security screening to get to it.  It's well worth the trip.  The lower chapel has a vaulted ceiling painted with stars to resemble the heavens.  Then you ascend to the upper chapel and are met with some of the most spledid stained glass windows.  The Chapel has been undergoing extensive restoration, so the vault behind the altar was hidden but the light was extraordinary.  Such a beautiful place.  


Stained glass detail at Sainte-Chapelle
From Sainte-Chapelle, we took a short walk to that most beautiful of Gothic Cathedrals, Notre Dame. 

The plaza in front of Notre Dame is where everyone takes their pictures.  It's also been inlaid with stones identifying the various chapels of the saints that used to be along the road to the cathedral.  Here's one I particularly enjoyed. 





It's difficult to describe the sense of peace that flows over one when you enter the church.  It's beautiful, of course.  And there are hundreds of pilgrims there to offer their prayers and petitions to God.  You begin to reflect on the millions of pilgrims who have walked these paths and knelt at these altars since 1345.  Then you remember that the Romans built a temple to Jupiter on this spot and that it has been a holy place to Parisians since the first centuries of Christianity.  And like the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the faith and energy of those prayers resonates within you and you remember that we are all connected by something larger and greater than any one of us could imagine.   You pay your 2 euro, you light your candle and you add your prayer to those of others.  Then you leave and know that you have been heard.



Where, you may ask, is the famous hunchback?  Well, here he is at the oldest building on the ile.  (Those timbered walls date to the middle ages.)










Just as we were making our way from Quasimodo to a little area where we could have some lunch, the skies opened and it began to rain.  Did I say rain?  It poured!  I'm from a rainy city - and this was some rain!  We ran into an ATM vestibule so we could all get out of the rain and hear Arnaud's suggestions for lunch.  

Bridgete and I dashed next door for a sandwich and wine and waited for the rain to ease up.  Then she ran and bought herself an umbrella for 5 euro.  Mine wasn't quite big enough for both of us. 


The rest of our afternoon was spent walking the Latin Quarter and Left Bank of Paris.  We briefly visited the Cluny Museum where we were able to see (but not photograph) the famous tapestry of the Lady and the Unicorn.  So amazing.  After, Cluny and a walk around the area of the Sorbonne, we were on our own for the rest of the day.  I got directions to Shakespeare and Company, the famous bookstore of Sylvia Beach, and we headed out.  Still not having my bearings completely, we almost missed it, but some how my nose sniffed out the wonderful dusty place.  Resisting my impulse to buy all the books, I picked out one and jotted down a few titles. 



From here we walked along the Quai de Montebello to the corner of Rue Lagrange where Bridgete's beautiful French (and beautiful legs) got her a free cup on coffee outside the cafe.  We sat and acted like Parisians, sans smoking, watching the tourists walking  across Le Petit Pont from Notre Dame.  
The clouds returned and fearing the worst, we decided to go back inside Notre Dame and soak in a little more of the magic.  As the sun went in and out of the clouds, the light inside the cathedral brightened and dimmed, adding to our already countless memories of Paris.

By the time the doors were closed, the chandeliers lit, and the mass begun, I was covered in goose flesh and my contact with the divine was complete.  I'll never forget it.

Earlier in the day, we had the opportunity to sign up to attend a concert of Vivaldi back at Sainte-Chapelle.  Bridgete wanted to find an ATM before we were scheduled to meet our group.  So, using her iPhone, she located one and we were back on foot.  ATM adventure complete, we walked around the perimeter of the Palais de Justice to the designated meeting point.   Once more, we got to watch Paris from a perspective not often seen by tourists.  We even saw a gendarme stop a bicyclist and give him a warning for talking on his cell phone while bicycling.  It was all so polite and civilized.  I was already in love with the politeness of Paris.  Now I was in danger of being won over for good.

The concert, while it had it's weaknesses, was another realization of how very civilized Paris is.  No one spoke during the concert.  No one rustled their programs, which they had paid 2 euro for.  No one played with a video game or texted or shifted about in their seats or tried to call attention to themselves.  One cell phone did go off - but the ringtone was so quiet, it was almost unnoticed.  And when others looked at the offender, he quickly apologized and turned off his phone.  Yep....I LOVE PARIS.

Dinner – Steak and Pomme Frittes
Cotes du Rhone
Mousse au Chocolat

1 comment:

Sassy Jane Genealogy said...

Really lovely - you have a gift for this!