Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walk 1: Paris in Layers

Who would have thought that one little walk would take nearly three months to complete? Especially a walk that includes Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. I don’t know what is was, but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to get this walk done until today.

I started this walk way back in February with Chelsea and Rebecca. Paris was still blissfully tourist-free at that point, but also ridiculously cold. We began at what is now a very familiar site – the Hôtel de Ville, which is just a block away from the building where we have school and church. The home of Parisian government, the Hôtel de Ville has been around in other forms since François I’s time, although the current building was built after the revolution. It’s definitely a beautiful place, especially when it’s all lit up at night. I think I even miss the ice-skating rink that stood in front of it all winter.

We then crossed the Seine and worked our way through the freezing cold to Notre Dame (I’m pretty sure that day was the coldest one I experienced in Paris – ick). We opted to save the tower for another day, but the Cathedral itself was spectacular. And you know what? It ought to be spectacular, since it took more than 100 years to build. The inside was beautiful, especially seeing the faint light streaming through the rose window, but I think I liked the outside best of all. You just can’t beat gargoyles and flying buttresses.

Next up was the Crypte du Parvis, where we could see the centuries-old foundations of Paris. It’s crazy to think that the streets I’ve been walking on cover up hundreds of years of history. We even saw the base of Nicolas Flamel’s house. I wonder if he discovered the secrets of the sorcerer’s stone when he lived there.

The final items on the agenda were St. Chapelle and the Conciergerie, but they were closing by the time we reached them. I was disappointed, but my numb fingers and toes certainly weren’t.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Rebecca and I brought out our magical art student cards and got free tickets into the Conciergerie and St. Chapelle. The corner of the Conciergerie holds the oldest clock in Paris (built in 1370). More importantly, the building was home to the royal family in the middle ages and then became a prison during the revolution. I made sure to check out the re-creation of Marie Antoinette’s prison cell and chapel, but the wax people were a little creepy.

Poor Rebecca. She’s so patient with me when I’m a whiner (which is basically always). When we went over to St. Chapelle, we realized that it was closed for its annoying afternoon break. We could have waited in line for an hour before things even started going again, but I vetoed that.

This afternoon I finally finished the walk with Chelsea. After a lovely stop at Shakespeare and Company, the most wonderful bookstore in the entire world, we went to St. Chapelle, waited in line for 40 minutes, got a little lost, and put up with a rather snippy cashier lady before going in (I told you I’m a whiner). It was totally worth it. I’ve seen a lot of stained glass windows over the last few months, but these full-length ones took my breath away. Chelsea and I just sat down and stared at them for about fifteen minutes before taking pictures. It’s fascinating to watch the colors change as the sunlight shifts. The pictures definitely can’t do the experience justice.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Walk 21: Get Lost!

After a long day of studying and muddling through homework, Courtney and I were ready for an adventure, so we set off to get lost near the Eiffel Tower. We of course needed sustenance first, so we wandered down the Rue Clair for a bit. This fun little street is perfect for window-shopping, with all kinds of family-owned businesses. There’s even one store that holds only honey products. We compared prices at some chocolate shops before getting some tasty Chinese food and eating outside. Even though we were pretty full, we knew we had room for Angelina’s gelato, especially since it was probably our last chance to go there!

After moseying along the Rue Clair for a bit, we made our way to the park in front of the Eiffel Tower to take pictures before getting in line. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the ticket window, it was so windy that the top floor was closed, but we still went up to the second floor. We made it just in time for a beautiful sunset, which reminded me of Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Seeing a 360-degree view of the city made me realize just how sad I’ll be to leave Paris next week. I love it this city, and I feel like I’ve only just begun to experience life here.

When we’d had our fill of photo-ops, Courtney and I went down the stairs (which is almost as cool as being on top of the tower), and then headed over to the Place du Trocadéro. I’ve done a little research about that spot and found out that it was built in 1937 to be an example of modern architecture at that year’s exposition.

Everything was closed for the night, but the buildings house several museums that would be great to visit someday. There is also an aquarium nearby. We had come over to Trocadéro for one reason only, though: the view. Every hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles for a few minutes, and we arrived just in time for the 9:00 light show.

We really did get a little lost on our way back to the metro, but that just meant we had a chance to find this monument to the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. I’m not sure what the meaning of this little boy’s newspaper hat is supposed to be, but I liked it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cultural Activity: Easter Mass at Notre Dame

Easter Sunday this year happened to fall during Conference weekend, which meant that we didn’t have any normal church meetings, so Rebecca, Rich, Haley, and I went to 11:00 mass at Notre Dame. As we arrived at the Cathedral, I definitely felt a little overwhelmed, since the square in front of the church was swarming with tourists. They had formed a crazy criss-crossing line up to the doors, so we just picked a spot that seemed like it might be the end and jumped in. Apparently it wasn’t, because the American lady in front of us informed us that we needed to go to the real end of the line and pointed in another direction. Silly American lady. She must not have ever experienced the French tendency to ignore lines and just rush toward the entrance when doors open.

Lucky for us, the place where she sent us was actually closer to the doors, so we got in without too much trouble. This also meant that we were right along the path of the priests as they wove through the crowd with their incense. At least I think it’s incense, but I don’t really know much about Catholicism. The place was absolutely packed, leaving us with only standing room on the edges, but we were able to watch the service on TV screens. The service itself was nice, and I actually understood quite a bit of the sermon, which was given by the archbishop of Paris. My favorite part of the service was when we were told to give the sign of peace and then shook hands with the people around us. Sometimes I feel a little isolated among all these reserved French people, so it was nice to experience that moment of acceptance and good will.

I had gone with Ariel to communion at Saint Paul’s in London the week before, and I was struck by how similar the two services were, despite the fact the differences between the Anglican and Catholic churches. The music and structure were very similar, although the Catholic sermon seemed a bit more formal. I kept remembering how one of my old history professors used to refer to the Anglican Church as “Catholic Light.” Maybe it’s truer than I imagined.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures – I forgot my camera!