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.

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