My second post-mortem post, coming to you once more from Marshfield. It’s my very last post and it’s all about my very last week in Paris. We packed more into this week than any other week we were there, so it’s a long one. Prepare yourself. Feel free to read it in spurts if you have to. Maybe get up, get a snack, check Facebook, come back to it. Let’s jump in.
After going out Friday and Saturday and then just going out on Sunday (if you paid attention to the italics, I hope you understood the difference,) we were ready to tackle a week full of shopping and culture, since we hadn’t gotten any of it done over the weekend.
Monday, Jeff and I ran some Christmas present errands and then climbed the Montparnasse Tower, which he had wanted to do all semester and which I was sort of indifferent to, but once we were up there, I was so happy we had done it. The view is absolutely incredible and the location makes the view arguably better than the Eiffel Tower. If you look at a map of Paris, Eiffel is waaaayyy over on the left of the city, and everything of interest is right in the center, which makes it tough on the top of the Eiffel Tower to pick out landmarks, especially if it’s hazy. Don’t get me wrong, the view is spectacular, you can see for several miles all around, but it’s almost too high to notice everything. Montparnasse is just south of the center of the city and it’s so much fun to recognize everything we had come to know so well over the last few months.
The Luxembourg gardens, Notre Dame on the far left and the Pantheon on the right.
Montparnasse Cemetery (which is apparently HUGE)
École Militaire on this side of the Champs de Mars, Eiffel in the middle (bien sûr) Trocadéro at the end of the trees there, and the skyscrapers of La Défense in the background.
The wide street on the right is the Rue de Rennes, which leads up to that small black turett, St. Germain-des-Près, one of the oldest churches in Paris (ca. 550!) and then, of course, that big ol’ building in the middle. The Louvre. Yes, that whole thing. It’s all the Louvre.
And that’s still the Rue de Rennes, but here you can see the shadow of the Montparnasse, plus the lovely and underrated St. Sulpice over on the right.
And Eiffel again and the golden dome of Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.
Added pluses of this view? A: You can see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, and B: you can’t see Montparnasse. I thought it was a famous author who said that the top of Montparnasse was his favorite (and the most beautiful) spot in Paris because it was the only place you couldn’t see the Montparnasse, but when I tried to Google the source, it was just people in comments and forums and captions, so maybe the Parisians have adopted that as a little inside joke and it’s no longer attributed. But whoever originally said it, they were right.
So that was an excellent, impromptu activity on Monday. We also went to the J. Cole concert that night, which wasn’t exactly Parisian, but still supah fun.
Tuesday Natalie and I had been planning to act as our fake Saturday. We skipped our classes (no shame, no guilt) and headed out with our umbrellas and our to-do lists. It was raining off and on, but we walked and walked and walked with no problem. Started at Coutume, a coffee shop established for the sake of fixing the no-good-coffee-in-Paris problem. Our friends had found it early in the semester, but we had yet to go, so it was high up on our BWL list (Before We Leave, for those of you who don’t remember or didn’t read my first reference of that a few posts ago…) I got a mocha and she got a chai. Deliciousness.
This was one of our last chances for walking around, taking pictures of random things, so here’s your last dose of these, soak ‘em in:
look at the sky
By now we’re at the corner of the Luxembourg Gardens (see the gold fence there?) and we both really loved that building and stopped to take pictures and had a small moment where we lamented our imminent loss of our city. We were just sad.
Then we found an adorable stationary shop with this on the wall and we were happy again.
We took the bus up to the Place de la Concorde from the top of the Luxembourg Gardens and made some vieille dames friends (the old ladies who ride the bus have to be some of the friendliest people in Paris.) This was the second time I’d ridden the bus in Paris and the second time that the route had to be changed because there was a demonstration going on. Not sure if this is a daily occurence or if I just have bad luck, but maybe this time it was good luck. They dropped us off one stop before we were planning to get off, but we got out and looked across the river to the place and there it was:
A RAINBOW. l’arc-en-ciel.
We had already had a great day, but this marked it as one of our greatest in Paris. We squealed and took pictures and walked across the bridge and took more pictures, (had to throw this one in)
but the rainbow was gone as soon as it came and we continued our to-do lists. Picked up some Christmas ornaments at the little market huts on the Champs Elysées and bought some souvenir macarons, then finally headed home to change for dinner.
Wednesday we took a boat tour on the Seine, which is such a tourist/field trip thing to do, but it was so fun and at a perfect time of evening and the vantage point is actually surprisingly great. I was lazy at first and took pictures from inside the heated boat.
But then I said screw it and I’d launch myself out onto the deck for better pictures of all the things I knew I would regret having sucky pictures of later on…
Most notably the Notre Dame, of course.
But also the Île-St-Louis:
And I scampered out to the bow for the Pont des Arts, which I hope if you read this whole blog, you know by now that it’s my favorite bridge.
And then back to the Eiffel Tower:
And that night I got one more glimpse of Lady Liberty Jr. one block away from my apartment:
And also, (after one last Best Steak Dinner Ever) Jeff and I climbed the Arc de Triomphe at night, which my family had done when they were here and I had been jealous of their pictures, so it was on my BWL list. But let me tell you something disappointing, the pictures aren’t half as great as the real thing.
And my last time on the Champs:
And at this point, sinking down below the Champs on the escalator to the Charles de Gaulle metro stop, I had to take a deep breath to ward off the depression that had started creeping in from the edge of my periphs…
Thursday. Our last day. Our view from the metro exit every morning on the way to class:
Our class building:
Our visit to Shakespeare and Co:
Actually, the shop was closed because the owner had died that week. His name was George, he was 98. He had opened the shop in the 50s under a different name, but then changed it to Shakespeare & Co after the famous bookshop of the 20s, owned by Sylvia Beech and frequented by Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. But this shop is not the same one, as so many tourists originally think. (We did too, until this week…)
This shop was pretty influential too, though, judging by all the notes people had left for poor George.
We walked over to stand under/in front of/in the presence of Notre Dame for the last time. Just stood there until we couldn’t handle the cold and the wind anymore. Then trudged home to clean and pack up THIS:
We finally had a handle on the packing, then it was time for a final aperitif with the lovely Françoise and Jean-Pierre, who finally sent us the picture we had taken at our last dinner:
They’re the cutest. And I’ll miss them.
Out to dinner with 28 of the kids in our program, which was a spectacular turnout, as I said in my Au Revoir post. The restaurant was not ready for us, even though they had been fairly warned. But despite being split up at dinner, rained on, and pressured to buy ridiculously expensive drinks in the bar we ducked into, we had a great, great night. Amorino for the last time:
My favorite street in Paris:
Love and goodbyes and tears and laughs and toasts and more love:
And 16 troopers who made it to the Eiffel Tower with champagne:
I love every one of these people more than I thought I could love a group of friends I’d only known for four months. I tried to get that out that night in my toast, but I don’t know if they fully understood it. Each of them is so unique, interesting and interested and I will miss their collective company for the rest of my life. I will miss these four months for the rest of my life, but the reason is because of these incredible people. I thank them profusely and I’m so grateful I had this experience and that I had it with them. And to the people who didn’t make it into this photo, those words apply to you too.
And I have to say thank you to those of you who kept up with this blog as well, I really appreciate the following, and I’m newly surprised each time someone says they read a post (or all the posts) that someone would be genuinely interested in what I had to say. This was originally a record for myself of my time here and a way of communicating with my family everything I was doing, but it turned into so much more than that and I’d like to thank the people reading this that I don’t even know.
And I have to say goodbye to Paris. Thank you for teaching me and shaping me and showing me and raising me and never being predictable but always being accessible. I miss you already and I will never forget the magic. See you soon.
Well. This post comes to you from wintry Marshfield, Massachusetts, where I drive a car again and speak English to strangers and pay for things with dirty, skinny green money. But my fake life has not been fully narrated on this account, so I’d like to jump back a few weeks and recap all the ridiculous amounts of activities we packed into a very short amount of time.
First though, I’m really missing this:
But let’s start with the second to last week of my Parisian life.
Monday, Jeff and I checked out the Pompidou Center (because everything else on our list was “Open Daily, except for Mondays.”) It’s the famous modern art museum that Parisians hated originally because it was so ugly. We weren’t big fans either.
First, this fountain is out front:
And this is the building you’re faced with:
So you know you’re in for a weird experience already. The art made no sense. I’ve talked to people (Natalie) who absolutely loved the good ole Pomp but if you asked me, I’d tell you not to go… This was one of the only works I liked:
Because there was knowledge behind it, (it was packing tape made into tumor-like growths on globes based on where there had been conflicts and then pictures of those conflicts beneath them) but it still looked like an extensive fourth-grade social studies project. To say we were a little weirded out is a slight understatement, but you know how much I don’t like to be too dramatic about anything…. This picture might explain the atmosphere and our reactions:
But the view from the top was different than anything we’d seen. Because it’s sort of at the border of the Châtelet and Marais area, there really aren’t any other tall buildings in the vicinity and you can see all the cute little rooftops of the beginning of the Marais, and across to the teeny Eiffel Tower on the other side. We saw it sparkle from here at the top of the hour, too.
On Tuesday, AIFS had a scheduled visit to the Museum of Chocolate for us. I expected a lot more chocolate, to be honest. It was mostly just chocolate paraphernalia… But still, I learned a lot. This is how you say/write/spell chocolate in ancient Aztec symbols:
So there’s that. Also, this is called a Moustache Cup. Which is just seventeenth-century genius:
And I thought this ad was cute:
But other than that, not much of interest. Lots on the history of chocolate, which is good but only if followed by lots and lots of free samples. And there was only one. So we decided we should immediately go to Angelina, which had been on our list because it supposedly has the best hot chocolate in Paris. First we took a little detour:
Because who doesn’t love the whole Opéra neighborhood at Christmastime? (Opéra Garnier in the first shot, Galaries Lafayette in the second.)
But THEN to Angelina. And I could not have imagined a better hot chocolate. It was incredible. Incredibly expensive, but incredible.
I was excited. Clearly.
And on Wednesday we knocked another thing off our to-do list: The Catacombs.
It’s an ossuary way way underground in what used to be the outskirts of Paris but is now just at the beginning of the south of Paris. Not sure how many people are down here, but the bones have got to number in the hundreds of thousands, and they’re all from people that died in some plague some time. I wasn’t really paying attention to the history, I was too weirded out. Jeff said he was more weirded out in the Pompidou, which really says a lot about how weirded out he was at the Pompidou, but THIS was just freaky.
Andrew was psyched.
“To death, we leave everything.”
To wrap it up, Natalie and I had the best lunch ever on Thursday, with chèvre chaud salads and a mini-bottle of Beaujoulais. You’d think that after living together for two years, plus being by each other’s sides for over 85% of this trip, we’d have run out of things to talk about. But we sat at this table for over an hour and half and talked. Across from the St. Severin. About how much we were going to miss this. And we were right, I do miss that.
We saw a beautiful sunset over the Place de la Concorde, which I may have already said is my favorite place to see a sunset. It’s so wide open.
And we crossed the Pont Alexandre to go home, but not before we asked a rando to snap a pic. And I’m so glad we did because this was one of my favorites from the trip.
And suddenly we were launched into our very last week of our existence in Paris. I’ll write again soon to recap those eventful days, and then because I’ll have nothing to extend my attempts to vicariously live through myself (if that makes any sense) I’ll have no choice but to spiral into a dark depression. So wish me luck. And keep an eye out for my very last blog post ever.
This is my last night in Paris, but certainly not my last time posting. There’s been so much that I’ve done in the past two weeks that I want to share on here, the posts will back up and I’ll keep writing when I’m back home and have nothing better to do!
Things I’ve seen, things I’ve bought, places I’ve been for the last time, places I’ve been for the first time…
I feel like I’ve done so much in these last two weeks just because we were trying to fit so much in before we left, and you’ll see it all.
Tonight, we ate at a restaurant featured in Midnight in Paris, which seemed appropriate, with almost everyone in our program. There were 28 of us at that restaurant and I was so proud that everyone took the initiative to come out and share this last night together. We darted out of the rain and into an empty bar after dinner to do superlatives, which Julia and I came up with. Everybody got one, and it was a bittersweet end. Amorino one last time, and then champagne in the rain under the Eiffel Tower for the midnight sparkle.
I must sign off, it’s 1 a.m. and I still have lots of packing to do. But just because I’m leaving Paris doesn’t mean the posts are going to stop. They’ll stop when my narrative runs out.
So this isn’t goodbye, but I’m in such an emotional mood after saying goodbye to some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life that I want to say thank you to those who have been reading this blog. I’m so grateful that I had this outlet and this opportunity to share what has been the best four months of my life.
For now, I’ll leave you with this picture, one of my favorites that I’ve taken all semester, and a quote from E. E. Cummings about Paris, which really struck a chord with me this week.
Whereas—by the very act of becoming its improbably gigantic self—New York had reduced mankind to a tribe of pygmies, Paris (in each shape and gesture and avenue of her being) was continuously expressing the humanness of humanity. Everywhere I sensed a miraculous presence, not of mere children and women and men, but of living human beings. While a once rising and striving world toppled into withering hideously smithereens, love rose in my heart like a sun and beauty blossomed in my life like a star. Now, finally and first, I was myself.
Wow, what an absence. I have been wanting to blog for over a week, but when there’s a ten page paper to write (in French gah) and a BWL checklist to complete (Before We Leave) blogging and journaling get pushed down the priority list. We’ve been amping up the cultural activity frequency, on account of the fact that we leave on FRIDAY. Can’t even believe an entire semester is almost over. Let’s chat about some general Parisian things I’ve been noticing. Because it’s one thing to come to Paris and see everything every other tourist sees, but it’s another thing to stay here long enough to pick up on the real beat of the city, the real character of Parisians. I’m not pretending I’ve got them all figured out, but I feel like I know them better than just a combination of interactions across shop counters. Three months is not nearly enough time, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.
First of all, they are very proud of their city and very opinionated about any changes that occur in it. The Christmas decorations went up a few weeks ago, and they are everywhere. There isn’t just one section of town where everyone goes if they want to get in the Christmas spirit, they’ve got every section of town covered. And it’s not just about getting in the spirit, it’s about showing off their city. The lights on the Champs Elysées were different for the first time this year, and from what I hear, there was a general feeling of disdain for the new-age, economically-savvy colored rings on the trees. Traditionally, the trees on the Champs were covered in actually string, twinkle, Christmas lights, and Paris is very upset at the break in tradition. These decorations are in the Place Vendôme, and Parisians happen to like these ones.
“Pretty but discreet,” as my French teacher summed it up, with a pleasant little smile on her face as she looked around the square.
The tree in front of the Notre Dame might have to be my personal favorite.
And one more shot of a random street off the Champs Elysées.
Secondly, Parisians love their language. As I’ve been learning in both my grammar and phonetics class, so many of the rules of French are “pour la musique,” or for the sake of the sound. Screw the grammar, we’re going to make these eight words exceptions to the rule because it’ll sound prettier. Plus, Parisian French is unbearably fast. They tend to drop the “e” sound if it doesn’t have an accent; they just blow right past the vowels, and the result is a tangle of consonants and gargle sounds that sound like French, but are completely undecipherable to a non-Parisian. “Je ne sais pas” gets shortened to “shay pas.” Apparently people in the south of France are more likely to pronounce their e’s, and my phonetics professor put on this hysterical and exaggerated nasal accent that practically made them seem like idiots because they say “maintenant” instead of “maint-nnt.”
One of my favorite examples of the pride in the language was from my grammar class. My teacher came across the word “éphémère” in one of the exercises, which means “fleeting” or “ephemeral” and stopped the entire progression of the exercise, just to write that word on the board and tell us it was one of her favorite words.
Sans accents, c’est un peu lourd, non? Mais ajoutez les petits papillons au dessus du mot, les jolies accents, et il commence à voler.
Without accents, isn’t it a little heavy? But add the little butterflies above the word, the pretty accents, and it begins to fly.
So I’ll miss that, I think, the love and respect the French have for their language. The love and respect I have for their language.
I’ll also miss just walking around. Stumbling across things at different times of day, when they look completely different.
The Pantheon in the morning:
Behind St Sulpice at sunset:
In front of St. Sulpice at sunset, where I waited for the bus with all my old lady friends:
The Louvre in the evening:
The last sparkle of the night of the Eiffel Tower, when the yellow lights shut off and all you’re left with is the white sparkle:
And then standing under the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the night with your best friends on the way home when it’s completely shut off and scary and oppressive, but still just as majestic as ever:
The weather has been pretty rocky here lately, too. The following two pictures were taken within twelve minutes of each other:
One last little Paris story before I sign off and leave all the activity summaries for another day.
Took the bus successfully again last week, only the second time, but this time I took it home from one end of the city to the other. So many old ladies returning from their day out shopping. On the bus you find everyone that’s too old to use the metro. I hadn’t realized it before now, but there really are so few seniors on the metro, because you’ve gotta deal with staircases on staircases on staircases just to get from the platform to the exit or from one line to another. Even I’m exhausted sometimes. But about halfway through my journey, I noticed a little sign on the window of the bus: Qui a la classe, laisse sa place. It rhymes in French, so obviously sounds much sweeter, (plus it’s in French to begin with, which is always pretty even when it doesn’t rhyme, IMO) but in English it means: He who has class will give up his seat. I loved that.
Stay tuned for accounts of cultural activities and pictures. Lots of pictures. Perhaps before the weekend is out?
So nice to talk to you all again, my dears. Or I suppose talk at you.
One more week!
The final (and longest) chapter in the narration of the week my family was here.
Days and sights and meals blend together, and all I can do is show you snapshots of things we did and how much fun we had doing them.
The first time they saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle:
The place we ate brunch on Thanksgiving morning, on the Île-St-Louis:
The walk through Place des Vosges:
Seeing the first night of the Illuminations on the Champs Elysées:
Seeing the Galaries Lafayette Christmas tree:
Nighttime photoshoots on the Pont Alexandre:
And also at the Eiffel Tower:
And of course, Thanksgiving dinner:
We went to a restaurant where my French professor at Quinnipiac had
suggested insisted I go, and a place I had already been with Jeff, and it was the best steak I’ve had in years. Steak & french fries with a walnut salad and a choice of dessert is the only dish they serve, and the only dish they’ve been serving for 50 years. They don’t take reservations and they open at 7 and you have to be in line at around 6:40 in order to be part of the first seating. The line is out the door and around the sidewalk all night. It was amazing.
and then…. finally…. we climbed the Eiffel Tower.
It wasn’t as physically tough as I thought it was going to be, but oh my god it’s so TALL.
This is the Champs de Mars, where many-a-night have been spent with some really incredible people in this program and some really not-so-incredible wine.
This is Place du Trocadero, where you’ll find the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
And this is the Arc de Triomphe and the top of the Champs Elysées:
And last view, across the city, Invalides, the Panthéon, the towers of St Sulpice, and in the haze, so so tiny, the towers of Notre Dame:
So glad I had my time with my family here, showing them my city. Everything we did I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time, which was so fun for me. We’ll be back. Or at least I’ll be back. They can come visit again if they want :)
Ok, let’s continue. Tuesday morning, I woke up especially early just to meet the fam at the Notre Dame. We climbed to the middle level, and then to the tippity top, which was closed the last time I climbed. You wouldn’t expect the view to be noticeably different from the base of the towers to the top of them, but it really was. You feel more like you’re looking down on everything than looking out at everything.
After we had a delicious brunch (actually at the place with that yellow awning in that last picture,) and after I went to class, the official highlight tour of the Latin Quarter began. I showed them St. Severin, which is one of those places that tourists don’t really go into, but it’s just a church so it’s free to just go in. The draw is the fact that it has been continuously added on to since the 13th century, and it’s got such a mix of interior features. It’s one of the places where you can see the evidence of the Louis’ changes to the interiors, simply because they “didn’t like” Gothic decoration, so they had gold arches and statues of themselves placed at the altars of several churches around Paris, including Notre Dame. Plus, St. Severin has my favorite column in all of Paris:
Also it has a beautiful organ and we happened to be there when the sun was streaming in through the stained glass.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking. Lots of walking. To the lock bridge! Around sunset, which I had never seen before, and it’s so much more beautiful during the day.
To the Louvre!
To the Place de la Concorde!
Andddd that’s it for this post. The key is small increments. Perhaps part 3 will hitcha later in the day. Paris things to be done, people.
My sincerest apologies for the extended absence. My family was here for the week, and they saw Paris from east to west to east to west. They got quite the whirlwind tour and I think they had a great time. Actually I know they had a great time on account of the fact that they didn’t stop talking about how great of a time they had…
They did so much and took so many pictures that this (incredibly delayed) recap of my Thanksgiving week in Paris will be split into two (maybe even three) parts.
We began in the airport, because I met them there to fly down to Nice to spend the weekend in Villefranche-sur-mer. I had been there in September to visit our relatives Phyllis and Frank who not only have an apartment there, but also a daughter with an apartment rental business. We were able to stay in their apartment that weekend, which was absolutely beautiful.
The south of France was still breathtaking in November, though it was really not as postcard-perfect as it was in September. Everything was pretty closed down, as if we had just missed the end of the season.
We relaxed all weekend, because they were exhausted from traveling for almost thirty hours straight, but we did go to Nice on Saturday night for dinner.
It was fun to see the city at night, since I had only seen it during the day in September. It did bring back some memories of the last time I was here, which involved getting tear gassed. Ahh, good times.
We also saw the opera house of Nice, a pretty cool building in the middle of “Old Nice”:
The night we arrived in Paris was coincidentally the night of the greatest sunset I’ve seen in the city since being here. We walked from their apartment in the Marais and came up on the Notre Dame from the west, (from behind it).
It was the most breathtaking I’ve seen Paris.
After a long, long walk to my apartment, past all the big sights along the Seine, we ate dinner, and I introduced them the Tower :) Eiffel, meet family. Family, meet Eiffel.
On Monday, they did the Champs Elysées, then we went to the Sempé exhibit at Hôtel de Ville, which is City Hall, not the City Hotel. Don’t try to book a room there.
But first we saw the second most beautiful sunset I’ve seen since being here. I don’t know why I’ve never noticed sunsets. I realized it must be because I’m rarely outside at that time of day. Anyways, this shot is from the Place de la Concorde.
Back to Sempé. Jean-Jacques Sempé is a cartoonist/sketch artist/master of charming irony whose style you may recognize, as he’s drawn quite a few New Yorker covers. The exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville was a retrospective of fifty years of his work, and I had been wanting to go for weeks. He was especially in love with Paris, (he’s lived here for his entire adult life and moved 47 times!) and a lot of his work was drawings of the city.
But since he’s also a cartoonist, he works well with captions, too:
“Quick, quick, will you marry me?”
“Helen, I think someone stole the car!”
“I will be brief. I have nothing to add to what I said last night on television.”
So Sempé was fascinating, I was completely charmed.
Then another meal out; I was so spoiled this week.
Did I mention it was so nice to be reunited with my family?
I’m cutting it off here, I promise to continue this weekend, and I have some other great things to blog about, too.
…except you do know where this train will take you. Chartres.
Last weekend, Natalie and I successfully boarded the correct train into the suburbs of Paris and took a little day jaunt to Chartres, a little town with a giant cathedral. We weren’t as successful as I’m communicating, though, since we missed the tour and therefore took a very uneducated walk around what I’m sure is a cathedral even more steeped in history and religion than Notre Dame itself.
From what I can remember from the tour we took of this place in high school, there has been a cathedral (not this cathedral) on this site since the 900s. That’s more than two hundred years before construction started on Notre Dame in Paris. This and another little tidbit that I’ll share in a moment are about all I remember from that tour.
SO, this post is mostly a just vehicle to show you my pictures of this crazy-impressive cathedral. And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I never got a picture of the simple front of it. So you can learn about Notre Dame de Chartres through its details, and a far away view will serve as an introduction:
The stained glass in there is incredible.
In this photo you can see the cleaning that’s being done, and the difference between the cleaned stone and the not cleaned stone. You can also see that each stained glass panel (vitrail) tells a story. You read them starting from the bottom left. Wish I knew the stories.
The wall around the choeur (the inner section behind the main altar where only the priests are allowed) usually has some sculptures around it, at least from what I’ve seen in the churches I’ve been in. But I have never seen anything this detailed or on this massive of a scale. There are over 40 of these little scenes, and again, I wish I knew the stories they told.
And opposite this wall, on the outer edge of the cathedral, was this little niche with this unassuming little piece of cloth, framed rather elaborately but still not announcing itself too loudly… This relic is supposedly the reason there has been a church here for so long, and the reason this particular church needed to be so big and grand for all the pilgrims coming to pay their respects to this faded piece of cloth. Why, Michele, why is this piece of cloth in such demand? Don’t worry little birdies, I’ll feed you: this is supposedly part of the veil that the Virgin Mary was wearing when she gave birth to Jesus.
The small plaque says it has been traced to the 1st century and it is confirmed to be of Middle Eastern origins. Even if it didn’t actually belong to the Virgin Mary, the antiquity of it alone is impressive. And then you wonder that if it really is that old, how could it not have been hers? To have been saved this long and kept in such condition, how could it not have always been this cherished? Then you think about what Jesus’s life was actually like and then you think about how Jesus was Jewish and how the family had middle eastern origins and then you think about the three main religions of the world and how everything between them got so damn complicated. Then you shake your head a little and all those thoughts fall out of it because they’re too heavy for a day trip.
We climbed one of the towers, which was quite the hike, but so worth it to see a view quite different than a Parisian one.
And the architecture on the towers and cathedral is so much more interesting up close.
Back inside, here’s my Artsy Shot of the Week:
And the gorgeous organ:
Back outside, to walk around the cathedral at the ground level. It’s equally impressive from any angle you photograph it.
Each of those rings of statues around the arc represent a different theme. With the help of the postcards in front of a souvenir shop opposite this side entrance, we decoded that the first ring had twelve statues representing the signs of the zodiac, and the second ring was the months of the year. Other than that, we had nothing, but we did determine that we really missed out when we missed that tour.
Finally, we have reached the end of our photo tour. I don’t know much about this cathedral other than what I’ve told you and other than the fact that it’s size and complexity is completely overwhelming. And I’ve seen some pretty huge and complex stuff.
This post was so overdue (a week and a half late!) because my family has been in Paris this week. I’m taking less photos per day than I ever have, because my mother and sister are taking enough to last three lifetimes. They are having a blast here and I’m loving being able to show them around. I did accidentally send them the wrong way on the metro tonight, but hey, maybe they had an adventure? A post on family week should come soon. Goodnight all, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Well. After a prolonged absence, I’m back mes amis. This was one of the hardest weeks to get through, mostly because I’ve had a fever since about Tuesday night, I had a big presentation on Wednesday, and also because my family arrives in approximately sixteen hoursssss. Can’t WAIT to play tour guide for a week.
Allow me to first update on recent Parisian life happenings.
Still door-hunting whenever we walk around new places:
And in the interest of continued cultural activities, we went to the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is one of those museums you don’t hear about until you get here. It’s in the Jardin de Tuileries, in front of the Louvre. It looks pretty small, but there was a sprawling gallery below ground level. Also, if you’ve seen Midnight in Paris, you might remember they go to this museum to see it’s main draw: Monet’s giant, room-sized, circular water lily paintings. There are two of them, in identical rooms:
apologies for the quality of the pictures, but these were taken secret-agent style, to avoid the shouts of the woman whose sole job it is to shout at people taking pictures.
We try to walk along the Seine as much as possible, but even though we had done this walk a couple times before, this was the first time I had noticed this view of the Île de la Cité:
Can you see the matching towers of Notre Dame? The skinnier, fainter steeple is Notre Dame too, and the bigger, darker one is Saint Chapelle. The bridge is called Pont des Arts and it’s the one where all the lovers put their padlocks on the grates of the bridge, then throw the keys into the Seine in a symbolic declaration of eternal love. Somebody needs to let the people who put combination locks on this bridge that they are fully missing the message/intention of the act.
Also, I’m developing a love for French onion soup, (which is obviously only called onion soup here). We also made a list of all the things we have left to do and see and eat and buy in Paris. We’ve only got a month left now! Devastating!
The nights are blurred together from last weekend, but we saw Notre Dame at night for the first time:
So ends the Random Paris Post, hopefully this one will be closely followed by a post about our day trip to see the Cathédral de Chartres on Saturday!
PS: where were you on 11/11/11? :)
That’s right, three posts in three days, how does she do it?? Don’t get used to this though, there won’t be another one for a while…
On Tuesday, Natalie and I finally made it to the Musée d’Orsay together.
and my camera worked this time, so pictures, yayy.
It was a different experience than when I went with Dena; we walked through the whole bottom level and saw all the sculptures, and also went into the little galleries off the sides of the sculpture terraces. One of those rooms was a photography-as-art exhibit, from the time period when photographers started realizing they could be considered artists too. They played with focus and composition and coloring and they even scratched their glass plates or negatives before they had completely dried to change or blur the image, or make it more canvas-like. I had learned a lot of this in my History of Photography class last semester, so it was fascinating to see a whole room of these prints.
My favorite was Struggle:
I’m not a big sculpture person, but there were a few here that made me stop in my tracks. One of them was a replica of the exact gold statue of Saint Michael that sits at the peak of Mont-St-Michel:
This one was incredible because it used several different colors of stone; I’ve never seen a sculpture like that before:
And this last one was called Alligator Hunters and was a native-looking family spearing an alligator. I ask you, when was the last time you saw a statue or sculpture of this scale that didn’t have a mythical, religious or royal subject or context? Alligator hunters? Who came up with that?
Up the escalators to the fifth floor:
The fifth floor of the Musée d’Orsay continues to be one of my favorite places in this city.
Here’s a close-up of the painting I mentioned last time:
The faces look so real when you stand under them…
This is the first painting you see on the fifth floor and it’s giant.
Then you see this:
The view from these windows will never get old. That’s the Louvre through the clock there, and the view straight across from a regular window is of the hill to the north, Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. I would love to come some night that the museum is open late, just to see this view all lit up:
Signing off for now, this was a quick post, but wanted to recap the visit. This weekend is a long weekend here for “Armistice Day,” but we won’t be going anywhere. I feel sort of lazy for not jet-setting, but I just love Paris so much.
A day trip to Chartres is in the works, though, that could make the weekend. Although who are we kidding, my purchases at H&M today already made the weekend…