|Subject: Paris journal, days 6 and 7 - Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, an arcade and tea|
Hello fellow Travelziners:
Paris Day 6
This morning, I made a salami omelet with onions! I haven't made one for over the two months of our trip. It seems like four! You may remember, from a previous post, that the supplies were purchased in the Jewish section of the Marais a few blocks from where we had rented an apartment.
Just across the bridge from Ile de la Cite, on the Left Bank is the landmark of Place St-Michel and the start of Boulevard St-Michel. Boul Mich, as it is affectionately known, is one of the great thoroughfares in Paris, choked with rushing, darting traffic of cars, scoters and motorcycles, swarming with people, punctuated with crepe vendors and strewn with shoe stores and clothing shops. Nightlife thrives in the hodgepodge of small lanes between Boul Mich and Rue du Petit Pont. The immediate neighborhood blurs distinctions between St-Germain and the Latin Quarter.
Paris Day 7
I shot silhouettes of the church bell tower and roof tops against dramatic under lit streaky clouds at sunrise from our fourth floor walk up apartment window.
We got a slightly late start (about 9:30am) and walked to Notre Dame Cathedral which is on Ile de la Cite, an island in the middle of the Seine. I shot a lot of shots of the rear and south exteriors since the sun was on them. (The front faces west.) We then spent quite a bit of time inside. I shot the stained glass windows and Susan toured a special exhibit of vestments, chalices and other vessel items as well as saint's relics (bones, etc!)
Afterwards we wandered over to St-Chapelle. We spent quite a bit of time just sitting in wonderment. It is a translucent jewel box of light and color. Built by Louis IX in the 1240's, this small gothic chapel built in just five years in the Middle Ages is one of the inspiring visual experiences of Paris due to the stained glass windows surrounding the entire upper floor. Most cathedrals took 100 or more years. Its rapid completion is because it was the royal chapel, so funding came from the king rather than donations. To emerge into a room that is more glass than masonry and takes your breath away. I walked to the middle of the floor and lay on my back. Yes, to take photos, but from that perspective the experience is truly spiritual and indescribable!
It was built for Louis IX in 1245-1248, probably by Pierre de Montreuil (who also worked on Notre Dame). It was built specifically to house the most holy relics of Christendom, the relics of Christ's Passion (a splinter of the True Cross, a fragment from the Crown of Thorns, and a nail from the Cross), which Louis had obtained from the Byzantine Emperor. These relics cost Louis two and a half times what it cost to build the chapel. They are now kept in the Treasury of Notre Dame. St. Chappele is 110 feet long by 55 feet wide and stands 140 feet tall, 250 if the spire is included.
The lower church, where we entered, was for the use of palace servants and has a ceiling height of only 22 feet. The upper church was reserved for the king, the royal family, and high dignitaries of the court. The beautiful High Gothic vaulting is supported by fourteen 70 foot high buttresses between the windows, which are 50 feet high and 13 feet wide. They were doing some work on them, so two windows were covered completely in scaffolding wrapped in plastic that kept the weather out and allows workers access to where a piece of masonry smashed through the glass during the storms of Christmas 1999. The windows depict more than 1000 different Biblical scenes and we were told two-thirds of the glass is original to the 13th century. They are like the cartoons to teach and tell stories. Do not visit Paris, even for a few hours with out visiting this church!
We then crossed the river into the Latin Quarter and stumbled into cour du Commerce, a cobble-stoned, glass- roofed pedestrian arcade between ru St. Andre de Arts and around 130 Boulevard St. Germain and behind rue de L'Ancienne Comedie. The actual street name is rue Saint- André-des-Arts , in the 6th arrondissement. At number 59 is À la Cour de Rohan, a small, quiet, elegant, refined French style tea room.
It has a large tea pot sign hanging outside. As we entered, we discovered small round tables with Provencal cotton table clothes, Louis XVI-style chairs upholstered with tapestry, peach-toned walls, mosaic floor, art deco-inspired flowery chandeliers and sconces. It was quite busy. The rue de L`Anncienne-Comedie is the oldest street in Paris with its original cobblestones still in place.
À la Cour de Rohan features forty teas , as well as a tempting array of pâtisserie: cakes, tarts, charlottes, scones, and brioches all along a long table along one wall. Afternoon tea is served from a charming collection of mismatched Limoges. They do not do an English tea, just a pot of tea and a patisserie. Ah, but it was wonderful. The staff was very warm and helpful. I think they are open from noon till 7:30p. 01-13-25-79-67
Afterwards we strolled rue Saint-André-des-Arts with its interesting shops. It included the rear entrance to Le Proscope, the oldest restaurant in Paris from the mid 1600's. In one short block were many interesting hanging shop signs that I photographed. One sign was a rocking horse above a toy store that Susan went in while I shot the signs and a tiny entrance into a private courtyard surrounded with old apartments that I wandered into. The Odeon metro stop was only a half a block away.
We just walked west of the quarter on rue de Vangirard and found Luxenbourg Garden. I shot a photo of a couple deep in discussion sitting next to the reflecting pond of La Fontaine Medicis in the shade of 160 year old plane trees. The trees screen out the traffic noise of ru de Medicis on the north east corner of the park. The fountain is decorated in the style of an Italianate grotto with mosses, rocks, shelters and three figures: "Polyphemus (a large Cyclops) surprising Acis and Galatea."
Later, walking the boutique lined side streets back in the Marias we discovered Herve Gambs, at 9 bis Rue des Blancs Manteaux, a half a block north of our apartment. Gambs features flowers made entirely of silk: colorful orchids, calla lilies, and cosmos that appear so natural that I bent down smell them only to be taken aback because they are fragranced, thanks to vaporizers with a selection of 16 scents such as jasmine, lilac, and orange blossom.
Steve in sunny Chicago