This post is a little belated. Not so much because we have been busy (we have!), but purely because I do not know where to start. We have seen and learned so many things here, that I don’t know what to include for you. I went to the camera roll to use it as a guide, but found myself wading through 1,873 photos trip-to-date. After a few days of wondering how to approach the post, I decided I just had to sit and write and see what came out… so here we go:
Our apartment is small but adequate. K and I have a room, Anna sleeps on the futon and our host provided a 6″, twin-sized sleeping pad for Caleb to use in the living room floor. There is a “full” kitchen, meaning that there are 4 burners, a microwave and a dorm-room fridge. Multiple french doors in every room open out over the sidewalk, 3 stories below. There is a Metro station within 3 blocks in each direction, and between here and there you can find 4 bakeries, 3 groceries, bank, post office, and over a dozen restaurants/bistros. We have some quiet neighbors and some noisy ones. The quiet ones are basically everyone in the building. The noisy ones include the 6 lanes of traffic off the sidewalk – particularly the ambulances that serve the hospital 2 blocks away, the elevated #5 Metro line that is about at our level and which I could easily hit with a baseball as it goes by every 4 minutes (no exaggeration, that’s the schedule), and the drivers of Paris, whose car horn is evidently wired directly to their eyes. When they see a green light, their horns immediately honk at the car in front. To be clear though, even with these neighbors, we totally love the little flat we are in for the
We spent the first couple of days exploring the neighborhood, stocking the kitchen, and getting to know the Metro system. Finally, it was time to explore the sights of Paris. As I said, I can’t think of a great way to report it all, so this will have to be the first post of many just to get through the first few weeks. No better place to start than the most visited site in the city.
Notre Dame is beautiful inside and out. It really is amazing, and as such it draws more visitors per year than any other landmark in Paris. Every angle is a great view, and the inside is spectacular. Construction began in the 1100’s, and it continued to grow as Paris tried to exert itself as a religious hub. One major setback was the famous Revolution in 1789-90, where everything that represented centralized power was defaced or destroyed – including this cathedral. The people thought that the kings of Judah on the front were or were like the kings of France, so they beheaded them. Napoleon and Josephine were coronated here, but then it sat vacant for a while and was to be destroyed when some (including Victor Hugo) started lobbying for it to be saved. He wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831 largely to feature the cathedral as a primary character – and it worked. Restoration began some years later (in the mid-1840’s), and continues today.
If you click on the bottom photo on the left (of the arches over the center door), you can see how the stoneworkers and architects got the point across to those who couldn’t read or speak Latin. The 12 Disciples are along the bottom with Jesus in the center. The bottom-center rectangle shows people of all classes rising from their tombs. Above that, an angel holds a set of scales. Those on the left look happily up to Christ, while those on the right are chained and led off by demons. There is even a little devil trying to pull the scales down to the hellish side. This is just one of many amazing sculptures that adorn the outside of the church.
As far as the inside goes, there are amazing sculptures, chapels, and of course, stained-glass windows. But I will go ahead and post a photo of the biggest draw; France’s mic-drop moment when it comes to being a religious center in Europe. Behind that veil below is the the Crown of Thorns that Christ wore during the Passion. Believer or not, it is an extremely significant piece that was involved in events that changed the world. You could feel the weight of history just being near it. – ALaff
P.S. – About the Love Locks… um no. I would wager that every single Parisian hates them, and the ones we have talked to agreed. They started on the Pont des Arts, but have since spread to nearly any free piece of metal in town. The weight of them caused a section of the railing to collapse (and a leaner-on fell onto a passing boat in the Seine), and rusting $2 locks cover beautifully ornamental, priceless rails. Also makes me wonder how many of those “professing their eternal love to another” are still together. Just buy him/her a piece of that amazing chocolate across the street. 🙂