We had a busy day planned today…..starting at Notre Dame. The short entrance line moved quickly. We looked for Billy Joel, but didn’t see him anywhere. When we entered the dark cathedral, we were surprised to hear singing. After our eyes adjusted to the dark, we realized that there was a church service underway and a woman in a blue robe with the most beautiful voice was singing….oblivious to the crowds on the perimeter aisles. Priests then gave communion to their faithful worshippers. I paused to watch this reverent ceremony. We think of Notre Dame as an “attraction,” another museum on the list of “must-see sights” but this simple service showed that it was so much more…..its a neighborhood church whose parishioners come here for sustenance of the soul…..a purpose this mighty structure has served for almost 700 years.
In need of a little sustenance ourselves, we walked over the bridge to Berthillon in Ile Saint Louis…..sadly finding it closed on Tuesdays. Dejectedly, we walked back to Ile de Cite….. passing by a photo-shoot while being serenaded by an accodionist playing quintessentially French tunes.
The wind was starting to kick up and dark clouds were forming overhead. Seeking indoor safety, we joined a very slow moving queue for Sainte Chapelle and waited….and waited….and waited. The line seemed immoveable. It began to sprinkle. We had already put on our coats to guard against the cold breezes….now we covered our heads as best we could. Slowly…..slowly, the line inched forward. We finally entered the inner sanctum! Sainte Chapelle is within the walls of the Palais de Justice….home to the Court of Appeals and the Cour de Cassation (comparable to our Supreme Court)…..so security is tight. Our bags were x-ray’d as we walked through a metal detector. We passed through easily…..but a lot of people didn’t and had to be rechecked and rechecked. Ah-ha! So that’s why the line moved so slowly. Once past security, entering Sainte Chapelle was a breeze.
Sainte Chapelle, the royal chapel built by King Louis IX on his palace grounds, was completed in less than ten years. It’s good to be king…..it took the commoners 200 years to finish Notre Dame.
There are actually two chapels in Sainte Chapelle…..the lower one was used by palace staff…..the upper chapel, with its glorious stained glass windows, was reserved for the King and French nobility.
The stained glass windows are absolutely spectacular….I’ve now seen them four times and they take my breath away each time. Walking up a dimly lit circular staircase, stepping into the chapel and being blinded by their brillance is, for me, akin to being reborn.
The story of Christianity is told in the fifteen window panels that surround and envelop you. With guidebook in hand, you can walk from panel to panel “reading” the colorful scenes but I prefer to sit on one of the chairs lining the chapel and just look…..that’s all you need to do here…..just gaze and be bathed in the windows’ magnificent glow.
The windows on one side of the church were darker…..less brillant than those on the other side. I attributed it to the cloudy day but I was wrong. The windows are being restored…..those on the “bright” side are finished, those on the “dark” side haven’t yet been started. I was stunned by this! The radiant windows I’ve loved and savored were, at best, dull step-sisters to these newly restored beauties in front of me. Paris is like this…..just when you think you’ve seen it all, it surprises you again.
When we left, the rain had stopped but it was still windy and cold…..not conducive for our afternoon plans of cruising the Seine and walking through Montmarte, so other plans had to be made. The Louvre? Nope, closed today. D’Orsay? No, closes early. Hmmm….the Marmottan Museum is open late tonight…..so that became our destination.
A few Metro stops later and we were in the 16th Arrondisement walking toward Paul Marmottan’s former home….and current home to one of the world’s best collections of Monet’s paintings.
It was almost 5:30 when we entered…..and found out that our guidebook was wrong…..the Marmottan would close today at 6:00. As we were debating whether or not to go in, the earnest woman behind the counter lowered the ticket price. That clinched it…..we laid down our euros and walked in.
We didn’t have much time, so we headed straight to the Monet rooms. There, we found simple drawings of his friends and family, familar paintings of water lilies and train stations and then, further on, bizarre representations of his Japanese bridge in Giverny.
This rushed overview of Monet’s Impressionist progression left me with enough time for a quick walk through a special exposition showcasing the works of brothers Raoul and Jean Dufy…..colorful, spirited, lively works of art that can’t help but make you smile.
We were tired and, having skipped lunch, running on empty….so we took a cab back to the hotel and met across the street at the Cafe du Marche for dinner.
The cafe, frequented by both Parisians and tourists, is known for its simple, good-value meals. Craig and Pam ordered Chicken Roti (roasted chicken) while Bev and I opted for Rigatoni with Creme de Truffe (truffle cream sauce)…..each for a very reasonable 10.50€.
The Rigatoni was absolutely delicious…..al dente pasta with a very light cream sauce swimming with more truffle bits than we imagined possible at this price……their earthy taste infused every bite. The rotisserie-roasted chicken was perfect…..thoroughly cooked, yet moist and flavorful. A bottle of Chinon red complemented and enhanced both dishes. For dessert? Profiteroles, Pear Tart with Chocolate and Coconut Tart with Coconut Ice Cream. Umm-umm…..good.