Au Revoir, Paris.
Just a short walk from my hotel room, I started my last day in Paris with a visit to Notre Dame. With no preconceived expectations, I was surprised at how big this cathedral was. It seems like everything in Paris is bigger than I imagined.Walking up to it, there is a square out in front filled with people. So many in fact, that the crowd draws in street performers for a chance to earn some coin. At one end a guitarist played up-beat tunes, in the middle was a living statue — a bronze woman dressed as an Egyptian priestess, and all around were street dancers. Plus, a magician.
As I got closer to the cathedral there was a small garden of low shrubs filled with hundreds of birds, all sitting patiently on the top of the bushes. An older man was handing out bread crumbs to children and would encourage them to hold their hand up with the bread in the palm of their hand.The birds were so tame and accustomed to being fed that they actually would fly right up and perch on your hand to eat the bread. I was so intrigued, I had to try it for myself.
Having fed the local aviary population, I went inside the cathedral. As I approached the front doors, I could better see how beautiful the architecture was. There were rows of statues, about two stories up, completely surrounding the building. Huge stained glass windows, intricately decorated with scenes from the bible adorned the upper arches.
Once inside, everything changed. The lights were dim, voices spoke in soft whispers and there was a palpable sense of divinity. A sermon was in progress, so I quietly found a seat toward the back of the church. The sanctuary was enormous, I could barely see the man giving the sermon at the pulpit. but he was speaking into a microphone so I could clearly hear his words. I didn’t understand a word he said, but for some reason I felt it appropriate to listen awhile.
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Somewhere between the words of the sermon, the intermittent interludes of the massive pipe organ and admiring the beauty of the inside of Notre Dame, I began to notice something. I kept getting chills. Not the kind you get when you are cold, but the kind you get when something moves you. They were the kind of chills that make all of the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and goosebumps rise on your arms and legs. At first, I dismissed them as they seemed to just come and go. Not being an overly religious man, I was not expecting a spiritual encounter.
The sensations didn’t stop. Instead, they kept coming in waves and when I started to think about it, when I started to consider that maybe I was feeling the presence of something greater, I would begin to weep. After a couple of such bouts I had to force myself to think about something else because it was too much. The only other time I had become overrun with such emotion was at the birth of my son.
OK, enough of that. I just felt it important to share. After I left Notre Dame I headed up the street next to the Seine river, where I caught glimpses of river barges and even dinner cruise boats going by. Just a few blocks up the river I came up to my next destination, The Louvre.Much bigger than Museum D’Orsay, The Louvre seemed to take up two city blocks. Shaped liked a horseshoe, the entrance to The Louvre is in the center of the horseshoe in a tall glass pyramid. The lines were not long, I waited, perhaps 30 minutes to gain entrance. After a 30 minute wait in line I went inside and grabbed a map to get my bearings. The variety of exhibits I had to choose from was daunting and being very familiar with art, I decided to go see the two things I knew I would recognize. First on my list was Aphrodite, or Venus de Milo. It is the famous sculpture of the woman, representing the Greek goddess of love. She was very pretty, but personally, I think she would look better if her arms hadn’t been broken off.
En route to my next destination, I stumbled upon a really cool exhibit of Napoleon’s apartments. Just like it sounds, this exhibit was a recreation of the famous French tyrant’s living quarters, including a study, formal dining room, office and throne room. Everything was opulent and grandiose.
Ceilings were painted murals, all of the china was gilded and ornate and the chandelier in the grand salon was as big as an elephant. The throne room was my favorite. On an elevated platform was a grand chair and right in front of it was a large circular, wooden platform, separated in two down the middle. A trap door, I suppose, so Napoleon could deposit those who displeased him into something unpleasant below.Not far away, I found the last thing I wanted to see, the Mona Lisa. I’m not sure why really, I don’t have a particular affinity for that piece of art. I guess I wanted to see it just because it’s famous. It is in a side room filled with other pieces of art, but it has a whole wall of the room to itself. It was also the most heavily guarded piece of art. It’s kept behind a glass wall with two security guards in front of it and stanchions that don’t permit you to get closer than 10 feet. It’s much smaller that I thought it would be, maybe only thirty inches tall. It’s hard to tell though because besides the barricade that keeps you back, throngs of people clamoring to get a glimpse make it difficult to see it at all. Oh well, I snapped some photos and called this museum venture a success. Hungry and tired, I set out to get some quick and hot street food. I knew right where to go as I had stumbled upon this honey hole just the night before. If you didn’t know where to go, you would have never found this strip. It is a narrow winding one lane street. An alleyway, really, not far from St. Michelle fountain. It runs for several blocks tucked in between tall buildings, hidden from major thoroughfares and jam packed with restaurants, cafes, clubs and shops. There are all different kinds of shops here. There’s a pizzeria rustica, featuring beautiful thin crust pizzas with gourmet toppings like fig, prosciutto, watercress, Iberico ham and goat cheese. There’s a gyro shop where they make the flat bread right in front of you and carve the lamb right off of the spit. There is a boulanger featuring baguettes, sourdough boules, brioche and pastries of every variety.
There is an Irish pub, a gelato stand, and even a Subway sandwich shop. The unique thing about these shops is that almost all of them have some type of window service kind of like a drive through. You just walk right up from the street, order what you want and watch them prepare it. My favorite thing here is the creperies. Every kind of crepe imaginable is on the menu. You can order a sweet crepe filled with chocolate and bananas, or pear compote, or caramel and creme brûlée. There are savory crepes, filled with ham, cheese or mushrooms. I went for a savory crepe of a pork belly, mushroom and Swiss, followed by a sweet crepe filled with hot pear compote and toasted almonds. What a great choice. It was hot, fast and delicious. I only wish I had known about this street from day one. But then, I might not have ever left.
Well this long post brings me to the end of my trip to Paris. In fact, I’m writing this on the flight back to the states. It’s an eleven hour flight, so I’ve got plenty of time. I want to thank you for following along with me this past week and I want to send out a special thanks to: Dave Cathey, David Jones, Dave Morris, Patti Hannan and Sheri Guyse. All of whom helped facilitate the process this week.
Thank you to NewsOK for posting my blogs and videos, and finally, thank you to my wife Jami and my kids Jude and Hanna for letting me run off on this adventure without them.
Until next time,