“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


European Vacation – Paris – Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe

Saturday, October 22, 2011

After visiting the Louvre on our second day in Paris, we noted on our map that Notre Dame was within walking distance, just down the river.  So we started walking.  And walking.  And walking.

It seemed to take forever to get there, though that might have been because we were still tired from the previous day of walking and the hours we had just spent walking around the Louvre.  Eventually I started pointing at buildings I thought were Notre Dame, but then it would turn out they were not.  After doing this about half a dozen times – or maybe more – we finally came to the real thing.

Notre Dame was beautiful.  I mean, just look at those doors.  Like the Louvre, the carvings were amazingly intricate, and all the more impressive for having been done so long ago.

When we arrived, there wasn't another English tour for a while, so we wandered on our own, which a lot of people seemed to be doing as well.  It was very dark inside, and all I have is a little point-and-shoot Canon, so only a few of my inside photos came out well enough to use.

There is stained glass everywhere inside Notre Dame.  Beautiful windows in various shapes, colors, sizes, and designs.  While the structure itself was somewhat symmetrical, the windows didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason – each alcove around the sides of the church had a different window and different vignette made up of various altars, statues, and other objects.  Maybe if we could have read the signs we might have understood better, but once again they were all in French.  Nonetheless, despite the seeming randomness of it all – and maybe because of the it – this church was beyond beautiful.

The height of the ceilings was breathtaking.  Imagine working up there to create this structure, hundreds of years ago, long before they had all the safety tools, apparatuses, and regulations that we have now.  Below all those gorgeous arches and windows were hundreds of people, some wandering and taking it all in like we were, and some sitting in the chairs arranged down the center of the church.  I wondered if the people in chairs were resting their feet or worshipping, and if they were worshipping I wondered if they resented all the people walking around snapping photos and exclaiming over the beauty of the place in many different languages.

The chandeliers were amazing.  (How many times have I used that word?  It's getting hard to come up with new adjectives after all we saw.)  This one had been taken down for cleaning and repairs so we got a close-up view of it.  They were even more beautiful hanging and lit up, but my little camera just didn't take very good photos of those.

Back outside, saints and angels were carved into the facade of the church.  These were just a few of them.  I assume the second from the right in this photo is John the Baptist.  I love how there is a circle of stone where his head should be, as if he has a halo over his missing head.  Sorry.  Was that irreverent?

The gargoyles fascinated me.  They were so high that we couldn't get a very good view of them.  It's strange how there are carvings of saints and angels alongside these grisly gargoyles.  I don't know what their purpose was, though I'm sure there was one.  Maybe to scare away evil spirits?  Anyone know?

The flying buttresses of Notre Dame.  This is at the opposite end of the church from the doors in my first photo.  Behind me is a very nice park-like garden.

Notre Dame looks different from every angle.  It's almost like the builders had so many ideas of what they wanted the church to look like and rather than pick one they just used them all.  Or maybe as it was built and rebuilt over the years, different builders used different ideas creating almost a hodge-podge of design.  However it was, they did it in such a way that it has become one of the most admired and well-known structures in the world.

The stained glass windows with all their stone work are just as beautiful from the outside as they are from inside.

A side-view of the church with the towers.  It's hard to believe that any building could still stand after so long, and while it has been plundered and desecrated, and undergone restorations over the years, it has essentially been there for almost 1000 years. 

The famous towers of Notre Dame.  We were not able to take the tour that takes you up to them, but we enjoyed admiring them from below anyway.

After leaving Notre Dame, we took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe.  The real one this time.  We were tired by then, and we had to wait a long time before the guards would allow us into the tunnel that crosses under the roundabout that encircles the Arc since they apparently only allow a certain number of people at a time.  So we didn't spend a lot of time there, but once again, it was an amazing experience to actually see in front of our very eyes all these sights that we had seen only in pictures all of our lives.

This was our last day in Paris.  The next day we traveled across France on our way to Germany, but on our way, we made a stop just outside of Paris which I will tell you all about in my next post.

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At 11/08/2011 11:37 AM, Blogger Blond Girl wrote:

Some thoughts for you:

1. Yes, the gargoyles were partly to scare away evil spirits, but until sometime in the 16th century when lead pipes were added, they also acted as a fancy gutter system to direct rain water away from the foundation of the building. Imagine, during a heavy rain, the water spewing from the mouths of the gargolyes!

2. As I looked at the photos, I kept thinking of Quasimodo yelling "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!".

3. You would do well to read "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. While not about Notre Dame, it is the story of the building of a cathedral; it's fiction set over many years and some of it is a bit brutish, as historical stories are want to be. However, it really shows the mind set of the builders and how they worked at the time. It is a good story.

4. The verification word for my comment is "pelisme", which just sounds French, and as such, appropriate to this post.

5. Finally, as the Geek is not generally fond of anything French, how did he feel about the trip in general?

At 11/08/2011 11:46 AM, Blogger Geekwif wrote:

It was his idea to spend a few days in Paris. I was actually more skeptical than he was, but it turned out we both had a great time.


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