Saturday, October 18, 2008

MORE stairs!

I am sitting in my bed at the Marriott with a french pastry and my throbbing feet! What a long but wonderful day it has been. After being up for over 24 hours we crashed by 8:30 pm and were wide awake by 4:00 am! Todd worked on keeping track of all our receipts in the bathroom so that I could keep sleeping. Our room is very nice and the bathroom is on a lower level so I didn’t even see the light. We began our day by catching the train to the Orsay museum. It is much smaller than the Louvre but contains many Impressionist works. Again, we were flabbergasted to walk around one corner after another and see works by Monet, Van Gogh, Seraut, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec and Renior (my personal favorite). We walked into one gallery and there was Whistler’s Mother! Too cool. We got there early I guess because we had the place basically to ourselves for the first hour or so. We were ready to leave when the lines seemed to be getting longer. Score one point for us! We headed over to Notre Dame. Along the way I saw some street “artists” and started to paruse their work. It was mostly scenes of Paris that any tourist would find appealing. I saw a water color I liked of the Eiffel Tower and made Todd to shell out the 15 Euros for it. I asked the man selling them if he painted it and he said, “Oui” so I had him sign it for me. Later, we think we saw MANY of the same paintings for 2 and 5 Euros! Score one for Paris..... It’s okay, I love it and will hang it with pride!

At Notre Dame the crowds were more significant but the line moved quickly and we soon found ourselves inside. The place was amazing - words really can’t describe, or at least MY feeble words can’t describe what we saw. Candle lit alcoves, chizeled saints in the eves, flying buttresses, stain glass murals depicting scenes from Christ’s life, and an overwhelming peace even though the hall was filled with people. We toured around and sat for awhile. Todd and I both agreed that no matter what religion a person is, one has to admire the sacrifice of time, money and LIFE that went into creating such a place. To sacrifice that much to build a house of God is pure dedication. It was the first building built in Paris, on an island standing as a fortress. There is a star marked outside the building where all cities in France are measured from. A standard to set your life by. We headed over to the side of the building to make our way up to the towers. The line was LONG. The gentleman with the information packets said “about 40 minutes” so I waited while Todd ran across the street to get a hot dog cooked inside a baggette. Yummy! We met some people in line from Michigan and chatted with them for awhile. There was a man in a scary mask entertaining the crowd. He would walk up behind someone and pretend to be in conversation with them or put his arm through theirs, etc. When the person turned around and saw his face they would usually scream out which was very funny to all of us. Some of the men he "got" didn't think it was too funny. One even took a swing at him! Anyway, I started reading the program and found out that once again, we would be climbing up a spiral staircase of over 400 steps to the top. Could my legs take it another day? Turns out they did. At the top are the famous gargoyles guarding the church. We had fun talking pictures of them and pretending to be the Hunchback. Okay, I took pictures and TODD pretended to be Quasimodo but you get the idea. We climbed through a small door and made our way up more wooden steps to see the bell that Quasimodo would ring each day, then came back out only to continue up another level to the very top. The views were fantastic! We had been blessed with another beautiful day and could see for miles. It was time now to hike back down the stairs. These stairs are close to 1,000 years old and are well worn. The spiral jaunt down was painful and dizzying. I wondered if anyone ever fainted or vomited at the bottom! I can only imagine how difficult that would be during the summer. In thinking about it we were shocked that people were allowed up there. If this were in the US the government would force the church to install an elevator for the handicapped. Both the top of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame have fences going up very high so that no one is tempted to jump off. Notre Dame has more like a cage surrounding you.

Next we wandered the streets a bit picking up trinkets along the way. Scarves are VERY en vogue here. I bought a very pretty one for myself and got a stripped warm one for Todd. He wasn’t sure he would wear it much at home but when in Paris..... I think he looked great and will continue to tell him that for the rest of the trip. Maybe then he will wear it at home too. Everyone here dresses well. You can spot the Americans pretty easily. Jeans and sneakers are NOT the norm for Pariseans! We made it over to Sainte-Chappelle, a church built by King Louis IX to house the Christian relics he bought. Notre Dame now houses the crown of thorns and the piece of wood from the cross and shows them to the public on Good Friday. The crown of thorns and wood from the cross? Hmmm, I take issue with those facts but the King paid triple the cost for the relics than he did to build the church, about 1.3 million back in 1248 which by today’s standards would be a very large sum. (I don’t want to do the math.) The church is considered the most beautiful in France because of all the stained glass windows. We were impressed but I thought it was in shameful disrepair. Fallen stone, chipped paint and dirty windows were standard. Someone get these people some Windex!

After walking for some time we decided to head back to our hotel. The battery on the camera was dead and Todd needed a jacket as the sun was setting and the air was chilly. We headed back out later for dinner; unfortunately, we chose badly; the food wasn’t great and the service slow. We have been eating street food up until this point (not wanting to miss out on seeing something) but decided we should try to find a restaurant. The funniest thing about Paris is their street side cafe’s and restaurants. All the chairs face out to the street!! People watching is their pastime; see and be seen is the order of the day. We chose to sit in the back of the restaurant instead. It was too cramp and cold to eat on the street. So far we really hadn’t had trouble finding someone who speaks English. Todd has all but given up on speaking in French to begin the conversation with and just starts in English. He finds he regresses back into Spanish too much anyway! I prefer to use hand gestures myself - both seem to work fine. After dinner we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe. We figured the view from the top at night would be pretty neat. The Arc is in the middle of a turn about so you have to go underground to get to it....another set of stairs.....small but at this point my calves have had it. When we got to the guard station Todd asked where the elevator was. “Why, are you handicapped? the guard said. Todd told him no and then turned to tell me it was 270 steps to the top. “No way, I walked up 400 steps at Notre Dame today and 700 yesterday and I just can’t do anymore.” The guard ended up taking pity on me and called for the elevator for us. It was a clear night and the Eiffel Tower was lit up in blue lights. We could see all the way down the Champs Elysees as well. The moon was up and clear and we had great fun trying to get the camera to take good pictures in that light. Again, large guard rails all around to keep people from jumping off.

Well, that is it! We caught an elevator ride back down and headed back to the hotel stopping for pastries as we walked. It is crazy busy out on the streets still and it is well past 11:30 pm. The party noises went on well after 2:00 am this morning. We wonder how these people get up for work after staying out so late! Tomorrow we are planning on going to the Louvre in the morning (it is the only thing that opens at 9:00 am - I guess because everyone stays up so late!) for a few hours and then heading over to our church at 11:30. We hope to “fit in” a bit more there!


No comments: