Sunday, September 22, 2013

2 September 2013


I am sitting in our apartment drinking a Grenache, and eating real strawberries- the ones that are red to the middle. 

Travelling an overnight plane was a good choice.  We left MSP at 9:50 p.m. on August 31, and arrived at Amsterdam at 1:30 p.m. on September 1.  I enjoy every visit to that  airport- a chance to see tired, bedraggled people from all over the world.  Al rode next to a young man from Czech Republic who had just spent a month in Kansas City, where his sister lives. (Amy- not a long enough layover to visit the museum- maybe on the way home).

Next stop Charles DeGaulle airport- where we purchased Navigo cards as Paris residents (thanks to Rick Steves advice- this one bit of info was worth the price of his book). A one-month pass is 70E- giving us access to the train and metro all the way out to Versailles.  I really disliked keeping track of those little cardboard tickets they have for the Metro.

Then  we went to cash machines and gathered money to pay our rent. Our landlady was waiting for us at our apartment, and gave us instructions on the equipment.  We have a  microwave/ oven and a washer/dryer unit. My only complaint is the mirrored doors on the closets lining the wall by our our bed- not the most welcoming site- to awaken in the morning, and  immediately see yourself!  Solution- leave the closet doors open at night.

Al went off the Alliance Francais to sign up for a French class- and enrolled in a class that meets 2 mornings a week (Wed and Fri).  He would like to be proficient by the time we come home.  I am  spending my time going out and about (although I asked for a box at the restaurant this evening, and immediately received one- a thrill to actually communicate).

Meanwhile, I started my travels through Paris to the Past. (Thank you for the recommendation, Mary).  This book by Ina Caro is a chronological guide to sites around Paris, beginning in about 700.  Each site can be visited by the Metro or a local train.  The furthest destination is  1 ½ hours (The fast train service here- up to 200 mph- gives you a wide range of sites you can get to and return within a day).

Caro’s first site is Basilique de Saint Dennis. Saint Dennis was sent to convert the local residents in about 200.  He was beheaded, and supposedly carried his head 5 miles to the location of the present church.  The location is famous as the burial site for most of the French monarchy, beginning with Dogebart in about 561. The church is famous for many things- first as the burial location, second as the first use of stained glass, the first rose window, the first Gothic church,

It is sometimes called the lop-sided church because Gothic churches are characterized by 2 steeples (e.g. Notre Dame).  St.D. lost one of its steeples during the Revolution.

The church’s construction was started by Abbott Suger in the 12th century.  I would love to meet him- he had the idea of using stained glass and the flying buttresses to enable the church to have the great height we associate with the Gothic churches. He was also politically astute- he came up with the idea of unifying power under the king, thus enabling the king to support the building of this lovely church. To do this, he forged a bunch of documents, but it had the benefit of unifying the country when lots of other places were fighting for centuries.

 Suger had himself carved into a depiction of the Last Judgment on the front of the church. He is depicted seeking forgiveness from Christ.  He is at the right foot of Christ.


 What a site- to think of people in the 1200 and 1300’s coming into the light-filled sanctuary for the first time.  It is a site we are accustomed to in any cathedral we enter, so is perhaps less thrilling to us. The church is full of light from the stained glass windows Suger included, but only one, The Tree of Jesse, is an original. The stained glass is interesting (I will continue to take binoculars with me to churches- as a I saw a depiction of a knight kneeling by Christ, something I would have missed without the binoculars).



Suger designed the first rose window used in a church.

The majority of the kings and queens have horizontal statues on their tombs, making many of them difficult to see. Some of my favorites were the lions and puppies at their feet.

Francois and Claude had quite realistic bare feet.

Berthe dite au grand pied -Bertha the big footed- although her feet did not appear to be abnormally large to me.


The actual heart of Louis XVII enased in a crystal container (he died at the age of 10, and there were some who claimed to be descendants and that he had not actually died; his heart which had been removed in an autopsy was presented as proof, and verified in 2006 by DNA testing).
 Catherine de Medici (her statue was made after Henri III’s death, but before her death. She thought the statue made her look too fat, so she had a second statue made depicting her as much more svelte)
 I don't know which tomb she is buried in.
A  section of the floor which appears to depict quilt squares made with half-square triangles.


 Large statues of Louis XVI and Marie Antionette (which appear to be designed to restore a good public image of them after the return of the monarchy, as they are shown very piously in prayer, with Marie looking quite Mary-like).

A complete Signs of the Zodiac in front of the altar. Two sections are shown.

 A double statue of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne in which they are laying down almost naked in the lower statues and kneeling completely dressed in the upper statues.

This tour was followed by an amazing mixed grill (lamb, chicken, pork and steak  with risotto and salad for 10E) in what appeared to be a fast food café. We talked with our server who spoke better English than our French, and who had travelled to British Columbia.  It made me speculate that perhaps fast food workers are better paid and educated in France- as I find it unlikely that a worker at Panera  in Minnesota is paid enough to travel here. We have plenty left for tomorrow’s dinner.

 Our last stop was at the Mono Prix grocery store.   Assuming that the groceries available reflect people’s food desires,  people in Paris love chocolate twice as much as chips.   The chocolate bars have about 2 ½ times the shelf space of chips. And this did not include chocolate in other forms- pieces, cookies, etc.

Seven long shelves of chocolate bars

Five short shelves of chips.  Al bought chicken flavored chips.
Al describes Parisians as being much like New Yorkers, except that they speak French. I think this is mostly true. Several people helped us carry our bags up and down stairs as we travelled from the airport to our apartment by train and Metro.
Unfortunately, I must now sleep- still haven’t walked over to the Eiffel Tower- tomorrow will come, and it will still be here.

Plus tard.


By Al

On the flight from Amsterdam to Paris I was seated next to a man who looked familiar.  I kept thinking he was a musician, but could not remember why I thought that.  I wish I had talked to him, because I later found out he was a musician.  When we were at the luggage area, I saw him talking to another man.  It immediately flashed into my mind that the man he was talking to was the drummer for Mariam and Amadou and the man I had been sitting next to was their guitar player.  Mariam and Amadou are a French-African music group.  Mariam and Amadou  a married couple who are the leaders.  Amy, Drew, and I saw them at the Cedar Cultural Center this summer. Amy has one of their songs as a ring tone.
I thought seeing them in Paris was unusual enough that I broke my rule against approaching famous people and went up to them to tell them how much I had enjoyed their performance.  The drummer was an amazing drummer.  The guitar player has an amazing stage presence as he dances around on stage playing.  They seemed grateful for the compliments and pointed out Mariam and Amadou sitting in some chairs waiting.  They are both blind so they were waiting for other people to get their luggage.  The drummer said it would be okay for me to go up to them.  I did.  I tried some French, but they had an interpreter along, so I could give them a good compliment in English.  They agreed to a picture.  It was an amazing thing to happen. 


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