One thing at a time.
The morning of my first full day in Paris, I grabbed a pastry at a local shop and walked to the Charles de Gaulle roundabout to catch the Red Bus for a trip around town. The stop there is on the Champs Elysees, just in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Other people had the same idea I did and there was a line, but everybody got on. I had an advantage, being on my own and not needing to find two or more seats together, and I didn’t hold up the line, because I already had my ticket.
I sat on top and was happy it didn’t rain, although the sky was overcast. The bus takes a circuitous route through Paris past the main attractions, making nine stops along the way where passengers can get off and on. I decided to stay on board and do the whole route once without getting off, then figure out where I wanted to go, one place at a time. While on the bus, I listened to a recorded commentary “revealing the city’s captivating history.” It was worth listening to, although I sometimes wondered if we were in the exact location where the recording claimed we were.
My impression was that the Eiffel Tower is incredibly photogenic, and we are so lucky that is wasn’t dismantled and turned into scrap metal – as was the first Ferris Wheel. It was amazing to drive through the thing, and then imagine going up. I didn’t do it – I know, I needed to get out of my comfort zone – but I was more interested in putting my feet on the ground. But the Eiffel Tower was the Burj Khalifa of its time, and then some!
After finishing the tour and going back to the hotel for a little freshen-up, I decided to start at the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was the furthest from the hotel, in an area I hadn’t seen yet. It had the flying buttresses, a term that has stuck with me ever since my History of European Art class at College of Marin in 1977. And I was quite simply drawn to Notre Dame, having been raised Catholic. My museum pass didn’t allow me to skip the line outside to enter, but it moved very quickly and I wouldn’t have minded if it were a longer wait, because it was so amazing to be gazing up at one of the most famous churches in the world.
There is no fee to enter, but there are opportunities inside to light candles for a donation of 2 or 5 euros. I lit two candles, side by side. One was for my Mom, who passed away in 2011 just before Mark and I came to live in the Middle East, and one for my Dad, who is looking forward to when we move back. The woman from Ireland who was ahead of me stopped to have her confession heard, for a 10 euro donation.
Notre Dame has so much history, and so many architectural details. A person could spend an entire lifetime studying it. The church suffered extensive damage during the 16th century when “idolatrous” statues were destroyed and stained glass windows and tombs were removed during “modernization.” The church was used for food storage during the French Revolution, 1789-99. Restoration projects were undertaken in 1845 and 1870, and an ongoing cleaning effort began in 1991.
After Notre Dame, I took a stroll along the Seine and browsed the artists and booksellers, before heading back to the Louvre for another leisurely look. More about the Louvre later.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you find your joie de vivre.