20 March, 2012

Monday was a very busy day.  To be honest I just couldn't bring myself to write all this at the end of the day.  So here I am, Tuesday morning, with a tummy full of croissants, pain au chocolat and cafe au lait, ready to tell you all about yesterday before I set off today.  (No guilt at all for the food as I feel like I've walked across half of Paris and still have the other half to go!)  You also might be interested to know I now have to go out and buy another memory card for my camera.  Total photo count...552.  We're only half way through the trip!

So now back to Monday... allons-y!  (Yes, I'm keeping my ears open for an Alonzo)

Our Lady, a jewel box and a Big Red Bus.  First up today was Notre Dame.  I'm reminded again why this is such a famous cathedral.  She truly is a beauty.  The structure, the stained glass, even the way they have lit the interior.  She simply takes your breath away.  As I started the day, you can see it was still very over cast, but not long after, the sun came out.  So here are both views just so you can see the difference the sunlight makes.  I've posted quite a few photos of the interior, but there was so much to see.  Click on the images to see them bigger, I promise, it's worth it.  As I visited in the morning, the crowd wasn't too crazy.  I wandered back by around 4 or 5 in the afternoon and it was a madhouse!  But lucky for me I also got to hear part of a service the second time around.  The most beautiful soprano was singing the hymns.  The sound reverberating around the stone.

Looking toward the altar from the back
Transept rose window (one of them)
Looking back to the rear rose window and the organ

Stained glass beyond the altar
aisles and the fabulous Gothic arches
Side view walking along the Seine
The famous flying buttresses

From Notre Dame I walked over to the Palais de Justice and Sainte Chapelle.  On the way I passed the only Metro stop on the Ile de la Cite.  It's one of the few remaining stops in the original Art Nouveau style.

On approaching Sainte Chapelle, it doesn't seem like much.  A small chapel stuck in the middle of the Paris courts.  It was almost amusing trying to get inside.  First there was a sign saying that Sainte Chapelle was closed, but an attendant started letting in anyone who had a museum pass. C'est Moi!  So once in line, you must pass through tight security as after all this is a functioning justice facility.  In front of me were four Japanese tourists.  The poor older gentleman had a VERY hard time getting through the metal detector without setting it off.  I watched as the line waited and the gendarme kept getting angrier and angrier at this man who couldn't comprehend that ANYTHING metallic would set off the alarm.  Well I finally made it through, but I think the poor gendarme had had enough as he was replaced by another fellow.  (I later saw he had removed himself to the exit where he didn't have to deal with the tourists)

Once inside the complex I made my way to the entrance of the lower chapel.  This is where the commoners were allowed to worship.  Not too shabby in its own right.

Then it's up the winding spiral staircase.

To the most beautiful chapel ever built.  (In my humble opinion)  I don't think any picture can truly do justice to being surrounded by so much color and light.  Here are a few attempts.  At this point it was still cloudy outside, but I read that the diffused light of a cloudy day is actually better for viewing all the windows.  Sainte Chapelle was commissioned by Louis IX to house the crown of thorns.   Louis even had a secret peep hole built where he could spy down on the common man worshiping below him. 

I decided now it was time to see more of the city, but in a way my feet would thank me for.  I jumped on one of those big red double decker tour buses and off we went.   The bus provides commentary as you ride along, but it's not worth much really.  But with such beautiful weather I couldn't resist sitting in the open air of the top deck.  (beautiful but still cold! brrrr!)

As we meandered around the city, I snapped some photos of the various sites.  First up was the Obélisque de Luxor in the center of the Place de la Concord.  This plaza sits at the very end of the Tuileries Garden.  The Obelisque is in a line from the Louvre through the gardens up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. (but more on that later)

Near the Louvre is Eglise de la Madeline.

Next came the Opera Garnier.  This used to simply be The Opera, but a newer more "accessible" opera was created near the Bastille.  One that was more for the people than just the rich.  The Opera Garnier was at one time THE place to see and be seen.  This building also gave rise to the legend of the Phantom of the Opera.  During construction, a real underground lake was discovered and incorporated into the design. 

The actual auditorium is only fraction of the whole structure.  The grand entrance is longer than the performance hall, while the stage itself and the back stage are even bigger.   Take a look at this cut away that's housed in the Musee D'Orsay.

The very tall section on the left is the backstage area with the fly system to change out the scenery.  The gold and red section under the dome is the auditorium while everything to the right of that is the entrance including the Grand Foyer.  

Grand entrance and staircase
looking back toward the entrance from the top of the stairs
peeking into a box
Upon entering a box on the 2nd level, you had everything you needed, coat racks, a mirror to check your appearance, etc.  Then it was through the red curtains and to your seats.

And the performance begins.  Look close to the stage and the row of boxes there.  Perfectly positioned to be seen by the audience, but not to see the show itself. 

Domed ceiling painted by Marc Chagall

Masked ball anyone?  This is the place for it.

the Grand Foyer
After the opulence of the Opera, it was time to get back on the bus and see more of the city.  We whizzed by the Grand Palais like the Eiffel Tower, built for a Universal Exposition, but for the year 1900.

At the very end of the Champs Elysees we circled the Arc de Triomphe.  Commissioned by Napoleon who wanted a grand arc like any Emperor of Rome.  Only his is even bigger.  Sadly Napoleon died in exile before it was finished and never saw it.  Though his funeral procession passed underneath the arc.  I plan to come back here and take in the view at night, so I'll save the rest til then.

And the bus rolls on...

View to the East crossing the Pont Alexandre III
View to the West crossing the Pont Alexandre III
The Trocadero is a multi building and garden complex on the opposite side of the Seine from the Eiffel tower.  I'm not actually planning to visit any of these museums, but may go back just to get some other pictures of the Eiffel Tower.  (Assuming we aren't all sick of picture after picture of something that looks the same from all sides)
View from the Trocadero

Last of all on the ride before I went back to Notre Dame was Les Invalides.  You're seeing a very small portion of a huge complex that once was a hospital for invalids.   Now directly under that golden dome is the tomb of Napoleon.  I won't go on about this at length now as it's on the itinerary for today. 

And now my friends and faithful readers, I'm going to head out for another day.  It's another grand plan starting with the Marmottan Museum (more Monet) and the above mentioned Les Invalides and hopefully the Rodin Museum.  Then if I'm still walking I'll try to visit the Rue Cler.  Let's see how far I get today before I'm ready to collapse!  Au revoir!

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