Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 4 - Hanging with the Hunchback and the Guy Without an Ear

Hey Team,

Wanted to take a second and tell everyone thanks so much for checking in and leaving your comments.  It'd be worth it even if I was the only one reading it, but it's kinda cool knowing yall are experiencing this with me as a go.  I appreciate the support.

Busy day today, especially for one that got off to kind of a late start (left the hotel around 10) due to a technical issue concerning an audio tour I was trying to download for the day.  I actually got up around 6 (woke up and couldn't go back to sleep is a better description) and did the blog for yesterday.

While I was waiting I did my first traditional backpacker ritual, "The washing of dirty clothes in the sink."  Since I only have one bag, I either do this, or test whether nudity is allowed only on the beaches here in France.  After giving it some serious consideration, I went with the former.

After leaving, I hit the metro and went to the world famous Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cite, which is in the center of Paris. Essentially, this is where Paris started.  The Cathedral location used to be a Roman Temple to Jupiter before being razed and built as the Pinnacle of Christendom in France, among other things.  It is probably the most famous Gothic structure in the world.

I made my way in, and was blown away by what I saw.  Before I got there, I thought, "Great, a really nice church", but once I got in, no exaggeration, I think it is the most powerful and beautiful building I've ever been in.  Maybe I'll say that 10 more times on this trip, but it was awesome.  I just kind of stood there open jawed for a few minutes.  Really cool moment for me.

These pictures don't do it justice, but I'll post them anyway.  The sheer size of this thing is unlike any church I've ever seen.  The architects did a good job of making you feel small compared to God, which was the point, of course.

First creative picture of the trip.  I thought this silhouette of the statues was cool against the stained glass.

More shots of the knave of the church.  This is a real estate agent's dream.  High ceilings and an open floor plan.  As soon as you get past the electric bills, you're golden.

Here is the shot from outside. Quick little word of advice for all you future travelers:  Even with a Texas drawl, Parisians do not think it's cute when you walk up and call one of their most enduring national symbols No-ter Dame.  The Fighting Irish would not be pleased.

This a shot of one of the doors into Notre Dame.  The dude holding his head is St. Denis, the patron saint of Paris.  In 250 AD while trying to convert the locals to Christianity, he ticked off the ruling Romans and they had him put to death.  According to legend, after the beheading, Denis got up, picked up his newly detached noggin', and walked away, finding a different place to die instead. This accomplished two important things:  It aided in converting the Paris region and subsequently France to Christianity, and it also made for a cool new costume to wear at Halloween.

Took the tour to the bell tower.  No Hunchback, but I did find this guy here just hanging out.  Someone said he is the most photographed Gargoyle in the world.  As I assume is the case with most snooty French model types, he totally blew me off when I tried to get his autograph.

Here's me atop the Bell Tower with my new bud.  We instantly hit it off, because as you can see, he too is freakishly double jointed.

This is a shot from the top of the Bell Tower.  You can see the Eiffel Tower on the left and of course the River Seine below as well.  In my opinion, these were way better views of Paris than from the Eiffel Tower the other day.

Here is the back of the church.  If you look at the structures right below the dome you will see the famous Flying Buttresses which supported the building.  This allowed the architects to do away with completely solid walls to support the weight and instead include the beautiful stained glass, which helped create an ethereal effect provided by the light that now illuminated the inside of the church.

From here I continued walking around the city center.  A little farther down the river I came to the next really famous Gothic Church, Sainte-Chapelle.  Whereas Notre Dame took over 200 years to be completed, this one was knocked out in 6 years.  This church was finished in 1248 and housed the supposed Crown of Thorns from Christ's crucification.  This will mean more after the pictures, but the King of France paid over twice as much for the Crown than he did for this entire church.  Crazy! I could describe the church but I'll let the pictures do the talking. . ..

There are 15 of these and they cover 6,500 square feet, almost 4 times the size of my townhome!  Each little square has a different scene from the Bible.  There are 1,100 different panes in all.

My guess is the Holy Fathers had a strict "No ball playing in the house" policy.  Bummer.

This is the back end of the church.  It has the same Rose shaped stained glass that Notre Dame has.

From here I went to Musee d'Orsay, which houses the greatest collection of Impressionist painting in the world.  I do not claim to be an art connoisseur, but Impressionism has always been my favorite.  I've been to Chicago a few times and I always go to the Art Institute there to look at their displays.  I was as excited to go to this museum as I will be the Louvre (which is a lot by the way).

Not the most symmetric picture but this was the inside of the museum.  I thought it was great and I really saw the connection between the paintings it housed and the building itself.  For me Impressionist painting is about lighter colors that kinda pop off the canvas and I thought the building did the same.

Auguste Renoir has always been my favorite painter, but below is my favorite painting of the day.  It's by Vincent van Gogh, who actually is probably more a post Impressionist, but either way, I went by this one and it really caught my eye.  Art and girls:  You can't always explain what it is about them that you like, but regardless, you know you do.

Headed home after that.  My feet are killing me, and every muscle in both my legs is sore from the walking.  I was pretty tired and ended up crashing for about an hour and a half at the hotel.  Afterwards, I went to get some food at a little cafe near where I'm staying.  I had lamb with broccoli, minty tasting herbs, green beans, and carrots.  Good stuff.

For dessert, I saw this item which was cheese (yogurt looking) and honey essentially.  I was sitting next to these two ladies who were traveling together and they recommended it.  Peggy was from Vancouver, Washington and Beth was my first fellow Texan from Dallas. Lovely ladies both.

As I learned upon eating it, the cheese they use there is a little different than the fat free Kraft original I've been putting down at home for a while.  Nice way to end the evening.  Tomorrow, provided good weather is the Luxembourg Gardens and the Champs Elysees.