Monday, November 10, 2014

All the beautiful things...

Brace yourself friends -- this post is full of pictures and more minutiae from our Paris adventures! We woke up to blue skies this morning and the sun was shining on the lovely Eiffel!

Then, while we drinking french press coffee prepared by Jesse and leftover bread, cheese and grapes, some clouds rolled in, which was lovely also…

 (Basically, you can't go wrong with this view!)

We headed out this morning to see Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and the Louvre, with a few bonus sights thrown in. It was a big day and surprisingly emotional for me.
Construction began on the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1163, with the dedication mass taking place two centuries later -- in 1345. Just looking at the massive exterior -- the stonework, the sculptures, all rich with meaning…it's hard to imagine the commitment it took for the workers to build a church in hopes that their grandchildren might one day worship there.

(one of the many groups of statues on the facade depicting Biblical characters and early church figures -- including St. Denis, who was beheaded for his faith. Legend has it that Denis picked up his head, tucked it under his arm and walked away, pausing to wash it in a fountain before determining the right spot to "meet his maker." )

When we went inside, I was moved to tears by the beauty of the place. This is holy ground, consecrated to worship over 850 years ago. We paused to light a candle and pray (specifically for my mother-in-law's heart and my father's back, and generally for all of our family). No photos (certainly not any taken with my iPhone!) can capture the beauty or the feeling of the place.

The same is true of the much smaller Sainte Chapelle, apparently regarded as having the finest stained glass in all of Europe. This church was built by King Louis between 1242 and 1248 and is almost entirely composed of huge stained glass windows depicting 1100 different scenes, mostly from the Bible. In the time we were there, the light itself highlighted one window, then another as the sun moved across the sky. 

Again, my camera could not begin to capture the beauty of this cathedral. I think part of what struck me is that in recent years, I've been fond of saying that I'm not as much for "bricks and mortar" spending by the church. I admire some of the newer churches who just meet in schools or storefronts and put their money to use to help people, rather than build buildings. This is a good thing, but being in these magnificent places of worship made me appreciate the fact that this beauty was created as an act of worship and devotion to God. These buildings represent the commitment, creativity, workmanship, brilliant engineering and artisanship of people in the service of God. 

Well, after all of that, it was time for a break -- so we found a little cafe and had an espresso (Jesse's new favorite thing) and a cafe creme (pronounced "krem" - thank you, Elisabeth) along with a lovely trio of tiny desserts. Delicious!

We also took a few pictures on a couple of the wonderful bridges that cross the Seine (including a smoochy one at Loretta's request, but Jesse didn't want me to post it on the blog!)

Another fun stop was Shakespeare and Company -- a bookstore originally opened for the "Lost Generation" who came to Paris after WWI to "find themselves." It's room after funky room crammed with old books, new books, beat-up typewriters, crazy winding staircases, well-worn sofas and chairs…basically a book-lover's heaven! It made me think of Maranda -- she would love it! (All my kids would, actually!) 

We found a little brasserie for lunch in the vicinity of the Louvre where we had some delicious vegetable soup (not like mine -- more of a puree of vegetable soup) and a croque-monsieur -- a traditional French snack of grilled cheese and ham sandwich.

(grilled cheese daddy)

And, in anticipation of taking on the Louvre, we had another espresso. The teeny-tiny cup prompted me to ask "Does this cup make me look fat?"

(Is anybody even still reading this? Sheesh. We haven't even gotten to the Louvre yet! 
I'll try to wrap this thing up!)

Okay - the Louvre. It's enormous and we couldn't begin to see everything but there were a few things I really wanted to see, and other things that were wonderful and striking and others that struck us as humorous because when you've been walking all day and you've had too many espressos, you sometimes get silly.
Here are a few highlights: 

Winged Victory. Breathtaking. From the 2nd Century. B.C. 

Oh, you know, just hanging out with Mona. 
Jesse said, "Are you sure that's the real one?"

I loved this DaVinci painting - The Virgin and Child with St. Anne. The expressions are beautiful.

The Venus de Milo. Ancient, Beautiful.

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss. How sculptors create these masterpieces is inconceivable to me.

Michelangelo. Yes. Michelangelo. These statues, Slaves, are remarkable. 

And now, on a much lighter note, did you know ancient Romans were fond of selfies? 

 And apparently, ancient ladies were also fond of pedicures...

Last one, I promise -- this guy made us think of Trent Williams…and all the wrecking crew.

Okay, Okay, I'm done. Unless you're just dying to know what we had for supper. No? Okay. See you tomorrow, friends! 

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