Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Notre Dame Pop-In

The other evening I was meeting a friend for dinner in the 7th.  I rarely find myself on the left side so I decided to take my time and walk there.  One of my favorite things about Paris is that there is something remarkable everywhere you go.  Sure, there are the obvious things like the Eiffel Tower or Place de la Concorde or the Pompidou.  But really the history is everywhere.  I've been walking by the Carreau du Temple twice a day for nearly a year now, but only recently did it take on new significance as I learned that it was where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and family were housed before being moved to the Conciergerie (and then being off-with-their-heads-ed).  Before the carreau was there, the spot was a Knights Templar joint/prison;  and this was the royal family's second-to-last stop.  (There is a big renovation underway at the carreau now, and they've found bodies dating back to the 12th century.  There were not one but TWO layers of cemetery under there!  Follow the link above to learn more about the excavation and renovation.)  But what I meant to tell you with all of that wind is that history is everywhere here, so you don't need to seek it out.  (Though you'll find no shortage of it if you do.)

So it happened that Notre Dame was smack in the middle of my wander to the left bank.  It couldn't have worked out more perfectly if I had planned it to arrive there just before closing so that there was no crowd and the day was square in the "golden hour" before sunset.  And there was a mass on.  A mass, people!  That counts for, like, two visits!  I had never seen Notre Dame without a large crowd out front, so I did a double-take that I was actually there.  And I marched right in.

Honestly, I got mad respect for Notre Dame and its perfect Gothic architecture (those buttresses are FLYING!) and its age and its location and all of that.  But really, the inside isn't that remarkable.  I still dare any church to beat the cathedral in Brussels.  Though it's not fair because some churches are older than others and blah-de-blah-de-blah.  I'm not so taken with the interior of Sacré Coeur, either, if you must know.  But I'll take its view any day.

 An unremarkable shot of the Seine.

 The Hotel de Ville.

Low-light iPhone action at Notre Dame.

Lit up.

Not such a big turnout for mass.  Did you know that the current Archbishop of Paris is called André Vingt-Trois?  That translates to André "Twenty-Three."  Cool.

Exterior action.