Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paris, Day 2 -- Further Up and Further In on the Islands

26 July 2011

The line to go up to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral is as long as the cathedral itself.  I am standing behind three Italians (I think they're Italian), and in front of a Russian family (I think they're Russian).  All these voices!  I was in front of some American teenagers, but they decided ice cream was more important than history.

This morning I slept in a bit.  Traveling does take it out of a person.  The gas stove and coffee maker were easier to use, from experience, so I decided to try the shower.  (I had sponge-bathed the day before, but as Uncle Harold noted in an e-mail, it would be a long couple of weeks if I didn't figure out how the shower works!)

If I was staying in a hotel, I'm sure things would require less figuring out.  But staying in a hotel would not be free.  And there's nothing wrong with learning new skills.

"What is there to figure out about a shower?" you may be thinking.  Well... there is a brass hand shower apparatus hooked by a hose to the faucet.  And there is no shower curtain.

Grace and coordination have never been my best qualities, and I am quite sure that trying to use the hand shower apparatus would result in a flood of biblical proportions, with poor Pepito and Bout de Zan looking on in horror (and hoping for an ark).  So I took a bath.  It's a very nice bathtub for a bath -- deep and comfortable.

I can't remember the last time I took a bath.  I always seem to be rushing somewhere.  Fast shower.  Fast get ready.  But everything in Paris seems to be urging me to slow down, and be more mindful of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it.

Including this line outside the cathedral.

Which I'm still in.

So here is something that amused me when I came in the other day.  I was a little embarrassed at the size of my suitcase, and I had to wait a bit for it to come through.  But even trying to pack light, I couldn't manage just doing a carry-on.  But then D. (who picked me up at the airport) said, "That's all you have?  For three weeks?  I take two of those just for a weekend!"

An interesting thing about the subway doors here, that I noticed on that same trip.  They do not open automatically.  You have to manually unlatch them when you want to get out at the station.  I'm so glad that D. picked me up at the airport, because these are the kinds of little things that get you.  It's good to be able to see someone else doing something before you need to do it yourself.

I am still in line.  I have moved the length of three crepe shops.  We're getting close, now!  Fairly close!

The Italian people in front of me have the same (DK Eyewitness Travel) guidebook that I do, except theirs is in Italian.  Funny.  I show mine to them, and we are all amused.  "Al mismo," I say.  The same.

The stone stairs, when we reach them, have deep dips in the middle.  How many years of feet have passed this way, to wear the stone down so?

I got in.

It is several hours later, now, and I am sitting in a Spanish tapas bar, where all the menus are in French, but the waiter speaks English with me.  "Where are you from?" he asks.  "New Jersey," I say.  Which I sort of am.  Most recently, at least.  He has a friend who is about to go off to school in Boston.

The tapas bar is on one of the little side streets off Sebastopol, which I am finally bold enough to venture into this evening, in search of dinner and a place to sit down.

The side street is immediately more interesting than Sebastopol.  Little restaurants, shops, bars, lots of people.  A bakery, which I might check out tomorrow, and a little market with fresh fruit.  No cars.  Just people (and motorcycles).

The sangria (only 2 Euro during happy hour!) tastes good.  It was dipped out of a large vat of the stuff that's sitting on the counter.  On the waiter's recommendation, I am eating Plancho Manchego y Serrano.  Which is basically a ham and cheese sandwich, but the meat and cheese and bread are all really good, and it's served on a fetching little bread board, and "plancho manchego y serrano" sounds much cooler than "ham and cheese sandwich."  A glass of gazpacho tops off my tapas supper.  (Gazpacho is basically tomato soup, except cold and spicy.)

I spent the afternoon at the top of the cathedral, then buying an ice cream cone on the Ile St. Louis, then visiting the Holocaust Deportation Memorial.

Gargoyle keeps watch.  Seine and Eiffel Tower under his care.
The upper decks of the cathedral were worth the hour wait, eight euros and 387 steps.  The views!  The gargoyles!  And the detail you can see on the cathedral itself from up there.  Statues and gargoyles on the roof have been given the same loving attention to detail as the things inside.
Ellen, with gargoyles, at the top of Notre-Dame.  Photo by the nice Italian lady who was in front of me in line.
Is it still called a gargoyle if it's an elephant?
I'm not sure who the green people are, but I like them.  They lead up to the base of the spire, which was designed by Viollet-le-Duc.

My legs were wobbly after descending the stairs, which were all long, narrow circular staircases.  (Which reminds me of another trip I took, a long time ago, with my family.  We visited the Astor Column, at the northwestern tip of the Oregon coast.  Dad and I walked around and around, in wider and wider circles, reading the story of Astoria that is wrapped around the outside.  Then we walked up the inside, around and around.  I still remember how the world spun...  I had to hold onto the railing.)

So I went for ice cream.  Today, not then.  Both D. and my friend Peter had recommended the ice cream on the Ile St. Louis, so I crossed the bridge behind the cathedral to find it.  "I think the name translated as butterfly," Peter said.  "Ask for Berthillon brand," D. said.  So I did.  It was excellent.  They had all kinds of flavors, but there's nothing wrong with vanilla...

If Ile de la Cite is for history, Ile St. Louis appears to be for shopping.  I strolled along the sidewalks, peering in the windows of scarf shops and candy shops and jewelry shops and even a marionette shop.  For all your marionette needs.

It was nearly six by then, so I knew that the Crypt Archeologique and the other cathedral were not going to be possible today.  But the Holocaust Deportation Memorial was right there on the end of the Ile de la Cite.  I passed over the bridge again, which contained a Parisian singer, an accordion player, a man with a harmonica and a marionette, and a young man singing the blues with his jazz combo.

I made my way through the plain gate, through the plain square, and found two guards at the entryway to the memorial.  They made sure i was where I intended to be, checked my purse, then said that pictures were okay and flash was okay, but don't go left.  So I went right.

This was the place where the Jews of France were gathered up and deported to the concentration camps and death camps by the Nazis during World War II.  Two hundred thousand men, women and children.

This, too, is our history.

"Forgive, but don't forget," it says on the wall over the door.  And on the other walls, the names of the camps.

I plan to visit the Crypt Archeologique and Cathedral Saint Chapelle tomorrow.  And then I feel like I will have fully explored Point Zero -- the place where all distances in Paris are measured from -- the arrondissements (neighborhoods) circling out from there like the shell of a snail.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Word Verification: sphot

It IS vanilla! I actually never made it to that ice cream shop, though I heard about it. Whenever I walked by the line was looooong. I love that you measured distance in crepe shops.