14 April 2013

Travels: Paris Day VI

Waking up in Paris on Sunday was sad because it would be our last day and rushed because we were trying to make it to Sacre Coeur for Mass. After grabbing a quick breakfast downstairs (our hotel had free breakfast! Sweet deal!) we dashed out the door. Sacre Coeur is at the highest point of the city so it was a bit  of a climb up shop-lined streets to get to the basilica. It was absolutely flooded with people outside and, since most of them were tourists, peddlers (hecklers) were spread across the steps selling trinkets alongside people playing music and dressed in costume. Completely disrespectful, seeing as they were on church grounds, but we didn't stay long to voice that opinion as the bells signaling the start of Mass began ringing and we merged with a group of singing church-goers carrying palms inside.

Really pretty Communion hymn.

Because we had arrived as late as we did (which was still on time), we didn't manage to get a seat anywhere facing the altar, so we were guided to seats behind the main altar which viewed a screen showing what was happening during Mass. As all of it was in French, I relied heavily (once again) on Spanish- and Latin-guided translation. The Gospel reading was easy at least, as it went through the entire Passion. Somewhere in the mix I forgot about tourists who were still walking through the basilica and the peddlers outside and during Communion realized the magnitude of the moment. Sacre Coeur is much smaller than Notre Dame, but here I felt the universality of the Church in a way I never had before. Catechumens preparing for baptism had come to the front of the altar near the beginning of Mass, hundreds of voices were singing psalms to God in French and it was amazing to see that, though language and cultures divided us, the Church united me to this group of people. It was a brilliant experience.

After Mass ended, we looked around the church for a while, but the man who must have been in charge of tour groups came over and told us not to take pictures. :( About eight times, which was half funny, half annoying when he finally walked away. We went to the Louvre again that day and stopped first for lunch, which in my book translated to a chocolate dipped bunny bread and an escargot (a swirled pastry with raisins and custard filling).

More sculpture was on the agenda. I wonder how much all the sculpture in the Louvre weighs together, there's so much of it. Cupid and Psyche was on my list and it did a good job of being impressive and beautiful:

Three guesses who...

We moved on to Napoleon's apartments, which was a bit reminiscent of Versailles the days previous. One of my favorite rooms was the dining room, capable of seating forty-two people. You know, for the occasions on which you have that many people to eat dinner with. I joked with my boyfriend that it was just the right size table for the forty children we would have.

By the time we made it through the apartments and some 19th century rooms, I was exhausted from walking so we took a seat on a bench in one of the rooms and I lamented my thirst and achy feet (I complain a lot). C was happy to wait there with me as I stretched and we made up stories about the hanging tapestry in front of us, saying the boy was a king and his mother was sending soldiers out with a grocery list, but not to get all the sweets the king wanted and to get some new carpets instead. I may have been delirious.

Our next destination was the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (we'd been earlier in the week but I didn't buy a book then). C convinced me to walk since it'd be a waste of a metro ticket since it was only two stops. The walk was nice, though a bit chilly, and I was just getting annoyed with the distance when Notre Dame rose above us. C said he'd like to come back after I bought a book so he could get a few more pictures of the edifice, so we thankfully entered the bookstore soon after and I began my search.

I usually love looking through bookstores, but this search was very frustrating. We had the time to kill, but after my searches for specific books (East of Eden by Steinbeck, one of my favorites) and perusals through things that looked promising (the religion and philosophy sections, Jane Austen, Shakespeare) I was having a really difficult time finding a book that sounded just right. I even looked at a few children's books which I considered gifting to my RCIA sponsor who is expecting in July. I assumed browsing would take ten minutes but it neared an hour and I still didn't know. I finally came back to the same small table I spotted when I first entered the shop filled with classic high school English class authors (like Hemingway and Joyce, whose faces were painted on the wall by the stairs since they frequented the bookshop). I picked up The Hunchback of Notre Dame which, for just under 20 euro, was reasonable both in price and relevance of the trip. I made my way back up the stairs to find C who was reading and we left shortly after.

I had hoped he would forget that he wanted to go to Notre Dame since it was getting colder out, but he led the way there anyway. Basically, things were said and done and then this happened: 

Can you see the ring on my left hand?
There is a great story here, but you can link to it on my new blog It Started in Paris, which will chronicle our engagement and preparations for a wedding and married life. I am beyond thrilled and was kind of in a haze from the moment he asked until we were sitting in the Paris Opera (it's the Phantom of the Opera one!) where it was difficult to focus on the quartet below us.

After the performance, we left to have a super fancy romantic dinner and lamented our departure set for the next morning. It really was a fantastic time and I can't wait to travel again. Here are some of my last pictures of the trip:

The view outside our hotel room before we left.

Somewhere over Dublin.

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