Friday, October 13, 2017

Paris Trip Day 4

The jet lag and full day at Versailles took its toll on us. We were all so exhausted we slept until noon – a first for the kids and me. We learned that if we wanted to get up in the morning we should set up an alarm and not trust our bodies to know what time it is in Paris.
We left the apartment around lunch time and walked to the Place des Vosges a square across the street from our apartment where Victor Hugo (the author of Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame) lived for many years.
We ate some great tasting Argentinian empanadas on the lawn before deciding to walk to Isle de la Cite for a historic walk of Paris.

We began our tour at the gates of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The lines were long  but moved fast. While standing outside we admired the beautiful portals decorated to tell three stories: the portal of Mary on the left, last Judgement in the center, and Saint Anne on the right.
Above the left portal stood the sculpture of St. Denis, a patron saint of Paris and early convert to Christianity. It is told that the romans beheaded him for forsaking the roman gods. Denis then got up, took on his head, paused at a fountain to wash it off and continued until he found just the right place to meet his maker.
Above the portal are 28 statues depicting the kings of Judah. During the French revolution, the peasants believing the kings represented the French bourgeoisie beheaded the statues. A school teacher, who witness the event collected the heads and buried them for safe keeping where they remained until 1977 when they were accidentally unearthed.
Notre Dame was built over the course of 200 years, beginning on 1163. The ground was considered holy for centuries prior to that date and was the site of a roman pagan temple before the Catholic church took position of the land.
It was originally a collection of several separate church buildings that were torn down to construct this Gothic cathedral, famous for its flying buttresses and gargoyles.

The interior is wide and incredibly tall with beautiful stained glass windows. There is a sculpture dedicated to Joan of Arch a young woman considered a heretic for claiming to hear angelic voices encouraging her to rally her country’s soldier to drive the English invaders from Paris.  She was burned at the stakes by the English and later was made a saint at Notre Dame.
The confessional rooms are a bit unconventional. Instead of the wooded booths, they are set up as an office with a table in the center and a chair on each side facing each other. The rooms have a wall of Plexiglas that allows people walking along to see into the space. The preacher faces outward, while the parishioners back is to the public.

After leaving Notre Dame we found point zero in the plaza in front of the Cathedral. It is the center point of all addresses in Paris.  A short walk from Notre Dame took us to the Deportation Museum. A relatively new space dedicated to the 200,000 french victims of Nazi concentration camps. It was a very somber experience. The descriptions of the suffering and brutality experienced during that period really affected Emilia. The tomb of the unknown deportee is illuminated by a hallway lined with 200,000 lighted crystals. At the opposite end is an eternal flame of hope.  It was a great way to represent those whose lives were lost to this atrocity.

We rewarded ourselves with amazing ice cream at Berthillon on the Isle of St. Luis. Every flavor was superb and probably the kids’ most favorite part of the entire day.
Form there we backtracked to reach the Conciergerie. Originally a royal palace now it houses Saint Chapelle, the Palace the Justice (where the French Supreme Court meets) and   the Conciergerie or jails during the French revolution. We learned about the timeline to the French revolution and the brutal ways in which justice was served. Nearly 2,800 people stayed at the Conciergerie prior to facing the guillotine. Among them, Marie Antoinette – France’s last queen and Maximillian De Robespierre – ironically enough, the head of the revolution. Only five years after the fact, Napoleon became the new leader of France.
A memorial for Marie-Antoinette has been built in the site of the cell and chapel where she dwelt for nearly two months before her death. She was 38 years old, but the paintings made her look much older. Probably due to the stress and suffering she experience at the time.
What can we say? We are over achievers… after all of that we decided it might be a good idea to go to the Louvre.

The museum is open late and it’s less busy in the evening, luckily for us it was 5:30pm and the security lines were relatively short.
We spent much of our time in the Sully wing which holds most of the famous art we were interested in seeing. Upon entering, we accidentally stumbled upon the Venus de Milos. At first there was nobody there, which was surprising, but were quickly surrounded by other museum guests.

The hall had many other greek statues. Emilia quickly noticed the difference between the Louvre’s statues and those at Versailles. We joked about the fact that leaves had gotten caught in strategic places at Versailles, the greek ones had nothing hidden. Emilia recognized several statues of several mythological Greek gods she has learned about through her reading.

We visited the Apollos gallery where the French crown jewels are stored before viewing the Winged Victory of Samothrace. A large female statue atop the stern of a ship.

From there we headed to the Italian renaissance section of the museum so that Carson, and the rest of us could see the Mona Lisa. The crowd was pretty deep and it took some time to get to the front so that each of us could take a picture in front of the painting.

Our goal was to then go to the Egyptian exhibit. We spent a long time walking in circles trying to reach it. We saw the Venus de Milo statue two more times, while following the map and signs. Finally we were directed to go through a section that displayed the original furnishing for Versailles to reach the Egyptian area.

I am so glad we persisted, it was totally worth the time. We were able to see several sarcophagi and the stone carved crypts where they were stored. They wooden sarcophagi were decorated with colorful hieroglyphics on both the outside and inside.  The stone was engraved as well. There was even a mummy on display with the embalming tools used to preserve her. It was a little creepy to see it.
We saw two large stone sphynx and stepped into the inner chamber of an actual pyramid. What an amazing experience!

The museum is really huge, something we discovered as we attempted to leave it. We spent 20 minutes meandering around various exhibits, following the Sortier (exit) signs, only to enter a new section, after another. Finally, after walking along the medieval building foundation for at least 10 minutes, we recognized the entrance to the Sully exhibit. We thought we were out at that point, however we had to walk another 10-15 minutes through gift shops and then a mall before finally exiting the building.

We stopped to take some pictures of the Louvre’s glass pyramids at night, before finding some dinner for the family and heading back home. We walked close to 10 miles today. I am glad it was only a half-day!