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  • Day29

    Oct 18 - Notre-Dame Cathedral

    October 18, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    The intent for today was to simply enjoy Paris with no fixed times to be at museums or sights. We set off about 9:30 a.m. and made our way to the Left Bank of the Seine via a different route than we had been using so we could see more of the city. It was a bit cool, but although there was evidence of recent rain, the skies were dry. A very good sign. As, we strolled along the water’s edge, we marvelled at how buildings that are under construction are shrouded in canvases that mimic what the final product will resemble. So much more attractive than bare scaffolding. Canada - there’s a good Parisian technique to adopt.

    Along the quay side, there are green metal boxes bolted in a rather higgeldy-piggedly fashion onto the stone wall. These 900 boxes belong to the 250 Bouquinistes, booksellers of used and antiquarian books, journals, stamps, trading cards, posters, post cards and now, horror of horrors, souvenirs. Each bouquiniste is given four boxes, all of a specified size, and rent is paid only for the stone on which the boxes rest (around €100 per year). The most coveted spots are awarded based on seniority. Since overhead costs are very low, prices tend to be better than elsewhere. We just marvelled at the desire for someone to want to make a living out of four green boxes, but, c’est la vie!

    We took a few wrong turns, but saw saw rustic back streets and a pretty park, and eventually found Shakespeare and Company. The Left Bank has a long history of being the home to scholars, philosophers and poets. This funky, rabbit-warren of a bookstore is a reincarnation of the original store that was opened by an American, Sylvia Beach after WWI. Writers flocked to Paris for the cheap rents and to escape American Prohibition. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound were joined by James Joyce and other writers of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Books are stacked in the current store in every possible nook and cranny. Agatha Christie books were arranged on a diagonal shelf running like a literary-bannister along the narrow staircase. I know people who would love to spend days in that store. Very cool.

    We eventually got to a sight that we both wanted to see - Notre-Dame de Paris, known usually just as Notre-Dame. It is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church that sits on an island in the Seine. The church is consecrated to the Virgin Mary and is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, as well as the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style. Major components that make Notre Dame stand out include one of the world's largest organs and its immense church bells.Some of the most important relics in Christendom, including the Crown of Thorns, a sliver of the true cross and a nail from the true cross, are preserved at Notre-Dame. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

    I had been able to cross an item off my bucket list the last time we were here - to attend Mass at Notre-Dame. The centre of Paris is marked by a bronze plaque in the ground about 100 feet from the front door of the cathedral. I have a picture of my feet on the plaque from that same visit. Very cool.

    As you probably know, on April 15, 2019, the cathedral roof caught fire while under renovation and restoration. The cathedral sustained serious damage and the timber spire was destroyed. The lead from the roof caused wide-spread contamination. The area around the cathedral is blocked off with high fencing topped with spikes and barbed-wire. Restoration is underway. The church is owned by France, and France has passed a law requiring it to be rebuilt exactly as it appears before the fire. President Macron has called for the restoration work to be completed within 5 years. It was sad, so very sad, to see this monument in such a tattered state. Perhaps Doug and I will have to come back in 5 years time to check on the progress of bringing Notre-Dame back to life.
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