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Thursday, June 13, 2013

paris part 2: historic walking tour

The Rick Steves Paris walking tour was probably my favorite walking tour of our whole trip (I think that might be about the fifth time I've mentioned how great Rick Steves is).  We saw lots of sites along a three mile Ile de la Cite and Latin Quarter walk, and it took the majority of the day to see everything on the tour.  We were super tired by the end of the day, but we made lots of memories and took some great pictures (if I do say so myself). 

We began at Notre Dame, the great cathedral that took over 200 years to complete.  Commoners completed the majority of the construction work - and didn't receive any payment! 

I enjoyed the interior of the church as much as the exterior, in part because of these gorgeous stained glass windows.  The one pictured above is one of the only original windows.  Many of the churches we visited had been damaged in the Revolution or during World War II.  It was a little strange for this American to comprehend; historic buildings in the U.S. are usually only destroyed if we need space for a new parking lot. 

This is Point Zero, the center of Paris for over 2300 years.  It was the central point of the ancient Parisii tribe, the Roman Temple of Jupiter, the Germanic Franks church of St. Etienne in the 6th century, and now it's the symbolic center of Paris right outside Notre Dame.  Just below this spot in the Archaeological Crypt that we decided to check out.  The entrance is maybe 100 yards away from the entrance to Notre Dame and it contains really interesting information about the archaeological history of Paris.  We saw ruins of the Roman and Medieval cities of Paris.  Medieval Parisians used great innovation when they dismantled Roman buildings and used the stones to construct their cities; fortunately that allowed researchers to piece together information about the Roman civilization in France. 

Charlemagne, King of the Franks!!  Proof that great leaders come with great facial hair.  

Along the Seine, just behind Notre-Dame is the Memorial de la Deportation (Deportation Memorial), the memorial built to the 200,000 French people killed in the Nazi concentration camps.  This is one of the best Holocaust memorials I've seen (I had only seen American memorials before this).  You walk down into a circular space surrounded by stone, bars blocking your view of the nearby river.  You feel like you're being trapped with only the sky above you unblocked.  You can walk into a small hallway where you can see 200,000 lights honoring the French dead.  A plaque on the floor reads "They went to the ends of the earth and did not return."

We crossed the Seine to the Left Bank and saw Paris' oldest resident: an acacia tree planted in 1602.  Parisians have been enjoying this tree for 400 years

Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, a mandatory stop for this book lover, is an English bookstore along the Left Bank.  The original store was opened in the 1920s by Sylvia Beach, an American whose customers included Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, George Bernand Shaw, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound.  Book lover-gasm!

Telling people about our trip to Europe, Paul and I have been asked a few times "what was your favorite part?"  I've been tough pressed to say anything beyond "the entire city of Paris," but if I had to pick Sainte-Chapelle would probably be in my top five favorites.  

St. Louis (King Louis IX) built this church to house what he believed to be the original Crown of Thorns.  It's a Gothic church that was built in six years between 1242 and 1248 (6 years!!  Wisconsin construction projects sometimes take longer than that!).  I could have stayed in this church for hours, just taking in all of the colors.  This photo is not enhanced or edited in anyway , the colors were really this vibrant.  The windows tell stories from - you guessed it - the Christian Bible. 

Even the colors and decorations on the floor were gorgeous.

Our next stop was spooky - the Conciergerie - the former prison people stayed in before heading to the guillotine.  2780 people including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette made their last stops here.  The architecture just added to the creepy vibe of the building.  Even worse, one of the towers is known as "The Babbler" because of all the fun sounds that used to come from it when people were tortured there (remind anyone else of the Game of the Thrones' "tickler"?). 

The prison houses a memorial to Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVI, and King Louis' sister.  The historical memory of the Revolution was really fascinating to me - people seem to be proud of the people's role in overthrowing the monarchy during the Revolution, but then they also visit memorials to the royalty and have turned Versailles into a public historical site.  I'm sure it makes sense to them. 

At the end of a long day of site seeing, Paul and I visited the Rue Cler neighborhood and stopped by a variety of different stores to compile a delicious French picnic.  The weather didn't cooperate, so we ended up in the dining room of our hotel, but it still tasted absolutely fantastic!! 

I managed to communicate with the woman at the frommagerie (cheese shop) en Francais and picked out three delicious cheeses.  I even managed to ask her to write the names of the cheese on the packaging so I could remember what they were later.  

What a day!  Thanks so much for reading about one of my favorite Parisian adventures!

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