Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Day in the Latin Quarter

With the amount of ground I covered today, you'd think it really WAS my last day here! The Latin Quarter is my favorite area of the city, over by Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sorbonne. But surprisingly, there were a few major sites in that area that I had never seen on previous trips - Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, Saint Severin, Sainte-Chapelle - just to name a few. Well today I saw them all :-)

I started out with a walk through Luxembourg Gardens. It was lunchtime so there were lots of locals enjoying the park on their lunch hour - despite the fact it was in the 30s today! But it really was a beautiful day. Throughout the park are statues, flowers and trees. The trees are all bare now because it's winter, but it was still very picturesque.

From the Luxembourg Gardens I made my way over to the Pantheon which is by the University of Paris. There was a protest going on (I took some video). I'm still not exactly sure what they were protesting about.. the signs said something about "masacaring" and "archeology"??? I didn't see or hear "Bush" or the US, so I figured it was safe ;-)

As I walked past the University on my way towards the Seine, I stumbled upon Saint Severin. You know, I think this is actually the church I was thinking of from the movie The DaVinci Code (I'm going to have to rent it and see - it's driving me crazy now!). Kind of eerie, but beautiful flying buttresses and stained glass windows.

For the first time since I've been here, I decided to go and have a nice sit down meal at a restaurant since I was right around the corner from my favorite little restaurant, Le Harpe. Sherri knows Le Harpe - we ate here when we came to Paris for New Years a few years ago! And I come and have a meal here every time I am in Paris. (French) Onion Soup, Steak Au Poivre & Potatoes Gratin. Followed by desert - which for me, is a nice selection of fromage (cheeses). Yummo!

After my lunch/dinner, I wandered through the narrow, winding pedestrian only streets of the Latin Quarter and crossed the Seine in front of Notre Dame on my way to what ended up being the unexpected highlight of the day - Sainte-Chapelle.

I guess I never really read very closely the descriptions of Sainte-Chapelle, because I was not prepared for what I saw when I entered. Unlike many of the churches in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle is not free - you have to pay an entrance fee. Once inside, I was thinking - for this? I mean, it was pretty, but... then I noticed a tiny door and winding staircase.

Up the staircase I went and when I finally reached the top, what I saw took my breath away. This was Sainte-Chapelle. Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242-1248 and that in itself is astounding. But when you enter the Upper Chapel, you are surrounded by wall-to-wall amazing stained glass windows - some 1,113 panels that tell the stories of the Bible from Genesis through the time of Jesus. And if that weren't enough, there is also a beautiful rose window (like in Notre Dame).

As I was standing there with my jaw hanging open, I grabbed for my sightseeing book and flipped to the Sainte-Chapelle page. Here's what it said (that I apparently had never read)... "As you emerge, via a spiral staircase... the effect of light and color is breathtaking." The guide book was spot on with that description!

What is even more amazing is that all of the stained glass is original, dating back to the 13th Century - the oldest stained glass in Paris. I took video in addition to a ton of photos to attempt to capture the essence of this place. Hopefully it translates. One thing is for sure, if you come to Paris, put Sainte-Chapelle at the TOP of your sightseeing list!

Click here to view all of today's photos (11/25/08)


Anonymous said...

AMAZING! Love the video!
Would you be our personal tour guide next December????? :)

Anonymous said...

But of course :-)