Monuments and Cathedrals, Ooh La La!

Friday, October 18, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

European Adventure, Day 15

PARIS, France—What a day of visiting iconic Parisian locations!  We began the day at the Arc du Triomphe, the monument ordered by Napoleon to glorify the Army of France.  A couple of beautiful cathedrals later, we ended the day at the Eiffel Tower.

Our day started a bit later as we decided to avoid the rush hour trains after yesterday's mishap. First stop was the iconic Arc du Triomphe, Napoleon's monument to his army's victories in battle.

We were huffing and puffing a bit by the time we climbed the 284 steps up the winding staircase to the mezzanine at the top of the arch. What could have been a great view was obscured by fog so we ditched our plan to go to the Eiffel Tower next and headed for another Parisian landmark.

Norte Dame cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year. Almost destroyed in the French Revolution, the church was slated for demolition until Victor Hugo's Hunchback novel generated renewed support.

Thousands of votive candles were burning in the cathedral, and the effect of this constant smoke was evident in the soot collected on the ceiling more than 100 feet above.

The treasury of Notre Dame contains numerous gold and silver religious objects. Its reliquary includes the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails, which are displayed only occasionally (not today).

Ingenious lighting and the effective use of massive fabric swags ennoble the beautiful Pietà that is the focus of the high altar.

Many gargoyles that adorn the cathedral's exterior. These ghoulish characters serve to drain rain water away from the building in addition to enhancing its unique character.

A view of the spire and east side of the cathedral shows the flying buttresses (arched exterior supports). Notre Dame was one of the first buildings to incorporate this type of design.

From Notre Dame, we walked just a few yards around the corner, away from the tourist-jammed cafés across the street from the cathedral, and found a delicious lunch in this quiet salon de thé (like a coffee shop). Thanks, Trip Advisor!

After lunch, we headed over to another renowned Parisian church.  Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248 on the orders of King Louis IX to house the purported crown of thorns worn by Christ. The king paid more for the crown than the cost of building this chapel at his palace on Ile de la Cité in the Seine.

The chapel's 40-ft rose window illustrates the Apocalypse of St John. Sainte-Chapelle is in the fifth year of a major restoration project that involves removing every piece of glass for cleaning and repair.

From Sainte-Chapelle, we crossed the Seine River and caught an RER train for Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower.

This morning's fog was nothing but a memory by the time we arrived at the Eiffel Tower a little after 4:30. We stood in line, had our bags checked, stood in another line, bought our tickets for an elevator ride to the top, then stood in line for a security scan.

Even though Ms Magnolia had some trepidation about riding the elevator to the top of the 1,063 ft tower, she decided she had to go big or go home and conquered her fear.

In an incredible stroke of luck, we were on the tower as the sun set and the moon rose.

And we watched in awe as the City of Light illuminated itself.

When we left, the tower was beautifully lit in her nighttime attire.

Back in our Montmartre neighborhood, we stopped at the local grocery store where we saw a beautiful Romanesco cauliflower that looked like a piece of art.

Tomorrow we'll begin exploring some of the legendary French art collections in Paris.