The kids and I dug into some guidebooks and made lists of what we wanted to see. They put down Notre Dame (easy, since we were staying only blocks away) and Sacré Cœur (the daughter is a big Amelie fan and wanted to see Montmartre). I added Sainte Chapelle.
My theory of jet lag is that when arriving in Europe, no matter how tired you are, you should stay up until it gets dark. When we arrived Saturday afternoon, the daughter fell asleep immediately, and the son and I went to Notre Dame in an effort to stay away. It was a bright day, with plenty of tourists crowding the Pont St Louis between the islands, the gardens behind Notre Dame, and the square in front of the cathedral. We admired the facade in a fairly clueless fashion (not bright enough to bring a guidebook with us), and then went in to look around. The son was amazed by the flying buttresses, stained glass, and sheer height of the interior vault.
That evening, of course, John-Paul II died. TV trucks took up stations on the plaza in front of the cathedral, and a massive screen and speakers were erected in order to broadcast masses being said in the cathedral and the funeral mass from St Peter’s. Since the daughter had slept through our initial tour of Notre Dame, we tried several times to go again, only to find wall-to-wall masses being said. We attended several masses, but never got the opportunity to walk around the interior again.
We walked through the gardens (with ornamental cherries in full bloom) frequently. On Thursday afternoon, we were walking through the gardens in the rain when the son suddenly let out a whoop. “My God! The gargoyles are gutters!” This enormous realisation kept him happy for days.
We went to Sainte Chapelle on our rest day, Tuesday. We got there fairly late, 11-ish, and there were already hordes of students in line. I’m not sure what the kids were expecting as we wove through the security barriers and into the back courtyard car park of the Palais de Justice. The ground level of the chapel, with its bright colors and gilded ribs, was a surprise to them, but then we went upstairs. Even on an overcast day, the tall stained glass windows looming over us were breathtaking. We stayed there a long time, picking out scenes and eavesdropping on tour guides.
A little man stands inside near the entrance, chanting “Silence, no photo, no video, silence, silence … “. These stained glass windows, 600 years newer than Sainte Chapelle’s, are very different. The mosaics contribute to the vaguely Byzantine feel.
If I could find the CDs with the pictures, I’d add some of them here.