Paris Day 4: A Lot of Eiffel Tower Pictures
Both Erin and I are planners; we like to know what, how and why we are going to do something before we do it. So we made a point of not planning very much of this trip beforehand in order to work on our spontaneity (yes, we realize the irony of preparing for spontaneity.) This morning we woke up to an entire day stretching before us with no idea how to fill the time, but we did know that we wanted another one of those incredible chai lattes from what we have now dubbed "our" cafe. A chai latte and chocolate croissant later, we traveled back to Sainte-Chappelle delighted to see that there was no line (although there was quite a queue by the time we left!
Both of us have run across the Holy Chapel in our studies, so we thought we knew what to expect, but when we crossed the threshold into the Gothic cathedral we both inhaled sharply, momentarily stunned. It is not just the impeccable Rayonnant architecture giving the structure a sense of weightlessness it surely does not have, but the bright and ornate colors touching every single surface that is truly dazzling. Every inch of the interior that is not stained glass is painted with scenes of saints and martyrs, decorated with trefoils, or made to look like fabric hanging along the wall. Even the floors are symmetrically accented with inset stones to create intricately colorful designs. Larger-than-lifesize sculpted stone Apostles separate each window, giving a sense of scale to the stained glass creations. And it is these windows that truly epitomized the beauty of Gothic architecture to me. All told, among the 15 enormous windows are represented 1,113 scenes from the Bible from the books of Genesis, Exodus, Joseph, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Jeremiah/Tobias, Judith/Job, Esther, David, and Kings as well as The Passion. Each narrative is surprisingly easy to follow and all the more impressive for it, but just the “simple” effect of sunlight shining through the windows casting multicolored rays over the room and its inhabitants is breathtaking. We must have spent over an hour in there at least, rounding the room time and time again to exclaim over new discoveries every few seconds and castigate any tourist photographing with flash.
To recover from our near shock of so much beauty, we got a snack in the first cafe we walked by and munched on a macaroon before traipsing off to find the Eiffel Tower, the most delicious olive flatbread in hand.
Since I’m out of data, we could no longer rely on Google Maps (and we certainly couldn’t rely on ourselves with a real map), so we just started off in what we felt was the right direction. Luckily, the Eiffel Tower is not exactly easy to miss. We meandered along cobbled side streets, quickly crossed busy intersections bustling with forever-honking traffic, spent a few minutes sitting by the Seine, and finally, suddenly rounded a corner to practically run into the tower. I had already made it a goal to make photographs of the renowned landmark that were non-touristy and captured a sense of the city as well as the tower, so we wandered around for a while finding various angles. Particularly through photography, I have learned not to be a self-conscious person and this certainly came in handy when my wide angle lens was not quite wide enough for the underneath shot that I wanted… so I lay on the ground in the middle of a crowd. Anything for a good photo!
I finally got all the shots I wanted, but really wanted to come back for sunset which was 2 hours away, so we found a bistro a few minutes away and enjoyed a leisurely meal of the best French onion soup I have ever had, a lovely glass (or two) of Sauvignon Blanc, and a perfectly balanced sweet and tart tarte tatin. While passing the time and slowly sipping our wine and soup, we talked of the small luxuries of Europe that we would love to bring back with us to the US: more traffic circles, an extensive cycling system, better public transit, traffic circles, many smaller meals throughout the day, and especially rich architectural history mirrored even in contemporary buildings.
Though we have now been together 24/7 for almost 5 days, we and our endless imaginations have far from run out of things to talk about and today was especially creative. This morning in between gasps at the chapel’s beauty, we talked of death and what we’d like done with our bodies when we die (the consensus being organ donors first, donated to scientific research second, and finally cremated and scattered throughout Paris.) I made a joke that I’d first like to have my ashes put in a cat statue/urn and Erin played off of that laughing about what people hundreds of years from now might conclude about our contemporary history with something like that. Thus began the Society of the Ladies of the Cat. We meet next week, bring chocolate.
After our lunch/snack/dinner we went back to the lawn of the Eiffel Tower and strolled through the surrounding dirt pathways waiting impatiently for the sun to set, talking all the while about what our super powers would be if we could have them - Erin’s being giant luminescent bird wings for flight and mine the ability to speak all languages.
As the evening was quite cloudy, we did not get a brilliant sunset like we had a few days before, so we had all but given up when the lights of the tower lit up flooding the area with an unexpected visual warmth. I had a photographic field day, although all of my images had to be handheld since my tripod is somewhere in Phili.
We rented towels from the hotel (guess where ours are, good planning be damned) and enjoyed our first wonderful hot showers in days, each emerging feeling like a butterfly out of its dirty chrysalis. Now its time to settle in for the night and plan tomorrow’s chocolate tour!