Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

Trip Start Feb 23, 2010
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Where I stayed
Le Meditel

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Sunday, May 16, 2010

On Sunday morning, we attended Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. It is situated on the Ile de Cite in the River Seine, in the heart of Paris. After Mass we took a tour of the South Tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a long climb up a very narrow (about 5 feet in diameter) spiral staircase. We were able to walk around the top of the tower rubbing elbows with gargoyles. The view of Paris was beautiful – a more 3-D view than that from the Eiffel Tower. The highlight was seeing the old bell, which is no longer in use. We missed seeing Quasimodo – seems he was on a caffe break. The bell and its fictional bell ringer, of course, were immortalized in Victor Hugo's classic 1831 novel "Notre-Dame de Paris", which was depicted in several ventures including film, television, theater, opera, musicals, ballet and a Disney cartoon.

The laying of the foundation of Notre Dame Cathedral was begun in 1163 and construction of the major structures continued into the 14th century. Some reconstruction and refurbishments were carried out in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, due, in part, to damage during the French Revolution. The entire Gothic Cathedral is magnificent with features such as flying buttresses, spires, statues, the intricately detailed West Façade and Towers, and the stained glass Rose Windows. And, of course, there are gargoyles – lots of gargoyles. Although there is much speculation as to the origin and purpose of placing gargoyles on the outside of Gothic churches, builders incorporated them as medieval, ornamental downspouts to channel water away from the structure. It has been said that gargoyles also served to ward off evil from the church, thus encouraging folks, especially Pagans, to come into the safe haven of the church. Most are pretty scary, though, so one would think that the gargoyles would frighten away parishioners, as well as demons.   

In the courtyard in front of Notre Dame was a Fête du Pain (Bread Festival) that featured bakers from the Basque region of France, which is apparently also famous for chili peppers. There were baking demonstrations, cooking classes for kids and a sort of "Baker's Olympics". The smell from the ovens was fantastic!  Lesly and I bought a couple of pastries to try. There is nothing like eating bread and pastries fresh from the oven! The pastries gave us an appetite for more, so we ventured to the Notre Dame Café across the street for lunch.  We had Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame (croque means "crunchy" in French) – cheesy, crunchy ham (or turkey) and cheese sandwiches - very appropriate for a cheesy and crunchy couple like us. 
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