Monday, August 8, 2011

European Adventure, Part 6: Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle

After the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, our feet were a bit worn out, so we decided to see the sights near our Latin Quarter hotel. First on the list was Notre Dame. The line for entry was relatively short and we were quickly inside. Erik snapped several pictures of the exterior while we waited.

Once inside, we walked along the perimeter, marveling at the art and architecture.

Statues were placed in lovely locales...

but were on occasion odd...

...or creepy.

We are flying buttress fans, and Lea gave Carter a little lesson in architecture after the visit. The buttresses are visible below from different angles.

After touring the interior of Notre Dame, we joined another line to climb to the top of the towers. As we stood in line, Notre Dame's gargoyles cast glared down at us.

We ascended the narrow spiral staircases and introduced Carter to the story of Quasimodo. Once we reached the top, the view was awesome and a bit foreboding. Storm clouds were gathering and we were rather exposed at the top. As we moved along the tower, a Midwestern "frog choker" drenched all of us. Lea and Carter were especially soaked as they positioned themselves underneath an awning that poured down on them. When the rain slowed, and the spiral staircase emptied, we took a quick trip up to the very top. Unfortunately, a peal of thunder closed the rooftop. Carter was unimpressed - thunder in Kansas is much louder and more threatening. Several images from our rooftop view follow.

After drying off and having lunch in a small cafe nearby, we moved to Notre Dame's island neighbor - Sainte-Chapelle. A couple of friends who are Paris aficionados told us that Sainte-Chapelle could not be missed and we are so glad that we took their advice! The church is 100 years younger than Notre Dame and shares some of its external features (like the gargoyles).
The chapel on the entry floor is quite lovely, and Erik took several photos of it not realizing what lay ahead.
The centerpiece is the worship space on the upper floor. The stained glass windows are a wonder. Bathed in their soft glow, we gazed at all of them, straining to identify the stories that each medallion told. Every bank of windows is related to a book in the Bible or another theme. The small windows represent an individual tale or a part of a larger narrative.

After seeing two of the most beautiful churches we have ever visited, we stopped off for the most delicious ice cream (actually gelato) that we have ever tasted at a cafe selling Berthillon. The main store was closed for renovation, but it continues to supply vendors. During our stay, we tasted several kinds, but settled on some favorites (Caramel/Butter/Salt for Erik, Bitter Chocolate for Lea, and Strawberry for Carter).

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