March 19, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Paris—A Beautiful Blur

[Editor's Note: Sometimes life, instead of writing, happens. Hence, today is my "rerun day" for March. What follows is a write-up of my trip to Paris with Michelle just before September 11, 2001, originally posted 9/3/01.]

SEPT. 3 - PARIS - The last few days have been such a blur that any attempt to write about them must surely come out blurry as well. But since I promised to write about my travels, I am obligated to at least make the attempt. But where to begin? This city has history, art, architecture, beauty, elegance…. I could fill pages on any of those themes.

Take, for example, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Construction upon this great Gothic masterpiece began back in 1163, making it a fine example of the city’s history. In fact, the site upon which it stands was originally home to a Roman temple (and even further back, to a settlement of Celts known as the Parisii). We were only two of several hundred tourists inside the cathedral during our visit, but we might as well have been alone. The cathedral’s majesty commanded a reverent silence from its awe-struck visitors, and we were no different (photos, interior). Michelle and I could only wander around slack-jawed, dwarfed by the lofty arches and bejeweled rose windows.

We had similar reactions to the wondrous Musée d’Orsay (photo), home to many of France’s (and the world’s) great art masterpieces. It is here where you will find the most well-known works of the Impressionists. We walked through room after room chock-full of Monets, Renoirs, Van Goghs, Degas and more. At one point, I stopped in the middle of a gallery, suddenly awed by the fact that I could see a famous masterpiece at literally any angle from where I stood.

While the former railroad station which houses the Musée d’Orsay is an impressive building, no structure better symbolizes Paris' architecture (except, perhaps, the Eiffel Tower) than the Arc de Triomphe. Though he had been defeated at Waterloo long before the arch was completed, Napoleon commissioned the structure as a celebration of his armies’ victorious battles. Tourists swarmed over this site as well, but as with most other locations, the splendor of the monument pushed such mundane concerns as crowds and noise from your head. This is the largest triumphal arch in the world, and when you stand beneath it, you have no doubt. It is truly a “monumental” sight to behold.

For outright beauty, however, the lovely little church of Sainte-Chapelle was a top contender. As the former “warehouse” for such relics as the Crown of Thorns and a sliver of the True Cross, its historical and religious background is legendary. But what truly dazzled us was the aesthetic beauty of the 50-foot-high stained glass windows running down both sides, telling the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations (photo).

And elegance? Paris has it in spades. We found a great example of it not far from the flat where we’re staying: a beautiful plaza called Place des Vosges (photo). We had heard of it, but stumbled upon it quite by accident. While Michelle stopped in a boulangerie to buy a baguette, I crossed the street to peek into a stone courtyard marked by a sign that read “Hotel de Sully.” It looked interesting, so we continued on in. We entered an old passageway, passed through a beautiful little courtyard, and suddenly came out into the Place des Vosges. The arcade all around the plaza was full of musicians and merchants, and Parisians of all ages relaxed in the park. We intend to go back with a picnic basket and do the same.

We’ve seen a lot more, and still have a long list of other sights we want to see, but we already feel like we’ve seen the best of what Paris has to offer. It’s like a smorgasbord where everything is delectable and you can never overeat. (Well, okay, maybe you can get a little full. After all, I’ve got time to write this because we came home exhausted from walking all over the city. But I’m still hungry!)

Find photos and other travelogues from this trip at Distant Travels to [Strick]Lands.


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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3/18: Ignorant Idiot Man
3/17: The Pirate Queen
3/16: To War or Not to War
3/15: So Long, Seau
3/14: Telemarketing Pays
3/13: Free, For Now
3/12: Chicken Little Gets Respect
3/11: Axis of Evil
3/10: Writing Kept Me From Writing
3/9: King Arthur
3/8: The Women are Smarter
3/7: Salt on Old Wounds
3/6: 3/3/03, 3:33 p.m.
3/5: Beer Day
3/4: Pulling the Trigger
3/3: Make 'Em Laugh
3/2: Whither Iraq?
3/1: Strickland Cellars
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