May 16, 2016
Today we made our attack on the Louvre. We hired a guide which made the whole process extremely efficient and gave us a much better experience than if we had tried to do it on our own. Our guide’s name was Antoine and he has a guide service under the name Paris with a Parisian. He is easy to find on the internet. Antoine is a native Parisian and his knowledge of French history proved to be an enormous asset for our tour of the Louvre. We had hired Antoine for the entire day so we divided our time with him into two sessions. After the Louvre, we place ourselves into his hands with some basic ideas of what we would like to focus on which was old Paris.
From the Louvre, we strolled along the Rue Rivoli, again, and took in the 13th century gothic chapel Saint Chapelle. Built in 1242, the structure is a breakthrough in French gothic design through the use of tension chains that enabled the masons to build the high walls which gives the sense of weightlessness to the interior space. Thanks to Antoine (and our museum passes) we zipped by the long lines to gain entrance to the chapel.
From Saint Chappelle, we visited the Conciergerie located on the west side of the Ile de Cite and is now known as the Palace of Justice. The Conciergerie is the prison that held victims of the era of the Terrors. This era was brought on by revolutionaries who feared a counter revolution to reinstate the monarchy after the the French Revolution. The guillotine was the fate of over 25,000 French citizens (several thousand in Paris alone) who were executed for “crimes against the state”. Remember Mari Antoinette and Louis XVI? They were the recipients of the “breath of wind on the back of the neck”…as Antoine (our guide) put it. Without getting too far into the weeds of the revolution, the history of the French economic situation of the 1780’s has several major parallels to the economic path that America and other parts of the world are experiencing. If you doubt that history repeats itself you might want do a quick reading on Wikipedia. Its kind of scary.
After that little downer, we walked over to Notre-Dame de Paris again and this time had enough time to go inside. There was a mass in progress so, again similar to the Basillica at Sacre Coeur, we experienced the full ambiance of music, signing and the echos of prayer throughout the stone interior. The stained glass windows are magnificent and each tells a story.
The day was finished off with a special surprise for us. Our guide knew to point us in the direction of Shakespeare and Company, the namesake for a notorious hideout/bookstore opened in 1919. The shop’s original location at 12 rue de l’Odeon in the 6th arrondissement was started by an American expatriate woman named Sylvia Beach in 1919. It closed in 1941 during the Nazi occupation. The current location opened in 1951–and is now located very near Notre Dame at 37 rue de la Bucherie in the 5th arrondissement. In 1958, the shop was re-christened “Shakespeare and Company” with the approval of Ms. Beach. In it’s early years, the bookstore was a refuge for many renowned American writers such as Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Man Ray. These authors used Silvia Beach’s influence to get their works published and sold through the store. Later, authors such as Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughsby, brought prominence once again to the bookstore as it served as an attractive location for the “Beat Generation” . I would encourage you to read about the history of the bookstore and authors of both generations who impacted literature in their time.
As for tomorrow, we have a few museums planned and maybe a little light shopping…it will be light because we have no space in our suitcases…I will undoubtedly be late in making the final post of our France Adventure as we travel home and there is much to do before we fly out. I will be making a final post of our last day and probably a few final observations of our two weeks in France.