Monday, September 7, 2015

Day 26: Technological Fog and Notre Dame

Technological Fog

My first priority was to get my data plan restored. Struggling through a technological fog, I decided the best thing would be to talk to someone from my provider's French partner, Bouygues, so I looked up their location and we started over there after breakfast. The morning was lovely and we were too early for the store to be open, so we walked by the Pantheon, which was less than a half hour from our hotel.

The Pantheon is a mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is a very attractive example of Neoclassicism, with a façade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. It wasn't open yet. The sun was behind it.

In front of the Pantheon is a triangular open place. On one side is a branch of the Sorbonne University, and on the other is the administrative office for the local district; the buildings match architecturally, and complement the mausoleum, forming a very pleasant area.

Law School of the Sorbonne
Administrative building for the local district
We got to the Bouygues office early, and had another latte at the Starbucks two doors away. When the store opened, I told Dan to look around the neighborhood for awhile and come back to check on me later, as I expected a long rigamarole to fix my problem. But after a long wait while people of various languages tried to get their problems fixed, a representative told me there was nothing they could do there; I should call Verizon, my provider at home. He had absolutely no sympathy for my situation. I was extremely let down. My previous efforts to contact Verizon had failed miserably.

On top of this Dan was no where to be found for over an hour. This hour is better forgotten. I kept making inquiries here and there. Have you seen my husband? Do you have any idea of how I can contact Verizon in the United States? Finally, on the verge of tears, I queried a couple of women who looked like intelligent American tourists having coffee in front of Starbucks. They were just what I expected, and one of them was a tech enthusiast. She helped me straighten out my Verizon password, and looked up the country code for the United States. 

By then it was almost noon, and the two nice ladies had to get on with their itinerary, but Dan had still not appeared. I made further useless inquiries, and finally decided to do some touring without him. As I was leaving, he finally appeared. I totally lost it. Dan explained that he had walked down to the Seine, and the light was so good that he forgot about the time while taking photos. I raved at length about feeling abandoned and frustrated. Though he apologized, it was a long time before I could calm down.

Eventually Dan persuaded me to have lunch at Les Deux Palais, a very attractive brasserie across the street from Sainte Chapelle, a church famous for its stained glass that we had hoped to visit. The waiter was absolutely unconcerned by our fussing at each other and my difficulty in making a choice. His service was courteous and quick, and the food—I had a salad—was excellent. I finally calmed down.

From the restaurant we could see that the line for Sainte Chapelle was very long. Furthermore, the sky was gray by now, so the windows wouldn't be glowing the way they had on our first visit, years before. In order to make some use of the afternoon, we decided to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I had promised some Catholic friends that I would light a candle on their behalf. It was only a short walk to the other side of the Ile de la Cité, an island in the Seine River.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame

There was a brief sun break when we first got there.

Although the interior was dark and crowded, it was still calm and beautiful. This style of architecture is French Gothic and dates from the 1300s, though there have been various modifications over the centuries. Here's a view toward the altar from the entrance.

Here's a view of one aisle.

This is the view looking back toward the entrance from the altar.

Some of the pillars are composed of multiple thin ribs, a common feature of Gothic architecture.

The gorgeous stained glass showed up pretty well, though the sunlight had dimmed by then.

Notre Dame means Our Lady, and refers to Mary, the mother of Christ. Of course, there were several graceful statues of her.

I lighted candles and said prayers for our friends and for ourselves as well. You don't have to "believe" in a tradition in order to be comforted by participating in it. Dan took some photos of this ritual for our friends, and I took this selfie with the candles.

I was pleased to discover a poster with this wise advice from Pope Francis: "Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be happy."

When we emerged, we paid more attention to the sculpted façade.

Then we walked around to the side of the cathedral, where we found a statue of Pope Jean-Paul II and some lovely flower beds.


After Notre Dame, we explored the nearby area, looking for various landmarks of French history and architecture.

In June, the government removed the 'love locks' from the bridge called Pont des Arts, however the bridge behind the Cathedral, had been used in a similar way.

Instead of crossing that bridge, we walked the other way toward Pont d'Arcole, which crosses to the other side of the river. On the bridge an excellent jazz trio was playing "C'est si bon." This is an old popular song that they must have played hundreds of times, but they seemed totally sincere and enthusiastic. That's jazz. It's rare. I took only video but Dan took this great shot.

Photo by Dan L. Smith
Captain Dan wanted to see the City Hall, called Hotel de Ville, because of its long history and interesting architecture. Unfortunately, the square in front was occupied by an event that used giant tent-like pavilions, making photos impossible, though Dan tried every conceivable viewpoint. To add to his frustration, the building isn't open to tourism, despite being decorated by some famous works of art, because it is in use for administrative functions. All I got was a photo of this nice statue, which might represent the Muse of Architecture.

Hôtel de Ville
From there we walked a very long distance along the Quai on the right side of the Seine, which changes its name several times. The Quai is famous for its book stalls, but the books and prints looked tattered and unloved, and the stalls blocked the view of the river and the buildings beyond. Tourists crowded the sidewalk.

Captain Dan's next goal was the Cour Carrée, which is an architectural complex arranged around a large open square with a fountain in the center. The architecture is the Sully Wing of the Louvre Museum. We had a sun break about that time, so I got some good shots.

Entrance to the Cour Carrée
Interior view of the Cour Carrée
From there we walked into the Pyramid Court of the Louvre and out the Richelieu gate to the Palais Royal Metro station. The ride to Place Monge station by our hotel was about 15 minutes.

When we finally got back to the room, I sent Dan off to dine alone, saying I was too tired to eat.

As soon he left, I got the hotel clerk to turn on the phone in our room. Then I successfully placed a call to Verizon in the U.S. A very nice operator explained the situation to me, and, after I agreed to a $500 advance deposit (charged to my VISA), she restored my data service. I felt so relieved; if I had been a Catholic, I might have thought Holy Mary had answered my prayer. I am so bonded with my iPad that when it didn't function correctly I felt incomplete and disoriented.

Dan later reported that he had found a Vietnamese restaurant with good food and reasonably priced wine.