Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday morning in Paris, Part I: coffee, churches, shin splints, Roman ruins and Rue Moufftard

Wednesday morning came and we needed coffee in a big way. We had a lot of ground to cover and we needed caffeine.

Scott did not want to drink espresso for his morning cup of coffee because he would rather slowly infuse himself to achieve his therapeutic range of caffeine rather than have it concentrated in a few swallows.

During our previous reconnaissance missions we spied a Starbucks a few blocks away north of Hôtel de Ville. I was feeling a little more confident in my French ordering skills and was able to not only get the sized coffee I wanted, but an incredibly rich breakfast item.

It looked like a piece of French toast, but I cannot remember its name.

The server asked me if I would like something on it. I forget all of the various options she mentioned, except for the one I chose: chocolat.

As I said chocalat in my best French accent we smiled at each other and any cultural differences between us disappeared. We were two women that shared a common love for chocolate.

Mmmm, it was rich. That pastry was warm and drenched in chocolate sauce.

Scott shook his head when he looked at my choice, and he stuck with a simple croissant. He missed out.

I knew that no matter how many calories or grams of fat in my breakfast that it would be worn off by the end of the morning. That's because we were going on a walking tour of Paris.

My friend Erika Mailman visited France last year and blogged about it as well. She recommended Paris Walks to me and said it was one of the best things that she did for herself while in Paris. I wanted to follow her suggestion, but I knew that scheduling might pose a problem.

Their Medieval themed walks only take place on Mondays, when we were enveloped in a sea of humanity known as Charles De Gaulle International Airport. It would have been impossible for me to even fantasize that we could make it to Paris in time to be a part of that tour group. Knowing that reality, I had to either find another similar group tour or hire a private guide.

I thought the price for Paris Walks' private tours to be ghastly expensive at 160 Euros for two hours and 210 Euros for three hours.

We also missed by about two weeks being able to get in on one of Leonard Pitt's walking tour. He wrote the fabulous book Walks through Lost Paris.

I spent several days Googling the subject and trying to weigh my options. The best I found was Paris Walkabout whose price for a three hour guided tour was 135 Euros.

I worked with Tom Hillyard to devise a tour based on my own particular needs.

Yita Hillyard was our guide and she did a wonderful job.

She met us at 9 a.m. outside the main entrance of Hôtel Dieu and we began our walk starting with the ancient streets on the Isle de la Cité. We were shown artifacts of Medieval Paris that had not been destroyed by Baron Haussman's wrecking balls.

We saw the narrow streets where the houses were not kept in straight parallel lines to one another. In fact some of them became quite narrow, making it difficult in today's world for any motorized vehicles to travel down them.

She also showed us courtyards which centuries ago had doorways for horses. They now appear to be garages, but many years ago the horse power contained was of the distinct equine variety.

Here are two examples and you can see that the doorways to the houses themselves have undergone different treatment as well. One is bricked up while the other still appears to be in use.

We then walked to the Left Bank and entered one of the oldest churches in Paris: Saint Julien-Le-Pauvre. Here is a nice online source of the history of the church which was first recorded by Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks dating back to the sixth century. The current building only dates back to the twelfth century and has undergone many renovations and is now a Greek Orthodox church.

With the sudden immersion in all things French, my husband had a momentary lapse which I thought comical. He wanted to know why a saint would be named after pepper. I knew that pauvre meant poor, but I then drew a mental blank for the French word for pepper.

Yita helped us out and said, "poivre." Thank goodness she was not offended.

I do think that Saint Julien of the poor is a much better name than Saint Julien of the pepper.

On the inside you can see the pointed Gothic arches and Greek influence.

On the outside you can see remnants of past architectural designs, particularly in the partial blocking of a portion of a window.

I learned to look for that in the many churches we visited during our trip to France. There are also vestiges of a wall and columns on the second story that were not completely removed.

We then went to nearby Saint Severin which was built at a later period and has the flamboyant
Gothic look. The church was one of the few churches we came across that was closed to visitors and so we did not go inside.

It also had gargoyles gracing its side.

We also came across a really narrow alleyway. I get claustrophobia just looking at it.

I can see how fires from one building would easily spread to another when only a skinny cat could walk down that alley without difficulty.

There is so much more to share about the walking tour, but I think I may have come up against Blogger's maximum allowable pictures per post, so I shall have to make this Part I and continue this later.

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