Dear Luke and Leia,
Remember my last postcard, when I asked “why do I have to go to Paris?” I had two very good reasons: I don’t speak the language and I don’t like French people. The only good thing about France is the wine, and maybe the food. True, I couldn't argue with Nana's reason: She wanted to share her favorite city with me. But I wasn't going without a fight.
The Arc de Triomphe
The first thing I think of when someone mentions the Arc de Triomphe is the movie European Vacation with Chevy Chase driving around the circle endlessly because none of the other drivers would let him change lanes. So for what seems to be hours he pointed out the sights to his children, who were not amused.
The other thing I think of when hearing the Arc de Triomphe (built between 1806 and 1836 for French soldiers who died in the revolution and Napoleonic wars), is the photos of Hitler admiring the Arc after conquering Paris. Neither seems very encouraging.
But I can tell you what is encouraging, the beauty of that arch, its detailed carvings and the sight of the (now free) French flag through its archway. What was even more encouraging was walking through an underground passageway so we didn’t have to deal with Clark and his crazy escapades of traffic. The final feather in the Arc's cap was the view from the top. It seemed that every road in Paris centered upon the honorary monument with grace and dignity.
The Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame is a football team in America, not a place in France, right? You know the home of the fighting Irish, having nothing to do with France? Boy was I wrong.
Notre Dame Cathedral was stunning. Most people recognize it from its twin towers and the large circular stained glass window marking the entrance, but I was far more impressed with the details of the architecture from the side and back of the church. Notre Dame is one of the finest examples of the French Gothic architecture in the world. There are fantastic sculptures and carvings all around the structure.
Not to be outdone, the inside exceeded the billing the outside had promised. Magnificent grand arches line the main gallery, while decorative stained glass allows brilliant bursts of color and light into the church. Most works of art were displayed in the form of paintings and sculpture that finished it nicely.
Darn, I am starting to sound like I am actually enjoying Paris. This cannot be allowed, not in front of Nana and definitely not while still in the city!
Sacre Coeur Basilica
Well guys, this is our last stop. After this I will finally get to exit Paris, not convinced I will ever want to return nor finding my own answer to why do I have to go to Paris. Nana takes me to this last stop for some sort of sunset scene where, legend has it, the lights of Paris come on and bring enchantment of romance to life in the city of love. Ha, this should be a breeze.
Sacre Coeur (too many letters again) was built in 1873 and finally opened in 1914, so it's not very old by Paris standards. The Basilica rests upon a hill overlooking the city of Paris and thus it has become a congregating place for couples to share the view. Well, visiting it is not such a breeze. There are a ton of steps up the hill, so Nana and I cheated and took the funicular to the top. Built in the Romanesque-Byzantine style, which I love, the Basilica itself was by far the best building I had seen in all of Paris, and the setting sun was just overwhelming. The white stone reflected the sunset's light in a golden yellow.
Why do I have to go to Paris? Now I understand.
Ok, Luke and Leia, we have to face the fact that Nana did not play fair. She knew this would be the final straw in her plan to make me like Paris. She schemed, planned and worked out all the details well in advance so that we would be there during Paris' most magical time, which so happened to be the golden hour of photography. Her secret weapon worked. 😉
Sitting on the steps with all the other lovers as the lights of Paris came on one by one, sharing a special kiss as is the custom, turned the Romantic Paris legend into reality for me… for us. I guess Paris is not really that bad. I can see now why I had to go to Paris: It is such a splendid city, with so much to offer a traveler, that it should never go un-visited.
Later Nana joked “you dragged me all around the tourist crap,” but truth be told, I really want to go to back to Paris and see much more details like Montmartre and take in more of the café culture.
P.S. – This is me now, stopping at nothing to return to Paris:
Nana and Pap