David's Diary: Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The Cité

Ste-Chapelle
Ste-Chapelle

Up, out, on the train, and in line for Ste-Chapelle by 11:00 AM. Not a roaring start, but not bad for a family of five on holidays. Today we wanted to see Ste-Chapelle. This exquisite monument contained within the Palais de Justice (Law Courts) is only minutes away from Notre Dame and provides a striking example of delicacy and finesse. Built in only six years (compared to the almost 200 years required to build Notre Dame), it was a personal undertaking of Louis IX.

There is no external support in Ste-Chapelle. The roof is supported on slender pillars between which are a series of stunning stained glass windows. You enter via the lower chapel, which was intended for palace servants. Two spiral staircases lead to the upper chapel and you take one of these to catch your first glimpse of the glow from the windows. Light, color, and space join together to provide the visitor with the feeling that the ceiling is floating above the stained glass windows.

It was hard to keep the children interested, but the upper chapel is circled by a group of chairs. After visiting the main entrance that the king would have used, we all sat down and just enjoyed the architecture, sculptures, and windows. The sun was weak this morning so the full glory of the windows was not visible, but it was impressive anyway. I think that any visit to Paris should include a visit to Ste-Chapelle.

Square du Vert Galant
Square du Vert Galant

After our visit to Ste-Chapelle, we visited The Cité. The Cité is the heart of Paris, located on two small islands. While I've visited Notre Dame and Ste-Chapelle numerous times this was the first time where I explored the island. We wandered around the outside of the Palais de Justice, stopped in a park sandwiched between two streets to have some water, and then made our way to the tiny Square du Vert Galant, which forms a point where the island meets the Seine.

We then crossed Pont-Neuf (Bridge Nine) the oldest bridge in Paris to Samaritaine department store. Our friends Michael Mills and Nita Joy had told us to visit the terrace restaurant on the ninth floor of Samaritaine, which provides uninterrupted views of Paris. After lunch on the terrace we climbed to the tenth floor of Samaritaine where we were treated to a 360 degree view of Paris.

Notre Dame from the Seine
Notre Dame from the Seine

To really get a feel for Paris one really needs to take a boat tour on the Seine. In the afternoon, we recrossed Pont-Neuf and took Les Vedettes du Pont-Neuf tour of the river. Our guide provided both French and English commentary so we were able to follow along. We have spent enough time in Paris that Jocelyn and Kevin could remember the major sites that we had seen as they passed by the boat.

The turnaround point was the Eiffel Tower where we had a splendid view. On our return trip the boat circled The Cité where you are treated to one of the best views of Notre Dame in Paris. After a lengthy day we stopped for juice and a drink then returned to the countryside satisfied with another day of seeing Paris.

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