Saturday, April 20, 2019

Mourning Notre Dame

HALLIE EPHRON: It was heart wrenching watching the news break on Monday when Notre Dame cathedral caught fire and burned. And burned. The tower crumbling. The roof caving. Visiting Paris has been, for many of us, a right of passage. A life-defining moment.

I've been there several times. The first on my honeymoon (Europe on $5 a day, really,) staying just across the river on the Left Bank near the Place San André des Artes staying at the Hotel Eugenie (still there!) 


Jerry and I couldn't even afford to sit in a cafe after our prix fixe dinner (lined up with students for the restaurant to open), so after dinner we'd walk along the banks of the Seine and watch the sun set and the light change on the cathedral on the Ile de la Cité. SO romantic.

I remember visiting the Notre Dame with its facade of carved saints outside and extraordinary rose window, climbing the tower and petting a gargoyle as we looked out over Paris.

We walked from there to the Isle Saint Louis, shopping the menus of restaurants we could not afford on our way to splurge on ice cream cones at Bertillhon. The cones were tiny with a ball of ice cream about the size of a golf ball. The taste: an explosion.



Julie Anne Workman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

We returned years later with our two daughters, nine and fifteen. The cathedral was just as breathtaking. We could just see it from the window of our top-floor room in the ancient Hotel Esmeraelda. We sat in the beautiful garden behind the church, admiring the flying buttresses. Then a repeat pilgrimage across the bridge to the Isle Saint Louis. Bertillhon was still there. It still is.

That's the wonderful thing about Paris. After decades it still feels like Paris. Notre Dame needs its spire back. The city needs its cathedral. I hope it will be there when grandkids to pay their first visit.

What are your memories of Paris?

37 comments:

  1. Watching the horrific fire on the evening news was indeed heartbreaking . . . I’ve never been to Paris, so I’ve only seen the cathedral in pictures.
    With so many pledging money to help rebuild the cathedral, there is hope it will be there when our grandchildren visit . . . .

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  2. What lovely memories, Hallie. I bet the spire will return.

    I haven't been to Paris in decades. The first time was on Bastille Day (not planned that way). We went somewhere on the subway and when we came up the noise of the celebration was so deafening we retreated to underground! Also - a French functionary bringing me to tears with his rudeness when all I wanted to do was find out how to make a telephone call. The last time I was there was with a son in sixth grade (we were in transit to a year in Burkina Faso). We went to the Louvre, ate dinner in an outdoor cafe, and walked under the Tour d'Eiffel. Time to go back.

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    1. Parisians are notoriously short tempered and Americans aren't their favorites. Leave Paris and it's a different story.

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    2. I have found that learning about three words/phrases in French gets me by swimmingly:
      Bonjour, merci beaucoup, au revoir, and ou sont les toilettes, s'il vous plais.

      Oh, and je voudrais une bière.

      This seems to bring out the English speakers en masse, because no one French wants to hear my accent ever again.

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  3. I love Medieval history and was horrified to see Notre Dame in flames. I've never been there but it symbolizes so many things for me (Medieval Paris, France, etc.). When the fire reached the north bell tower, I had to turn off the news because I was starting to have 9/11 flashbacks. That night I prayed for ND and the people of Paris. I was astonished to see the stonework still standing the next morning and image of the surviving cross and alter is my Facebook cover photo for Easter week. Truly a miracle!

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    1. Fortunately it was an accident. Sounds so weird to say that.

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  4. Hotel Familia on the Left Bank. We started and ended every day walking along the Seine, admiring Notre Dame. Museums, a day trip to Versailles, local restaurants, and a shopping trip to E.Dehillerin Materiel de Cuisine for proper omelet pans, whisks, and other kitchen essentials. Time for another trip!

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  5. Even though I've never been to Paris I was deeply saddened to see that devastation.

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  6. It was so horrifying to watch--imagine actually being there! I love Paris. I was first there as a student and could afford to eat only at student cafeterias with the occasional crepe au beurre and du sucre (with butter and sugar). I would go back as often as John would agree:).

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  7. I've never been, so how can a city live in your heart? Hard to watch the cathedral burning, harder still to see the outpouring of grief from young and old, locals and foreigners alike. It will be rebuilt and endure.

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  8. I've never been to Paris (or France for that matter), but as a Catholic I'm very familiar with pictures of Notre Dame. If I ever get to Paris, it is on the short-list of things I must see.

    I saw a meme on Facebook to the effect of all the stonemasons/architects/etc. who built the cathedral are in heaven saying, "Damn straight it's still standing!"

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  9. Thank you for sharing your memories full of love and light. Paris in '78 for two friends and I (on $10/day) left us wide eyed and planning to go back. We stared at the rose window and tried to wrap our 20 year old brains around how old the cathedral was. Very glad to see that it is still standing after the fire.

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  10. Oh my goodness, what wonderful memories of Paris! I could’ve stayed forever… Just looking at the gorgeous chic people. But the light everywhere is spectacular, why is it so special? And everywhere you turn is beauty and history and a wonderful story, and creativity and passion and… It’s impossible to describe. Every morsel of food was exquisite, and even the sometimes touristy bustle was exciting. I have so many memories, but one of my favorites is That we happened to be in Paris on the day that the three tenors were performing at the Champs de Mars. Somehow we got amazing seats, very near the front, to hear Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo. Under the stars in Paris in the shadow of the Eiffel tower. I mean, I ask you.

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    1. oh,Hank. WHAT a glorious experience!!

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    2. It was incredible! And absolutely even better than one could imagine… xxx

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  11. And I kept trying out my French, relentlessly, and everyone was pretty nice about it… Except once when I struggled through an entire dinner order for all of us, and managed it successfully under the hawk like eye of the imperious waiter. Then when I finally finished, he paused, and said: very good. Is there anything else I can get for you? In perfect unaccented English. I think he actually might’ve been American.

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  12. Oh, and when I came out of the car rental place announcing: success! I either just rented a car for $25 a day, or just bought a car for $25,000. I guess we will soon find out.

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    1. Oh Hank, watch for your AMEX bill to arrive. No way did you rent a car for $25 per day or even eu25. I hope you got a color you like. And automatic transmission. And a GPS that speaks English.

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    2. Oh, it was a while ago! Thank you… But all good! Xxx

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  13. Notre Dame: well, when I saw the photos, I thought it was a movie. I have never seen anything like that. Gaspingly terrifying.
    And I saw a cartoon of a French firefighter, giving a bottle of water to a smoke-choked gargoyle.

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  14. We are in mourning here.

    Julie lived in Paris for a year, before I knew her, And being a Sacred Heart girl, her French lessons began in first grade. I say she is fluent. She said she is fluent only in the present tense! My first trip was 22 years ago, January and with a total knee replacement the month before. I managed well. Then we stayed in l'Hotel Muguet on the left bank, within sight of both the Tour Eifel and l'Ecole Militaire. The hotel has gotten a few extra stars and turned into a very expensive boutique since we were there. Now we rent a studio apartment around the corner. But I digress.

    I have a picture of Julie from that first January trip to Paris. We'd been to Notre Dame, and were sitting in a bistro across the Seine, in a bay window, having chocolat chaud. I was facing out and took her picture. In the rainy background stand Notre Dame, Our Lady of Paris. The shot couldn't be better if I'd planned it. And it depicts what is, to me anyway, the essence of the cathedral, the background of every Parisian experience, of every French experience. The cathedral is literally the center, point zero, of Paris and of France. Every other place is measured by the distance from it.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/paris-point-zero

    I don't think we have any site quite so hallowed in this country, certainly no grand edifice almost a thousand years old. I don't discount Walpi Village on the Hopi reservation, continuously inhabited for 1100 years, but other than a few of us who've lived in Arizona, who has heard of it.
    https://www.experiencehopi.com/walpi-village

    But Notre Dame! It was and still it so full of meaning, not just for Catholics, not because of that faux crown of thrones (pardon me if I offend), not because of the petticoat of St Louis or the bones of Charlemagne, but because of the sheer beauty of it all, built centuries ago without benefit of modern technology, or even electricity to light the way.

    When I say the altar untouched by fire, the candles before Our Lady still burning, the three rose windows glowing from the embers, the belfries intact, the immense amount of beauty still there after the fire, I had to believe that this was indeed a magical place.

    Bénédictions sur Notre Dame de Paris





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  15. What wonderful memories, Hallie. It's clear you and Jerry had a great time on those $5.

    My heart broke watching the cathedral in flames. Bits of my heart crumbled with the spire. Imagining Paris without Notre Dame, I can't. My first trip to Paris was my favorite. The city was engulfed in a snowstorm, everything I had seen in photos softened and changed with the snow that glittered like diamonds in the lights of the city.

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  16. Never visited, but as an architecture student studied the design and engineering, and it is so amazing that it could be built with techniques available at the time. Wow. Such a shame it has burned.

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  17. My first time was an exchange with a French girl when I was 15. A month to wander around Paris alone, to wander into Notre Dame in the days before tourist hordes and just contemplate the light from the rose Windows. I took eldest daughter when she graduated high school. We spent 8 hours in the Louvre! Most recent visit was 5 years ago and we didn't go near Notre Dame because of the long lines. We're taking the same daughter and her family to France this summer.. It will be sad to show them the burned shell

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  18. I burst into sobs when I first saw the videos--it was another day before I could stand to watch the coverage. My first visit was in 1976, I think, with my parents, our grand tour! We did everything with our Frommer's guide, but I think even then it was at least $25 a day! My most recent couple of visits have been with my daughter, on the Eurostar from London, and I have such wonderful memories. And as Ann says, Notre Dame is the center point, literally and figuratively, always there. I hope by the time I get to take my granddaughter, it will be rebuilt...

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  19. Oh, my. Hearts are broken. Mine is one of many. Here's by tribute to Our Lady of Paris. http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2019/04/cathedrale-notre-dame-de-paris.html
    xxoo

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  20. Some places surpass being a "national" treasure and become a world treasure, and although I've never visited Paris, being aware of Notre Dame as one of the wonders of the world. It will forever be a reminder to me, too, of putting off something I shouldn't. I had an opportunity to go to Paris two weeks before the fire with a group of high school girls and their teacher, whose mother was also going and asked me if I'd like to go (asked me last summer). I turned it down, and now I will forever regret not having seen Notre Dame before the fire.

    I know the destruction was significant from the fire, but I have to say that I'm in awe of the things that survived and the sacred items they were able to remove before fire engulfed them. The rose windows surviving was a big morale boost for all. The relics, including the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, were irreplaceable, and their survival a shining light in the darkness. I looked at pictures of the wooden pews that were unscathed and the votive candles left standing, and I was amazed. Then came news of the bees that survived on the roof of the cathedral, and that served as an example of a miracle in the wreckage of so much. And, the gargoyles and grotesques and other statues that had already been removed to be cleaned during the restoration work. What wonderful news that they are safe. Of course, there is that thought circulating that the fire happened after the protective gargoyles were removed, a thought for those who give importance to the power of legend and the supernatural.

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  21. Well, dang. I did not mean to hit "publish" quite so quickly. I have enjoyed reading your memories. I love Paris and felt embraced by it on my first visit. Fortunately, I have no "rude Parisian" stories to tell. Starting an exchange with Bon Jour seems to be a cultural key. Donald and I rented a small apartment on Ile Saint-Louis last year which meant we passed Notre-Dame several times a day. That could, in some cases, mean that your daily path brings on a little complacency. Not in Paris, and certainly not with the Notre Dame Cathedral. We took endless pictures of it and the gargoyles. Oh, those wonderful gargoyles. We're going back this year and I know we will never be able to prepare ourselves for seeing that grand lady, the cathedral that means so much in so, so many ways. Can you believe the bees on the roof have survived?! THAT made me cry also. Miracles abound.

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  22. I don't know why or how my blogger profile changes from being my name to the name of my blog (Meanderings and Muses). Hope I've fixed it (sorry to be a pest!).
    xxoo
    Kaye

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  23. Heartbreak, utter, heartbreak. I'm working on a book set in Paris right now and was so immersed in my research that the fire took me out at the knees. Je suis triste.

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  24. You have such good memories Hallie . I was very sad with the news. At least , I saw it once.
    My brother and I went to Paris in march 2013. . He left the planning to me and one of the first things we visited was Notre-Dame and l'île de la Cité. It was very cold and snowing but beautiful.The only "must do" of my brother was to dine at the restaurant Jules Verne of la Tour Eiffel and when we went , every bookings were canceled because it was unsafe to go up due to the weather. We were able to reconduct the booking for a lunch two days later.
    We stayed at Hotel St-Paul near le Jardin du Luxembourg and walked everywhere.

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  25. This is also fascinating, and such an insight into you all… Love love love you bloggers...

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  26. Shalom Reds and fans. Just a spot of Notre Dame trivia. Though I have never been to Paris and also have never read the classic “The Hunchback of …” I was pleased to learn years ago, that when the baby was left on the steps of the cathedral, it was Easter Monday and the Latin of the morning mass began “Quasi moto…” (In this fashion…) And so that became his name. I now only hope that it is restored before I kick my own bucket.

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  27. Years ago we visited Paris. We visited when the weather was nice. It rained once during the three days we were there. It was a sunny day when we visited Notre Dame. I remember the statute of Charlemagne outside the cathedral. They had a little gift shop that sold picture postcards. Our visit to Paris was a pleasant surprise. I had heard about the rude French and everywhere we went, they were lovely. And they seemed to understand my Sign Language too.

    Heartbroken by the sight of the fire at the lovely Cathedral. Grateful for the wonderful people who want to help rebuild the Cathedral.

    Diana

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