Date: Friday, July 11, 2014 (for Wednesday, July 9, 2014)
Time: 10:23 pm local time (4:23 pm EST)
Place: Hotel Mayflower, Leiden, the Netherlands
I actually started this blog yesterday evening, but I didn’t get beyond “Hello folks!” before I decided to go to bed. So I’ll try again now.
Wednesday morning dawned chilly and overcast. We left the hotel early again, heading to Notre Dame, the Cathedral of Our Lady in Paris. A Cathedral is where the Bishop has his seat, and in Paris it is at Notre Dame. My closest guess is that our equivalent is the conference office, or the church most closely associated with it.
Dr. Wohlers lectured for a few minutes before letting us go into the museum. He started to outline for us the six periods he sees in French history. In very short detail here they are:
We got to go into Notre Dame by this point, and it’s very beautiful inside, though darker than you would expect for a Gothic church (which was built specifically to let light in). The rose window was simply gorgeous, and there was an air of ancient, sacred goings on—though it could have just been incense.
As I was walking around I heard the organ being played, which was very exciting. As I continued to walk, though, I realized that he wasn’t actually playing anything. I got my hopes up that they let Joe Schmo go up into the organ loft and fiddle around, but alas and alak, it was only being tuned.
Notre Dame was built in 1163, though it wasn’t completed until the 19th century. That’s close to 800 years! The original builder, Maurice de Sully, didn’t even expect to see his building finished. He did it out of a desire and a willingness to serve God (actually, technically, to serve Mary, but we’ll take what we can get).
We walked around the outside of the Cathedral to see the flying buttresses and gargoyles. I can finally say that after studying and learning for almost 20 years, I finally understand the point of a flying buttress, and how they work. Special thanks goes to Kathy for taking the time to explain it.
We walked around Paris for a while, stopping by the opera house where The Phantom of the Opera is set. After that we were freed, and I went with Joel and the Laughlins. Little did I know that we would end up at an expensive Chinese restaurant, but I made the best out of it and it was decent.
The afternoon was spent at the Louvre, which was very exciting. I paid the extra E5 to get the audio guide, which was able to take me on a guided tour. We were given two hours, and that was the perfect amount of time. The tour I chose was the “Three Highlights” tour, though I’m not quite sure what the three were, since they also showed me several others.
The first thing that I saw was the Winged Victory, which had just recently been put back out on display, after having restoration work done on it. It is a statue that looks like an angel (without a head or arms) landing on a boat (or part of a boat). It’s famous and kind of pretty.
Then I got to see the Venus di Milo, another statue of a lady without arms, though this one does have a head (but no shirt). She is really quite breathtaking and looks very real, though she is larger than life size. She has a calm serenity about her that is very enjoyable.
The next place I was taken was to see La Giaconda, who(m) we know as the Mona Lisa. I had been told that the guards didn’t take kindly to pictures being taken, but they weren’t stopping us, and so I got a nice picture of her, and then a selfie with her. What a memory!
In the same room as Mona, though on the opposite wall, is Véronèse’s painting of the Wedding at Cana, which is really quite nice. I discovered, however, that the old masters had no clue what it actually looked like in the Holy Lands, how they dressed, or what musical instruments were available. The painting looks like it could have come out of Rome, and there is a cellist and a violinist providing the music. Whoops!
I also got to see the very famous painting of the coronation of Napoleon, which is a misnomer. It depicts Napoleon after he has been crowned Emperor. It depicts Napoleon crowing Josephine as the Empress.
In the gift shop I saw a 3D puzzle I want to get of the Eiffel Tower, though I will look for it when I get home so that I don’t have to pay E45 for it. It’s really nice (and I believe numbered), so I think it would be fun to do.
It was raining as we left the Louvre and started to head back to the hotel. Dr. Wohlers wanted to take us to l’Arc du Triomphe, so we stopped there briefly. It’s quite impressive, and is actually a war memorial. Carved onto the inside of the arch are name after name after name, but as far as I can tell they aren’t names of people, but of places. I will have to investigate more at a later date. Also under the arch is the French answer to the Tomb of the Unknowns. This is specifically an unknown soldier from World War I, so my bet is Ben Walton (the brother of John, not the son). Carved onto the memorial are these words: “Ici repose un soldat francaise mot pour la patrie 1914-1918.” Here rests a French soldier who died for the homeland.
We made it back to the hotel unscathed, then Kathy and I ran back out to go to a couple of grocery stores. Then it was off to bed.
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 (for Tuesday, July 8, 2014)
Time: 11:12 am local time (5:12 am EST)
Place: Train from Paris to Leiden (just past Rotterdam)
I woke up Tuesday morning in France, on the way to Paris. Our train was supposed to stop at Le Gare de l’Est at about 9:30, but we didn’t stop until 10:30. It turns out that the Police either stopped our train or made us wait while they handled something at the station. My theory is that the person that was to be in our car was arrested for murder, so it was a good thing we gave him the other ticket.
I’ve just been informed that we only have 7 minutes until our stop, so I’ll get back to you…
Love to all!
Time: 8:58 pm local time (2:58 pm EST)
Place: Hotel Mayflower, Leiden, The Netherlands
We unloaded ourselves from the train and made our way to our hotel, which was on the Rue de Magenta. As we were walking out of the station selected ones of us were given box breakfasts to compensate for the hour that we were late. Unfortunately they didn’t hand me one and I wasn’t sure if I was eligible, so I didn’t push. I was hungry later.
Our hotel was quite nice, and Joel and I had a room to ourselves, though we didn’t know this at that point. We weren’t able to check in until later in the afternoon, so we put our luggage in a closet and went on our merry way down into the Paris Underground (subway system). Kaiti tells horror stories of the Underground system, but I found the trains as easy to navigate as Washington, D. C. or Vienna (my favorite transport system). The stations were a different story, however.
We managed to find our way to Versailles, which was about 30 minutes away. The trains seemed quite dirty at first, but they were easy to navigate and I felt quite safe. It was either on our way there or on the way back to the hotel in the evening that an accordion player got on the train and played for a stop or two. He played songs and tangos, and lots of fun music! I enjoyed it a lot!
We managed to miss our reservation to Versailles, so we had to wait in line which wound like a snake and was at least five or six columns wide. We heard rumors of a two hour line, but it only took one hour. The only hitch was that it had started raining, and it was that cold, misty kind of rain that is just absolutely miserable. No one was happy about needing to stand in line, but we all did it, and, at least my group, made the best of it. I was standing with Kathy and Allison, with both Laughlins right behind us. Kathy told us stories and we all chatted, letting the hour fly quickly by.
We went into Versailles and were given about an hour to go through the wing that we had bought tickets for. It was fine, but way too crowded. I have no desire to go back. It was every inch a French Baroque palace, with gilding all over the place. There was a statue or a bust or a painting of Louis XIV in just about every room, reinforcing his absolute monarchy at every opportunity.
I walked down the Hall of Mirrors, which is a very famous room, though at this moment I really don’t remember what went on there. I want to say there was some famous wedding, but I can’t tell you at this point. The ceiling is gilded and painted, and there is one wall of windows and one wall of mirrors, making for an incredibly well lit and happy room. If only there hadn’t been that many people.
We hopped back on the Underground and made it back to our hotel by about 6 o’clock. Our next appointment was 8 o’clock to go see the Eiffel Tower. We went back down into the Underground, went down a few stops, changed trains and got out after another 11 stops or something. We came up and went around the corner, and there it was. Some 900 feet tall (in comparison, the Washington Monument is only about 555 tall, or about 2/3 the size of the Eiffel Tower). We were at the perfect place to take great pictures, which we did.
Wohlers had told us that we needed to pay attention and know how to get back to the hotel in groups (since he has been to Paris many times and didn’t want to wait out until 1 am like he had done in the past). I finally found my leadership niche in our group of 5 chiefs: I’m the one who navigates the subways, so I took my job very seriously. I marked on my map exactly where we stopped and changed trains, so later on I was able to get us back to Gare du Nord (the North Train Station), which is just a few blocks away from our hotel.
I keep getting ahead of myself, though. We walked down to the Eiffel Tower, which was another 10 blocks or so. I wanted to go up (at least to the first level), but when we got down there and saw the line and the price we all chickened out (and Joel gets nervous in cities after dark), so we decided to head back. But I can say that I stood under the Eiffel Tower in France!
We walked back to the hotel, and I went to bed! The next day was quite full of great, fun, and exciting things to do!
Love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.