Paris Day 5 – St. Eustache & Dinner

Sunday afternoon we returned on the RER train from Versailles to the St. Michel-Notre Dame station then transferred to our home station at Les Halles.  We had not yet visited Sainte Eustache, a Gothic/Renaissance cathedral built between 1532 and 1637 and rivaled in Paris only by Notre Dame.   Sunday seemed an appropriate time.

Just prior to leaving for Paris, I’d heard from a distant cousin who shares my love of genealogy.  She wrote that if we had a chance, we should visit St. Eustache because of ancestral ties.  The guidebooks subsequently revealed that Mme. de Pompadour and Richelieu were baptized at St. Eustache. So were my seventh and eighth great grandfathers before they came to Quebec in the mid-1600’s.  When I read her email I smiled.  In the photos we’d seen of the apartment we’d already reserved, one window view showed St. Eustache.

The roof of the grand Cathedral was a daily sight for us from our 6th floor apartment; seeing it up close was awesome.  In the cooling air, we walked around the outside then stepped inside for a tour around the roped off perimeter of the seating.  Parishioners were seated but all was hushed.  A posting told us of an organ recital at 5:30, followed by the 6:00 PM Mass.

The pipes of a large wall organ echoed gloriously inside the huge church.  Later we were asked if it was doom and gloom or alleluia music. Neither and both, I think, and purely magnificent.  The sounds seemed to transport us back in time to an earlier era.

Mass was spoken and sung (beautifully) in French, of course.  Since neither of us are fluent in the language, we did not understand many of actual words.  But from the order of the Mass and from the intonations, we did understand the prayers, and their meaning.  Very moving.  Spiritual.

After Mass at St. Eustache, we walked over to a nearby restaurant,Au Pied du Cochon.  Although the restaurant was crowded we did not wait long for a seat.  We dined on beef and duck and vegetables, and shared a small bottle of Bordeaux.  Afterward we enjoyed dessert – creme brulee at its finest, and rich chocolate.   The suited waiter seemed amused when I wanted to take home our small empty wine bottle (labels make a memorable souvenir).  As we finished, our waiter brought us small glasses of Grand Marnier.  The fine orange liqueur provided the perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Monday would be our last day in Paris. I didn’t want to think of leaving.

Paris, Day 5 Early – Versailles

Sunday we took a day trip out of Paris to the Palace of Versailles.   Château de Versailles is located about 20 km. southwest of Paris, and started as a hunting cottage for Louis XIII.  His son, Louis XIV, the Sun King, transformed it into a lavish palace.  In 1682 it became the seat of the Royal Court and the French government.  Louis XV and Louis XVI enlarged both the palace and the gardens.

For a shorter walk, our guidebooks suggested we take the RER train to Versailles—Rive Gauche.  The train was filled.  After about 30 to 40 minutes, we arrived at Versailles—Chantiers.  The train stopped. It was not continuing to Rive Gauche.  Everyone eventually got off, some of us confused since the signs said this was the Rive Gauche train. Instead, we were directed to walk straight, through the town and toward the Château.  The walk took about fifteen minutes.

As it had on previous days, our Paris Museum Pass helped bypass the long line for tickets.   Just as we passed through security I heard a plop on the floor ahead, looked down, and saw a man’s wallet.  I picked it up and saw a Texas driver’s license.  My husband yelled “Texas!” to the crowds ahead, thinking the Texan would turn around.  No one responded so he gave the wallet to Security.   In the crowded tourist spots of Paris, we saw many warning signs about pickpockets.  Hopefully, the owner didn’t assume his pocket had been picked, and was able to claim his wallet.

The palace courtyard was vast, windy, and cold.  We followed the crowds  into the royal halls.  English audio tours allowed us to key in to each of the Salons, learning a bit more about the palace, and those who had lived there.  The Hall of Mirrors was especially stunning.  Just after the Queen’s bedchamber, where Marie Antoinette had given birth to her children, a ceiling restoration was in progress.

It’s difficult for me to describe my feelings as we walked the halls of Versailles.  The lavishness is beyond belief.  Rich, sumptuous. Seeing it helped me better understand the horrors that came in the French Revolution.  The story of the palace preservation for history is equally remarkable.

After the self-guided tour we stopped into a crowded cafeteria to grab a sandwich and salad.  We ate then stepped back into the courtyard with a plan to tour the gardens.   A bitter wind swept in.

There was to be a fountain exhibition at 5:30 PM, one of the last of the season, but it was only early afternoon.  On a warmer day we would have enjoyed seeing the lighted fountains, and the domain of Marie Antoinette.  But so much remained to see in Paris and only one day remained.  We strolled back through town toward the train.