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.