"" Writer's Wanderings: Paris - Left Bank and Beyond

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paris - Left Bank and Beyond

Continuing on our historical walk of Paris, we crossed the Seine to the Left Bank, looking back at Notre Dame and stopping at one of the best "Kodak picture spots."
The Left Bank (left as you go downstream) is historically famous for being home to scholars, philosophers, and poets. The street is lined along the river with street vendors selling books--all seemed to be in French though.

Along the way we were directed to stop by an old Acacia tree said to have been planted in 1602 which means it could very well have shaded those in the court of Louis XIV. Around the corner, we stopped to admire an old church, St. Julien-le-Pauvre, built while Notre Dame was still being finished.
Next we passed the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore started by Sylvia Beach, an American, in the post WWI era. It attracted literary characters of the era like Hemingway and James Joyce. Struggling writers were offered free rent for upstairs space where they could finish their works while searching for a publisher. The tradition is carried on today. The bookstore offers a variety of used English language books.
We moved on past St. Severin, through the Latin Quarter full of Greek restaurants (yes, you heard that right), and through Place St. Andre-des-Arts and Place St. Michel before crossing the river again to Sainte-Chapelle.
Unfortunately, Sainte-Chapelle was closed until 2 p.m., an hour away, so we didn't go in on this passby. On some free time later, we came back and saw the most beautiful display of stained glass windows I think I have seen anywhere. Even though the altar area was partially hidden due to restoration work, the chapel was well worth the trip back. Chairs are set in a circle so that you can sit and admire the beauty as the sun streams in through the richly colored bits of glass. This upstairs chapel is quite a contrast from the one below where we entered. Upstairs was for the royalty and elite and the entrance was through a passageway from the palace next door that is now closed off. Downstairs was where the commoners worshipped.
After a brief passby to see the oldest Metro entrance, we walked on toward the place that housed Marie Antoinette just before she met her death--the Conciergerie. Cathedral-like inside, minus the stained glass windows, it housed all sorts of political prisoners. There is a reproduction of what the room looked like where Marie Antoinette awaited her execution. Off to one side is another room that displays the crucifix she wore as well as the napkin she must have twisted in her hands as she contemplated her death.
Exiting the Conciergerie, we walked again to the Seine River and found another Metro stop where we found our way back to the hotel for a much needed nap.

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