Monday, September 15, 2008

The Pope takes over Paris

We had Friday planned as the day to visit Notre Dame and the Crypt beneath, except the Pope arrived and was holding services at ND, so it was closed. All day and half the night. And the streets were filled with gendarmes standing on corners, blowing whistles in the middle of intersections, and roaring up and down the streets in small cavalcades of cars and vans with sirens going full volume. Luckily, Sainte Chappelle was not closed (possibly because it is inside the Conciergerie) and we were able to get in. It was the one place I really wanted to see, because I had heard so much about the beautiful stained glass windows.

The photo above - in fact, all of my photos - fail to do it justice. The whole chapel is stained glass, three walls of it plus a huge round window above the entrance door. Each window is a slightly different design shape, and each one tells a different part of the story. There are no pews inside, just chairs around the perimeter for you to sit and stare, mouth open.

I have managed to visit quite a few bookshops in Paris, and this is the most famous - Shakespeare and Company was operating before WWII and the original shop, so the story goes, was closed down by a German commander when the owner refused to sell him a book. This shop is opposite Notre Dame, near St Michel metro, and has a library of old books upstairs which is just for sitting and reading, not for sale.
I also visited Abbey's Bookshop (the smallest in the world?), and several other larger shops. And found The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop as well. It seems like the smaller the shop premises, the more books they cram in, so there are towering piles everywhere that threaten to topple over as you pass. In one shop, a woman did in fact knock over a huge pile, then apologised profusely, but the assistant just said, "Oh don't worry, I do that myself at least twice a day." I guess if you work there you would either have to have a very good memory of where books are, or be excellent at finding things!

4 comments:

Lorraine said...

Fantastic photos, Sherryl.
The gendarmes can be rather scarey, can't they!

Kristi Holl said...

What gorgeous stained glass! And reading about the French book shops just makes me drool. I can't help it. Thank you so much for taking time to do the travelogue for us!
Kristi Holl
Writer's First Aid

Anonymous said...

Isn't The Red Wheelbarrow great? Beats the pants off Shakespeare, imho...
Mike

Sherryl said...

I have to agree with you there, Mike. But it seems every small bookshop in Paris has tottering piles of books just waiting to be knocked over!