60 Years Ago Today

Saturday, 14 June 1952:

At 7:45 a.m. Alicia and I ate breakfast which consisted of oranges and apples. Next was a meeting about opera tickets. As we left the Republique Hotel, we saw women riding bikes with their dresses billowing in the wind.

At 10 a.m. we departed to the Hotel de Ville, a Renaissance municipal building, where the affairs of the city were carried on. This building and the opera were the most sumptuous buildings. Under the clock on the Hotel de Ville were the words liberty, equality and fraternity where there were hundreds of pigeons residing. There were flags flying there for a military organization ceremony centennial celebration (Official Leguard Republique de Ville military reception).

Next we headed to Notre Dame on Island Ile de la Cite. We saw the statue of Voltaire and crossed the Seine River to the Hotel Dieu, which was the oldest hospital dating back to 500 a.d. Then I observed a small shop with china which was stacked up really high as we arrived at Notre Dame. It was one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in France and was built between 1163 and 1240 on Ile de la Cite. No other building in Paris was more worthy of a visitor’s attention.

At Notre Dame the street level came up 13 steps where St. Denis was holding his head that was chopped off. There was exquisite iron work on the doors and under the balustrade was the king’s row that had 28 statues representing the 28 kings of France. It started as a Romanesque church which transitioned into the mother of all Gothic architecture in France and Europe. All distances in France were measured from the front of Notre Dame. It was in construction so long, they lost the plans.

In addition, it was supposed to have had two big spires on the top. The left portal pointed above and the right portal did not. And there was a big rose window in the center with recessed portals in front. Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame was supposed to have gone along the top to ring the bell.
Notre Dame was over 800 years old and inside Notre Dame, I couldn’t see any gold. I learned there was no gold with Gothic—that was Byzantine. But there were huge massive pillars, bundled columns, and Corinthian capitol decorations that adorned the building. The stained glass windows had rather subdued colors except for the big windows at the front sides and high up.
Some church workers wore Napoleon looking costumes as I viewed the vaulted ceilings and Joan of Arc statue. We paid 50 francs to go up and see the gargoyles. I noticed the spiral staircase, peep holes and big Notre Dame bell which weighed 13,000 tons. The bell could be heard for ten kilometers on holidays and national events. At the end of the tour everyone gave tips to the guide. I had to go back to tip the guide because I hadn’t tipped him yet.

In April 1682 Louis 14th and Queen Mary had been christened father and godmother of the Notre Dame bell. It had such a beautiful sound with the bell tower measuring two meters by six hundred meters high. In order to ring the bell it took 500 kilograms of power or a total of eight men to swing the bell with four men on each paddle. There were oak timber works to support the bell and its name was Emanuel. This was the second largest bell of Paree after the largest bell at Sacre Coeur Basilica at 17 tons. Then I had someone snap a picture of a gargoyle and me.

There was a spiral staircase, funeral hearse, and flowers on the outside of the oldest royal palace. I caught sight of a streetside john and the police department. Next we visited the Coeur de la Ste Chapelle. It was one of the smallest cathedrals in France and one of the best examples of Gothic architecture, 1200-1450 a.d. The cathedral was high reaching in order to get closer to God. It was on the grounds of the Palais de Justice where Marie Antoinette was tried and imprisoned.

Outside there was iron work on the apartment buildings and accessible Latin Quarter with its attic apartments. Then I experienced the famous Boulevard St. Germain with all of its stores, ancient forum, lions den, and Cluny Museum. We passed a French lady that was on the street knitting and selling papers.

After taking a picture of the chapel where the musicians were performing in the streets, we visited the Sorbonne University where Hugh Law went to school. Next we toured Lycee Saint Louis, an ancient college, with its library, Bibliotheque de Universitie, and round amphitheater lecture rooms. In these amphitheater rooms doctors’ five hour examinations were held where the public was invited to attend. And these rooms were used to teach French to foreigners of all ages and where students worked on their master’s degrees.

There was a beautiful painting above the lecturer’s desk with accompanying plaques presenting the faculty of the school. Other paintings included Corneille, Moliere, Pascal, Bossiret, Descartes, Racine, and Cardinal Richlieu. There were paintings on the ceiling, beautiful gold work around the pictures, and gold velvet on the doors. As I looked around at the paintings, I was distracted by a one armed man who came in. Focusing back at the art, I looked at statues of Victor Hugo and Pasteur.

With repairs being made to the front of the church of Sorbonne, the inside of the church had the original organ at the back of the chapel. The tomb of Richlieu, cardinal of France, was buried there along with his whole family and had marvelous carved details on his statue—folds, lace, wrinkles in hands—by sculpture Girardon. In 1694 it was made out of one block of marble and his hat hung above his statue. Also, a mural of Richlieu in a gold robe was three centuries old. At the end there was a statue, sculpture of bronze, of Cardinal Richlieu on his death chair by LeFavre in 1642. He died while writing with his eyes open at age 57.

The courtyard had lines drawn representing the original Sorbonne. There were exams going on so we couldn’t go into the library. Then I discovered the murals of middle ages characters and talked to a student about Latin and Greek languages. Herr Watkins had attended this school for about two years.

A student showed us around and helped us find a restaurant and pastry shop. At the restaurant the waiter accidentally spilled water on my skirt. The man was in a tizzy, because all of us didn’t want full dinners. I could hardly wait to see what the soup looked like. My second thought was I wish I hadn’t ordered the soup. In fact, I certainly was not hungry when I saw the soup—it looked disgusting. I ate all my pastries instead and I could see I was going to starve to death in France.

We visited the Pantheon, a Romanesque architecture, which included the tombs of famous Frenchmen. The inscription above the entrance read Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante. It means to great men the grateful homeland. We walked around the Pantheon that was built over the tomb of St. Genevieve. We saw the tombs of Voltaire, Hugo, Rousseau, and a monument to unknown heroes. There was a list of battles with murals of Vow of Clovis at the Battle of Tolbiac and St. Genevieve. There were more murals: Joan de Arc, St. Genevieve giving Parisians confidence as the Attilons or Huns approached Paris, barbarians coming into Paris, and Le Martyre de Saint Denis.

We continued sightseeing with the Palace of Luxembourg, gardens, and Senate building. We met up with Eloise and Ginny as we walked past the Saint Sulpice Church and Abbey of St.-Germain-des-Pres. We asked a man “ou est la metro?” as we struggled with our French until he asked us if we spoke German or English. Speaking in English he gave us directions.

A couple of blocks farther on we stopped a young lady and asked “ou est la metro?” She bettered him by personally showing us to a bus stop and telling us how to take the auto bus directly to the Louvre. She informed us that the bus costs 5 francs cheaper than the metro.

Then a nice lady sat by me on the bus and showed us where to get off. I had a little trouble finding the entrance across from the Lafayette statue which was erected by U.S. school children in memory of Lafayette, a French general. We only had a half hour at the Louvre before it closed at 5 p.m. Then we transferred to another metro in order to return to the hotel to get ready for the opera. Montie Woolley showed us the way.

We were late for the reception at the LDS branch before the opera, because we couldn’t locate the address. It ended up being upstairs and we only had thirty minutes left for the reception. We sang a French song and introduced ourselves. They gave us lollipops afterwards and we sucked the lollipops as we charged down the street in our heels. The French people stared at us anyway, so one can imagine what a show that was!

The L’ Opera Building, which was built in 1669, had chandeliers of glass and gold. As we climbed up several flights of stairs at the opera the lady would not allow us into our box without a tip. She wanted 100 francs from each of us, but she settled for 100 from the five of us: Hermine, Bonnie, Alene, Lucy and me.

We sat behind a pillar, kinda sorta, and the first act had already started. Eloise finally arrived several minutes later with the news that Alice didn’t have her ticket and that the usher had kept her 1000 franc note. We tried to locate Dr. Rogers, but we had no luck.

Then we left in order to attempt to recover her change. Yea! We retrieved her money back successfully. However, we had not found Dr. Rogers. But at the end of the first act we found Dr. Rogers and there were no more tickets available. And to top it off Alice was gone and heavens knows where!

We hurried back for the second act. The box next door was empty so Eloise and I climbed over to the next box just as the lights went out. At the end of the act, I borrowed some money from Alene to go and phone the hotel to check on Alice.

Before I got to the door, the usher came bursting in talking sixty miles an hour in an excited voice. We had a stinking suspicion that the characters next door had been tattling on us. We acted dumb and walked out running headlong into Alice.

Miracle of all miracles! When hearing her story, they let her in for nothing. She had been sitting with some English people in a box right next to the stage. So Eloise, Alice and I hurry back over to her box for the next act.

It was interesting to watch the orchestra and actors at close range. We found the bar between the next act and quenched our thirst with an orange drink. We scrambled back to box 24, our original box, for the last act.

The staging of Rigoletto was superb. The set was three dimensional and in the last act there were moving clouds and storms. Rigoletto was a romantic opera with love, vengeance, and tragedy. At the end there were only two curtain calls.

The opera house was elaborate with ornate gold work, glass and gold chandeliers, murals on the ceiling, and marble stairs. There was a predominance of Americans in attendance. Afterwards, we met a tennis player from the ship and went to an American restaurant, Pam Pam, across the street. We sat at sidewalk tables which were near a colored boy and several interesting California couples, who both were staying at the Grand Hotel.

As we compared notes, the conversation was fascinating about our trip and theirs. They came on Ille de France which was leaving Le Havre harbor as we were coming in on the Sibijak. Then I ordered a bacon tomato sandwich with cheese to go, for lunch tomorrow, you know.

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