We arrived in Paris after the longest session flying imaginable and hit the ground running! At the airport we were greeted warmly by our French guide, Christine. On the trip from the airport she pointed out some features of life in Paris.
We arrived at Touring Hotel Magendie in Rue Corvisart and were quickly given our keys to our accommodation. Some of us feeling quite ravenous then headed off in search of food – discovered a restaurant open close by and ordered ham and cheese toasted sandwiches. We were presented with massive sized ham and cheese rolls and then presented with a bill of 33 Euros! Not quite the start we expected!
Up early Day 3 – Monday saw the tour leaders emerge from the group and already a sense of connectedness was evident in the way that groups formed and set off with a strong sense of enthusiasm and excitement. Our group make our first step Le Pantheon – it didn’t take long to realise the need to be alert to manoeuvring our way around the frequent ‘doggy droppings’ which permeate Paris’ walkways.
The Pantheon’s dimensions were staggering – the building, like many of the buildings we discovered throughout our ‘footsome’ journey was etched from ancient stone and built to awesome proportions!
The wall which ran parallel to the Pantheon was host to marble plaques which boasted the names of French Notables – From Saints, to artists, philosophers, writers. This building connected to the Law Centre and we were struck by the words ‘Egalitaré Liberté Fraternité’. All inspired me enormously but I was struck particularly by the last word, Fraternité – brotherhood. An obvious reference to our group of pilgrims, connected in the same purpose – to share a lived experience of Champagnat’s world.
From here we moved to St Michel’s fountain, and discovered a beautiful ruined garden. Typically, I ploughed through attempting to translate in my limited, rusty French, the information board only to discover halfway through that it was written in English close by.
We continued on to the Seine River – Avenue Des Champs Elysees – First stop here Notre Dame Cathedral – the square at the front of the imposing building was teeming with life and energy – locals, tourists, school groups, gypsies all draw to this one of many of Paris’ feature buildings. The lines to access the majestic interior were constant and we finally found ourselves inside. To say that it was breathtaking is an understatement – the numerous stained glass windows even outshone the lustre of Adriano’s (our fellow pilgrim and guide) top! The detail in the many statues, carvings and paintings were staggering and this same painstaking attention to detail was to be exposed to us time and time again in each of the other monuments visited.
From here we promptly lost the rest of our. So we headed off to the Louvre Again the external features of the buildings captured ones imagination and made me ponder on Australia’s youth as a country in terms of its’ buildings compared to those in front of me.
Alannah and I then encountered a group of young men who wanted us to sign a petition to free Africa – several of them mulled around us so we signed, then they badgered us to ‘donate’ Euros. Not really the genuine article, so we felt a bit cross with them. From there we walked to Arc De Triumphe – we realised we needed to head back towards the accommodation. So, with trusty map in hand we headed off.
I marvelled at the foresight of people who developed Paris – roads, underbuildings, archways, tunnels and lengths of parks and gardens again filled with statues, sculptures and architectures which oozes its own story. At every turn, Paris is a history, geography, art, cultural lesson and Paris’ children, accompanied by their teachers were actually living this!
Blogger: Terrie Driscoll