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Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Notre Dame View of Paris (Part Two)

  For our second look at Paris from Notre Dame we will climb a little higher.  The following photographs were taken from the top of the south tower.  In this photo you can see it, ringed with a safety fence for all of those people who have trouble staying upright on a parapet.  In fact, it was very windy that day and the safety fence was not a bad idea.
  The towers stand 226 feet above the square, housing five bells.  Its biggest bell, Emmanuel, is used to mark the hours of the day.  It was also rung to announce the liberation of the city from the Nazis in the middle of the night.
  Facing west, you can see the towers of Saint-Sulpice on the left, which means our apartment was just off to the right of them.  The steeple from Saint-Germain-des-Pres is in the middle, just below the golden dome of les Invalides.  The foreground is the Latin Quarter.

  Here we see Saint-Sulpice on the right now, with a great view of the Sorbonne University on the left.  (The dome with the vertical stripes of green copper is the University's Observatory.)  At top center, you can see the controversial Montparnasse Tower, which is controversial for obvious reasons.  Though there is talk of tearing it down, I came to sort of like it there.  Yes, it makes no sense, but it is unique, and is an easy landmark to use for navigation when out walking.
  In the center you can see two cathedrals: on the right, the bigger one is the 15th century Saint-Severin, on its left is the smaller Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre from the 13th century.  In the Square below it, called Rene Viviani, you can just make out the oldest tree in Paris.  A locust tree, it was planted in 1602, and can be seen on the side of the church, with open gravel to its left.  Across the street from the square, on the right, is the famous Shakespeare and Company, an English language bookstore opened after WWII.  Though not the original one run by Sylvia Beach (made famous by her customers Hemingway and Joyce) it is an enduring symbol of English writers in Paris to this day.
Still on the south side of the tower, you can see the commanding dome of the Pantheon, where Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, and Dumas the Elder are entombed.  This is the heart of the student neighborhoods.  The Latin Quarter earned its name from all the students in the area, centuries ago, always in the cafes, discussing and arguing the day away, in their lingua franca, Latin.
  To the left of the Pantheon, you can see Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, built in the 16th century, where you can find the tomb of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  Blaise Pascal is also buried there.  Movie fans will recognize the steps on one corner of the church, where Gil Pender, Owen Wilson's character in Midnight in Paris finds a magical portal to 1920's Paris.
  This back view of the cathedral looks down over the smaller island Ile Saint-Louis, an early example of urban planning, where Henry IV (and continued by Louis XIII) took an old cattle pasture and planned every inch of it as a new sub-division.  It is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Paris.
  On the left you can see Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais.  Though the present building was erected in the 16th century, the earliest mention of the church itself comes from the 5th century.  Sadly, in 1918, a shell from the infamous German "Paris Gun" (which had a range of 81 miles), hit the church during a Good Friday service, killing 88 worshipers.
  The Seine, as seen here, is traversed by the Pont Louis-Phillipe, built in the 1830s by France last King, Louis-Phillipe the First (and last).  The present bridge was built in 1860.
  Next we'll climb back down to the Gallery of Chimeras for a closer look at the oddballs gathered on the balcony.

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