Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I guess it's nice here, too

Back to work

We made it safely back and have been so busy the last two days, what with working and being totally jet-lagged, that we haven't had time to post a conclusion to our blog! So, if you've been waiting for our plane to land, please rest assured that it did. And except for being asked about five times if we'd brought any raw meat or dairy products back to the United States with us, customs was relatively painless.

Thanks to advances in modern technology, it's possible to view a few of the photos M took on our trip. They are to be found here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/twinsabroad

Have fun, virtual travelers! Until next time!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

At the airport

Here we are again, not because we have anything interesting to add, but because we have nothing better to do than surf the internet (30 minutes for 3 euros). The arrangement of the Paris airport can only be described as - to use a French word - bizarre. You don't go through security until you get to your gate. Each airline is responsible for its own security. But other services are provided by the airport. So, if you want to use the bathroom, you have to go out of the gate and then come back through security again. However, you can get coffee (and internet access) at the gate. Oui, c'est vraiment bizarre.

We have a very short day ahead of us. We leave Paris at 11:00am, arriving Copenhagen about 1:00pm. We leave Copenhagen at 3:30pm, and arrive Seattle 4:30pm. Sounds like an amazing flight, doesn't it? Something like 3,000 mph.

Friday, October 24, 2008

At the end of the day

We had dinner at a little Greek restaurant on the Left Bank. Sounds pretty convincing, doesn't it? It's actually just a gyro place, called "Maison de Gyros." Not exactly French cuisine, but delicieux tout de meme.

Au revoir à Notre Dame

We spent most of the day at the Invalides, which is the museum of military history. It was full of appalling weapons, images of carnage from various conflicts, and countless uniforms. The history of France is more full of compromise and failure than ours, but we're gaining on them.

After that we walked along the Seine. Three times we encountered gypsies who had a new money-making scheme that we hadn't seen before. She or he pretends to find a gold ring on the sidewalk just as you are passing. She or he then asks if it is yours, with expressions of wonderment. Is it real gold? You can keep it - it's your lucky day! Somehow, they hope to get money out of the scheme. I guess we'll never know exactly how that would happen.

We finished up at Notre Dame for Vespers and Mass. Au revoir, et à bientôt!

A new way to see Paris

This is the hip new way to see Paris. Favored, primarily, by the young and athletic.

At Napoleon's tomb

Here rests Bonaparte. It is said that he is enclosed in six coffins: of lead, granite, porphyry, etc. Was it King Louis-Philippe's idea of honoring the deposed emperor? Or of preventing him from getting out? Around the tomb, twelve great caryatids watch at the emperor's tomb, symbols of military triumph dangling from their fingers. They watch and wait; ready, perhaps, to notify the proper authorities should he seek to emerge.

Dernier jour

It was our last day in Paris. We decided to go somewhere we'd never been - the Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. Above his magnificent porphyry tombeau, his famous coat and hat hover, seemingly awaiting his return.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Report on Strasbourg

We are back at the gare, waiting for the train to return us to Paris. We greatly enjoyed our day in Strasbourg, which was a lot smaller than it appeared on the map. After touring the cathedrale, we had lunch. I had quiche lorraine avec salade and M had ratatouille. At the table next to us was a homeless man who ordered SIX eggs, sunny side up. It was quite something to see them all on a plate together. He smothered them in salt and pepper and then set to. He tried to accuse the man at the table next to him of stealing his money, but as the man was a Japanese tourist he didn't get very far. Finally he pulled the money out of his pocket and muttering left it on the table.

The cathedral is spectacular. It was briefly protestant after the Reformation. When it was reconquered by Catholic France, the king ordered that in every village where there were at least 7 Catholic families left, the choir would be Catholic and the nave would be Protestant. There are still 100 churches in Alsace-Lorraine that are shared between the two. We saw one here, though it looked to us like the Catholics got the nave and the choir, and the Protestants a side chapel.

There is a legend that the most beautiful carvings on the south side of the cathedral are the work of Sabine von Steinbach, the brilliant daughter of Erwin von Steinbach, the architect of parts of the cathedral.

One of the highlights of the cathedral is an enormous mechanical clock which features Christ and the Apostles, a crowing rooster, angels, death with his scythe, and much more. At 12:20, the clock comes to life: the apostles process past, bowing to Christ, and the rooster crows three times in remembrance of Peter and flaps his mechanical wings. Of course, since we arrived about 1:45 pm, we didn't get to see this happen. Eh, bien, c'est la vie.

After the cathedral, we went to two marvelous museums. They so prostrated us that it was all we could do to drag ourselves to the station, where we are sitting in a state of aesthetic torpor.

Strasbourg

C'est belle, non?

On the way to Strasbourg

Yes, the train is definitely the way to travel. Here's the view from the window at the moment.

Sur le train pour Strasbourg

En route! Today we are going to Strasbourg, a city on the Rhine. We really wanted to go the last time we were here but owing to the strike we weren't able to. It's a perfect sunny day in Paris - I hope it's this nice in Strasbourg.

This train leaves from the Gare de l'Est. It was from here that 70,000 French Jews were deported during WW2, of whom 2500 returned. There is a memorial, but it is telling that the plaques were put up in this order: honoring the "patriots" who had been sent to work camps during the occupation - that was clearly put up in the 40's. Honoring the Jews - not until 1993. "Le chagrin et la pitie," indeed.

Now I'm going to read "Murder on the Orient Express," which I downloaded to my Kindle on purpose to read on the train. A bientot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Impression du soir

Ah, Paris! This is Notre Dame by night avec Batobus floating down the Seine in the foreground. The only problem with my Blackberry is that it doesn't take good pictures. Or play movies. And sometimes it's hard to dial a phone number. Great for blogging, though.

Ah, yes...

Those Kindles were a really good idea. Only thus could she be reading Wodehouse on a whim as we fly through Burgundy on the TGV.

Au revoir a Lourdes

We are on the TGV, destination: Paris. This time we have reserved seats so we get to sit together. A great advantage, to my way of thinking. We haven't decided what to do yet this afternoon. A bientot, blogue-lecteurs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rosary procession II

Our second experience of the rosary procession was quite a contrast to the first. It was literally pouring rain: it was coming down so hard that we couldn't hear the opening announcements telling us which mysteries would be prayed. Whereas last night there was a beautiful sea of candles as far as you could see, tonight it was nothing but umbrellas buffeted by the wind, and by the time we turned the corner halfway along the procession route, not a single candle was still burning. By the time we got to the basilica, most people had given up so we ended up close to the front (see photo). Still, probably 600 stayed to the end of the 3000 or so who had begun, including many of the malades, well wrapped in rain slickers and protected from the worst of it by their faithful "brancardiers." During the fifth mystery we saw the leader of the procession carrying away his jaunty rainbow-colored umbrella, absolutely pulverised by the wind. Which just goes to prove that Mary has an excellent sense of humor.

At the grotto

This was the scene this afternoon at the grotto. Lourdes is really amazing. It's so completely "commercialized," crowded with hotels with absurdly pious names (Hotel Lisieux, Hotel La Solitude, Hotel St Sacrement), and lined with shops all selling the same array of tasteless statues of Our Lady of Lourdes, cheap rosaries, and containers for Lourdes water ranging from 1 oz to 1 gallon. But at the same time the holiness of the place does not seem to be at all diminished by any of this.

New mosaics

I think even Msgr Benson would have approved of these new mosaics, installed this year on the facade of the lower basilica. They are the work of Marko Ivan Rupnik SJ, the same artist who did the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in Rome. They depict the mysteries of light. I think they're actually really good! They also have beautiful smaller icons of the Madonna and Child by the same artist placed at the entrance to the grotto area.

Nous aimons Lourdes

After lunch we toured the Basilica. As Robert Hugh Benson said, "Let me be frank. These buildings are not really beautiful. They are enormous, but they are not impressive; they are elaborate and fine and white, but they are not graceful. I am not sure what is the matter with them." But the Basilica appears to advantage from this angle, on the hillside where they have a life-size Way of the Cross.

Mission accompli

We finished the Jubilee way at the church where Bernadette made her first communion. We crowded in with pelligrini da Torino. Then we went to the Cafe Little Flower for lunch.

The Kindles are amazing. Thanks to them, we were able to read Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson's essay "Lourdes" last night. I think Lourdes hasn't changed much at all since then (1914).

On the Chemin

When we got to the cachot, we found the entrance jammed with Oklahomans on pilgrimage. We slipped in among them but our brown hair gave away the fact that we were not part of their group. Only when we came out did we discover that there were about 600 people waiting, whom we hadn't seen because they were wrapped around one of the curvy little streets. Oops.

After the jail, the chemin took us to the church where Bernadette was baptised. The church burned down, but the font is still there.

Le chemin du jubilé

After Mass we followed the Jubilee Way that winds through some of the highlights of Lourdes. It's very simple - you follow a blue line painted on the road. We went to the mill where Bernadette was born. The family was actually doing quite well until Bernadette was 10. Then the combination of a drought, a cholera epidemic, and an economic recession forced the family to give up the mill and move into the old cachot, an abandoned jail.

Lourdes by daylight

We just attended the English Mass which was said by a wild and crazy English Redemptorist. Now we're on our way to tour the Basilicas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Torchlight Rosary

Corinna is doing a lot better (thanks to the Lourdes water?) so we went to the rosary procession. It was out of this world. If we could pray the rosary like that at St James, we'd have more than a half dozen at holy hour! There must have been 5,000 people praying in every language you can imagine. Unfortunately, beautiful as it was, it was impossible to photograph; hence this text only blog.

At Lourdes

There are hundreds of these candles burning near the grotto. The ones in front are bigger than our paschal candle.

En route

We are on the TGV en route to Lourdes. The train was overbooked so we didn't get to sit together. M is clear at the other end of the car from me. I believe we are in Dau, which means we have two stops to go before Lourdes.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Therese's parish church

Therese was a parishioner at the cathedral in Lisieux. She attended daily Mass in this chapel. Ironically, the chapel was added to the Cathedral by Bishop Pierre Cauchon, the bishop who signed the death-warrant for Joan of Arc. His reward for doing so was his appointment as Bishop of Lisieux. Quelle ironie. They say that offering the Chapel was his act of penitence for what he had done.

Beatification

The Beatification took place just before the Gloria. We all waved brightly colored cloths which they had given us in our pilgrim gift bags. We also sang a song in their honor which was a setting of words of Therese: "The Lord gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth. Blessed parents of Therese, Louis and Zelie Martin!" It was actually pretty catchy.

Lisieux 2

We've been at it for about 35 minutes and we haven't got to the Kyrie yet!

In Lisieux

Somehow we made it to the Gare St Lazare by 5:45am to catch the special train. But we made up for it by sleeping until the train was slowing down on arriving in Lisieux. Now we are shivering among some hundreds of Catholiques pieuse in chilly seats in front of the Basilique.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

El Senor de Milagros

Who knew there was a sizable Central American population in Paris? We happened to attend a special Mass in honor of el Senor de Milagros at Notre Dame tonight. They carried this amazing float covered in flowers: Jesus on one side, Mary on the other. A brass ensemble accompanied the procession, on foot. Guitars and flutes, wildly amplified, accompanied the Mass.

Msgr Jacquin, the recteur of Notre Dame, was the presider. At one point during the homily (which he was not giving) he left his seat to speak with the choir director. Then he came back. He made it with time to spare, however, since the homily was given in French, then Spanish.

Now we're waiting for the garcon to bring our dinner. Here it is! More later!

The fuel of tourisme

It's a choice between paying €5.50 for a cup of coffee, and collapsing on the sidewalk. Most people end up choosing the former.

Les enfants de Paris

I think every 3 year old in the city is here at the Jardin du Luxembourg. They are sailing boats, riding ponies, etc, etc. C'est charmant.

Notre Dame des Victoires

This was St Therese's favorite church in Paris. We stopped in to light a few candles. Now we're off to find some lunch. It's already 1pm. Les temps volent, n'est-ce pas?

Place de la Concorde

Two giant fountains and an obelisk from Luxor mark the place where most of the public executions took place during the Revolution, including those of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Un beau matin

It's a perfect morning in Paris. We're not going to the Louvre now, though. Instead we're going to walk through the Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde. A bientot.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Paris by moonlight, sort of

I don't know whether this photo will look like anything. It's taken from the top of the Tour Montparnasse, the highest skyscraper in Paris (56 stories).

Obamania


Obamania is alive and well in Paris. There are many books about him in the shops and he is on the cover of many of the magazines. He's even on the cover of 'Sport,' with an article inside about how good he is at basketball. We bought ourselves a copy of 'Obama: une petite encyclopedie.' Some of the definitions are quite funny. For example, "fist bump: intraduisible."

L'apres midi

We are at N-D, waiting for Vespers to begin. You can tell who the regulars are because they look sourly at the tourists who are snapping pictures. As you can imagine, they look sour most of the time.

On our way here we stopped at Shakespeare and Co. It has changed. They removed the bed on the second floor which was supposedly for impecunious artists to crash in. They also fixed the stairs. Maybe someone fell down the old ones and sued.

A la musee

We are just finishing our visit to the Musee Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris. It has many interesting curios, such as this portrait of le bon Docteur Guillotin, whose invention of a new and more efficient method of execution helped make the French Revolution possible.

Now we're heading to the neighborhood of Les Halles to see the Centre Pompidou and get some lunch. J'ai bien faim, moi.

Petit dejeuner sur le Boul'Mich

We stopped for breakfast at an "American style" latte place. It's a perfect sunny day in Paris. We are going to walk along the Seine. A bientot, mes amis.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Notre Dame de Paris

We are sitting in the Jardin Jean XXIII just behind the Cathedrale. It took about 40 minutes to get from the airport into the city. Not exactly a scenic trip, as we passed mostly vast, graffiti-covered tenements a la Zola before going underground for the second half of the trip. But when we emerged at Luxembourg station, we were suddenly in paradise; that is, the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Paris has not changed much, except that they really cleaned up the exterior of N-D for the Pope's visit, with fresh paint on the doors. They also cleared out the yard behind the cathedral, which was formerly filled with fragments of medieval statuary. And they opened a Subway sandwich shop practically next door to Shakespeare and Co. Quelle horreur!

Nous sommes arrivees

Nous sommes ici!

Kandidat

Still in Stockholm

But they're showing the debate!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sleepless in Stockholm

We're still here at the Stockholm airport. This time we are blogging from an Internet kiosk. We paid 3 euros for an hour of Internet time and it´s imperative that we use up every last moment. However, I´m so tired it will be difficult to think of anything to say. We missed the final presidential debate, being on the plane, but it sounds like our guy won. Tomorrow we intend to stop and light an 8 day candle at... where else? Notre-Dame des Victoires. Hehehe.

Arlanda airport

Though it may look like we are sitting in the IKEA showroom, we are actually at a coffee shop in the Stockholm Airport having a cup of coffee. Our SAS flight arrived 45 minutes early, which means we have about 3.5 hours to wait before our flight to Paris.

SAS!

We are looking forward to sampling the onboard entertainment options. They have "Prince Caspian," "Get Smart," "The Incredible Hulk," and "Kit Kittredge." Too bad the flight is only 8.5 hours. See you in Stockholm!

To Paris, via Stockholm

We are the first people to arrive at Gate M15... Ridiculously early, as usual. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but it's pouring rain. Now I'm going to go see if there's anything good at the snack place.

And another thing

In my last post I forgot to mention the most annoying thing of all. The person who introduced the Luddite priest I mentioned was a little lady of 70 or so. She came to the microphone and tittered. "I have to say, I feel like Sarah Palin up here, among all these great male leaders." Huh?????????????!

On to Paris

We are on the van to the airport. The last keynoter was a priest from the diocese of Wichita. We found him dreadfully annoying. He spent much of the time lauding what I believe politicians refer to as "small town values" and incidentally getting in digs at anyone who owns a large home, has more than one car, a fancy cell phone, a Wii, or a deluxe bathroom. He seemed actually to believe that it was more virtuous to have an outhouse than a flush toilet. Meanwhile he conveyed his message by means of an elaborate PowerPoint presentation filled with images downloaded from the Internet. Whatever.

Now we're bound for O'Hare, which we will have ample time to explore as our flight doesn't leave for quite some time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back at the Cathedral

We've returned to Holy Name for the evening Mass. We're closer to the front this time. This is a shot of the Cardinals' galeros hanging from the ceiling above the altar.

The next session

Yes, this one was quite different. It's basically a puff piece for a Denver parish. They proudly shared their statistics: 4.5 million per year in the Sunday collection. A blue ribbon school. Thousands of volunteers. The pastor was asked what his role was, and he said "I'm literally priest, prophet, and king. I'm the mediator of God's presence for my people."

Second to last session

Now I am sitting in "Crystal Ballroom C" waiting for the last breakout session to begin. The one I just left was very interesting. It was given by the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Chicago. It's in the "Back of the Yards" neighborhood, as they call it - meaning the old stockyards. Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" is actually set in that parish and begins with a wedding in the church.

The parish is only 20 square blocks. It's full of violence and drugs; the pastor buried three kids under the age of 18 in the past 6 months. There are 600 houses in foreclosure and 60-70% of the kids drop out of high school.

The parish has all kinds of amazing programs for kids. But the pastor apologized at the beginning because they're not really a stewardship parish. After all, they are $1 million in debt and their weekly collection is only $5,000.

The next presentation is about a mega-parish. More than 6,000 families and more than 3,000 volunteers. (!!!)

Self-portrait No. 2

From the inside.

Self-portrait No 1

From the outside...

On our break

We stopped at the Millennium Park on our way back to the hotel. They have this amazing sculpture. It is a cross between a circus mirror and a work of art. Our self-portrait will follow...

American Gothic

We never realized it was called "gothic" because of the gothic shape of the window behind them. The other people in the gallery are speaking French.

Tuesday afternoon...

...in Chicago. "Art isn't easy, any way you look at it."