This morning we headed to Ile de Cite, the little island located in the middle of River Seine. Even though we had our pass, we could not bypass the stringent security checks to enter Saint Chapelle. Neither Theo nor I had heard about this church but the travel guides seem to highly recommend it. From the exterior, there was nothing distinctive about Saint Chapelle. The only notable feature is its tall spire, typical of a gothic church.
There are two levels to Saint Chapelle – a lower level for the commoners and an upper level for the royalty. At the upper level, the walls of the sanctuary is covered by 16 panels of multi-colored stained glass windows depicting almost every scene from the Bible. From the exterior, it was hard to imagine how it looks on the inside, but the effect of sunlight through the windows bathes the chamber in a splendid play of colors. Personally I think this is what a church should be – helping man focus on their worship of God.
The famous Notre Dame shares the same district as Saint Chapelle. I realised that Notre Dame is not specifically the name of this cathedral but rather symbolises an archetype. We passed another Notre Dame in Nice with the similar architecture make-up. Although we could ascend the 387 steps to view the origins of Victor Hugo’s literary hunchback protaganist, we did not relish expending our energies this way.
The interior of Notre Dame is also devoid of the decorations and murals that are typical of the cathedrals in Italy. I like the panel surrounding the choir stalls adorned with brass reliefs depicting scenes of Jesus’ life. It is ironic that the churches in France are more Christianly than those in Italy. After Notre Dame we paid a quick visit to the crypt archaelogique which was really a museum showcasing Roman ruins over which the Notre Dame was built.
That afternoon we made an hour journey out of Paris by the metro extension RER to Chateau de Versailles, one of King Louis XIV’s biggest palace residence. It was actually quite an inconvenient detour out of Paris and I had to admit that the trip to the chateau was a waste of time since the main focus of the museum is on French royalty lifestyle which we had totally no interest in. Turned out that the four hours we spent could have been put to better use if we had visited the science museum, with an interesting children section.
To end off our sightseeing spree, we decided on something a little more modern after getting an overload of all the historical monuments. Centre Pompidou is the epitome of modern architecture and rightfully also houses the modern art gallery in Paris. The most striking feature of Centre Pompidou is that it had been designed with all the infrastructural services outside the building, freeing out space in its interior for maximum capacity. The result is a building which has multi-colored pipes, risers and even escalators criss-crossing all over the exterior of the building.
Theo being the ever practical person commented that although the design is unique, it would be a huge headache to manage and maintain the the building since the crucial services are constantly subject to the effects of weathering. Whatever! We spent some time going through the modern art exhibits and have to agree finally that I have totally no taste or appreciation for modern art… In fact, Joel could have drawn some doodles and pass off as one of the items on display.
At the end of the long and tiring day, I added up the entrance fees to all the places we had visited using the Paris Museum Pass which totaled to 49 Euros hence justifying the purchase of the pass for 32 Euros. Theo’s aching feet would beg to differ though.