Tag Archive | Notre Dame

French Friday #26: Wishin’ and hopin’ and dreamin’

Last night, Konik woke up sad and scared. After cuddling with him for a few minutes, I put him back to bed and returned to my own. He went right back to sleep, but by that time, my brain wouldn’t turn off. For some reason, I started thinking about going to France. It’s not an unusual thought for me. I’ve been wishing for 6 years that we could go back. No, I’ve been dreaming about going back for fifteen years, ever since I returned from my first trip back in high school. I’ve tried to explain this longing to my family and to others who are curious about why I care so much about a country that isn’t my own. But it is mine.

Louvre courtyard

When we were living there, my parents and youngest brother came to visit us. My brother asked me if I missed the United States. It was a good question. I did miss the U.S., but in an entirely different way than how I miss France when I’m away from there. I explained to him that it’s like the difference between being away from family versus being away from a lover. I’ve lived away from my family pretty much since I left for college, with the exception of the year following my graduation. Since that time, it’s a good year if I see any member of my family twice in a 12-month span. I do miss them, and I look forward to those times when we can be together, but it’s not an all-consuming ache. When Mr. Gren and I were dating, he went away on a month-long trip to Slovakia (and proposed three days after he returned). While we were apart, my heart ached for him; I wanted to be in his company; I missed him.

Notre Dame south tower

As an American, the U.S. is my home, my family. I know the ins and outs, the good, the bad and the ugly about life in America, just like we all know the best and worst parts of our own family. Then we meet someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We know that person isn’t perfect and that there will be times that he or she frustrates the heck out of us, but they’re worth it. The love and passion is deep enough to forgive the faults.

Vertical view of the Eiffel Tower

France is far from a perfect place. It has flaws and failings, but I love it with all my heart. And my heart longs to be back there. I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to live there again, but I continually hope and dream for the day that we can visit again. Rana was born there and although she was only 9 months old when we returned to the States, she, too, feels some of that longing to be back. We’ve talked to her so much about our time there, and all the places we took her. At one year old, she recognized photos of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. She has heard our stories and can retell them as though she remembers the event. Picnicking on the Champs de Mars, squealing with joy at the sight of Winged Victory in the Louvre, falling asleep on the metro… And, funnily enough, Rana has some peculiar French mannerisms that I can only assume she absorbed through osmosis in her nine months there. France is in her blood, too.

Clock on the Hôtel de Ville

So last night, I was imagining what it would be like to finally take our family on a trip to France. My imagination skipped right over the 9 hour flight with three small children and fast-forwarded to the part where I could show them the Eiffel Tower in real life. Let them touch it. Stage a picture in the Champs de Mars where we had that picnic so long ago. I imagined their reaction at being in the courtyard of the Louvre, being able to dabble their fingers in the triangle pools, entering through the pyramid, seeing the sphinx, touching the walls of the medieval Louvre. I pictured their faces standing in front of Notre Dame’s imposing façade, hearing the beautiful tones of the organ, inhaling the incense, then going outside to admire the statue of Charlemagne (who they know all about thanks to the brilliant videos made by historyteachers on YouTube). I smiled at the thought of their wonderment at experiencing the market and introducing them to my vegetable man. And the best part of all would be knowing that then they would come away with their own conscious memories of all these sights, sounds, and smells. And it’s good to have someone to share memories with when that longing sets in.

Grounds at Versailles


French Friday #11: The Doors

When I made my first trip to Paris in high school, there was a guy in my class whose name was Kenny Rogers, but he looked like Jim Morrison. He carved my name on a safety rail overlooking the gardens at Versailles because he thought it would be funny. Thanks, Kenny. And on our “free” day in the city, he chose to go to the cemetery Père Lachaise on the east side of Paris to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. Maybe it’s because he looked like Jim or maybe that was just a coincidence, but he was a fan of The Doors’ music. And that was the first I knew of Jim’s inglorious end and burial in Paris. But, those aren’t the doors I’m going to talk about today.

Once upon a time, architects designed buildings for quality and permanence and with the future in mind, they made sure that their buildings were as beautiful as possible. All sorts of artisans were employed to enhance these edifices — carpenters, masons, sculptors, painters, tile workers and more. Every part of the building received special artistic care, knowing that generations and generations would admire their work. In our young United States, a door is rarely a decorative feature, so enjoy some of these stunning works of art.

Portail St. Etienne at Notre Dame de Paris

This door is exclusively for the use of the bishops. This door is dedicated to Saint Stephen and the sculptures represent his martyrdom.

Interior doors in the Napoleon III apartments in the Louvre

Check out the gilding on those doors! They practically glow.

Main doors on a church in Dijon

Note how all the shapes on the door are raised.

Doors on the Palais de Justice in Grenoble

I like the waffle effect on this one.

Doors into an apartment in Grenoble

Around the corner from the apartment where I lived in Grenoble, was a tiny little street called Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For such a short and unimportant little road, it had some of the most interesting doors in the whole city. This set was one of them and the next is my very favorite.

Ancient mystery on a door

It features a Sator Square or magic square. It is a palindrome in all directions, reading Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. The Latin words mean, roughly, Sower Moves towards Holds Work Wheel. No one knows for sure what that signifies, but theories abound! One idea is that it was a code for early Christians to find safe houses during times of persecution. The phrase Pater Noster can also be found in the square leaving AO for Alpha Omega. Alchemists and folk magicians have also laid claim to the Sator Square. Whatever it is, it’s fascinating!

How many interesting doors have you seen around town lately? It’s probably more likely that you’ve been listening to The Doors.