Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sabbatical Day 2

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

We overslept. By a lot.

Yesterday, when we checked in at our hotel, we were informed that breakfast would be served from 6:30 until 10:00 AM, in the brasserie.

By the time we heard that (about 1 in the afternoon), we had been awake for more than 20 hours and weren't expecting to sleep for at least ten more. When we settled into bed, around 9:30, we allowed jet lag to overtake us, and down deep we went.

We all got up when Coco suddenly announced that it was 10:20 AM. Rather than fly about and rush down and beg for the brasserie to keep breakfast out for us, we elected to prepare more slowly for the day and stop at a coffee shop for a breakfasty snack and then have an early-ish lunch somewhere closer to the sights.

We walked to Costa Coffee and ordered a couple of lattes for the adults and a cocoa for Gwen. Pastries included a cinnamon roll that Coco and I would share, and a piece of what appeared to be coffee cake with a pale lavender frosting by which Gwen was especially intrigued.

The coffee cake turned out to be flavored with lavender, and the child only picked at it. Mom and Dad offered the remainder of their cinnamon roll to her when they saw that she wasn't much interested in what she had (either the cake or the cocoa, which came without whipped cream and "tasted more like dark chocolate than milk chocolate").

Thus began a long walking day. The long walk would start at the Costa Coffee on boulevard des Italiens and eventually meander its way south from there to Ile de la Cite.

We found a macaroon-seller for Gwen.

And discovered that "Gwen" is a prominent syllable in many words from the region of Brittany. Many creperies have "Gwen" in their names. For example,

Le cathedral de Notre-Dame de Paris rendered us all amazed. Even Gwen stated how impressed she was. She said she wanted to climb the north tower, to view the gargoyles and see out from the top, which is something for which you can buy a ticket and do.

It was 3 o'clock or so when we stepped in line to tour the nave and chapels (free). We commiserated with a couple of English tourists about the chill. A shower that had been brewing in the northwest for a time now rumbled, and the line moved markedly faster due apparently to some leniency on the part of security officers sympathetic to our worry about lightning and rain.

By 3:30 we were inside and viewing displays about the meaning and purpose of the chapels and rose windows, and the development of the cathedral.

Each chapel, as I recall, had a stand for votive candles with a suggested donation of two euros. Gwen asked to light a candle, and we said yes, knowing why.

Just four days before, we had been to a vigil outside the home of a schoolmate of Gwen's. The little girl, a kindergartner who was scheduled to enter first grade this fall, had her life interrupted by gunfire. Her mother, father, and younger sister were in the car with her. There was no known motive behind the decision by a man to approach their car and another and to fire into them, killing the driver of the other car and the girl's mother and father. She suffered a bullet wound to the head; her sister was not shot. On Saturday night we responded to a call to prayer and testimony. We wrote cards of greeting and hope to the girl and her extended family, lighted candles, and set our prayers aloft accompanied by helium balloons. The memory was still fresh.
Our candle with others, June 6
The vigil, June 2: "GWS" - Get Well Soon
"DMI" are the girl's initials

At 4:15 or so, Coco elected to sit in the nave while Gwen and I would go up the north tower. As we walked with Coco, an announcement in French came over the public address system, but my command of French is not so good as to have understood it. I figured that it was something about hours of closure or an upcoming mass.

When we started toward our exit, police officers in Kevlar approached and ordered us to be seated in the nave - all three of us. No one, they said, would be allowed outside. That much French I understood. I think anxiety may help with comprehension.

Next, we heard sirens and at least imagined we heard a gunshot or two. Gwen asked what was going on, and Coco and I (as calmly as we could) said that we didn't know but that the police officers did know and were directing us to be seated. Because police are always interested in our safety, we said, we should do as they said and wait patiently until they would say it was OK to go outside again.

Police watch over the crowd.
There ensued two hours of being seated in the nave of Notre Dame. Fully twenty minutes of that time was spent with our hands in the air or on our heads as police observed the crowd, in order to discern, we assume, whether any of us were connected with the unnamed event that had occurred outside.

Police communicated instructions and encouragement through two priests who translated the messages into English, Spanish, and Italian. At 6:00 PM, which I assume was the time when a mass would have otherwise been occurring there, the priests led us in praying the Our Father and the Hail, Mary, first in French then in English, as well as prayers of petition and intercession. It was a strangely peaceful period during an otherwise troubling afternoon.

At about 6:45 we finally were told by the priests that the police would release each section row by row. One tour group immediately rose with their guide and attempted to assume a new, closer position in the queue. Police did their best to return them to their places, but to little avail.
They could not watch everyone always, and our withering looks usually went unregarded. Gwen was wroth with this, especially because she knew her mother needed to use a restroom and now would be forced to wait longer as a result of these opportunists!

Finally, we emerged, after being questioned individually whether we had seen anything outside. "Non," each of us told them.

Police in flak jackets and carrying automatic weapons lined our walk away from the cathedral. They weren't as reassuring a sight as I presume they had hoped to be for us, but I admit a bit of satisfaction in seeing some members of the opportunist tour group detained for having tried to slip past barriers and find their own way back. No handcuffs, but a firm talking-to in French to a crew whom I assume understood not a word.

According to Gwen's concern, our objective by this time was to find the swiftest route to a restroom. Just across the nearest pont we spotted one of the free, self-cleaning lavatories. There was another family waiting... and a man who seemed rather peeved. In fact, he was a little too peeved. And the dad of the family, who were audibly Americans, was facing the guy down as to who was going to go next into the public privy.

It became clear that this was not the place where we wanted to stop for ourselves, but we slowly walked away when we saw the American Dad shout his way past the somewhat-off-kilter native and press the button to shut the door. "I'm not sure he thought that through," said Coco, as we both realized that Mom and their two young children were left outside the restroom with the other fellow raving at them.

Throwing his arms up in the air and continuing his rant directly at Mom, the irritated one eventually walked away, shouting occasionally over his shoulder. We couldn't be sure what kept Dad inside, but we assumed that there must have been some serious intestinal matter afflicting him, for him to have enclosed himself and isolated his family so hastily.

We continued on and, a few minutes later, found relief at another comfort station. Interestingly, we saw the angry man grumbling at another group on a street corner just beyond the brasserie where we sat down for dinner. He didn't appear to recognize us, though it seemed as if he noticed my gaze at one point.

Read all my Sabbatical 2017 postings.

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