Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The Seine River Tour
Continuing on past the Louvre, we entered the extensive Tuileries garden, one of several beautiful gardens in the city (see top photo). Of these gardens, we learn:
The Tuileries Gardens, as you see them today, are the work of the famous French landscape architect Le Notre who stand to build them in 1664 at the order of Louis XIV's Minister of Finance Colbert. This is the same Le Notre who laid out the parks of Versailles and it was this same Le Notre also who laid out St. James's park for Charles II of England. This garden replaced another, but vastly inferior garden, which Catherine de Medici had built there about a hundred years before Le Notre was commissioned to change and enlarge it. But even in Catherine's time, this garden was already known as the Tuileries Gardens.
We then continued over to the Seine River, where we caught the water taxi which runs a continuous circuit through the heart of the city. The first stop was the Eiffel Tower, located toward the western end of the city (see second photo). The line of tourists waiting to take the elevator up to the top was quite long, so we opted out. We enjoyed the view from the ground for awhile, having a snack underneath the tower, and then headed back to the boat. We then headed for Notre Dame, a massive cathedral built between 1200-1345 on one of the two tiny islands in the middle of river. The third photo is a view of the church from the boat.
Later, we met our friends Emmanuelle and Julija in front of the church, where we took the bottom photograph of ourselves. Emmanuelle is a French girl whose family converted to Orthodoxy some years ago in what could be described as France's version of the EOC. We were classmates together for one year in Greek school here in Thessaloniki. She is now doing an MA in Greek literature at the Sorbonne. Julija is a Serbian girl who has been studying theology in Paris for several years now. She is a friend of our bishop, Bishop Maxim, and we met her during our trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina last December.
The two of them took us around the city for awhile. We walked by the Sorbonne and stopped in St Stephen's Church to see the relics of St Genevieve, one of the patron saints of Paris and an Orthodox saint from the fifth century. St Simeon the Stylite sent her a letter after seeing her in a vision.
They also introduced us to a new phenomenon in Paris which we thought was great. A private company has set up bicycle racks all over the city, with good, sturdy bikes electronically locked. For 29 euro a year, you get a membership card that allows you to take and leave the bikes at will. Thus, if you need to go somewhere in the city, you simply grab the closest bike, ride to where you're going, and leave it at the closest station. Emmanuelle let Pelagia try one of the bikes out, which she liked. Incidentally, you can a photo of this, and all 260+ photos from the trip, here.
Finally, Emmanuelle took us to a Georgian restaurant for dinner, with two of her friends, a Russian-French man and Russian-American woman. The Georgian cuisine was very interesting -- a mix of mediterranean, Turkish and Indian. And it was so nice to have such a variety of foods to chose from! They have restaurants from everywhere! That's one thing all the Americans here in Greece miss. Greeks like Greek food -- and usually not much else. In fact, they're generally downright suspicious of anything not Greek. Fortunately, Greek food is delicious, but it's also nice for us American types to have some variety, so the Georgian restaurant was refreshing.
Posted by Fr. Gregory at 2:10 PM