Our first Sunday in Europe was mostly magic, but it got rained on (both literally and proverbially) by the end. Our first attempt at navigating the sharply angled streets of Paris dissuaded us from the notion that we could just “go up one more block because it’ll all come out in the same place, and that street looks interesting.” Fortunately, we built a lot of time into our morning journey from our hotel in the 9th Arrondissement to our destination south of the Seine. Not only did we have to right the wrong caused by my curiosity about an “interesting looking street,” but we had to figure out what we were actually looking for in a metro stop. Never having navigated a major world city before, we were looking for something a little more commanding then the steps into the ground on the street corner that soon became a familiar signal that we’d reached our goal. Sewer rats, all of us, crawling in and out of the ground!
We emerged from the metro at the north end of the famous Pont Neuf on the edge of Ile de la Cité. It was our first sight of true Paris, and completely enchanting. It was only 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday, and the city was fast asleep. That, too, was enchanting – a special gift to have Paris to ourselves as we walked to church, across Pont Neuf and through the streets of the St. Germain district.
And what a day of church it was! Intimate, quiet, early mass in the east chapel of St. Sulpice, then back after breakfast to catch the organ in the main mass, an afternoon visit to Ste. Chapelle (past Durufle’s St. Etienne du Mont), and Vespers and Mass at the end of the day at Notre Dame. The times we spent in worship in France were profound. To enter a space in a country you’ve never been in before where you barely speak the language, and to know exactly where you are and what is happening speaks so much (which I will have to write later) about the transcendent power of the practice of Christian worship. Foreigners though we were, we felt like we belonged in that early morning spoken French mass, surrounded by 20-30 people, doing their customary Sunday morning thing. So began a trip filled with immense moments of worship inspiring long reflection.
Sunday 3 August, 11:00 a.m. St. Sulpice Church
A perfect morning. Got off the metro at Pont Neuf for our first look at Paris. Walked to St. Sulpice early while streets were mostly empty. Mass in the chapel was perfect, texts on God feeding us – Ps 144, Isa 55, Rom 8:31-39, loaves and fishes; communion – “Le corps de Christ.” Joy in finding familiarity with the Christian liturgy even in a foreign language. This is how the church should be. I felt like an initiate. We wandered into St. Germain des Pres church and its neighborhood, sharing breakfast and people-watching at a café across the street from the church, listened to its bells calling to worship and heard St. Sulpice’s answer. After splitting a french breakfast with an omelette and greens, hot chocolate and the rest, we’ve come back to St. Sulpice to the 11:00 mass where the main organ is playing Brahms chorale preludes. During communion Roth improvised on Schmucke Dich and for postlude, Durufle Fugue sur le thème du carillon de la cathédrale de Soissons – Mike’s piece from this spring’s AAGO exam.
Monday 4 August, 5:00 p.m. Atop the Eiffel Tower
Sunday ended with a stroll and a pause in Luxembourg garden, a brief walk past the Pantheon to Rue Mouffetard, to find the Sunday market just finishing its close. Gelato on a square and a walk past Durufle’s church, then up to the islands to see St. Chapelle and attend Vespers & Mass at Notre Dame. We left there for Ile St. Louis and walked the circumference, getting caught in a downpour and desperately needing a bathroom. At 9:30 we ate a massively disappointing dinner in Cafe Odette & Amié by our hotel and fell into bed.
The rest can be told in pictures…