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Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas and the Day after in Paris

Christmas in Paris - what a wonderful experience it has been. We have been very fortunate to have clear weather, but it is extremely cold. Despite the freezing air, we are up and about by 10 am, and head to the metro for our next excursion.

Our priority for Christmas Day in Paris was to attend church service at the Notre Dame. We learned that the 11:30 service was what they call an international service. We got there about 30 minutes before the start of the mass. There was a line to get in, but it moved quickly and we found seats toward the front of the pulpit. They have flat panel screens in various parts of the church so the congregation could see it since so many large marble columns block direct view. The priest spoke at various times in French, Dutch, Latin and English. At the very end of the service, he said Merry Christmas in multiple languages flawlessly, including Mandarin!

They don't allow filming or photos while they conduct mass. I wish I could have recorded a video, the soloist gave us all chills; the acoustics are amazing. The organist played with emotion, it sounded like a piece from Phantom of the Opera, it was incredible.

After service, we found our way to the Latin Quarter, we really loved that section of town. There were many crepe stands around, and plenty of souvenir shops where we tried bargaining and sifting through interesting merchandise. Sainte Chapelle, across from the Notre Dame, was closed on Christmas Day, so we ended up seeing it the day after Christmas. Sainte Chapelle was built by Louis IX in the 1240's to house relics from the Holy Land including what is believed to be the Crown of Thorns and part of the True Cross, this small Gothic chapel is one of the inspiring visual experiences of Paris. Much of this is due to its stained glass windows, which essentially surround the entire upper floor. That section is breathtaking.

Tomorrow: Taking the Chunnel to London

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