Camino Credential from Notre Dame Paris

We got out early to catch the gregorian Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral. It was breathtaking – and very moving.

We noticed the font in the front of the cathedral with the words: ‘I am the way, travellers are looking for’ – translated into several languages – including Spanish – for which the word ‘way’ translates into the word ‘camino’.

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On the spur of the moment, we decided to get our Camino credential from here.

The pilgrim office was located in the side street next to the Cathedral 10, Rue de Cloitre, Paris. The young priest positively beamed as he presented us with our Créanciale – the pilgrim’s credential, and registered that we would commence officially from St Jean Pied de Port, and he directed us to the Cathedral for our first stamp. This credential is required in order to furnish proof that you have completed the journey – you get stamps all along the route as proof you didn’t just fly to Santiago. It was also required to secure pilgrim accommodation and various discounts along the route.

We emerged happy, and went in search of our first stamp. At the cathedral, the previously somewhat grumpy person behind the counter transformed as we presented our credentials. She took great care to make a clear imprint and handed them back to us with a smile, and said ‘Bon chance’ – good luck.

It suddenly hit us that this was real. From this point, we are officially pilgrims, and the enormity of what lay ahead hit like a tonne of bricks – we both teared up, deeply moved. At this moment we had entered a confraternity of pilgrims with a tradition stretching back over 1000 years. It was to be our privilege to walk in their footsteps.14237550_10155103288163238_7560709643255083398_n

We took a moment take it all in, before heading outside into the sunshine. Time for a selfie to commemorate the occasion and then off to find some lunch and a glass of wine to celebrate our new-found status.

Camino credentials

As we walked away from the cathedral, we noticed yellow arrows on the ground – they pointed in the direction of the Church of St James and towards the road route for pilgrims to depart Paris on their age-old journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We would see many more arrows before our journey concluded. Pelerin, peregrino, pilgrim. We are part of a great tradition and a wonderful community.

Was it a religious experience? I’m honestly not sure, but perhaps a sublime one, and a deeply emotional one for us both. Why should I feel so deeply? I profess to be an atheist, comfortable that the laws of physics, of nature take their course, and find it difficult to reconcile with the concept of intelligent design, or a personal god that might take the slightest interest in me. A good friend is fond of saying ‘it is what it is.’ As we progress along this path I shall be exploring what this means. Everone’s experience will be different;  we all walk our own Camino and come at life from our own perspective.

So what is my purpose for the Camino? It is a question I will be asked many times, and will ask of others. I will explore that in another post.

 

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Paris – Segway Tour

There are many ways to see Paris, but gliding along on a Segway is one of the better ones. I booked mine through Fat Tire Tours – who also run bicycle tours. The tour leaders spoke perfect English, and were very friendly. In addition, they dealt smoothly with my abrupt change of date to avoid an impending heat-wave – many thanks guys!

Segway

We had a great bunch of people – a gregarious American family, a Croation couple, myself from Australia, and our tour guide who was from Hungary.

We had a few who had never been on a Segway before – including a 72 year old woman – and within just a few minutes she had mastered it.

Soon it was time to set off. First stop was the Paris military school – this is where Napoleon Bonaparte studied, completing his military studies a year early.

École Militaire, Paris

The military school was built in the reign of Louis XV. Louis was a dilettante, and was at risk of losing the support of his people and of the military. So on the advice of Mme de Pompadour – his chief mistress – he agreed to establish the École Militaire. The problem was that having spent much of his money on palaces and entertainments he was actually close to bankruptcy. Fortunately, Mme de Pompadour had amassed a fortune in her own right and was able to finance the building works.

Then on to the Hôtel des Invalides – a complex of buildings dedicated as a retirement home for invalided soldiers, with a hospital and church that was built for Louis XIV in 1670. Although built for the King, Louis only visited the church four times in his lifetime. The entire complex is now one of the largest military museums in the world.

Hôtel des Invalides

After this, we traversed a large green space to head towards the Eiffel Tower – designed by Gustave Eiffel. The tower was built as the entrance for the World’s Fair in 1889 – a fair commemorating a decade since the Revolution. Initially the Government was to finance it. But on realising the cost, the Government went to Eiffel, asking him to fund the main cost. He agreed, but being a smart businessman, said he would fund it on condition he has sole rights to the earnings from the tower for 20 years. He actually recouped the cost within 6 months and went on to become one of the wealthiest men in France.

 

Eiffel Tower

There were many other sights, but suffice to say it was fun way to see the city. And while the bike tours take the same route, I’d have to say it is so effortless to do it on a Segway! Many thanks to our tour guide Bianca, and to the fun folks I travelled with – a truly memorable day 🙂

Tour guide explains the sights

 




Paris – an office to rival Versailles

Imagine working in a local council office. Now imagine that the view from your desk involved gilded statues and paintings worthy of a national museum? What if your office made the Palace of Versailles look plain? There is such an office. If you are the mayor of Paris (Anne Hidalgo) you’ll know, because she and her staff work in the Hotel de Ville – the City Hall – of Paris. Even most Parisians won’t have seen it – unless you are paying your water rates or getting some official paperwork signed. Or you might be lucky enough to be a fonctionaire (bureaucrat). But once a year, in the third weekend in September, Paris has a Heritage Weekend (Patrimoine) where anyone can go through the building. And we just happened to be in Paris on the right weekend. And what a building!

The Hotel de Ville stands out even in central Paris on the Rue de Rivoli for its renaissance style, perfect proportions and amazing decorative elements.

Hotel de Ville, Paris

Hotel de Ville, Paris

It occupies a plaza between the Rue de Rivoli and the Seine river. And there is a story to it. In the early part of the 12th Century the merchants of Paris formed a corporation – possibly to fight off competition from Rouen. By 1121 King Louis VI agreed to transfer the income from wine taxes from wine imports into Paris. And they imported a LOT of wine! His successor – Louis VII – gave the merchants a monopoly on all river-based trade between Paris and Nantes, giving them the name ‘water merchants’. Perhaps they drank like fish?

As their wealth and power grew, they took on more of the administrative tasks of the city, establishing a city council, a court for disputes and, in 1357 the merchant’s provost bought a house next to the river – already a landmark, known as the house of pillars – which was to become the seat of municipal institutions. By 1529 the house – already much extended and falling into disrepair, was demolished along with some neighbouring buildings to make way for a new one. King François I saw an opportunity for ‘re-branding’ and re-affirming his authority, and offered his personal architect, the Italian Domenico da Cortona – known as El Boccador – who had built many chateaus in the Loire Valley. It was ambitious and took a while to build, finally completed in 1628. By now it was heavily influenced by high Italian Renaissance design.

Paris Hotel de Ville - stair tower

Paris Hotel de Ville – stair tower

In the 19th century it was extended further and given a makeover with interiors decorated by some of the leading artists of the day – Ingres, Delacroix, Cabanel and Lehman. But the Paris Commune of 1871 saw it destroyed by fire.

In 1872 an open competition was held for its restoration – with stringent design conditions, such as the original El Boccador Renaissance facade had to be replicated as closely as possible. Rebuilding took a decade between 1873 and 1883 with the result being an amazing renaissance-style building – yet fitted with the most advanced additions, such as electric lighting, a hydraulic lift, a steam-based central heating system, and the bureaucrat’s delight – the telephone!

If you ever wondered about the efficiency of French bureaucracy, consider the distractions….

Paris Hotel de Ville wall decoration

Paris Hotel de Ville wall decoration

And if you look up you’ll never go back to your engrossing spreadsheet again. Indeed you won’t even be checking Facebook!

Paris Hotel de Ville ceiling

Paris Hotel de Ville ceiling

Ever wondered why council meetings take so long to reach a decision? Consider the council chambers where the counsellors gather for their meetings – I think I would be spending most of my time just gazing around!

Paris Hotel de Ville - Council Chambers

Paris Hotel de Ville – Council Chambers

This is definitely one of Paris’ hidden gems – which sadly few get to see. If you want to plan to see it – it is open to the public once a year during the Heritage week (la Patrimoine) – when not just the Mairie de Paris throws open its doors, but also some 40+ other buildings, galleries and museums offer free entry – If you get the chance, don’t miss it! There’s even an app to download for your ipad or iphone (not sure if there’s an android or windows version).

Hmmm – maybe it’s time I refurbished my office…

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