Friday, April 18, 2008


I took a night train from Florence to Paris. The train ride itself was quite the adventure. The porter (?) conductor (?) chided me for not having my door locked, and I explained the the door would not lock. He said, in Italian of course, "We need a cord or something to tie it with...." and looked at me as if I might provide the needed ingredient. I told him I had not thought of such a thing when packing.

He left as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head and returned a few minutes later with a strip of torn sheet! He tried it out for size, decided it was a good fit, left again and returned with two more. He instructed me to wait a half hour, and if he had not brought two more women into the compartment by then, to go ahead and "lock" it with these three strips of bedding.

Which I did. The other women either didn't show up, or he put them in another compartment. In any case, I was alone all night. But didn't sleep much, and had to untie three strips of sheet the four or five times I had to go to the WC that night...I think knowing I wasn't securely locked in turned on my alarm system internally, or something!

By the time I arrived in Paris I was exhausted and dizzy. I was so happy to see Colette, my hostess, at the station.

My main reason for going to Paris was to spend time with Colette, who has a long-term relationship with my church. It was wonderful getting to know her and see a bit of her life and learn more about things there.

And there was some time for visiting the city, also.

My favorite part of Paris was a little church, St. Severin. I found it by accident and wound up returning to it more than once. It was quiet. It was fairly small. It had a lovely little garden outside with tulips, daffodils, and benches. In fact, I found the garden before I found the church, needing a place to eat the sandwich I had packed and brought with me.

But then I realized I was sitting next to a church and went inside. It provided such a respite from the noise of the metro, the rush of the streets, the distraction of the myriad eating places around the Latin Quarter. And it was not full of tourists. I sat next to a big pillar so that I was, I hoped, not noticeable, and actually prayed in this little church.

I say it that way because so many churches in Italy and other parts of Europe feel more like museums/gift shops than churches. In Assisi this really got to me. But St. Severin was blessedly empty, and by the posters and things I saw on the bulletin boards it felt like a church that was active as a church, which made me happy.

Paris is much larger than I realized. Much larger.

My main memories of Paris will probably by St. Severin, walking in the Bois du Boulogne (sp?), staying in Colette's house next to a small conservatory where Marcel Dupres used to teach, and lugging suitcases up and down the stairs of the metro stations.

Maybe I'll write more later about Paris. It's late now. Bon nuit.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

That's very interesting about the churches. Sometimes I feel that the French don't value their churches enough as history and heritage, and consequently don't value them much because in an increasingly secular, non-churchgoing society, as their aren't enough practising people to treasure them. They are centres of religion, not pretty parts of the cultural landscape tourists are expected to visit much. I sometimes feel frustrated when I go into a country church here and ther is nothing about the history, art and architecture of the place, only leaflets about pilgrimages to Lourdes and other Catholic news! Obviously the big famous cathedrals and occasionally small rare historically or architecturally interesting churches and chapels are exceptions to this. A neighbour once asked me if the English were 'pieux... attached to their religion?'. No, I replied, but they are attached to their churches; the English parish church, in the well-off countryside anyway, is loved and cared for as a building, a beautiful and familiar place, obviously to some it is a place of faith and holiness. The big famous cathedrals in England are a bit like you say of Italy: tourist hotspots which cost a lot to maintain so every opportunity is taken to make money from those tourists, which can be very depressing.

It's a thought-provoking subject to be sure, and I've wittered on enough on your blog! But I am very glad to hear that for you, even in the hustle and bustle of Paris, there was a locus of faith you could turn to for some spritual refreshment.