Our last day would be devoted to loose ends, a couple of churches that had eluded us, a visit to the Louvre gift shop, and churros at La Tower.
We started once again at Secco, the neat little coffee shop slash artisanal bakery we visited yesterday. Today we had an English lesson for the clerk and a French lesson for me and lots of compliments and laughter to go around. We said our farewells and left heading off to Eglise Saint-Sulpice, passing what seemed like an endless string of patisseries, each one more beautiful and aromatic than the last.
It was easy to find. The morning was just beautiful – cool, crisp and sunny with a light breeze – and the light on the fountain in front of the church was lovely. Not many people at this hour, a woman with a small dog, a young couple taking photos, a man doing a panorama with his phone on a selfie-stick.
We went in and wandered around.
Saint-Sulpice is the largest church in Paris and was built starting in 1646 by Father Jean-Jacques Olier, the father of French School of Spirituality. Concerned that the city was not serving the people thoroughly, he attempted to create a parish that would provide the same level of care and devotion as a small rural church might. Of course, the project outlived the man, and the building was completed in 1745. Its most unique feature, one of the world’s largest pipe organ, containing 6,700 pipes. Sadly for us, our organ recital luck wasn’t working today and no one was playing.
Like its peers, it was huge and dark and imposing. In addition to the organ, there were a few other interesting stops on our tour. A painting by Delacroix titled “Jacob Wrestling with an Angel,” some beautiful stained glass from the mid-17th century, and a Gnomon with an exact Meridian Line used to calculate the date of Easter. The towers are not exact matches, because the construction of the south unit was halted due to the Revolution and never completed. The interior needs a bit of restoration though with obvious signs of missing plaster in the domes of most of the chapels.
Walking down Rue Bonaparte and past many of the chic boutiques that the district is known for, our next stop was Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the oldest church in the city. Dating to the site of a 6th century Benedictine abbey, today the oldest part of the structure is the Chapel of Saint Symphorien which was built in the 11th century. Unfortunately, it was closed today.
In the 8th century, Charlemagne endowed the abbey and ordered it renamed to its current title. In the 9th century, the abbey suffered from repeated Viking raids. In 990, it was rebuilt by Abbot Morard, beginning with the tower (that stands today) above the Saint Symphorien chapel. Pope Alexander III consecrated the choir in 1163.
I tried to visit in 2014 but it was closed due to renovation. Today it was open but large sections remained behind scaffolding and tarps. Nonetheless, the little array of chapels (a unique feature of the church, the western halves of both sides of the nave and the entire apse are ringed with them.) The heart of Jean-Casmir, King of Poland is interred in the Chapel of Saint-Francis Xavier and we were able to visit the tomb of the great philosopher (“I think therefore I am”) Rene Descartes in the Chapel of Saint Benedict. That chapel was stuffed with a bunch of non-religious junk, being stored there due to the construction, no doubt. Somehow, I think Descartes would feel diminished. Another unique feature is the medieval decorative paint on many of the columns and capitals. It was quite striking.
Off to the river and the Louvre which unfortunately was also closed so we were unable to visit the gift shop. Instead we wandered around the Carousals des Louvres, the underground shopping area associated with the museum. Here in addition to little stores and restaurant you can walk along extensive remnants of the original Tuileries Fortress, now modified with clever philosophical adages done in white neon. On the way to the Metro we walked behind a homeless man who was stealing all the trash bags out of the rubbish bins, no doubt to sort elsewhere.
On to the Tower and those elusive churros. Returning to ground level at the Trocadero, that massive pile of stone across the river, we found the place mobbed. We went down the hill and found the churro guy who seemed to be in a bad mood judging from the way he snapped the head off the teenager in front of me who wanted ice cream and not churros. I was all too happy to take her order and he was even happier to take my 5€. I stopped and took my traditional churro-tower photo just below the tower’s massive leg.
Security has been beefed up here. You can no longer just wander through the base area. Now you must go through screening on the southeast side and you can only exit on the northwest. Not a bad precaution in this day and age I suppose but too much work for us. We walked down the side of the park (fenced off for grass restoration) and stopped to take a few photos from the ideal spots.
From there we wandered off into the grand neighborhoods that line the park before catching the Metro at the Cavalry School for the quick ride home.