Notre Dame de Paris: The pilgrimage begins - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

March 27, 2017

Notre Dame de Paris: The pilgrimage begins

Maybe it's because we live in the country and have to drive to get anywhere, or maybe it's because we live in proximity to the USA, where they drive everywhere, needed or not, but walking to the bakery this morning was a real thrill.

It's not just walking to the bakery. It's the knowledge that there the products will be of the finest quality, with the baker considering himself a skilled artisan. And it's the chance to talk to the baker and his son. I can't say they recognize me yet, but they are so friendly it feels like they do. And the walk is along a quiet street, in a relatively sleepy village like place.

The walk is needed three times a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - the bread has to be fresh! Maybe it's self-delusional, but I feel stonger, healthier already. Good food, fresh air, welcoming people - its a well known prescription. Not that I was sick, it's just that it is so great to be here!

Our plan for today was to begin our pilrimage by visiting three church sites in central Paris. The first was Notre Dame, which is logical because it is the largest and oldest in the town. Then there is the Tour St. Jacques, a church tower that survives though the church is gone. Dedicated to St. James and with a statue of St.James at the top of the tower, for a few hundred years at least this has been a starting point for St. James pilgrims. Finally there is St. Sulpice church. Frankly it is hard to link this to pilgrimage, but the place became famous in recent years by figuring in the Da Vinci code. There is a brass line in the floor linked by Dan Brown to the quest for the holy grail. We want to go see this movie star line.

We recruited some help in our quest for today. Our friend Didier and his wife Corinne agreed to come. Then there is Gerard Porcheret. We met Gerard at a stop light somewhere in Ontario in 2011. We were cycling across Canada. He was cycling across the world. We kept in touch since, receiving his blog updates and watching his progress through places where we would never dare to go. This is our first chance to meet up with him again.

The Seine behind Didier's house this morning
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(Part of) lunchtime!
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Corinne is an accomplished sculptress
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More of Corinne's work. The house has figures like this all over.
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Corinne and Didier on the train to Notre Dame
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After much map study, the Chatelet Les Halles station become reality.
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We rode the excellent Paris train and metro system down to Ile de la Cite, the island in the Seine on which Notre Dame is situated. The underground stations are quite grubby, but we exited at one of the original metro access points - which is an artwork in wrought iron.

One of the original Metro entrances
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Out on the streets of Paris
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Streets of Paris
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Notre Dame and its surroundings was stunning. So... Parisian! Inside the church, flocks of Asian tourists were shooting cell phone photos of everything. They were right on, because it is all photogenic and beautiful. You should find a few of our own typical shots below.

Our first step was to request our very first stamps into our Creanciale. This we got, and it is quite a handsome one at that. The French word for a stamp is "tampon", and yes I verified that this is the same word as in French and English for the feminine hygene product. Presumably context will prevent confusion as we ask for these in churches across France.

We left the church and sought out the Diocesan office in the adjacent street. We did this because we had noticed that one of our Creaciales had not been duly signed by an appropriate authority. The workers in the office were a little surprised to see us, but they did scare up a signature stamp and thereby sent us properly on our way.

Notre Dame de Paris
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Dodie and Steve at what they are taking as the real pilgrimage start - Point Zero at Notre Dame
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Getting our "tampon" at Notre Dame
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An infinite number of photos are possible (and have already been taken by the Chinese tourists) inside Notre Dame
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One of many rose windows
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Dodie and Gerard leaving the church office
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Gerard - has travelled the world by bicycle
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Gerard and we had stashed Didier and Corinne in a cafe on the corner as we attended to the bureaucratic task, and now we joined them there. So like pretty much all other Parisians, we sat out in the sun and enjoyed a coffee. It was such a great moment that even Dodie accepted a coffee, and she hates coffee!

And Dodie does not even like coffee
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Now Didier and Corinne left us, and with Gerard we continued to the next stop. Tour St. Jacques is visible from a distance, and I was easily able to get some shots of the statue of the saint, mounted at the very top. We walked around the block square enclosure of the tower grounds, looking for an entrance. But what we found was a sign saying that the whole place had been shut down for "deratisisation". I had to verify with Gerard that this was truly French for what ii sounds like - rat removal. The whole place was closed, for that. Oh well, pilgrims (like maybe Tibetan pilgrims) just walk in circles about a shrine.

Look Joni - flitty scarves!
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The top of the Tour St. Jacques
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St. Jacques, at the top
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Dodie and Steve at alternate pilgrimage start point.
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"Ratted Out" of the tower grounds.
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Saint Sulpice is a bit of a walk, across L'ile de la Cite - over the St. Michel bridge and on the "left bank". We nostalgically passed a cafe where Joni and us had sat two years ago, and continued deeper, crossing the well known Rue St Germain and arriving at the back end of St Sulpice.

The back end looked very plain, and frankly so did the front end. But we were ushered by an old lady into an office. She asked if we were really pilgrims, and we assured her yes. Golly, we must be something weird, as theonly people in Paris wearing fluorescent yellow instead of stylish black!

I walked over the line at first without seeing it, because I somehow expected it to be running the length of the church. But since churches are oriented east/west this meridian like (north/south) line ran across not down. Dodie and Gerard seemed to easily find it, and they were deep into analysis by the time I toddled back.

The line in fact is not a meridian, and the church is a pains to point point out that it is not the Paris medidian nor any other official line of longitude. However it is, through two pinholes high in a stained glass window, designed to track light along the floor. The light would cross the line at mid day, and the light would illuminate a brass plate positioned along the line at the time of solstice. Some stones at the beginning of the line in the floor, I think, mark the place where the albino priest dug for the holy grain (or something) in the movie. But no sign of any disturbances today.

We were gratified when a man, who cpooiuld easily have been a priest of the church, gave us a tour of the line, brass plate, and the pin holes in the stained glass. We also bought a booklet about it at the church office. It is in this booklet that they deny this has anything to do with the Da Vinci code, or what they call "esotericism". And oh, I just found a whole chapter at the back of the book covering in detail what Dan Brown made of the line and of the obelisk (or gnomon) at the far end of it, and saying he is all wet. I will try to summarize this when I get a chance to read it.

Look Joni - our cafe in Paris
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Getting our tampon at St Sulpice
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The brass line leading to the obelisk
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Dodie and Gerard at St Sulpice
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To find Holy Grail clues, start digging here
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A priest explains the brass line
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Dodie and Gerard point the way to Roslyn Chapel in Scotland
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The real St Sulpice street. A few days ago we were standing at the street of the same name in Montreal.
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We used not a rose line but a GPS to find the next metro station and there said goodbye to Gerard. His next trip, beginning in April, will be a version of the Northern Tier, but ending in Salt Lake City. We wished him a good journey. He is exactly the same age as us, and therefore has many years of cycling left in him!

As for us, tomorrow morning - as early as we can eat our croissants - we will set off in earnest, heading straight to Versailles and starting off along the Seine. It's about time!

Subway tiles in the ...subway!
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The quant town of Maisons-Laffitte is not do quaint when you look at the price of a modestly nice house here!
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But look at the magnolias in bloom!
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Our first two stamps
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