Thursday, April 23, 2009

Paris and Back Home

This is a late posting, but I wanted to finish the story and not leave things hanging. I've been back in the U.S. now for several days. Finally, life is sort of returning to normal. That last day in Paris and the journey back didn't leave much time to complete this blog. Nevertheless, here it is - better late than never.

On Sunday morning, Br. Emmanuel met us at 8:00 AM and told us that instead of walking, it would be good to take the car. There wasn't much traffic on the street and so illegal parking for 5 minutes at a time seemed to be a doable thing. For the first hour or so, we stopped at places around our abode at Rue de Sevres. I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten the various places he showed us, but the locations included where the first schools in Paris were located, where Nicolas Barre lived, and where the Grand Maison was. This last location is now in the middle of a street that had been created since the time of the Grand Maison. It's a bit harder to imagine all this when no vestige of the original building remains.

However, the Rue Princesse building still had some elements that were original - if I have my facts right; it's all a bit of a muddle right now. In any case, we saw some rather ancient doors, staircases, and inside courtyards. The building was located in the middle of a small street absolutely full of small bars, with an Irish pub located smack-dab at the location of the original house.

The most impressive place was the church of Saint Sulpice. We were able to go into a small, dark but beautiful chapel in the back, which dated back to the time of the Founder and where, according to Br. Emmanuel, the Founder certainly said Mass with the Brothers. Then there was a small chapel dedicated to De La Salle, complete with statue, stained glass, and all the rest. Large paintings of St. Roch adorned to walls, much to the appreciation of Br. Roch.

Outside, we saw some garden areas associated with the Seminary of Saint Sulpice. These also remain from the Founder's time, and so it's presumed the De La Salle walked these same paths during his time at the seminary.

At around 10:15 PM we were pretty much done, as planned. We then stayed for the 10:30 AM Sunday Mass at Saint Sulpice. I really enjoyed the organ playing and the sound of that grand organ. The organist did some improvisations several times during the Mass, and while some of the congregation might have wished that these had been shorter, I appreciated them fully and would have liked them to be longer. Mass had also been going on as we had been wandering around the church, and another one was to start right after the 10:30 AM one. So it seems things remain near to what they were in the time of De La Salle - one Mass after another on Sundays at Saint Sulpice.

When we got back to where our car was parked, just behind the church and right near a big blue sign with a "P" on it (for parking?), I got behind the wheel, started the car, turned on wipers (it was raining), and noticed a white paper flapping back and forth on the windshield. Shortly, we were looking at a very soggy ticket for 35 Euro. Apparently, the "P" stood for "Police" and not for "Parking." We'd parked in a zone for police vehicles and the ticket said that the towers had been called. We can be thankful, I suppose, that this was a Sunday morning and the towers were slow. That kind of adventure - searching for our car among car yards in Paris - I didn't quite need right now.

We then returned to Rue de Sevres where we joined the Brothers for a little Sunday social followed by dinner. Br. Emmanuel brought out some special cookies and sweets from his area of France (the Brothers seem to be very proud and aware of the areas where they were brought up) and made plans for the afternoon. Roch politely demurred and asked if we could just do some things on our own, and so we went out at around 2:30 PM to take the Metro and the train to Versailles, which I had never seen. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening there, appreciating the way the "other side" lived in 17th century France. Of course, I picked up a fine book on Louis XIV, written by an Englishman, and we even had a chance to take a quick tour of part of the gardens. Then we returned to Paris for a nice dinner in a restaurant that advertised that it had been founded in 1686. But somehow I don't think that De La Salle would have taken the Brothers there for a nice night out. Nevertheless, we enjoyed out last meal in Paris and then made our way back to pack and get a bit of sleep.

On Monday morning we left Rue de Sevres at 5:30 AM for the airport. I got lost among the streets of Paris, but there were very few people around. We picked up some freshly-made bread and pastries - those little corner bakeries open real early - and then proceeded to the airport to turn in the car, go through customs, etc., and fly back to LA, where I caught a Southwest flight to Sacrament and from there drove back to Napa. When I arrived at Mont La Salle at 7 PM, I figured I'd been traveling for something like 22 hours; something not really to be recommended. However, it was great to simply drop everything, get to a familiar bed, and sleep way more soundly than might have been possible on the plane.

It was a fine, intense, and laborious journey, but it had its moments and I'm glad that we did it. We now have a better sense of what's ahead and can plan accordingly.

Photos: A street sign that's familiar to our history; A path in the garden on the seminary grounds; The small chapel at Saint Sulpice where DLS said Mass with the Brothers; De La Salle's side chapel; The fountain and facade of Saint Sulpice; Roch, Emmanuel and I in front of Saint Sulpice; With the Brothers at Rue de Sevres during the Sunday noon meal; Roch and I in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.