Sunday, February 01, 2015

February 1, 2015 -- Paris, France

On yesterday's train trip from Southern France to Paris, the train passed through areas where snow was falling and light blanket of the white stuff had accumulated on the ground. When I arrived in Paris after sunset, it wasn't that cold, and I was sorry that I had my winter jacket on over my sweatshirt.

Today is another matter. When I left the youth hostel this morning on foot, I felt overdressed and even considered returning to the hostel for a lighter jacket. However, the sky was heavily overcast, and as the day progressed the temperature became colder and colder. Then, a light rain started to fall.

I had intended to walk all the way to the Champs Elysees and then back to the hostel, but by mid-afternoon I decided to give it up, and I returned to the hostel by subway.

Below is one of the farmers' markets that I encountered on my walk into town. Even the supermarkets in France have fresh vegetables. For example, here tomatoes really taste like tomatoes. (Fruits are not always as fresh, however.) For really fresh fruits and vegetables, many people shop at farmers' markets, which are set up several times a week in multiple locations in cities throughout France.
A Parisian Sunday farmers' market
I had no particular tourist attractions in mind today. I decided to let luck lead me. The church in the following photograph intrigued me, so I stopped by. It's the Church of Saint Paul, Saint Louis. According to a historical marker outside, construction of the church began in 1627, and it was consecrated in 1641. It was once much larger, but much of it was destroyed, along with a lot of other church property in France, in 1802 during the French Revolution.
The Church of Saint Paul, Saint Peter
Why does the church bear the name of two Saints? According to a sign, the name Saint Paul was added to preserve the name after the nearby original Church of Saint Paul was destroyed.

I went inside and found the church to be crowded with worshipers and high mass being celebrated. I was somewhat surprised at the size of the crowd, because few French people actually attend church. They maintain a Catholic cultural identity, but they don't practice the religion. I was even more surprised when about 80 percent of those present went to the front of the church to receive communion.
Inside the Church of Saint Paul, Saint Louis
The next stop was City Hall or the Hôtel de Ville, as it is called in French. The French word hôtel often translates into English as hotel, but the word is used in France for many types of large, generally older buildings.

The front of the City Hall was festooned with banners of remembrance of last month's terrorist attack on the weekly humor newspaper Charlie Hebo. The slogan most used in France to evoke sadness for the attack is je suis Charlie or I am Charlie. The banner on the left translates as "Paris is Charlie," and the one on the right as "We are Charlie." The sign in the center reads "Charlie Hebo, honorary citizen of the City of Paris."

City Hall festooned with banners in remembrance of last month's terrorist attack.
Directly in front of city hall there was an ice skating rink. I saw one little girl fall down within a few feet of getting onto the ice. She had to crawl to the side of the rink and grab the railing to pull herself to her feet. I would have felt sorry for her, but she was laughing the whole time and obviously enjoying herself.

The ice skating rink in front of City Hall
I had forgotten that there was an important reminder of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in the heart of Paris. It is the Tower of Saint Jacques, Saint James in English or Santiago in Spanish. I saw the tower on my last trip to Paris and then forgotten its existence. It is a restoration of all that is left of a church that was constructed in the Sixteenth Century and was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was once an important stopping place for pilgrims heading for Santiago de Compstela in Spain, the same pilgrimage that I will make my third attempt to complete this summer, although I will start near the Spanish border, not in Paris.
The tower of Saint James or Saint Jacques
I think I need to dress more warmly tomorrow. The rain is supposed to stop, but the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing tonight and hit a high of 4 degrees C or 39 degrees F tomorrow afternoon. I think I will finally get some use out of the long underwear that I packed. I have been fortunate that it hasn't been very cold up to now on this trip.

The day after tomorrow, I travel back to Brussels for a two-night stay before I fly back to Phoenix, where I'm sure that my lawn is overdo for a good mowing. My sister writes me that it's been raining a lot while I've been away.

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