Apologies about my lack of posts. Life just got a bit real again, a few chapters closed, new beginnings have started, routines have changed. I drafted this on a crowded commuter train at 19:25 on Tuesday only to finish it on Wednesday’s on my journey home.
Last week I was on gardening leave, between ending one job and starting another. The first part of the week was devoted to Monmouth, but Wednesdsy I took a day trip to Paris.
I travelled to Gard du Notd on the first train out of St Pancras. I was on one of the swish new trains. Seats were more than comfortable in Standard class with new on board Wifi that was a nice bonus. Apparently there is onboard entertain-ment however I did not access this – I prefer the time to be used reading writing or listening music, things that ordinarily I don’t get enough time to do.
I would prefer if there were child free carriages badly behaved children at 7am is grating in a confined space. I was lucky to get a double to myself (actually on both legs) however I would have liked to be able to book solo seats as I have on previous trips.
Arriving on time at 10.15 by 10.20 I was on a metro heading west (I pre brought a day metro ticket at St. Pancras for £10. My destination was St Denis Basilica – the burial place of the French monarchy.
The signage from the metro is not particularly clear for direction to the basilica – especially as the station is called St Denis basilica – but its less than 5 minutes.
Picture by L Brennan
The first part of the cathedral that is clearly still used for services is free to the general public. After the horrific events in Normandy recently, bag search is carried out (as well as in big shops) something I have no issue with; it keeps me safe.
Even in August, late morning there wasn’t a huge number of people visiting the cathedral so it was a very pleasant experience. I would imaging that weekends may well be a lot busier.
To visit the effigies of the French royals and the crypt you need to pay an entrance fee – options for Audio guides are available – I did rent one but actually didn’t think the signs for audio were very clear and the descriptions long winded. I abandoned it very quickly.
Death in style picture by L Brennan
The various effigies were grouped in to dynastic families from what I could gather. Some monarch were even given additional status with marble tents over their effigies some were additionally decorated with full size marble recreations of the gospel writers, saints and cherubs.
The crypt was beneath the alter and offered a wide variety of different memorials to the former rulers of France. At the heart of the crypt there were black marble slabs one of which was to remember Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
There was also an old part of the crypt with rough stone escophicus what to my very limited knowledge, may have been very early christian in date and style – this section is sectioned off but can be seen relatively clearly
Louis XVI & Marie Antoniette Picture by L Brennan
The primary reason why I ventured north of the city to visit this basillica was to see the effigies of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The pair are just off in a small side chapel and depicted kneeling wearing regal and state attire. Its rather moving. They are also in very close proximity to the high alter of the cathedral.
Walking around looking at the memorials around the alter, the saddest ones for me were of royal children; their small depictions lying on the adult size stone plinths brings home that even privileged royalty were not immune to high infant morality through the ages.
dragons at the Feet of Marie Du Brienne L Brennan
Picture by L Brennan
More dogs Picture by L Brennan
I found that I feel in love with the feet ends of the effigies, where under the feet of the monarch or member of the royal family there were carved dogs for loyalty or lions to signify their royal status. However amongst the effies, on the left hand side of the high alter, there was a curious black marble figure nestling amongest the white marble memorials of the rest of her family and at her feet were 2 small dragons. This arresting woman was Marie du Brienne, the dragons represent good over evil, after to played a role in defeating the Byzantines. She was for me very games of thrones.
Another woman I went to visit was Queen Catherine de Medici, battleaxe, she wolf and mother in law from hell to Mary Queen of Scots. She may have been an Italians bankers daughter but she left her mark on history.
The gothic cathedral of St Denis (who is also the patron saint of Paris) had amazing stained glass that could rival both Notre Dame and Chapelle Royal, if not in quantity but certainly quality.
There was a small very small gift shop with votive candles and postcards on sale but not on the scale of the above mentioned churches.
After my cultured morning I headed to Opera and went to Sephora for make up supplies, C&A for basic clothes and enjoyed Salmon and mashed potatoe, perrier, Creme Brûlée and espresso in the brasserie in La gallerie La fayette before window shopping and a cocktail before returning to Gard du Nord.
I never realised how big Gard du nord is and defy anyone who says its not as grand as St. Pancas, around by the other platforms there is a gallery of various shops to be explored. It might not be as new but there are shops to be found.
All in all my jaunt to Paris was without question a lovely treat, it did feel strange not heading to Montparnasse and my usual haunts in the south. These areas are safe familiar and feel like home, however Paris is a big place and she deserves to be explored.