Memories of France (circa 2009)

Integrated beauty: history, culture, progress, safety. All of these are taken into account in the planning of Paris.

Integrated beauty: history, culture, progress, safety. All of these are taken into account in the planning of Paris.

As my excitement for the musical “Les Miserables” heightens, I am overwhelmed by nostalgia for a country that continues to hold my heart at the palm of her hand: France.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport. I arrived at past 8 in the evening.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport. I arrived at past 8 in the evening.

The beauty of France’s capital, Paris, was captivating, and it truly edified me during my visit in 2009. I went to France as part of a prize bestowed upon me and my essay by the European Union and the Order of the Knights of Rizal. Having won the grand prize of the nationwide essay-writing contest “Rizal Na, EUropa Pa!”, I was entitled to an all-expenses-paid trip throug Europe to retrace the footsteps of Dr. José P. Rizal, my country’s national hero. Talking about Rizal and Victor Hugo is like comparing two like-minded men. Both writers, both patriots, both geniuses. Hugo’s Les Miserables relayed the sufferings of the ordinary French and Jean Valjean’s journey of conversion; Rizal also spoke of Filipinos’ plights in his Noli me tangere and El filibusterismo.As I went through Paris, I had Rizal in my mind,

How was Rizal formed and transformed by the beauty of France? How did her children treat the Great Malayan? How was Rizal in “the city of blinding lights”? Was he like Marius, poor but idealistic?

France’s grandeur was a tangible proclamation of her long and noble history, from the Ancien Régime to the Revolution, to the Napoleonic epoch, to the era of cafes (Belle Époque) and on to post-modern Europe. The belief that la France est la fille aînée de l’église (France is the eldest daughter of the Church) also contributed to the divine beauty of France, a land of martyrs and holy men and women. As a devotee of St. Thérèse of Liseux, I saw France as truly a land of pilgrimage. I was there both as a pilgrim of Rizal and France’s saints.

Majestic, breathtaking: the Tour Eiffel was named after  Gustave Eiffel and was once considered hideous by Parisians. Today, it is doubtlessly Paris' most recognizable monument.

Majestic, breathtaking: the Tour Eiffel was named after Gustave Eiffel and was once considered hideous by Parisians. Today, it is doubtlessly Paris’ most recognizable monument.

Sharing a light moment with Eiffel

Sharing a light moment with Eiffel

Just taking in everything: the scents, the sounds, the sights, all of these can be absorbed for free by the tourist

Just taking in everything: the scents, the sounds, the sights, all of these can be absorbed for free by the tourist

In September 2009, I arrived in Paris and spent several days exploring both the touristy and not-so-touristy portions of the elegant city. Indeed, my experience in Paris as well as nearby Versailles changed me. It was there where I realized how much beauty and culture can truly uplift the soul. Amidst the backdrop of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s Paris, the tourist in me became a devout believer in the presence of the sublime in beauty. My fondest memories of Paris were walking down alleys and sitting down on benches with the crisp autumn wind cooling my body. Just sitting down, and absorbing everything uplifted my soul. Just looking at the blue roofs, the jammed cafes, the endless procession of well-coiffed ladies walking their dogs, the endless rows of boulangeries and patisseries, these all warmed my heart.

An entry to the Metro

An entry to the Metro

Le Grande Hotel and Cafe de la Paix

Le Grande Hotel and Cafe de la Paix

Sacré-Cœur Basilica: this huge basilica sits on the highest (and uhm, most controversial?) section of the city, Montmarte and serves as the Church's rebuke of post-Revolution France's excesses and seeming godlessness. It is the Catholic Church's monumental effort to proclaim her primacy in French society even after suffering brutal persecution. It is dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which many Catholics, including myself, have a devotion to.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica: this huge basilica sits on the highest (and uhm, most controversial?) section of the city, Montmarte and serves as the Church’s rebuke of post-Revolution France’s excesses and seeming godlessness. It is the Catholic Church’s monumental effort to proclaim her primacy in French society even after suffering brutal persecution. It is dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which many Catholics, including myself, have a devotion to.

Another world-renowned site: Notre Dame de Paris is the cathderal of Paris and is perhaps made famous by Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Its fine gothic interiors (especially its stained glass windows) suffered damage and abominable desecration during the French Revolution

Another world-renowned site: Notre Dame de Paris is the cathderal of Paris and is perhaps made famous by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Its fine gothic interiors (especially its stained glass windows) suffered damage and abominable desecration during the French Revolution

A side chapel in Notre Dame

A side chapel in Notre Dame

L'église de la Madeleine or more commonly known as La Madeleine

Of course, one should not fail to mention the grandiose structures that dot Paris. The Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the Chateau of Versailles, the eclectic Centre Pompidou, Place du Trocadero, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, the Seine and of course, the Eiffel Tower are just among the hundreds of sites, streets, natural wonders and monuments that take one’s breath away.

The Place de la Concorde: Originall built as the Place de Louis XV, it became a dreadful site of violence during the Revolution and Reign of Terror. King Louis XVI, his queen Marie Antoinette, the pious Princess Elizabeth, and many more were guillotined here. As a sign of reconciliation, it was renamed Place de la Concorde.

The Place de la Concorde: Originall built as the Place de Louis XV, it became a dreadful site of violence during the Revolution and Reign of Terror. King Louis XVI, his queen Marie Antoinette, the pious Princess Elizabeth, and many more were guillotined here. As a sign of reconciliation, it was renamed Place de la Concorde.

A view of the majestic Château de Versailles from afar.

A view of the majestic Château de Versailles from afar.

 Musée du Louvre, one of the biggest museums in the world with an extensive collection. Its most famous trearure is perhaps the Mona Lisa. It is housed in the Louvre Palace.

Musée du Louvre, one of the biggest museums in the world with an extensive collection. Its most famous trearure is perhaps the Mona Lisa. It is housed in the Louvre Palace.

Crowds and poor lighting make it difficult to get a decent photograph of this enigma.

Crowds and poor lighting make it difficult to get a decent photograph of this enigma.

A portion of the Palais de Louvre

A portion of the Palais de Louvre

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France is intended to be the national repository of books of France. It luckily did not suffer during the mad days of the Revolution. It must be noted that its collection even increased as the seized private libraries of the clergy and the aristocrats were brought to the National Library.

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France is intended to be the national repository of books of France. It luckily did not suffer during the mad days of the Revolution. It must be noted that its collection even increased as the seized private libraries of the clergy and the aristocrats were brought to the National Library.

The Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe

Truly, my memories and thoughts about Paris, Versailles and the French cannot be contained in one blog entry. The beauty and glory of that land of cheese, wine and art cannot be reduced to some paragraphs. They have to be seen, tasted, smelled, heard, touched. France has to be experienced.

In Versailles

In Versailles

A portrait of France's last, and most unfortunate Quee Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon, her retreat in Versailles

A portrait of France’s last, and most unfortunate Quee Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon, her retreat in Versailles

A salon in Versailles for the Royal Family

A salon in Versailles for the Royal Family

It is my fervent prayer to soon return. As pf now, I’ll allow to experience post-Revolution France vicariously through the haunting songs of Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables”.

At the Place des Vosges in the Marais district.

At the Place des Vosges in the Marais district.

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
This entry was posted in Otras Cosas, VIAJES and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Memories of France (circa 2009)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s