For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bordeaux To Paris

On the Monday I took a train from Bordeaux to Paris. This journey under grey skies brought me back to earth with a jolt. The landscape I passed through seemed tedious and ordinary, especially beyond Poitiers, and flat, featureless, arable fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Or perhaps I was just feeling a little tired and jaded after my long walk...

I arrived at Gare Montparnasse in the early evening. It was pouring with rain, and I walked for half an hour through the rain to the Hôtel de Nesle, a cheap, tiny, off-beat hotel near Place Saint-Michel. The next day I explored Paris, city of love and romance, but on this occasion I didn't find much of either. I think it was something to do with my mood, which had become dull and listless...     

The famous 13th-century stained glass windows of La Sainte-Chapelle.

La Sainte-Chapelle under grey Parisian skies.

The centre west portal of Notre-Dame. This stupendous example of Gothic art depicts the Last Judgment.

Notre-Dame de Paris. The cathedral's three rose windows — north, south and west (you can see the west one here) — are some of the great artistic masterpieces of Christianity.

Le Pont des Arts. Here couples pledge their undying love for each other by attaching a padlock to the railings and throwing the key into the river below. 

Near the Rue Mouffetard on the Left Bank.

The Pantheon.

The Pantheon is a mausoleum which contains the remains of distinguished French citizens. Here is the memorial to aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote The Little Prince.

Underneath the the Pantheon's central cupola.

The university of the Sorbonne.

The Sorbonne.

Place de la Sorbonne.

After two weeks' walking through remote, rural France, I soon found the grand buildings of Paris — those monumental symbols of wealth, power and privilege — rather oppressive. I began to feel unwell, and a cloud of lethargy and mild depression enveloped me...

9 comments:

Ruth said...

Interestingly enough I was just reading about the Sorbonne at Peter's Paris blog.

Your perspective on Paris after the euphoria of the countryside says much about your pilgrimage, I think, and the thoughts and feelings that filled you there. It seems an abrupt wake-up to the realities of this humaned life. One would like to return to it a bit more gradually perhaps.

George said...

I know that feeling, Robert, the oppressive weight of being surrounded by all of those "symbols of wealth, power, and prestige." I'm reminded of those lines from Shelly: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Poor Ozymandias. He could have learned so much from a solo walk like the one you just took in the French countryside.

Susan Scheid said...

I can well imagine, coming back from those wide open spaces to gray, flat, and then buildings all around, that there would almost have to be a feeling of things closing in, closing down. I suspect I enjoy cities rather more than you, but I will say that, while I had a happy time in Cardiff, and there is no question but that the music festival sent me to beautiful open spaces, I would have loved to get out into the Welsh countryside more than I could. It just wasn't possible on this trip, so awaits another journey.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry that Paris affected you like that Robert because your photographs had entirely the opposite effect on me - they ae wonderful and make me want to go back there some time soon.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Ruth, George, Susan and Pat for your comments.

After two weeks walking through the green paradise of the French countryside, I did feel a massive shock on entering Bordeaux and Paris, particularly Paris. I was physically and mentally tired, and just had no energy to traipse round the sights. In fact, one day I crawled into my bed at 3 pm and slept on and off for 18 hours.

All the queueing in Paris fatigued me too — queues for the Sainte-Chapelle, queues for the Louvre, queues for Notre-Dame. The queues are longer and slower now because of security checks — just like at an airport.

Also the weather had turned, and had become grey and miserable.

Goat said...

Jeez, what a reality crash. You describe the symptoms of a standard post-walk come-down - I get them on a mere Monday morning after a good weekend (I am suffering one as I type this). I once found myself in Bangkok, of all places, on the way home after a thousand miles of Appalachian Trail. I've hated that city ever since, all based on two days there!

Anyway, hope you're formulating something exciting for a future ramble. As for that padlock bridge: it's all very touching, but the cynic in me wonders how many people return a month or two later with a hacksaw...

The Solitary Walker said...

Well, Goat, re. the bridge, I did think something similar myself. It's like one of those heart-shaped tattoos with 'I love Jennifer' inked in the middle. A great idea at the time, until Angelina comes along...

As for future walks, I haven't really got my head round this yet, but France/Switzerland over the Alps to Rome seems very inviting, following in the footsteps of Hilaire Belloc and Peter Francis Browne...

Sandy's witterings said...

Thank you for the quick whizz round Paris. It's a place that I've wanted to see for quite some time - I should get around to it soon. I shall wait to see if it's what I expect or not, as Hemingway found it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for visiting, Sandy!