Sunday, November 27, 2005

An Ode to Notre Dame, Paris

View of the cathedral from the south-east end, across the Sienne

When Sunit and I were planning our trip to Paris in the summer of 2003, he asked me what I wanted to particularly see in the city. Much to his astonishment, I replied - Notre Dame. He had half expected me to vote for Eiffel Tower, I guess. So it is befitting I think that my first of the many memoirs of our trip to Paris start off with an ode to this ancient Gothic Cathedral.

The West side, or the front

My interest in this monument was sparked by one of Victor Hugo's famous novels - The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Who can forget the disfigured Quasimodo and his love for Esmeralda. Much to my delight, Sunit actually booked our place to stay in the Latin Quarter of Paris - we were just 5-10 minutes of walking distance from this Cathedral and I had my fill of it because we saw it every single day we were in Paris.

Notre Dame at twilight

Notre Dame is built on an island on top of Sienne, the river around which most of Paris is located. Its construction started in 1163 and continued for about a 100 years. One of the most ancient churches in Paris, it has seen the city through its ups and downs for a good 800 years now. The gargoyles, the stained glass Rose windows and the ornately carved exterior with loads of depictions of biblical figures and scenes - all add to its splendor. Here are pictures of the cathedral ( I have many more :-) ) that I think capture some of the beauty of this place.

The Centre door at the West side

This and the next picture are close-ups of the front of the cathedral. While the three doors depict three scenes from the bible, flanked by the apostles and other biblical figures, right above the doors is the "Gallery of Kings" - I think 32 figures in all.

Gallery of Kings

The next couple of pictures are of the stained glass windows from inside the cathedral. One of the best part of the Parisian churches is their stained glass art.

Stained glass window

The Rose Window

Getting to Notre Dame is not all that difficult since it is located at the heart of the Latin Quarter. It is easily accessible by the local metro that runs throughout Paris (RER) and is also one of the stops for Batobus (the boat service that runs on Sienne). We travelled in early July and it was a little bit drizzly on the first couple of days, but in general thats a good time to travel to the city.

Our stay in the Latin Quarter gave us a feel of staying in Old Paris as opposed to staying in the more modern part of the city. Many of the other attractions in Paris are also located at a convenient walking distance. There are numerous hangouts for local artists and many inexpensive hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer delicious food and wine. A small walk around the place and one is sure to see some doorway with a sculpture on the front door - all this just added to the charm of the place.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Its been a while since I last posted. A couple of out-of-town travels, Diwali and then some things back home kept me occupied. But I am back and hope to catch up from where I left off.

First weekend of October I travelled to Ann Arbor again to spend some time with Sunit. I also hoped to catch some fall colors which are supposed to be wonderful in Ann Arbor. But as luck would have it, it was still pretty warm in Ann Arbor and Sunit was too busy so we could not travel to the upper peninsula to catch some colors. Hence we compromised for some local gardens itself. We decided to visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. We researched on the internet and from what we saw it seemed interesting. It also seemed to have a waterfall and I was very eager to see it.

The gardens were beautiful and well kept in their natural splendor. There was a waterfall all right - the problem was it fell just 1-2 feet. Photography can do wonders indeed and the picture we had seen on the internet seemed to be of a good size waterfall. But the creek we saw was still nice all the same. Here is a picture of what we saw.

The creek we mistook for a waterfall

And then there were all these natural sidewalks one could take and explore the gardens. I particularly liked this wooden bridge that led us to another area of wilderness. Did I mention that the grounds were open to public free of charge. There was a token entry fee for the Conservatory. In a later post I will post some pictures of some strange plants I saw there.

The wooden bridge

While passing over the wooden bridge we looked upon the stream and chanced upon this tortoise resting on the stone. Zoom in on to the rock, it is the little black thing there.

Slow and Steady - The Tortoise

There were also some nice widlflowers, a herb garden, a rock garden ( I almost missed this one since it was just a small rock bed and I guess I was expecting something similar to what we have in Chandigarh), a rose garden, an urban garden and I think the folllowing was called Alexander's garden.

Alexander's Garden ?

A trip to MBG makes a good half day trip and I would definitely recommend it for some nice quiet time, a small picnic and a chance to view some exotic and fascinating plants. I was sad about not being able to see the fall colors but these gardens were not disappointing at all.