Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Cut-Rate Grand Tour: Day Fourteen

Monday, 19 December 1988
Paris to Amiens and back to Paris

Did not get up for the 8:48 train to Beauvais. Sure, I wanted to see la Cathédrale de St.-Pierre de Beauvais, but not while I was feeling like hell and not caring all that much.

I’ve figured out by now I’m suffering from intestinal troubles, not That Time of Month. No other sign of flu, so I guess the laws of sanitation or physics or whatever you want to call it do operate in France after all, and that unrefrigerated coquille au saumon the night before last got me. If it’s food poisoning there’s nothing I can do but wait for it to blow over, so I went back to sleep.

When I did get up, I went through my things to make sure I had everything ready to go to Amiens. I was also searching to see if I could find my NatWest checkbook-- last night I discovered it was missing. I made another search of everything this morning and still couldn’t find it. I know I took it out of my purse at Toulouse to lighten the load there; I must’ve left it at the hotel.

So what morning I had was spent trying to get ahold of the National Westminster number in Oxford (a very trying experience) and then calling them to cancel my remaining cheques. They said ok and they’ll have a new book waiting for me in Oxford.

Kept having to feed the payphone francs. Ate them like candy.

Caught the 1:12 train to Amiens from la gare du Nord. Looking out the window at the landscape made my stomach feel better. It reminded me of Kansas. Isn’t that stupid? Anyway, the sun was peeking out now and again and the wind was blowing the clouds along like 70.

I’m finding it’s generally easy to find where the cathedral is in a town like
Amiens. One heads out the front door of the station and heads in the direction of the largest visible steeple. Standard Operating Procedure here.

I liked the
Cathédrale de Notre-Dame d’Amiens. I liked its height and its variety and its black and white marble floor, which you could see because the chairs were all pulled back. I even liked the fact that it’d lost a lot of its stained glass-- the clear kind lets the light in.

And maybe I liked Amiens because the skies made a strong effort towards clearing up there. It had been actively raining on my way from the station and now I went out the northwest portal and stood there, watching the sky which was full of blowing clouds, to see what it would do. There was a thin greenish strip of blue sky over to the north which looked like it might get bigger. Meanwhile I could enjoy the sight of
gargoyle waterspouts actually in operation.

Went back inside and wandered around the nave some more. Some workmen were repairing the metalwork on the north transept chapel and I noticed they had some music going. I hoped it wasn’t secular. But then I listened better and realized it was a tape of Mass being sung, and then I discovered it was emanating from speakers in the nave itself.

More restoration work was going on in the apsidal chapels. One of these had wall paintings that were covered up by scaffolding and drop cloths to the shoulders of the saints depicted. But the light was very bright on the heads, which I could see. Which was good.

Stepped outside to check on the skies again; much better. The sky had turned blue and the white clouds were racing by towards the east, so that if you looked up at the west front it looked as if the entire facade were tipping down on you. Vertiginous and exhilarating, all at once.

No direct sunlight on the sculptures yet but one can admire anyway. That
Beau Dieu is so wonderful. I wish I could get up and look at it straight in the face, though. Though I suppose looking up to Jesus is most appropriate.

No card stand in the church so I went up the street to a librairie and bought some cathedral postcards and got some change for the guidebook the church did have (honor system). Went back and got that just before the cathedral closed for the afternoon.

The southern portal is the one with the Vierge Dorée, which is up again after recently being restored. (Some of the postcards for sale show the doorway without it.) I didn’t spend much time contemplating that ensemble, though, because there was a drunk hanging around there being rather obnoxious.

(Interesting, how I thought of him as simply ‘a drunk,’ and not as a ‘drunken Frenchman.’)

Train back to Paris at 5:57. In the meantime I wandered around Amiens a bit and stopped for supper provisions at the usual patisseries. Bought a cheese crepe affair that apparently is a specialty of Picardie.

Back in Paris, coming from the Luxembourg Métro stop, I noticed that Penguin has an English language bookshop along there. Pity I didn’t notice it sooner. I’m dying for something besides
Geoffroy de Villehardouin to read.


whiskers said...

It is unfortunate I won't have that much free time while in Paris...only one day plus evenings. I would love to go exploring the cathedrals as you did.


St. Blogwen said...

Does this mean you will get to go? Hurray!