I picked up Paris to the Past because of The Earful Tower’s Book Club. I’m not sure I would have found it otherwise; it’s much more an academic book than a leisure read.
Robert Caro is Ina Caro’s husband – I don’t like pointing out people’s relationships to other people as a reason for them to be noteworthy, but I do think this is a note worth making because Robert Caro is famous for writing a super-in-depth biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson – it’s currently at 4 volumes and is only up to 1965-ish. So if you’re wondering how well-researched this book about touring around Paris and the Ile-de-France is, let me tell you that she has learned her research habits, with multiple visits and multiple tours of each site and fact-checking.
She arranges the book by historical era, which I thought was a great idea. How brilliant to arrange your site-seeing by era, so you can see how the architectural styles flow into each other and the history and who is related to whom makes more sense and is more memorable.
Think of Paris to the Past as research and not as a fun book to read by the beach and you’ll do much better with it. I liked it, but it’s not for everyone. I want to read more of her books.
Sainte Chapelle is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a chapel, not a cathedral or even a full church. It’s not that big, but it is striking. The first floor – which was where the servants had their services – is lovely, but nothing to write home about.
I love the colors and patterns – that deep, rich blue and the brick red. There’s also an emerald green that gets used that’s not in that particular photo.
The detail is amazing, and this is how they decorated for the servants! Sainte Chapelle is beautiful.
But the upper floor is where your breath gets taken away. I love the gasps and wows that you hear from people entering the chapel for the first time. There are 15 HUGE stained glass windows (that’s one of them, above), all dating from the 13th century. (The wikipedia page gives a brief overview of its history.) The richness and color and light are striking and sublime.
It is one of the places where the beauty of the building might be enough to make me religious.
A friend once told me that he had a head cold when he was visiting Paris. He went into Sainte Chapelle for the first time, and sat down to rest and relish the beauty of the place. After about 20 minutes, his head cold was gone. It’s neither a traditional miracle nor a big one, but I’ll take it.
My recommendation always and forever is, if you’re visiting Paris, make sure to stop by Sainte Chapelle. It is worth it.