July 7th, 2007

What I Did On My Hols: Continued

Last Wednesday was a very wet day in Paris.  We spent the morning in Montmartre, dodging from awning to awning. Ailz bought souvenirs. 11 Eiffel tower keyrings for 5 Euros- now there's a bargain!  If I'd wanted to I could have left Ailz to her shopping and climbed up to Sacre Coeur (I wouldn't have got any wetter) but I can't tell you how much I disapprove of that weird, un-French looking celebration of proto-fascism. The story- as I understand it- is that the Archbishop of Paris commissioned it- after the short-lived revolutionary commune of 1870-1- in order to "expiate the crimes of the communards"- who had, among other laudable acts, shot his predecessor. These days the official explanation is that it stands as a monument to the victims of the Franco-Prussian war- but we revolutionary sympathizers know better. Under the basilica- in the old gypsum mines where they retreated to make their final stand- lie the bodies of a great many communards- condemned to a lingering death when the authorities dynamited the entrances and trapped them there. 

The whole of Paris is a battlefield. And the battles that were fought across Paris are ones that still matter. Which side are you on, boy. Which side are you on? Oh look! There are the pockmarks on the wall where the Germans executed a whole bunch of patriots in 1945. And there's the building where the fucking gestapo tortured Jean Moulin.

In the afternoon we went south of the river. I wanted to taste the Gothic. There was a queue outside Notre Dame and an even longer queue outside la Sainte Chapelle, so we went into the Church of St Severin- where there were no queues at all- and went over it inch by inch. Medieval catholicism is as good for the soul as 19th century catholicism is guaranteed to rot it.