Last night, looking sort of like the zombie apocalypse come to life, we finally stumbled into Rachel's friend's apartment in Paris around 11 PM, where we were greeted with a by a crazy French puppy named Jedi, and served the most marvelous freezer pizza I have ever had in my life (seriously, it's way better in France -- and when you haven't slept in two days).
Today we woke up in early morning Parisian sunlight ... to discover it was 11 AM. Whoops. Rachel's friend Christine and her husband Yannik had left us an amazing breakfast of fresh croissants from the bakery down the street -- which are even better than French freezer pizza. Christine works in Paris as a tour guide, and had also left us a very well marked and detailed map. (I highly recommend going to visit cities where you have friends who live and work as tour guides!)
We started our day by taking the metro to the Arc de Triumphe, and walking down the Champs-Élysées, which felt to me a little like wandering a European version of Broadway in New York. We tried to go into one store, but Rachel was holding an unfinished cappaccino in a paper cup, to which the clerk pointed to and nicely said, "Mademoiselle, it is forbidden." To this Rachel responded, "Grazie" because she spends a lot of time with Italians, and then we left.
We walked along the Siene for quite a while, getting a great view of the center of Paris, until we ended up next to the Louvre Museum (which we would need another week to go through). Notre Dame is nearby, and we got to walk through a this beautiful cathedral.
Just south of the Eiffel Tower on Rue de Bac is the lesser known Chapel of the Miraculous Medal (the convent chapel where St. Catherine Laboure experienced apparitions of Our Lady, and where devotion to Miraculous Medal later began). This medal, which has Our Lady on the front, and a cross above an M for the name "Mary" in the back, with two hearts (the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary), is one of the most popular Marian devotions worldwide. Essentially, the devotion is a great love for Our Lady, a desire to invoke her prayers, and to desire to imitate her virtues. We found this beautiful chapel sandwiched in between grocery stores and office buildings, a peaceful little sanctuary. St. Catherine Laboure is actually incorrupt (meaning her body did not decay -- generally thought by the church to indicate the pure life that she, and other saints in this same state, lived), and is actually in this chapel, in a glass sarcophagus. That was a little crazy, but ... there she was! This chapel is immensely peaceful, and we were also able to go to confession -- something both of us had wanted to do before beginning our pilgrimage, and hadn't had a chance yet.
Just down the street is the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul, where, you guessed it, St. Vincent de Paul, also incorrupt, is also entombed in a glass sarcophagus! In order to get to him, you actually have to go around to the back of the alter, and climb up a hidden little staircase (which totally feels like it should be against the rules, but it's not.)
We ended our day of running around Paris by heading way north, to Montmartre, and to the Sacre Couer Church (Basilica? Cathedral?) This was what I was most excited to see - and also the highlight of my day. This church is so beautiful -- and also located high up in a hill, and the view of the city is stunning! Inside there is perpetual Adoration, the Blessed Sacrament having been perpetually prayed in front of for over a hundred years (I think!) We were able to spend some quality time in quiet prayer, processing, reflecting, and preparing ourselves for this next phase of our journey -- and the real reason we're here at all. Tomorrow we will spend most of our day on a train to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in the south of France -- the traditional "gateway" to the Camino, where we will begin walking on Friday the 10th (we will begin by crossing through the Pyranees -- what a way to begin!)
As we were slowly walking up to Christine and Yannik's front door, relishing this last day of not having heavy packs on our backs, Rachel thoughtfully said, "You know what we forgot ... we didn't see the Eiffel Tower!" Oops. But when we laughingly told Christine and Yannik, problem solved -- it's visible from around the corner of their street, and at 10 PM they begin turning on twinkling lights, for 5 minutes each hour, on the hour. It was 9:57 when this happened, so we ran back outside and were serenaded by a sparkling light show from the Eiffel Tower. Thanks, Paris!